Friday, July 17, 2015

Foster Parenting Reflections

My most recent post for Vanderbilt Children's Hospital's Wishing Well blog is up today: Foster Parenting: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly.

I was nervous to be the "voice of foster parenting" for the blog, having been at it less than three years (and with only three official placements, thanks to BGC's extended stay!) but I tried to make clear that I'm only speaking from our experiences, with the gaps filled in somewhat from stories I've read on other foster moms' blogs.

I used the above pic of Claire and a little girl we did respite for. (It was BGC's first weekend with us and we'd already agreed to do respite, so we had FOUR little girls for four days. It was awesome.) It's hard to find good pictures of foster kids that I can share publicly, since their faces can't be visible. But Claire looked kind of forlorn in this pic, so it seemed to suit the topic!

To update on BGC, she did finally move to be with her pre-adoptive family!!! We are so excited for them. We'd hoped we'd see her walk unassisted before leaving our home, but she was really close—walking with just a hand to hold—and just a few weeks later, started to walk on her own. We saw a video of her getting up from a sit and taking four or five steps—so exciting! I can't wait to see it in person at a shower for BGC and her new mommy next week.

I mention in my Wishing Well post our frustration with how slowly things move in foster care. I can't count the number of times I said about BGC, "I'm sure by [X month] she'll have moved," and then many more months passed by! When she finally did move, it was so anticlimactic (preceded by a week or two of "maybe tomorrow" or "maybe Monday") that I forgot to tell our parents when she'd actually moved! It was kind of funny how both sets asked me, maybe three days or a week after, "So how's BGC?" or "Did BGC end up moving?" and I had to be like "oh yeah, last Wednesday!"

She will still be "in the system" for a while, since kids have to be with the family that plans to adopt them for at least six months before the adoption can take place. That would be early December, so maybe before Christmas, she'll have permanency! Another "maybe". . . shouldn't get our hopes up too much. There is also the complication of termination of parental rights. BGC's dad is contesting the motion, so there is a trial for that coming up as well. I feel for him, understanding the emotional resistance to just giving her up voluntarily, but there is just no way he could give her the care and stability she needs.

DCS gives/encourages families to take a break after a long placement, so we are officially "on hold" right now. Given that we'll go on hold again when Baby 3 is imminent, there isn't much time to offer care, but we do hope to provide a short-term home for a child in need before taking another break while Baby 3 is small.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Road to Baby 3

A year ago this week, I found out I was pregnant. Since I'm still three months away from Baby 3's due date, and fetal humans do not gestate for fifteen months, clearly that pregnancy did not last.

I didn't share this news widely at the time, mainly because I have no right to complain that the road to conceiving Baby 3 was a little longer and rougher than for my first two. It wasn't long or rough at all compared to so many people, so in sharing the story now, I want to make clear I know how lucky I've been. Nonetheless, it's my story and Baby's story, and I want to share it now.

I've been so fortunate in conception (conceiving Kate without trying and Claire on only the second month of trying) that I presumptuously started "planning" for Baby 3 several years ago. Given that both my children, my spouse, both my parents, and Jesus all have their birthdays between November 1 and January 28, it's a pretty busy three months for our family. So, to spread out the celebrating and subsequent spending, I planned long ago that Baby 3 should be born in spring or summer. Preferably sometime April through July. Of 2015. This meant starting to "try" in June 2014. A lucky first-try baby would have been born in early March.

When I got a faint positive PT in the second month of trying, and the line stayed faint for nearly a week, I was cautious and didn't get my hopes up. A digital test saying "Pregnant" finally convinced me, but I still felt tentative about the whole thing. I'd say now it was maternal instinct, knowing something wasn't right. I started bleeding a week later, and blood tests showed a unviably low amount of HCG (104, when it should have been in the thousands by that point). A nurse told me "this isn't going to be a healthy pregnancy," but I didn't really know if that meant I'd already miscarried or was about to, or what.

Follow-up blood tests showed the numbers still unviably low, but increasing, which meant something was growing in there. I had an ultrasound to check for an ectopic pregnancy (a fertilized egg implanted somewhere other than in one's uterus) but there was nothing in there, not even an empty sac. Nonetheless, with HCG levels still rising, there was apparently something growing somewhere that would not be healthy to have around. We've kept referring to it as an ectopic, though with nothing visible, it might be better just labeled a "blighted ovum," a fertilized egg that for whatever reason didn't grow. Either way, I had to get a shot of methotrexate . I didn't feel upset about this whole thing until reading the "side effects" form about the methotrexate: "Use birth control for at least three months."

That's where I got really bummed out, seeing my "plan" derailed. It was early August by then, and waiting until November to try again would put Baby's birth in August of 2015, after the cutoff to overlap with Claire in high school, etc. Sometimes, being a planner just doesn't pay. I am well aware of when I'm being ridiculous, but felt disappointed nonetheless.

That minor setback is nothing compared to what so many women go through on the road to childbearing, and my heart goes out to those who have experienced not just months but years of negative pregnancy tests, miscarriages, and more. I have to laugh at my arrogance, thinking I could perfectly plan my child's due date. (My mom did, having me almost exactly as far from Christmas as you can get, but she's practically perfect in every way. The rest of us can't be so precise.)

Come November, I was really hopeful, but was disappointed by negative PTs on Thanksgiving and then again on New Years. I had gained some more perspective on the situation by that time, though, which naturally I articulated by expanding on a Friends quote: "I don't care if it's a fall baby. I don't care if it's born on Christmas Day. . . I don't care if it's twins. I don't care if it's triplets. I don't care if the entire cast of 'Eight Is Enough' comes out of there!" 

It was on Kate's birthday, January 28, that I saw a faint positive line. I was cautious again, but still hopeful, and of course that one has been a healthy pregnancy. Baby Boy Kelley (still no name decided on!) is now 27.5 weeks along and weighs close to two pounds. We'll meet him in October (unless he's a few weeks early--I won't be presumptuous about that!) and will enjoy the expansion of our three-month birthday extravaganza into a four-month one.


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