The decision.
January 11, 2012

Last Tuesday at two o’clock in the afternoon we met with a representative from our foster-adoption agency to discuss the steps we need to take to find and bring home our child, the decisions we need to make, and the choices we have available to us moving forward.

On Wednesday morning at nine o’clock I called our foster-adoption agency and pushed a bunch of buttons that directed me to a specific person’s desk.  We need some time to think about whether or not to take the next step, I said.  Because one of the steps puts us at a crossroads.

The crossroads is this: in the state of California, Donald and I are not eligible to become certified fost-adopt parents unless all children over the age of 24 months sleep in a room separate from ours.  We cannot even legally keep the toddler bed my father crafted for Charlotte in our room for afternoon naps.

My family’s decision to co-sleep has never been one that is open for discussion which is why I do not write about it very much except to say that this is what we do, the end.  But now here we are.  The state of California wants me to pick between co-sleeping and adopting.

Sometimes I look at Charlotte and I think EH, if we move forward now then she’ll be nearly three by the time she needs to be transitioned out of our room.  Three is a fine age to be in her own bed.  And P.S. babies in their own room = NO FEET IN MY FACE AT UNHOLY HOURS OF THE NIGHT.

But then every night Donald and I sneak into our bedroom and I catch a glimpse of my daughter by moonlight.  I hear her peaceful, rhythmic breathing.  I smell that scent that is just her own.  Sometimes I hear her mutter in her sleep about fish or a favorite t-shirt or a line from a nursery rhyme.

And then I wonder how I could ever give this up, this closeness, this security.  I worry about her feeling abandoned or waking up from a nightmare alone, too frightened to call out or move.  I wonder if she would be a more secure and independent adult if we allowed her to dictate the pace at which she ‘weans’ from the family bed.  I am curious: would transitioning her to her own room put an end to our breastfeeding relationship?

It is, hands-down, the hardest damned decision Donald and I have ever had to make.  To give our daughter our bed or to give her a sibling.  A week has passed and still: we just don’t know what to do.


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  1. By carolina on January 11, 2012

    To start with, I love how you are so non-wavering about your beliefs and what you choose to do, etc.

    That being said, and I know it might sound hard, you have to choose, albeit time will assist with that choice as well.

    If there’s a consistency in your blog posts, it has been that you want to expand your family. That I can vouch for in your writing anyday. That seemed almost as important as breast-feeding Charlotte until whatever age you chose.

    Co-sleeping has never been a topic you’ve spoken about, but there are certain things that have to give way for other things to flourish. If you don’t necessarily want to push Charlotte into her own room yet, then wait it out. If you don’t want to put into jepordy the breastfeeding relationship, then wait it out.

    The only parallel I have is that my husband always wanted to live abroad and I…never did. I am always happy in my routine and daily life, bla bla bla bla. So we put it on hold and nothing ever really worked out until last year. And it did, and it just brought into my life so many benefits and new perspectives that it kind of makes it all worth it. I did end up going, but at the right time. So if you’re still stuck, always remember that TIME is at your side and will reveal the best way forward, eventually. In the meantime, you might have to kick and scream, and think about it.

  2. By Mom24 on January 11, 2012

    Wow.  Just wow.  I keep trying to process this.  At first, as I read it, I thought it was about the child you’d be adopting/fostering.  That I could understand, though not necessarily agree with 100%.  I’m sure you realize abuse could be an issue and there need to be clear boundaries for kids whose backgrounds include people who have not respected those boundaries.  But for them to mandate that for your relationship with Charlotte?  I don’t get that.  I don’t agree with that.  I’m sorry you’re being put in that position.  I don’t really think you were asking for advice, but in offering some I would say to wait until you’re very sure, very comfortable in any compromises you’re being required to make.  Best of luck.  I think it’s a shame, obviously you would offer a child a very good home.

  3. By on January 11, 2012

    I have 2 opinions on this.

    The first is purely logical (MC’s logic), however I am no expert at all in this: I believe a child who learns to sleep on their own will feel more secure than one who feels they need to sleep with their parents. I think it’s a parent’s job to make sure their child feels comfortable being by themselves, independent. I feel that because for a long time I felt dependent on my mother, and when I finally had to let go (in University!!), it was hard. I grew up lacking self-confidence. That said, I never co-slept so who knows what caused that.

    My second opinion (this one actually based on experience): Every child is different. Some children sleep better on their own, and others don’t. I wanted James to stay in our room for AT LEAST 3 months, but at 8 weeks of age, I knew (I don’t know how, but I knew), he was ready for his own room. And he slept beautifully every since. OK, well, a little less these days but that’s because he keeps asking to go to the potty and asking questions about why our cat is meowing and what the humidifier is.

    I think what the ladies above said makes perfect sense. Eventually, Charlotte will need to learn to feel comfortable to sleep on her own. It will happen some day. But it doesn’t have to happen today. Rather than you make the decision for her, why not ask Charlotte what she wants? Have you had that discussion with her yet? Maybe the idea of her own room will sound exciting for her. Maybe she’ll want to take it a step at a time. Maybe you can all decorate her room together so she’s involved in “her space”, and eventually she can start napping, and then sleeping there. Maybe you can start by reading stories on her new bed so she can associate positive restful memories with it. You don’t have to cut her off right away… This can be a nice process.

  4. By on January 11, 2012

    When I was pregnant with our second child our 2 year old still slept with us.  We figured we’d have for bodies in our bed until we felt the need to transition him elsewhere and I wondered (fearfully) if that need would rise once the baby was born.  I didn’t want his world to change in that way over a “new” baby…it felt awful.  So we didn’t change anything and my husband and I played musical beds during the first few weeks of baby #2’s life.  Imagine my surprise when one afternoon our oldest went into his room-to-be, climbed in the bed, gathered his animals and declared that he was sleeping in there that night.  He did and hasn’t been back since.  All that to say, Charlotte might be much closer to transitioning than you’d expect…we saw no signs he was about to change.  I’d just set the room up and see what she does and how you all feel about it, maybe even try it for a night. If it doesn’t work you can go back to cosleeping. What are the rules about you sleeping in her room?if I were you I’d attempt the transition with full freedom to go back to cosleeping if having her in her own room doesn’t feel right,  Give yourself a little while after you try her in her own room to see how you all feel about it and then make your decision.

