Settling in

I love this baby. He’s sweet, he’s smiley, he’s adorable, he’s cuddly. He’s just the best. The thought of him going home fills me with despair, not only for his own sake, but for mine, since I’m already attached. Up until now, having a baby has always been a goal, but a very abstract one. Having a baby in my arms makes me realize how difficult it is to be a temporary parent. I’m feeling more certain than ever that we need to adopt through an agency, even if this little guys sticks around.

I haven’t had much chance to write (or sleep, or even think) since we got him. As you may recall, I responded to an automated call for a baby, and called back right away and got through. I was told that my contact information would be forwarded to his social worker, and that someone would contact me about placement, and that he most likely would be needing a bed that night. And then nothing.

I waited all evening, and finally after dinner D and I decided that perhaps we weren’t getting him, or he wouldn’t be needing a bed immediately, so we poured ourselves a glass of wine and turned on the TV, but not even 5 minutes later the doorbell rang. It was the social worker with the baby, and she was surprised that we hadn’t received her phone calls. Apparently, the numbers she was given for both of us were wrong – mine had the wrong area code, and D’s had two numbers transposed. We had absolutely no time to prepare, although I suppose we could have just assumed he was coming and started getting ready. But we really didn’t think it would happen without anyone telling us!

D and I sprang into action (well, he did, since I was holding a scared baby), setting up the pack-n-play and trying to find pajamas and whatnot. Over a week later, and we’re almost settled. I post on a couple of local moms groups to try to get some clothes, since it turned out the majority of the baby clothes my sister had given me were 3 month, 6 month, and 12 month. Neither of us really knows where the 9 month clothes went. And when D finally found some time to reassemble the crib we got for A, it broke, but several people were kind enough to offer cribs when I posted looking for a free or inexpensive one.

We live somewhat close to the insane wildfires in northern California – not close enough to be threatened by them, but close enough to deal with the terrible air quality and also to have everyone around us obsessed with collecting donations for the victims, to the point where evacuation centers are asking people to stop donating items and more local groups are having to go without. I even saw someone offering clothes, and a local charity offering to take it for use locally, and the person said, no, they only wanted to donate to fire relief. Normally, when a foster kid is placed, lots of donations are offered, but with the fires happening, we’re pretty much on our own, so I’m grateful that so many people are offering after I asked. If only finding daycare was as easy.

So we’re settling in, I’m trying to stay hopeful, and for the moment I’m really enjoying the time I get to spend with this little bundle of joy.

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OMG

So we finished our domestic adoption paperwork yesterday and sent it off with a hefty check.

And then we got home, laid down for a bit, and wouldn’t you know it, my phone rang with an automated call for an 8-month-old, and I called back and we got him!

Before I get too excited, I need to say that I found out this morning that at least one family member is interested in taking him, so this could be very short-lived. He’s seriously adorable though.

Babies on the brain (but not in my house)

Back when we were still trying to get pregnant, I used to have a hard time planning things for more than a month or two out. What if we were 6 months pregnant by then? What if we had a baby by then? How could we possibly think about quitting our jobs and traveling?

Then that dream came crashing down, and took a decent amount of our money with it, and we turned to foster care. I was told that people get babies all the time, we should be prepared because we’d likely get a call any day! Well, here we are exactly one year later from the day we got A, and our home is empty. There was an automated call yesterday for a newborn, the first one we’ve received. I’ve discovered that the automated call list calls each person in order. I’m pretty sure D was added right after me, as he always gets calls a few minutes after I do. But we’re so far down the list, literally hundreds of people get the calls before we do. By the time I called back, the baby was already placed. The competition for foster babies is fierce, and it comes from people who already have children of their own, so it’s a lot harder for me to be graceful about it as I would be if it were another infertile couple finally realizing their dream. Since we were added to the list so late, we will always be one of the last families to get a call when a baby is available. The only option it seems like we’ll ever have is to take the kids that no one else can handle, which I feel awful about refusing but we both work and we both commute and neither one of us has any experience raising kids, much less troubled kids, and this whole experience is making me wonder whether we should continue to be foster parents at all.

