Thursday, February 27, 2014

For all those so worried about my bio kids and fostering

This morning, Dinosaur and I were having a fun chat about what grown-ups do, and I asked him the usual "what do you want to do when you grow up" question.  Most recently, his answer had been fix cars (one grandpa's career) and fix computers (dad's career).

But today he said, "I want to help people.  And take care of a baby."

My eyes filled with tears.  This is my son that has never tended toward helping or caring for others.  He didn't say this after I gave birth to his younger brother.  He said this after he saw that we take care of babies, and that this helps people.

I know they get less attention because we're busy with fostering.  I know they feel the goodbyes with more confusion and hurt than they express.  Beetle is scheduled to move one week from today (but you know how foster care goes), and I ache when Dinosaur declares how much he loves Beetle, and Rhinoceros asks "Where's Beetle?"  But oh, what they learn.  I need to remember to pray over these little guys, that their hearts grow, and they grow up to do much more to love others than I ever did.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Baby feet, baby tummy

No, that is definitely not my photography.  A friend did a newborn session for Beetle for me at a discount.  They're gorgeous pictures, and make me regret not doing this for Pterodactyl or even my bio boys.  I was always too overwhelmed with the newborn stage to schedule anything like this, and balked at the cost, but at least I've learned my lesson.  Beetle's mom is really excited to see them.  I'm feeling especially happy about them.  With a newborns in foster care, everyone tends to pity them, and it seems like their identities are a bit lost among their stories (or presumed stories).  I feel like the photos really captured this funny little guy and gave me a chance to celebrate who he is now, even if we don't really get to know him as anyone but a newborn.

Beetle's sister moved to a foster family she lived with before.  I'd been told that they weren't going to work out as a placement, but one way or another they changed their minds, and they'll be taking Beetle soon as well.  No word on the timeline yet, so we may just have a few days, or a few weeks.  I can understand either way: do they move him now before he gets older and more attached to us, or do they wait so that he has some consistency in care during withdrawal?  I'm sure it's up to the foster family as well; I haven't met them yet.  I have no idea if they were planning on this many kids, and I feel a bit sheepish that we said no to taking his sister, even though I think it was the right decision.  We almost had Beetle's sister with us for this weekend for respite because things were still a bit up in the air Friday yet they didn't want her to stay with Grandma longer, but it worked out for her to go to the foster family right away.  It was an afternoon rush of phone class and plans to move beds all around our house that ended with some relief that she wasn't coming after all.  Now I'm extra relieved, because Beetle went from fussy to fussy squared.

Thank you to those that commented on reflux.  I brought it up at his doctor's appointment last week, but didn't have many incidents of arching to report and we thought we'd just keep an eye on it.  Well, he has been quite fussy the past few days, doing more arching, , more screaming at night, more inconsistent feedings.  Sometimes I'm still not sure it's reflux because he sometimes just seems gassy, but it's something digestive.  His birth mom was also concerned about it and wants him on the formula his sister was on.  We'll be back at the doctor on Thursday, so hopefully we'll be able to ease the discomfort some then.  B mentioned he read the comments, so now I know he's reading the blog.  Guest post!  Guest post!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"We know you're not licensed for two, but..."

This is the second time this month that a certain social worker at my agency has called and talked about how things are going in general, then slipped in a placement request.  Sneaky.

So, Beetle will not be moving to grandma to join his sister, because the GAL visited grandma and wants the sister removed.  Yikes.  This means that his sister needs a home, and we already have the brother, so of course we got a call.  And of course I want to say yes, but we decided to say no.  (Well, okay, I wimped out and said please look for other homes that could take both and if you can't keep them together, call again.)

I don't want Beetle to leave, but it's not extremely compelling for them to both be here.  Beetle has only had a week at home with us, and a week with me visiting in the NICU.  It's not a bad time for him to move.  I've met his sister at visits, and I would love to scoop up that cutie and bring her home, but there are at least three big issues.  1) She's almost 3, and we said we wouldn't have a foster child the same age as our bio children.  We want to stay at least 6 months younger.  2) She has night terrors.  As it is, we are taking turns holding Beetle all but one hour of the night.  I literally do not know how we would be able to help her, too.  3) She's moved around a lot, and this will be another traumatic move.  Beetle needs a lot of attention and has tons of appointments, so with that combined with the needs of our bio kids, and my part-time teaching schedule... we shouldn't do it.

I'm praying the right family is found for both of them.  If not and they call again, this will be a hard one.  Even though there are all the reasons above for not taking this placement, I've got a lot of love for Beetle from these two weeks and would like to see him through withdrawal if I can.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Thank God I'm not doing this alone

Me: I think I've hit a wall.
B: You know what that wall is called?  Children.
Me: No, we can't call it that, because then I'm hitting the children!