  5. By Thrifty Vintage Kitten on January 11, 2012

    I commend you for sticking to your guns. I think that’s a weird rule for the state of California to have. I don’t get it. I really appreciate that you’re putting a lot of thought into this. Seems like I keep hearing about more and more parents not taking the time to care for their child. It’s nice to read about someone who really is.

  6. By on January 11, 2012

    hm. i am very curious to find out why. Why and how could co-sleeping possibly affect your parenting/adoption skills ? It doesn’t necessarily mean your family lives in a closet, does it ?...

  7. By carolee on January 11, 2012

    Sarah, good luck with the whacky California laws.  Years ago, I went to apply for a child care license.  I was in the class when they dropped the bomb that you can only have six children including your own.  Here is where it got nutty.  If you are caring for more than one family the limit was six chldren, however, if you were caring for just one family then there was no limit on the number of children.  I chose not to get a license because I had too many mothers in need of child care.  Most of my parents were single mothers.  Years later, a vindictive woman reported me.  When, they came to my door it happened to be a day when I had no children and they told me that I had to stop.  I told them that I knew the laws and that according to them I would be breaking the law if my childrens’ friends hung out after school and that I would have to have a license to have a birthday party.  Or, I would have to hire someone to help me with over six children.  When, she agreed with me I was taken aback but had enough wits to tell them, “This is still America and you can’t tell me who I can have in my house!  Get off my porch!!“  I never heard another thing from Child Services of O.C.  I paid taxes and had an open door policy.  Parents could come anytime during the day to visit.  If I had errands I let the mothers know when and where we would be.  I will add that your husband and his siblings were a great help.  Hugs Carolee

  8. By Tara on January 11, 2012

    Wow, this is tough. I can’t even imagine being in this position. Good for you for sticking to your beliefs about co-sleeping. I always wanted to co-sleep with our son, but he was having none of it and enjoyed his crib much more. Who knew? Ha. Every child is different and has different needs, but kudos to you for being so sensitive to Charlotte’s. I think too often as parents (I know I’m guilty of this) we think about our own convenience and forget that there’s this awesome little person right there soaking it all in.
    But back to your current dilemma…You will make the right choice because you are a tuned in parent. You are aware of Charlotte’s needs and I’m sure will be sensitive in whatever decision you make. It’s unfortunate that this decision is mandated, but I suppose I understand why.

  9. By momiss on January 11, 2012

    carolee, I wish I could meet you.  I just know we would hit it off!  I also babysat in my home in Missouri.  We also have whacky laws but I was able to enjoy every single day AND be home with my children.  I only “had” to go to work so I would have insurance when my husband left.  Since then things have changed in disgusting and frightening ways.
    Sarah, I feel for you.  I read you every day and I know how much you want this.  All I can say is give it time and see what God has in store for you.  Sorry if God was the wrong word, you hardly ever talk about that either.  Feel free to substitute the loving entity, the Goddess, or whatever the equivalent is for you.  It is the hardest thing, I have found, to simply wait, praying that they will use you as their instrument to complete your true task, and having no indication what that true task might be…...but all will be revealed and you wouldn’t change it for the world in the end.
    God I feel old.  How is your mom?  lol

  10. By Alicia S. on January 11, 2012

    Oh my gosh, Carolee, I could tell you some stories. My mom has owned a daycare for as long as I can remember and I opened my own for a while too shortly after I had my son, and the laws are absurd in every state. At first glance it’s easy to look at a law mandating certain things and be like, “Oh, okay, I can see that being an issue for other families/situations. I guess that makes sense.” But for all of the thousands of situations that one law works in favor of, there are sure to be a good number that it really works against, too.
    ::Insert crazy co-sleeping laws here::

    Adoption is a hard process, and because the laws are so generalized, it makes sense that a lot of them aren’t going to fit your situation perfectly. I commend your sticking to your guns about what you feel most strongly about. I do. You’re going to have to make sacrifices and it’s going to be important for you to draw clear lines about what sacrifices are worth it and which aren’t.

    I can’t speak from a co-sleeping standpoint, but as someone raising (and in the process of legally adopting) a child who was abandoned by their birthmother, my heart aches for the children who are waiting for a parent like you. For a sibling like charlotte.

    I know that my experiences put me at a biased point of view, and please believe that I’m sympathetic to the fact that this has been a major dynamic in your family from the very beginning and that that carries a lot of weight—But stacked against there being a child out there whose been through what my daughter has, it’s just hard for me to look past that enough to see the true weight of anything else.

  11. By carolee on January 11, 2012

    Momiss, I’m in Missouri, too.  I’ve been here for 13 years and LOVE it!  I was born and raised in S. CA. but don’t consider it home, anymore.  It does look like we have a lot in common.  My facebook is Carolee Kingdon and you can get in touch w/me if you like. :)  And, yes, this world has become nutz~!

  12. By Molly @ Little Stories Everywhere on January 11, 2012

    Sarah,
    I do not envy your decision, not one bit.
    I will tell you based on our experience that “training” a child to sleep on her own is not easy, in fact, it’s hands down the hardest part of parenting so far (we have a barely 2 year old and 7 month old). But, through all the tears it’s worth it. The joy of hearing your child play and imagine in their own crib/bed is priceless.
    You could really play it up, tell her “you’re a big girl” and move her into her own room. You can always leave the doors open so she won’t be scared.
    You have talked so much about growing your family, I know it’s your hearts desire. Why don’t you try Charlotte in her own bed and see how it goes? If it works you move forward with the “expansion” if not, you wait.
    Sounds simple…hahahaha, but nothing ever is:).
    BTW: you’re a great mama, co-sleeping or not. Don’t forget it.

  13. By Charity on January 11, 2012

    Wow.  Can you discuss further with your particular case worker your specific situation and see if they in fact think it is a big road block?  I would be tempted to ask questions and have an open discussion about where you are at with cosleeping and that, yes, she very well may be in her own bed by the time you get a placement, but what if she isn’t?  Would that really put a stop to the process?  Seems hard to believe. 

    Anyhow, I’m sure you will come to peace with this one way or another once the information has enough time to digest.  And if I had to guess I would say it will come to a point where it feels less of a forced compromise and more of a natural transition to big-sisterness. 