Anyway, yesterday I realized it was silly to keep planning as if a baby might be in our future. The chances of us getting a baby are slim to none, even through private adoption. To that end, I’ve decided to go ahead and live life. I bought us tickets to a coffee beer festival in November, I told a friend we could go on an “old person” pub crawl this weekend (I’m calling it that, she’s not, but she’d probably find it humorous), we bought tickets to a weeknight concert, and we’re talking about going on a camping trip for Thanksgiving weekend (of course I’ve been too busy working to plan it, and D doesn’t really plan anything, so chances are it won’t happen).

Speaking of A, her mom asked if wanted to take her for part of the weekend and I excitedly said yes. We picked her up right after lunch Saturday and dropped her off about 24 hours later and it was SO AWESOME. After dealing with the Ls and their issues, I forgot that having kids around can actually be fun. It was a great weekend. A was sweet, she was funny, she was such a joy to be around. I miss her so very much, but I’m so grateful that we get to spend time with her. She was so excited to see us, and she kept hugging us all weekend and telling us she loved us.

It made me want a baby more than ever, and on Saturday night I felt so sad knowing that she was going back home the next day and our house would be empty once again.

Foster care is nearly impossible for working parents

When you set out to become a foster parent, they like to tell you that you don’t have to be married, own your own home, or have a stay at home parent in order to be a foster parent. And I suppose that’s true, in theory. The reality is so very different. For starters, most foster kids have to go to visits. Depending on their family situation, they probably have 2-3 visits a week, but they can have as many as 7 or 8. These visits can be any time during the day. They can be in any location where your county has an office that does visits. They can be canceled at the last minute, or the family member may not show up (so planning to get work or errands done during the visit may be an iffy proposition).

The kids also have medical and dental appointments, and while any kid might have those, foster kids often have more medical and dental issues than other kids. If they’re old enough, they will also have counseling, generally once a week. And if they’re young enough, they may have to go to parenting programs with their parents.

And for all of this, foster parents are responsible for transportation. We were so unprepared for this, and it didn’t help that no one mentioned that A would eventually go to a parenting class with her mom twice a week for three hours each time, in another city.

We were encouraged to find childcare closer to our home rather than to where we work. I know for the future that this is a huge mistake! We live just under 20 miles from where we work. There are visitation rooms and counseling services where we live, but the main visitation center and the parenting classes are much closer to where we work. So we would drop kids off in our town around 7 and head to work. Then someone would have to drive back to where we live (30-60 minutes depending on traffic), pick up the kid(s), and take them to where they needed to go. If we were lucky, it would be the same town where we live, and then I could just go home and work remotely or run errands. If we weren’t lucky, we’d have to drive all the way back to the main center, a good 30 minutes, and then wait around for 2 or so hours to pick them back up, assuming the relative showed up. If the visit was mid-day (one visit was scheduled for 12:30-2, so not enough time to get much done), then you’d be stuck with the kids for the rest of the day. You pretty much had to take a half day off work for each of those types of visits.

The icing on the cake was when we were informed that A would be going to parenting classes twice a week from 9am to noon and that we were responsible for transportation. They wanted us to get her from our town to the main center (30 minutes minimum) by 9 am, then pick her back up at noon and drive her back to our town for daycare (another 30-minute drive, right at naptime), and then… drive 30-40 minutes back to work? I mean, when you factor in visits that require time off from work, who can possibly do that?

We were lucky and managed to work it out that A’s mom was able to provide the transportation for us, but that ended up meaning that we paid for an entire day of daycare each week that we didn’t use. Considering that we were paying out of pocket and not being reimbursed, that was extremely frustrating.

Plus, if you want to get benefits, that requires time off from work too. Want WIC to help pay for formula or food? Plan on having to show up in person once a month, during work hours. And it’s probably best not schedule that appointment during a visit, in case the visit doesn’t happen or it ends early and you’re called to pick up the kid. If you manage to qualify for the daycare subsidy (which we finally did, two weeks before A went home), be prepared to take time off to go to the orientation for that.

If you end up with school-age children, you’ll probably end up on a waiting list for before-and-after-school care, as anyone who has children of their own signed their kids up years before. What are you going to do in the meantime when you can’t drop the kids off at school until 8 and they have to be picked up at 2:30? Drop down to part-time at work? Look for a different job, quit entirely?