I've been pretty chipper about how I don't enjoy middle-of-the-night newborn feedings, but I'm still myself during the day.  Well... that ended on Saturday.  I haven't been the nicest wife or mom.  I've done a lot of apologizing.  I did get a nap today and feel much more like myself.  But Beetle is not a sleeper, at least not when he's not in our arms.  We've done that drill before, but yep, never fun.

He's been at our home almost  a week.  In many ways, he's like a fussy newborn, which is pretty much the only kind of newborn I've known, to some extent or another.  At the same time, there are differences from NAS.  He almost never seems to totally relax.  Even sleeping in my arms, he startles as soon as I stand up.  He may settle back down, but he's always startling and fidgeting.  He even cries in his sleep, not enough to wake him, but after he's done it 20 times in a row, I feel bad and pick him up.  Or I'm tired and just want to hear less crying.  I think he has some tummy troubles, too.  He doesn't seem to really enjoy and relax for feedings like other babies, some arching of his back.  He's still sensitive to noise and light, though I think he's getting used to it more.  He did well at church this morning despite all the noise, but I had him in a wrap with his face hidden and I was standing and swaying, so I think that helped.  And thank God for church.  I almost turned back around because I had to park ridiculously far away and B was singing with choir, so I had three kids to get across a busy street and into church, two of them whining before I'd unbuckled them.  I threatened to go home if they didn't stop, but I knew I was just being a mean, tired mom.  More apologies.  So glad we went in, as singing "You are the source of my strength" lifted me out of my weariness.

Life with a drug-exposed newborn can't be entirely predicted as babies can be so different from each other.  Some have less drug exposure and don't need medication.  Some, like Beetle, need to be on methadone after discharge.  Some are sleepy.  Some scream.  Some are startlers (Beetle).  I also wonder how much the support might vary.  I also thought it would be good for potential foster parents of newborns with NAS to know that they're not just on their own!  Here is the support we have had through extra care for Beetle:
  • NICU - Beetle was ever-so-slightly pre-term, so some of his care was related to that, and I don't have previous NICU experience to distinguish.  He had a stay of 16 days, and I first knew of his existence on day 10.  I visited daily and asked the nurses for tips for soothing him and caring for him.  Some were especially helpful in explaining his scores and what to expect.  I also met with his occupational therapist for instruction on feeding, as many babies with NAS have a lazy suck and tend to dribble or spit.  The day he was discharged had lots of information from lots of people as well: the nurse went through an extensive binder of information that all babies from the NICU get, the pharmacist went over administering his methadone, the diet technician went over his formula (he gets a higher-calorie mix for now), the hospital social worker went over paperwork and some case information, and the doctor went over a lengthy report that gave me much more information about his birth and care than I got with Pterodactyl (who did not stay in the NICU).  It was plenty of support and information, and from people who had been through caring for these babies before.  At least three different hospital personnel made sure I knew to set him down to cry and walk away for a minute if I needed to, and make sure I was taking care of myself.  In a loving way, not in a "foster parent are baby shakers" kind of way.  And one nurse stood out to me as she strongly advised that B come in on the day of discharge and feed him and hear the same information.  She wanted to make sure we were a foster family, not just a foster mom with a husband, because we would both need to pitch in for a baby like Beetle.  B is a great support and loving guy, but I did need to hear that I should not just do all the hospital visit myself just because I'm more of a baby person.
  •  Weekly doctor visits - Beetle needs more visits because he is on methadone and will need to be weaned off of it.  It took some doing to find who his doctor was going to be, but it worked out that he is seeing the same doctor I saw with Pterodactyl, and I like her.  We've had one visit so far, and she will be setting up a plan to wean and keep on top of that with me.  There was a possibility that we couldn't find a doctor that would follow up on babies on methadone and he would have to go to a separate clinic for those check-ups, but thankfully we connected with this doctor.
  • Nurse home visits - I was asked by one nurse if we wanted ongoing home visits.  I had no idea, but figured why not.  I came to find out that he qualified for having NAS, and his Medicaid covers it.  So now I have weekly visits from a nurse to be an extra set of eyes to check on how Beetle's doing as we wean him off methadone.  AND I don't have to leave my house.
  • Additional training - This goes back to January, but we attended a training session to learn more about drug-exposed infants, taught by a nurse who is also a foster parent.  I knew some of the information from foster blogs or forums already, but it was good just to hear what to expect.  It has also helped me refute myths for the closest friends and family that I tell about Beetle having NAS.  No, not all moms who have drug-addicted infants make poor decisions during pregnancy.  Some are on methadone under supervision by a doctor because that's safer than trying to quit.  No, the long-term effects are probably not as scary as you might have read if the environment mediates them.
  • Friends and family - It cannot be underestimated how much offered help means to me.  I even took some clothes a friend was getting rid of that I didn't desperately need because I was just felt so encouraged to have help offered.  One friend took Rhinoceros overnight to ease the load.  Another took him while we had that long afternoon at the hospital while he was discharged.  I went to a foster care support group mainly to use their childcare.  And, of course, it helps just to have listening ears and prayers.
So, we're not on our own with Beetle.  I'm careful to take a lot of notes.  His parents expressed their concern about how he was doing, and I feel a great responsibility to do this the best I can, to keep this little guy from too much pain, yet still get him weaned off methadone.  I'm still waiting to hear if he is going to move to his grandma or aunt.  My hunch?  They will let us do the legwork on his withdrawal process while there are still twice weekly appointments, then move him.  I'm not upset about this, just learning to understand that when things don't have to move fast, they often don't.  We'll see if I'm right.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Foster brother love