    Personally, we cosleep until 18 months and then our boys go into a kid room (with siblings so not alone by any stretch).  It has never been an issue and I don’t think there are those feelings of abandonment although I totally understand the concern.  Oh, and believe me, they have no problem crying out when they have a nightmare…or better yet every now and then we get woken to a child standing next to our bed staring at one of us (think Children of the Corn) because they need something.  Haha…then I’m the one having nightmares :)

    So interested/excited to see how this all pans out for you guys.  Best of luck!

  14. By Amira on January 11, 2012

    I don’t know what to tell you except that I hope you and Donald find a solution that makes the both of you happy.

  15. By Cindy A on January 11, 2012

    This is a hard decision Sara, I am sorry and have been thinking about you each day.  You need to do what is right by your family, you are the ones whom have to live with that choice.  With that said, Bailey does not co-sleep (you know this and also know why I choose this), she did sleep in our room for 7 months.  She has just stopped nursing (I think in conjunction to my pregnancy) here in the last two months.  So, for us, maybe different for you, I do not feel the separate bed has hurt that relationship.  On the closeness, co-sleeping part, that is the hard choice.  Thinking about you friend, I know your family will make a decision that is right for you guys, and it will not be made lightly or without much thought.  On another note, if you choose to expand your family, you will see other benefits, and interactions between Charlotte and a new sister/ brother that will be incredible also.  I know you already know this.  <3

  16. By Charity on January 11, 2012

    Haha I totally rambled on and then did not even make the initial point that struck me…sorry!

    So, as you expand to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th ;) child by natural (or whatever) means there are always compromises that come with the territory. You realize that not all of your ideals are practical with multiple children, or you grow as a parent and hone in on what is really important, results-generating and what is just details. 

    Sure, they are not normally mandated by law, but maybe this is one of those type of things, but in the world of adoption??

    Example: I swore (SWORE!!) I would never drive any of my children to sleep…and yet here I am with my third, who is now a nap fighting toddler and I am circling my neighborhood like a vulture on more days that I care to admit to get him to sleep. 

    I hope this is not an offensive comparison.  But I have to laugh a little at the parent I was before I had kids and even when I just had one…oh that Mom that I was couldn’t hang for a day in my current life with nearly 4 rambunctious boys. :)

  17. By Tabitha (From Single to Married) on January 11, 2012

    I don’t know much about co-sleeping so I won’t speak to that (other than to say that I’m happy that Henry has his own room since the few times he’s slept in our bed have ended with us getting bruises from his size eight feet!).  But I will say that you will make the right decision, whatever that is.  Only you and Donald know what is best for your family, not the state of California, so trust your instincts and trust in Charlotte, and you can’t go wrong.

  18. By on January 11, 2012

    I know that you’re torn with the decision you have ot make but although I don’t know you personally, I also feel like you will make the right decision for your family. One thing you could do is to see if she wants to nap in her own room. That way you’ll be awake if she wakes up and cries out.

    I don’t believe that Charlotte will feel abandoned though. One thing that pours through your posts is your unwavering dedication and love for her. She has no doubt you will always be there for her.

  19. By on January 11, 2012

    I agree that these laws have value in one perspective but should not affect Sarah’s family in such a way.

    Sarah, If you decide to move Charlotte into a different room you might find The Sleep Lady Shuffle helpful. We recently went from sleeping with our 17 month old who was still very attached to breastfeeding (she would feed to sleep at night) to teaching her how to fall asleep and stay asleep in her own room.  It was easier for her than it was for me.  She cried for 47 minutes the first night (ouch!) while I sat next to her and occasionally comforted her. Since then she has not cried and we are no longer in her room as she falls to sleep. She just wants to know that she is not being left all alone. All that said, after the first night she woke up less attached to breastfeeding than she had been the day before because breastfeeding was so strongly associated with sleep. Again, harder for me then it was for her. 

    It is beautiful that you hear Charlotte talking in her sleep.  You get to hear her dreams.

    Tough decision. My heart goes to you as you decide. Peace to all of you when you make your decision, no matter what you choose.

  20. By on January 11, 2012

    I had terrible nightmares as a child, the kind where you wake up and think what you were dreaming is real. I can’t even tell you the number of times I woke up thinking I was in real, physical, imminent danger. But in the morning when I told my brother about my dreams he’d always turn them into funny stories
    “I was being chased by a vampire over a cliff!“
    “oh, except he was picking his nose and had a wooden leg that he’d put on backwards, so his legs wanted to go in different directions, and oh yeah, there was a giant trampoline at the bottom of the cliff, so you weren’t really in any trouble at all, were you?“
    Needless to say he was all the security I ever needed, and I wouldn’t trade him for anything.
    I think a sibling has so much more to offer Charlotte than co-sleeping. There are some things only a sibling can give. The things you can give her through co-sleeping can also be fostered in other ways. But that’s just my opinion.

  21. By tara pollard pakosta on January 11, 2012

    that’s a weird rule!
    My girls co-slept with us until they were 4-5 and then went to a bed on our floor, we are ALL in the same room, even the dog!! LOL!
    tara

  22. By on January 11, 2012

    Dear Sarah,

    If Charlotte “officially” slept in another room, and the toddler bed got moved, would it matter (ie, would they ever know) if she unofficially slept with you until she decided she was ready for her own bed?

    Just a thought. Good luck!

  23. By Megan Stilley on January 11, 2012

    That would be an impossible decision. If I had to make it, I would give it more time.  Because at some point she will want her own space and bed, and maybe that will be sooner than you think.  Maybe just give it a few more months and she what she does and then make a true decision.

  24. By Kirsten on January 11, 2012

    I HATE that this is a choice you have to make. Seriously?! Dr. Sears’ advice isn’t good enough for the state of Cali?

    I wouldn’t know what to do, either.

    This sucks.

  25. By Saranissa on January 11, 2012

    I would suspect that the CA law is there is protect adopted children through the nature of inclusion.  Out of curiosity Sarah, were you to be allowed to continue to co-sleep and then you adopted, would you allow the adopted child to co-sleep with you too?  One of the things about being adopted (in my experience) is that it is very easy to feel ‘different’.  As a child, if I had a ‘sibling’ that was allowed to sleep with my new Mummy and Daddy but I had to go to my room I would have felt even more ‘different’.