It seems like the entire foster care system is based on the idea that foster families have a stay-at-home parent, usually the mom since a lot of the classes recommend that foster dads be very careful about being alone with foster kids, especially girls, for fears of how things might look. For families like ours, where the mom is the primary breadwinner, how would that work? And yet, at the same time everyone talks about how there’s such a need for foster families.

My state is trying to make it easier, by providing six months worth of daycare subsidies (that aren’t dependent on sporadic funding, like the previous subsidies in our county) and help finding daycare, but until they address the HUGE elephant in the room – that working parents can’t take half-days off of work multiple times a week (or even once a week!) for months on end just to be glorified taxi drivers, and can’t find before-and-after school care on a moment’s notice – there will always be a shortage of good foster families.

Adoption decisions

I just found out about “For sale: baby shoes, never worn”. It’s apparently an example of an extremely short story, wherein the reader can imagine the whole story based on as few words as possible (in this case, six, and you’re supposed to imagine that a woman has lost her baby). It’s kind of funny, because we’ve been cleaning out our house and getting rid of a lot of baby stuff we’ve never used, and may never use, and I was thinking how weird it would be to be posting all this stuff on the community sale sites, and how would I explain that I never used it?

Saturday morning D and I had a call with our likely adoption agency. We went into the call assuming we would be pursuing domestic infant adoption, but we were open to hearing about adopting from India as well. Honestly, we love this agency so far and I imagine we’ll stick with them. But after hearing about the India program, we’re really torn. I’m going to try to break it down here to help me wrap my mind around the possibilities.

On the one hand, domestic adoption sounds so easy, at least in terms of paperwork and such. We already have a home study that we may be able to use (and if not, we’re prepared to do a new one although we we’d rather not). We wouldn’t have to worry about planning an international trip, our child would be a newborn and probably perfectly healthy, and it could happen in as little as a few months. I feel pretty good about a birth mother choosing us – we’re still in our 30s (for now), we’re active, we’re foster parents, everyone is always impressed by D’s job (he works in a children’s hospital), we have family nearby, a huge house that’s ready for kids, lots of pets and a swimming pool and a park down the street and basically everything a person could want for their child. We’re not religious, so that could count against us, but I have a good feeling about being picked. Of course, there’s always the chance of a failed match, and surprisingly it actually costs more than international adoption through this agency, although once you factor in the cost of traveling to India it may not be THAT much more. And I feel a bit weird about competing with so many other people for a baby in this country when there are so many babies in other countries who need homes.

What are the pros and cons about adopting from India? Well, I’ve always felt somewhat of a connection to the country. When I was growing up, my sister and I were really good friends with a set of twins whose parents were from India. We spent a lot of time at their house, eating their food, sharing in their religious ceremonies (they were Hindu), and doing all the normal stuff kids do (I specifically remember watching The Princess Bride at a sleepover at their house). They went to India for a year when we were 10, and I missed them so much. We also grew up in a very diverse area, and a lot of the kids at our school and the people my dad worked with were Indian. It’s a culture that is dear to my heart, and makes me feel very at home, and that I would feel very comfortable helping a child to learn about and retain connections with as they grow. I’m not sure D quite gets it, since he has yet to meet any of my friends that I grew up with, but he’s not against it.

All of the kids in the India program have already been relinquished, so there is pretty much no chance of a failed adoption. It can also go much more quickly if we’re willing to adopt a child with medical needs, and we’re not only willing, we’re excited to help, especially since D was a child with medical needs himself, and he works in a children’s hospital. And we’d be taking a child who really needs a home. I’m even looking forward to traveling to India.

But even though adopting a “special needs” child means it can go faster than your standard international adoption, I am worried about how long it might take. We’re still talking years here, not months, even though it could be less than two years. I don’t know if I want to wait that long. I feel like we’ve waited so long already, and while we’re not old, we’re not all that young either. Just getting started can take up to 6 months, and we’ll almost certainly need a new home study. I’m also dreading the paperwork.

I think my biggest hang-up with adopting a child internationally, aside from how long the wait might be, is that we won’t be getting a newborn. The child will definitely be over a year old, and could be over two. Our experiences with A have shown me that taking a toddler into your home can be wonderful, but I’m having a hard time giving up on having a newborn.