This week is craaaazy with little sleep and lots of appointments.  Plus I'm teaching 3 nights this week, whereas when Pterodactyl arrived, I was off work.  It's not going to get easier, as we have 6 hours of training to complete this month, too.  Couldn't that have been offered in January, guys?  But we're doing okay, and I'm remembering that it's not about us, and not about getting recognition/pity that we're inconvenienced by this or that.

Now, on to a little story about each of my bio sons reacting to Beetle.

Rhinoceros likes to identify lately.  "This is a coffee."  "This is a sun."  Heaven help you if he's wrong, and you wish to correct him.  So, he saw Beetle tucked into my Moby wrap and identified, "This is a baby.  This is Beetle."  Later that evening, I was helping him with his pants and he patted my chest and looked down my shirt.  I reminded him that this area is private, and he finally said, "This is a baby?"  I figured out he thought I was somehow hiding Beetle down my shirt or inside my body.

Dinosaur loves babies, apparently not just Pterodactyl.  He talks about how cute Beetle is and that he loves him.  I had a few minutes before work and told him I had time to read him a book.  He asked, "Can we read the book about Pterodactyl?  I want to show it to Beetle."  It was comforting to me to know that he's processing that the two babies have something in common: they come here, they're cute, and they leave, but we can still remember them.  Maybe he hasn't connected all of that yet, but it seems he's working on it.

Dinosaur has also made a Mii on our Wii for both Beetle and Pterodactyl, joining about 50 others, as creating Miis is his favorite hobby right now.

Monday, February 10, 2014

8th Day - Day before Beetle's arrival

 The title is a little misleading, because Beetle HAS arrived, after a long day of meeting what seemed like half of the hospital staff.  He's cuddled in B's arms as we watch the Olympics.  My head is spinning with the number of appointments and arrangements that are going on.

But instead of blogging about that, I'm going to try to join in something I've seen at Journey to Josie, which is taking the same day every month and photojournaling it a bit.  She does it with the first day of every month, but I usually don't realize it's a new month until it's at least the 5th.  So, I tried documenting Feb. 5th and started to forget.  So, the 8th it is!  Every month I'll try to give you glimpses of our lives.  My photography skills are not great and I try to not to show any faces of our family, so it might be a little strange, but I like the challenge.

 Most days around here involve a dance party.

Before or after church, we almost always have a hot breakfast on Sunday.  This 8th day: french toast, ham, pears.


I did some last-minute projects that I knew wouldn't get done with a newborn around, like recovering this glider.


Off to the NICU to visit Beetle

I came home to some serious Olympic viewing.

And later I added some knitting.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Fostering in the NICU

We're in limbo, as Beetle (nickname I decided for our new placement, I blame this song that my kids love) is still in the NICU, and thus we're not officially his foster parents.  I don't have any paperwork on him, and things like visits haven't started.  Yet, I introduce myself as a foster parent at the children's hospital desk, and a board in his room announces my name and B's as foster parents.

The first two nights, I came after work and got to feed and cuddle him, talking to the nurses now and then.  I'm always out of sorts and shy in a new place, so I had to figure out when I need to be asked to be buzzed in through the doors, and even though they told me I can just go in and out of his room, I should probably ask for his nurse when I first come in so she doesn't wonder who this person is in his room by herself.  Add to that the delicate balance of care in the NICU.  At home, when I sense a baby has a dirty diaper, I change it.  In the NICU, I mention it to the nurse, and she suggests waiting a short awhile because he has some routine care coming up.  In any situation, I would feel awkward and tentative about picking up a newborn I didn't give birth to.  In this case, there's all sorts of wires connected to him.  Yes, I made the alarms go off because somehow I got something disconnected.