  26. By on January 11, 2012

    why not ask charlotte?

  27. By Ellen on January 11, 2012

    Co-sleeping just happened with us and Ada, and I never had any plans one way or the other, but I loved her sleeping with us and wondered about the transition (she is 15 months old.) 
    Then…my husband was in a very bad car accident in Dec and in the hospital/rehab for a month.  During that time I hardly saw Ada for the first 2 weeks while I lived at the hospital.  Needless to say she is mostly weaned and no longer co-sleeping now that we are finally home.  I also knew that she simply couldn’t sleep with us anymore because my husbands injuries were too severe, so I didn’t have much of a choice.  I was really worried about her feeling abandoned, scared, etc. but she has done really, really well.  Anyway, I think you are absolutely right to step back and look it over, just wanted to say, that for us even though we were forced into it, the transition wasn’t bad at all and Ada seems just as happy, loving and secure as she was before.

    I applaud you for taking the time to make the best decision for the child you have.

  28. By Sarah Christensen on January 11, 2012

    Hi everyone.  The California law is a foster law, and because public adoption through the foster care system in California requires a minimum of six-months of fostering before adoption, fostering rules apply to fost-adopt children.  My understanding is that the law is there to protect foster children from sexual abuse - or from witnessing sexual abuse.  The rule is that there can only be two bodies per bedroom, unless an exemption is granted in the event of a child under the age of 24 months (i.e. if we had two older kids in a different bedroom and we brought in a 20monther who aged out of our bedroom before an adoption was finalized, a court could grant us an exemption to allow us to house three children in one room - exemptions do not apply to parental bedrooms).

    We fully expected that there would be

    The reason we haven’t relied on Charlotte here is because she doesn’t understand the concept of sleeping in her own room.  We’ve talked to her about it, but she doesn’t understand.  When given the option between her bed (in our room) and our bed, she always picks our bed.  She doesn’t understand why she would want to sleep alone - it’s only in the last six months that she has consistently stopped falling asleep for naps nursing or in a carrier.  I think part of the reason it’s such an abstract concept to her is that right now it’s not really bedroom-like.  It’s going to take a few weekends for us to get the room bedroom-ed up and maybe we’ll have a better idea of what Charlotte thinks at that point.

    The good news is that if we decide to move forward with this, we have four to six months to transition Charlotte.  We just have to make a decision first.

  29. By Sarah Christensen on January 11, 2012

    Ellen - I hope your husband is recovering well!

  30. By on January 11, 2012

    Dear Sarah, I am so sorry that your adoption processes is stalled because of this very difficult dilemma. As I read your post and, subsequently, the many thoughtful comments, I noticed that one perspective seemed to be missing. I do not know much about co-sleeping, but I do know about the immensely powerful bond that exists between siblings. I have to younger sisters, one three years younger and one six years younger, and they are my best friends in the world. They have taught me an incredible amount about love, and life, and family. They have made me who I am today. They are the best gifts that my parents ever gave me. I know that you fear Charlotte may feel a void if/when she were to wean from co-sleeping. A sibling could, however, bring a great abundance to her life that she has yet to know.

    I know growing your family is a priority. I also know how much care you put into every decision that affects the beautiful family that you already have. Thank you so much for all that you share. I will be thinking of you as you wade through this difficult process.

  31. By on January 11, 2012

    I tend to agree with what Alicia S wrote.

    Co-sleeping is a large part of your child-raising ethos. It’s hard to consider sacrificing something that you believe is to the benefit of your child, for an unknown child. Surely Charlotte’s needs come first?

    But, I think .... siblings offer so much to children. Perhaps one of the best things they provide is the opportunity to sacrifice the ideal, to share, to surrender. That’s a life skill. No one ever gets the ideal, gets it to all go their way. I suppose I feel that what Charlotte may sacrifice in giving up your bed is outweighed by the benefits of having a sibling, and of being taught what it means to sacrifice for another. It’s really a fundamental principle of family.

    It’s not an easy decision though.

  32. By Taryn on January 11, 2012

    Wow, what a difficult decision, to have to decide between your current and future children!

    And I think it’s a decision that a lot of us face, though not so directly as you. When, for example, we started encouraging our Charlotte to wean so that I could start ovulating regularly, we too were choosing between our daughter’s best interests and our future child. Same goes for days, before my miscarriage, when I neglected reading time or refused to go to the park because I was just too pregnant-tired.

    But ultimately, you and Donald know what is best for your family, and I am sure that you will come to the right decision!

  33. By Lesya on January 11, 2012

    Hi Sarah,
    It’s a very hard decision and I cannot really give any advice to you, as it’s truly only up to you, your husband and Charlotte to decide. But what I want to say is thank you for sharing the joy that co-sleeping brings into your and your child’s life.  Before I came to your blog I thought co-sleeping was only done in third-world countries or by weirdos.  And I was so scared to sleep with my son, I was scared he’s is going to become too dependent on me.  But then the time came when I had no choice, he just wouldn’t sleep by himself.  And I am truly against the cry it out methods—they are just so unnatural.  Co-sleeping has turned out to be the best thing that I’ve done for my son (after breastfeeding him I guess).  He became calm, happy and more independent.  And you have helped me stay confident that I am making the right decision for me and him by choosing co-sleeping.  For all that and more, thank you.

  34. By on January 11, 2012

    Sarah,

    I don’t have children of my own, but as a sister I know that my brothers have had an enormous impact on my life and who I am, as I’m sure your sister has had on you. I cannot imagine not having them, and, while I’m sure you will end up having more children in different ways in the future, if the choice now is between sibling and sleeping in a different bed, to me it seems like a no-brainer. I understand being reluctant to change something so important to Charlotte and to your family (and my brothers and I slept in our parents’ room at least one night a week until we were 6 or 8) but, in the long run, she will probably not remember much about transitioning to her own bed, and her siblings will be a huge part of her life. Good luck with making this decision and navigating all of these crazy regulations!

  35. By Sarah Christensen on January 11, 2012

    Thank you to everyone for chiming in, especially about the value of having a sibling.  I truly appreciate it.