Ideally, we would adopt a toddler from India first, and then a newborn from the US, but with how long it could take to get a child from India, I’m worried about how old we’ll be by the time we’re ready for a newborn. It’s quite the conundrum. Does anyone have any advice for us? I’d love to hear from people who have adopted regarding the time frame…

One final note: We are still planning to foster, although we will probably be more selective about the kids we take for a while. We need a break right now, at least a month or two, and then we will either take kids a bit more selectively or just do some respite care for other foster parents for a while. But fostering higher-needs kids while we both work full-time is so much harder than we thought.

Blindsided

Another staff meeting, another pregnancy announcement. OMG, why????? They all know that I can’t have kids. Why do they keep doing this? And then of course there were the usual comments about how it’s definitely the water around here, and it makes me want to scream.

Whew, ok I got that off my chest. D and I have looked around at a few more adoption agencies, and while we’re trying to keep our minds open, we’ve probably already picked one. Hopefully we can move forward quickly, although I am so not looking forward to doing ANOTHER home study. I’m also extremely apprehensive about the costs of adoption. It kind of blows my mind, actually. In some ways, it almost makes surrogacy seem like a reasonable option.

In the meantime, I’m taking advantage of having a childfree home to purge, organize, and clean as much as possible in preparation for the next foster kid(s) or possible adoption, and it seriously feels good to get rid of stuff and really get a handle on what we have.

Rambling thoughts

The kids have gone. I had a chance to talk to their Grandma some more, as well as their Great Grandma, and I’m even more convinced that they’re in a good place. Their grandmother was shocked at how much stuff they had, and expressed so much appreciation towards us, telling us she could see how much we cared. Our house is empty and quiet, and it’s a bit sad, but at the same time I’m still dealing with a lot of stuff from my mother so having peace and quiet and space to work through it will be nice.

We did have a challenging weekend though. The car died, my motorcycle died (while D was riding it out on the country roads between our town and the next town). D and the animals conspired to make a mess in the house, plus we didn’t have much time to work on anything while trying to take care of the car, the motorcycle, and the pool which had decided to become cloudy. I’m beginning to hate having a pool.

Last night someone tried to steal a kids’ bike from our courtyard. We have two extra kids’ bikes that we were given for foster kids, and we haven’t been able to find a kid who needs them yet. We keep them at the back of our courtyard, which has a 3.5-ft wall with two gates. The gate from the driveway into the courtyard is broken right now because L1 kept kicking a soccer ball at it and climbing on it, so I’m assuming the would-be thief came in that way. Neither gate is locked, but it would be noisy to open one if they were both closed. Not surprisingly, the dogs didn’t wake up (they’re fairly useless in that department – I guess they need their beauty sleep). Luckily, the bike had a flat tire, so the thief abandoned it in the driveway. As far as I could tell, nothing else was missing, but I’m seriously angry that someone thought it was ok to come into our courtyard and walk past the front windows and just take a kids bike! The main reason we left the city where we worked was to get away from that kind of thing.

So now I’m looking into other options for where to live, despite the fact that D loves our house. I’m not as in love with it, for a few reasons, the main one being I hate living in the suburbs, where you pretty much have to drive everywhere, plus we live on the busiest street in the area so it’s loud and not particularly safe, and we often get trash in our yard from people walking by. It’s also not the style of house I prefer, our neighbors are so close they can see into our backyard, and the yard itself needs so much work. Plus, there’s a lot of carpet and I HATE carpet.

Ideally, I would either want to live somewhere urban, where I almost never need a car (and I don’t mind being biking distance from everything rather than walking distance), and if that’s not possible and I have to drive everywhere, I’d rather live somewhere where I can’t see or hear my neighbors (so city or country, but not suburbs, and if it’s going to be a city, I’d prefer a smaller city). Basically, this house is the worst of both worlds in some ways. At least I can walk to starbucks and the grocery store, so that’s something, but I’m tired of commuting 45 minutes to an hour each way and then being too exhausted to exercise. If I try to talk to D about it, though, he gets really offended because he’s pretty happy about where we live and he reacts like it’s a personal attack against him, whereas I’m just feeling a little trapped in suburbia.