I knew I couldn't come by tonight, so I visited Beetle this morning.  It was good to go during the day, because I got to talk to his occupational therapist and the hospital social worker.  Both think he's doing quite well considering that he's going through withdrawal; he's gaining well and isn't inconsolable.  He definitely has many of the symptoms that I learned about, and I learned a lot from the nurses and the OT on how to help make things a little easier for him.  Withdrawal isn't close to done, though, as he'll still go home on medication and continue to wean off of it.

At first I was worried that no one had been visiting him, and my hours with him were the only extra cuddles he was getting, but I learned his mom and grandma have been visiting, just not when I've been there.  We'll see if I bump into them before discharge.  A date for discharge hasn't been set yet, but everyone there seems to think it shouldn't be too long.

In the meantime, I'm torn between enjoying moments of quiet and rushing around to get things done.  I did buy the Mamaroo, newborn clothes, diapers, and a few other necessities.  We still need to move the crib from the nursery to our bedroom, though.  And I want to really clean the house and finish some projects in the nursery because I know I won't have the time for awhile.  At the same time, I want to enjoy these last few calm days and take Rhinoceros on our usual outings, appreciating the ease of getting around with fewer children.

Dinosaur is excited about Beetle's arrival and asked questions about what he looked like.  This morning he said that Beetle could join them in the "monkeys jumping on the bed" game they were playing.  Um, kiddo, I think you've already forgotten what a newborn baby is.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Babies, babies, babies

Those were my first words to B when we talked on the phone about... a new placement.

B and I had just finished discussing that we would say a conditional yes to to the twins, that if they were born when we happened to be available for placement, or if it meant staying empty for a month or less, then we would take them.  Then the phone rang about another baby.

He's not here yet.  He's a baby boy still in the NICU, possible discharge this weekend.  We just took a drug-exposed infant training, and good thing.  Or not a coincidence at all... as I think the agency saw this placement coming and tried to get a few more of us ready to say yes!

Some new factors compared to our last placement will be NAS (Neo-natal Abstinence Syndrome) and a father that has visits to schedule as well.  Some familiar factors will be picking up a newborn (he's a bit premature, so he'll seem like a newborn) from the hospital and a relative who hopes to be placed with the baby once some barriers are out of the way.  The latter didn't go as expected last time, so we'll see what happens.

I'm very tempted to get this Mamaroo swing that I hear is excellent for infants in withdrawal, but I always have trouble plunking down money for anything but the most basic baby equipment.  There's one on Craigslist for a little cheaper.  Hrmmm.

I'm going to try to get like 9 hours of sleep every night until his discharge.  I am looking forward to the Olympics lining up with having a newborn.  Hours of stuff to watch when in a daze.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Multiplying before our eyes

There's one bit of news about Pterodactyl and her mom I didn't blog about yet.  Before she moved, we learned her mom was pregnant.  What seems like impossibly soon to be pregnant.

So, we knew when that baby was born, or shortly before, the agency would probably want to match us up.  We decided we wouldn't stay empty just to wait on that placement, but if it all fell into place, that would probably be a good thing.  We know the family, and while I wouldn't say we had a positive relationship with her mom, it wasn't clearly negative either, which is better than her relationship with some others at the agency.  The grandma who has the siblings knows us and actually said she wanted this baby with us.

So, we're ready, waiting on the next placement, come what may.

Then I got an e-mail from our licensing worker that there are BABIES due in June, Pterodactyl's siblings.  Twins.  Would we consider taking them, if they came into care?

Sooo... we were only planning on taking one child at a time.  Maybe reconsidering in the future, but we weren't there yet.  And oh man, twins.  I have friends and family with twins.  It's insane, especially as newborns.  And have I mentioned that B is not a newborn person?  I'm like 50% a newborn person.  I can do it, but I'm a much more cheery person when they get to 6 months or so.  But poor B is in near misery.  And TWINS.  And he kind of just wanted 2 or 3 kids originally.

So, we asked some questions about whether the agency is hoping we would stay without other placements to wait on the twins.  We're trying to figure out what the need is.  Figure out what this "if they come into care" is about, because it really seems unlikely they wouldn't.  Lordy, if Pterodactyl's mom was in a good place to try out parenting, it doesn't seem like twins would be the best bet.  And B, bless his heart, says of course we would take them.  He had his head in his hands and swore a bit first, though.

B: "This is how it starts!  Then you turn around and you have 10 kids!"
Me: "They are literally multiplying before our eyes."

Oh, foster care.  It's true we wouldn't write these stories this way.  I did feel led to pray for Pterodactyl's mom Sunday night with our small group.  This must have been why.