    I think one thing that doesn’t come through in this post but that is important to keep in mind when looking at it, too, is that both Donald and I have to be on the same page about the decision.  That’s the hardest part.  We have both spent alot of time over the past week flipping and flopping back and forth - and the big problem seems to be that we’re never on the same page at exactly the same time lol.

    Taryn - I don’t remember if I ever wrote about it, but Donald and I did the same thing with our Charlotte.  When she was around 14 months old, we cut out two nursings a day so that I could start ovulating more consistently.  I only lasted about a week at it, though.  I couldn’t handle the guilt.  A few months later we tried again and it was like night and day.  My cycle evened out, she didn’t miss the feedings at all, and everyone was happy.

  36. By Alicia S. on January 12, 2012

    There is something that I always tell my friends who talk to me about wanting to adopt someday.

    One of the most difficult parts of raising a child that isn’t biologically yours is always being conscious of the fact that they aren’t, and feeling like you have to compensate for that. I don’t have a typical step-child/step-mother bond with my daughter because she was abandoned by her real mom so I raise her like she’s my own. But there are reminders at every turn that she’s not. And it can be hard on both of us. Really hard.

    I have a constant, never-ending compulsion to make things equal between my kids, and like Lacey said, sometimes I just have to throw my hands up and realize that’s an ideal I can’t always make happen. There’s a lot of stress and a lot of guilt that comes with that, even without my step-daughter going out of her way to make me feel that way—(I can’t imagine what it would be like if she did!). The thing that gets us through, though, is coming to terms with the fact that learning to sacrifice for one another IS a “fundamental principal” of family. I strive so much to keep everything fair on her end, but the truth is, sheltering her from the give and take of family would do more harm than good.

    At four, my son has already sacrificed for having Mary in his life in a thousand ways. Our relationship has sacrificed because of it. He’s shown signs of worrying that I’ll leave him ever since he learned that Mary’s mom left her. It kills me that my four year old already knows something so ugly about real life, but it’s all part of our dynamic. Secondly, Mary has issues that take precedence over Matthew’s… pretty often, in fact.

    If I can be perfectly candid, sometimes I read your blog and I feel a little resentful of the fact that Matthew never had the opportunity to be the absolutely center of my world the way that Charlotte is to you. He had to make room for Mary before he was even born. And a kid like Mary, with all of her issues, has always required a LOT of room. (That’s something a child living through the foster system is going to bring into your home, and it’s important for anyone considering adoption to be prepared for that in a big way. This is one thing I have a lot of experience in for other reasons.)

    But I look at his relationship with her, and I look at my life as a mother, and I know that our family being the way that it is makes each of us fuller, downright BETTER people than we would be if we never had to sacrifice anything for one another. Add to that that Mary and Matthew are 7 years apart. No one expected them to bond the way that they have—no one, if only just because of their age—but the truth is, I can’t even begin to explain how much they’ve gained from siblinghood… I don’t know words powerful enough to describe it.

  37. By Alicia S. on January 12, 2012

    Just want to mention really quickly that I can totally sympathize with the whole being-on-the-same-page-at-exactly-the-same-time thing, lol. I’m sure we’ve all been there before!

  38. By missjoules on January 12, 2012

    I wanted to comment on your facebook post, and I feel like I should comment here, but I have No, Stinkin’. Clue. What to say. I just feel like something ought to be said. This is a pretty crappy situation and I’m sorry that your family is having to make this decision.

  39. By on January 12, 2012

    Before having our second, we began the transition to get Jude out of our room and into his bed. We made a big stink about it and he loved it (we moved him on his second birthday). Now, even if I try to put him in our bed he throws a fit. He loves story time, in his bed next to his stacks of books. He loves the special blankets and pillow cases and such that my mom has made just for him - for his bed - in his room. Of course there are night when he wakes up at 2am and calls for me to scoop him up, so we do and he snuggles in bed with us and his new brother and I often wonder why I moved him at all… But then the next evening rolls around, and maybe there aren’t sheets on his bed at bedtime, so I try to convince him just to climb in my bed and he insists on sleeping in his bed… With his baseball pillow cases and his glowing moon nightlight on the wall, and I know we made the right decision. 

    I guess u can think of this decision as the ultimate test to see if you truely are cut out for adoption. You will undoubtedly come to many crossroads through you journey with an adopted child that may, to some extent compromise some of your practices with C. Any child - whether your biological child or an adopted child - will have an impact on the dynamic of your family, the attention C deserves and the attention you can give her. Even just having a biological child - without all the state mandated rules, I know there have been a number of changes in my relationship with Jude and that’s a big part of why at one point I considered stopping at one chil, so I could give him 100% of me all the time, but really, seeing him swoop in to kiss his brother on the cheek mid-play, or having him beg to play with him (even though he can hardly stand laying on his stomach for more than 3 minutes) makes it all worth while.

    I think Ten years down the road C would be glad you made the decision to transition her for the sake of expanding your family. Especially if on nights she’s feeling a little lonely all she has to do is holler and you’ll be right down the hall to comfort her.

  40. By on January 12, 2012

    Really? I wish the decisions in my life were this banal. I have a son with a feeding tube that drives him nuts and a terrible prognosis under the best of circumstances—he’ll never talk or walk, probably never even sit up. I have to decide whether or not to continue with the feeding tube, thus diminishing his quality of life or taking it out and letting him starve to death. Count your blessings.

  41. By Stephanie on January 12, 2012

    I have little to add to this mostly because I can’t imagine being in this position, but I did want to say that this:

    “But then every night Donald and I sneak into our bedroom and I catch a glimpse of my daughter by moonlight.  I hear her peaceful, rhythmic breathing.  I smell that scent that is just her own.  Sometimes I hear her mutter in her sleep about fish or a favorite t-shirt or a line from a nursery rhyme.“

    is lovely. I totally know exactly what this is like.. we do it every night.

  42. By Sarah Christensen on January 12, 2012

    JG - I am sorry to hear about your son’s prognosis.  I genuinely hope that better days for him and you are on the horizon.  No family should ever have to endure what yours is going through.

  43. By on January 13, 2012

    Thank you for your kind words, and I’m sorry if my post was insensitive. It’s a hard decision, yes, but there is an up side to whatever choice you make.

    The thing is, I have a two-and-a-half year old daughter in addition to my 10-month-old son. When my daughter was a baby, I too worried about feeding her organic foods, exposing her to television, attachment versus nonattachment, work versus SAHM. But now, facing what we face every day with my son, I realize that the most important thing I can do for either of my kids is just to love them and ENJOY them. And sometimes that means cutting myself a break and taking the easier route.

    The biggest fear any parent faces is losing their child. My family knows that day is coming, but in knowing that, there is no more fear. We are free to simply savor each moment we have with him. There is a wonderful article that speaks much more eloquently than I can: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/16/opinion/sunday/notes-from-a-dragon-mom.html

  44. By Sarah Christensen on January 13, 2012

    JG - There’s no need for an apology.  The decision my family is dealing with is worlds apart from the decision your family is dealing with.  When any family deals with hardship, true and awful hardship, I think it is normal for you to suddenly see what matters most in a new light.  I fully agree with you that the best thing any parent can do for their children is love and enjoy them.

    You and yours are in my thoughts.

  45. By Kara on January 14, 2012

    I don’t plan to co sleep with my kiddo (my husband and I are really restless sleepers and I’m petrified of rolling over on the kiddo) BUT I respect each parents decision to do what they think is right for their family.

    I think it’s a decision of cost vs worth. The cost is the experience of co-sleeping and is the cost worth not expanding your family? Is co sleeping more important (or carries more value to you) than having another child at this time? What is of most value to you long term?

    I don’t have any advice for you but looking at a scenario under that model typically helps me! Best of luck to you as you make this decision and as you move forward with the adoption process!

  46. By on January 15, 2012

    I haven’t read all of the comments yet, but I do have to be amazed at how our lives align once again, Sara. I, too, have been forced to make a decision about foster-adopt. Not exactly for the same reasons. I had hoped the adoption would be complete before sleeping arrangements became an issue. For me, I guess it is because I am weak. I realized that, although I want desperately to adopt, to fulfill my dream of taking in a child in need, I am too weak to be able to love a child and possibly let them go. I am a parenting snob ;) I know that even if the State says that the child will be okay in the home of their birth family, I will not be okay with it. I think I would completely lose it, and for the well-being of the daughter that I already have, I just could not go through that. Sadly for me it is a weakness, not a matter of conviction. But it is so difficult to come to this conclusion when it means that my dear, sweet daughter may never have another sibling; that I will probably never fulfill my sweet dream of adoption. So please know, Sarah dear, that no matter what you decide, you are amazing and will make the best decision for your family. Stick to your resolve, and know that people all around the world are supporting you.

  47. By on January 15, 2012

    I finally read the many heart-felt comments and I can tell there are a lot of people who deeply care about you and your family, Sarah. No matter what decision you and Donald (and Charlotte) make, there will be joys and difficulties.

    I would like to come at this from a different angle than it seems many are, though. Many have pointed out the strengths and beauties of Charlotte having a sibling, and I very much agree! I cannot imagine life without my siblings, nor do I like the idea of a life for my daughter without siblings. But there are a few things that I have found helpful to think of. Perhaps they will be worth thinking of for you as well, or perhaps not ;) So here they are:

    1) Would it be better to wait to have another child (whether through birth or adoption)? For the most part in, in our culture, there is a strong emphasis on having children closer together, and while I can definitely see the plus side of this, not all cultures are like this, and there certainly good points to that as well. I, personally, am seeing these more and more. My daughter just turned four, and while I NEVER would have dreamed that I would go so long without another child, it has given us so much wonderful time together. It has given me a chance to learn more about her, myself, parenting, and many other things =)

    2) Is adding another child to your family right now worth taking something from Charlotte that you feel so strongly about? In this I have more experience than I would like =/  I conceived DD through the use of fertility drugs. We had tried to conceive for nearly two years before she came into our lives, and we are so thankful for her! We loved being parents are were so excited to add another child to our family, to give our DD a sweet little sibling. We decided to talk to our fertility specialist again as she was nearing 18 months old. At first it was simply “We’ll talk to him, and if I can take the medication again while breastfeeding, I will, if not, we’ll wait.“ However, by the time that appointment came around and the doctor said he absolutely would not try anything while I was breastfeeding, I wanted another child so very much! DD had been nursing beautifully for 18 months, that was long enough, right? I mean, she’d already received so many benefits, and this was a sibling we were talking about. What was better: breastfeeding longer or giving our daughter the chance at a sibling? We knew we’d be moving soon, and we liked our fertility specialist (we’d conceived our daughter on my first set of treatments). If we didn’t do it now, when would we? I also knew my husband would be leaving the country for an extended period of time. So I felt like it was now or never. Mind you, aside from wanting to have another child, I was in no way ready to stop nursing, nor was my daughter. But I made that choice. I weaned my daughter. And remarkably, before I could even take any fertility drugs, I conceived a child. Well, what could be better, right? I mean the timing must have been perfect… Until I miscarried at 9 1/2 weeks. Now where was my consolation for depriving my daughter of something I knew was best for her? That was over two years ago, and I regret that so much. Though some may disagree with me, I felt I made a very selfish decision. Anyway, my point with all of this is that we have no idea what the future is going to bring, so I feel it is best to make decisions based on what we do know. Could I have had a beautiful, perfect baby and possibly regretted my decision less to wean my daughter when I did? Perhaps. But I went against what I felt was right for the daughter I already had. Little did I know what the next two years would bring (though I knew some of the comings were a possibility). If she would have still been nursing, I think all of it would have been so much easier for her. But I made my decision based on a blurry dream, one that still has not been fulfilled and may never be. I know for you it is not a question of weaning Charlotte from nursing. But with the challenges and trials that foster-adopt may bring, will Charlotte cope better by being in the comfort and safety of your bed? Would it be better to hold off until she does eventually transition into her own bed? That girl has good instincts, and she will know when it is time.

    Well, I thought I had another point to bring up, but between random games of hide and seek, talking about letters, types of yarn, materials used to make knitting needles, and many other things with my precious daughter, it seems to have slipped my mind. You and Donald know your family better than anyone and I have no doubt you will choose wisely. You are amazing parents no matter how many children you have and how far apart in age your children may be. (((Hugs)))

  48. By on January 17, 2012

    For those of you wondering about the cosleeping rule, I work as a volunteer with foster kids and the court system and I am assuming it has to do with a number of things: 1. the state wants to ensure that you have room for the child. Many foster kids grow up in places where theres no room for each child to have his or her own space; oftentimes all the kids share a bed or don’t even have a bed to share. Cosleeping is a necessity due to lack of space rather than a parenting choice. Secondly, children who are in the foster system often have serious attachment disorders due to being pushed around for so long. So perhaps they are worried that cosleeping (the assumption being that if you cosleeping one, you’ll cosleep the adoptive child as well)  will exacerbate that attachment disorder (sometimes the disorders come out as intense attachment to a parent, or distrust of other parents). Finally, if the child has a history of sexual abuse, cosleeping may exacerbate any pain or discomfort a child feels due to their experience. Foster children are the wards of the state, meaning that the state is acting as the parent. One must think of the state as a parent, setting the ground rules for whomever will have the child next. It is in the state’s best interest to make sure that the adoptive parents understand that having a foster child in the home can require significant adaptations that other children may not require. So for those who are saying “the government shouldn’t have the right to tell you how to parent your biological child…“, perhaps that is true, but as parent of the adoptive child they have the right to ensure a complying household, just as any parent might do when deciding who will care for their child. It seems all rosy and awesome to “save” a foster kid, but doing so will seriously disrupt your current life. The question is whether or not it is worth it (and of course I think the answer is yes). Many foster kids, due to the abuse they’ve suffered, have to have many interventions (I’ve sat in on trials where foster kids had to be put in locked bedrooms because they were aggressive toward other kids in the house. Some wet the beds when they feel alone or frightened. But over-comforting the child is not the answer because it feeds their insecurity. My point is, if you want to adopt a foster child you need to know that it is going to change the biological child’s/children’s lives and is going to force them to sacrifice some luxuries. Perhaps cosleeping is the first one that will have to go. But the benefit of having a sibling, plus a child’s recognizing that giving up luxuries so that others may have a full and rich life is a reward in itself, may have more lasting impact than a year’s worth of cosleeping. We talk about these parenting decisions as if every little thing is so vital, but we have to think big picture too.

  49. By Sarah Christensen on January 17, 2012

    Jasmine - I keep meaning to respond to your e-mail.  I am so sorry that you are also needing to make such a difficult decision.  That concept - of falling in love with a child and then returning them to their biological family - terrifies us too.  I think we could survive it, but when one of my parents was a kid a child their family tried to adopt was returned to their biological family.  My sister and several of my cousins are named after that child and it is still a highly emotional topic fifty years later in my family.  That tells me that even if Donald and I got through losing a child, Charlotte might not.  And that scares us most of all.

    CP - I understand completely where the state is coming from on this, but I think that when a system is so understaffed that it needs to impose rules upon a parent’s authority over their biological children because it cannot individually assess situations it is probably fair to say that the system is broken.  The state could easily ask me to sign a paper saying I will not co-sleep with foster children - instead what they’re doing is asking me to make an impossible choice.  The big picture is easy to look at only when you assume it works out.  I could sacrifice my co-sleeping relationship, a relationship I sincerely feel is the best decision for my child’s emotional health, and then accept a fost-adopt placement and have that child reunify with their biological family.  When I’m making this decision, I have to keep in mind the emotional havoc that would wreak not only on Donald and me, but also on Charlotte, and whether or not it’s fair to take away Charlotte’s co-sleeping relationship from her and then take a sibling away from her.  The state is effectively asking me to compromise what I feel is in the best interest of my child and in return they cannot promise me anything.  Not a placement, not a permanent adoption, nothing.  Any parents considering fostering or fost-adopting is probably prepared to accept some level of disruption and inconvenience and sacrifice and is probably fully expecting significant life changes and are prepared to handle the devastation involved in reunification (again, I understand that this is the desired result for most children, but it is still devastating for a family who wants to adopt a child they love and who loves them) - but rules like this are at least in part responsible for the shortage of homes available to foster children, I guarantee it.

  50. By on January 17, 2012

    Sarah,
    No worries on the e-mail, you are a busy momma ;) Feel free to write any time, when you have the time.

    As far as my daughter goes, that is a HUGE worry for us as well (I just tend to blame it on myself, since I know I would really have a hard time as well). She is so aware and empathetic, and, while I know kids are resilient, she has to adapt to so many things that are out of my control, that I don’t feel right making her most likely sacrifice in this way as well. It is my job, as her mother, to give her the best start in life. And, despite my own shortcomings and poor choices, she is growing into an amazing, well-adjusted little girl. But I just can’t expect her to go through something that I don’t know I can go through myself. That is asking a lot of such a little human, no matter how much she wants a sibling. But just because we choose this now does not mean that it is the end. Might we end up with just one child? Yes, we just might. But for all I know, down the road, we will be in a better place for adoption, or may end up with a biological child (or maybe even both). And perhaps you will, too. It is wonderful to be able to help a child in need, but I agree with you that, when rules are in place that truly would negatively effect children that you have already been blessed with, it does make it so fewer parents will be willing (or able) to open their homes to those children. And that is the sad part. Be sure to not blame yourself for the shortcomings of a broken system. You are an amazing parent! Why would you let the State of California tell you to change that?

    It is easy for us mothers with hearts so open to children not of our wombs, or mothers who have difficulty conceiving or maintaining pregnancies, to let the desire for a child become our “White Whale”, but it can drive us mad and cause us to make decisions that are not in the best interest of those around us. I know the desire for a child (especially after losing one) is overwhelming, but time will pass, and suddenly the wait doesn’t seem nearly as overwhelming.  I wish I could go back, and decide not to disrupt my daughter’s life just to run after my White Whale, but I can’t. But I am now choosing to let goodness come to me in its own time and in its own way. And, thankfully I have an awesome daughter to enjoy no matter what happens.

    I do not mean for my own regrets to make you feel like you should make the decision to wait, if it truly does seem that Charlotte is ready for this, and you think she will adjust to everything (sleeping in her own room, adapting to a new sibling, possibly losing that sibling, etc), because what is right for my family may not be right for yours. And just because you decide one thing right now, it doesn’t mean that it will have to stay that way later. You have already shown that you are very in-tune and highly adaptable. You rock at life, and will continue to do so =)

  51. By Alicia S. on January 18, 2012

    Jasmine, when I saw your comment on the fact that there are benefits to not having children so close together as well it made me smile. Like I said before, my children (one biological, one not) are seven years apart and no one expected them to bond the way that they have. They are absolutely head over heals for one another. They not only have fun together, they bicker with one another as if they’re more like two year apart—which I always credit to how close they are. So I think you’re absolutely right about that.

    Sarah, I’m just curious, and don’t feel obligated to answer this at all if it’s too intrusive… (I’m hesitant to even ask because it may just be none of my business ;-P ) But if you were allowed, would you still plan to co-sleep with Charlotte, knowing that the foster child would have to be sent to their own bed in a separate bedroom? I know that you’ve talked before about how, for instance, you don’t plan to spank Charlotte partially because you’ve had to agree as foster-adopt parents not to utilize physical punishment. Spanking was probably something you guys never would have wanted to do with Charlotte anyway, so I’m wondering if you and Donald have discussed other, more difficult things you’re willing to give in with in regards to how Charlotte’s raised because of what would be fair to a possible foster placement. Have you guys come any closer to figuring out where you draw the line as far as what you’re willing to compromise?

    I’ve been following so intently on this because foster-adoption is something very close to my heart for a number of reasons, and I love how open you are about what goes into your families decisions. You guys are in my thoughts a lot right now.

  52. By Alicia S. on January 18, 2012

    *family’s <——That would have bugged me all day, :-P

  53. By Sarah Christensen on January 18, 2012

    Alicia S - It isn’t too intrusive, no worries =)

    Our original intention was to adopt a sibling set of two children, one older and one younger than Charlotte.  A five-year-old would likely be in their own room until we knew whether or not they were sexually aggressive, etc.  Once we felt that Charlotte and the older child were both ready to share a room, we would move her into the room with them.  One of the big problems we have with the law is that it limits us to only adopting younger children, because we absolutely refuse to put Charlotte alone in a room with an older child whose needs we might not be fully aware of yet.

    I think we both expected not to be allowed to co-sleep with foster children, so we just assumed that we would have the younger child in whichever room worked best for both them and the older child - in a crib or toddler bed or whatever.

  54. By Sarah Christensen on January 18, 2012

    Oh, and we did make the decision to move forward =)  I’ll write about it soon.  The big hiccup for us now is that we’re not using birth control so if we get pregnant we can still finish the process and be put on the waiting list, but we will not be able to accept a placement until the baby is a year old.  So.  If we don’t get pregnant for six months or so, the placement should go through beautifully.  But if we do get pregnant, then we’ll be put on hold for two years.

  55. By on January 18, 2012

    Yay! That is wonderful, Sarah! I can’t wait to hear all about it ;)

  56. By Sarah Christensen on January 18, 2012

    Thank you, Jasmine.  We’re really excited but also very nervous.

  57. By on January 18, 2012

    I understand. I just talked to our case manager with our foster agency and, while she didn’t try to push at all, just knowing a little more (you know, having some facts, instead of wallowing in the what-ifs) just made me feel so much better! I honestly don’t know what to do now. My husband has an incredibly big heart and I do not doubt that he would still be totally on board with it, but what I don’t know is am I strong enough? Am I strong enough to love and possibly lose a child? To give a child a healthy, loving home for however long they need it? I know what I would say to this hypothetical situation: of course you should! But it is not hypothetical, it is a real possibility. *sigh* I have a lot of thinking, soul-searching, and hubby-talking to do…

  58. By on January 20, 2012

    If it were me, I would do one of two things.
    1) Bold face lie.  How are they going to find out? Really?  A lie for a good cause isn’t a bad thing is it?

    2) Put a big bed in Charlotte’s room and sleep with her in there.  So a smaller lie. 

    Probably terrible advice but I just can’t believe the audacity of this law.  It is so incredibly invasive that I would just ignore it on the grounds of absurdity.

    Good luck with whatever you decide.  And I’m so happy for the lucky child that gets to become part of your family.

  59. By on January 25, 2012

    Sarah, sorry for the delay in my reply, I didn’t think to come back and check on these comments. I see what you are saying about Charlotte. This whole experience will help her to understand the impact of sacrifice,  but if she is too young to make the sacrifice herself then she probably won’t understand it or benefit from it, and the whole thing could confuse her. Perhaps if she were a little older she could give some sort of consent to you for the changed sleeping arrangements and come to accept it. That being said, I think it would create a weird dynamic to have the biological child cosleeping while the foster child doesn’t. It might confuse a sexually abused child because they already don’t understand normal parent-child boundaries, and it also could alienate a foster child who feels they are too “different” to participate in normal family activities. Regarding the state, I think  there is no doubt that there is failure there. Although, since I work with the court system I also recognize that the variables in situations are so extreme that no system would be adequate to address every situation. But if we mistakenly think that the primary purpose of the foster system is adoption, then we are simplifying a complex issue, because obviously all adoptions are not a good idea. The intention is for children to be placed in appropriate homes where the other children in the family are not displaced (aka, creating a new problem for the state). I live in a state where adoption for pure pleasure is not as common as a lifestyle choice as perhaps it is in California, Meaning, many foster kids are placed with relatives or family friends and adopted out of necessity, rather than being placed with non relatives who are looking to expand their family. Well, if a parent loses custody their child due to negligence or drug use, you can usually find some thread of that problem in their family, social group, and upbringing. Therefore, you have to be careful that when placing the kids with relatives you don’t put them back in a similar situation (some families take in fosters children relatives to get the allowance money for them, no lie). I think this is where the cosleeping comes in, becasue they don’t want people fitting another child into an overstuffed home out of necessity or because they want the money. It would in some cases better for a kid to be in a group home than to be with family who are not truly devoted to their care.  All this means that a lot of the rules that good intentioned foster parents run up against are intended to weed out those other foster parents who are doing it out of necessity, although they don’t really have the resources to handle the child, or because they want the money.  This is frustrating for sure, but I guess the state’s perspective is that it helps them to avoid future trouble. Regardless, I think moving forward is the right decision because there’s just no way that it won’t be rewarding for your family, regardless of the struggles along the way. I wish you the very best of luck!


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