Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) 

Note: Any comments disparaging H’s birth mom will immediately be deleted. I am not sharing her story, but suffice it to say, she loves H and never meant to harm him. In addition, H gave me his permission to speak about his story because he wants to help other kids not suffer like he does. 

Before H’s adoption, his adoption worker handed me a folder of mostly redacted information containing H’s biography. It featured smoothed-over facts, half truths, and one particularly huge lie: that H’s birth mom didn’t drink alcohol while pregnant. 

I knew H had struggles, but no one, including several doctors, suggested that alcohol might be the cause. No one told me that approximately 70% of kids in foster care have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. I didn’t know I should have a full trauma assessment done or that most serious issues don’t show up until after the age of three. I didn’t know that H would face life-long difficulties due to permanent, organic brain damage. I didn’t know how expensive his therapy would be, or how little help I would receive (currently I pay $500 out of pocket per month for H’s therapy, the state pays zero).

H is fortunate in that his IQ is average, as are his verbal skills, but IQ often drops in kids with FASD as they age, so time will tell. In addition, he’s outgrown his growth deficit. He’ll never be large, or even average, but he won’t be in the tenth or lower percentile on the growth charts. And that in itself is something to celebrate. 

It is my plan to use my voice and H’s voice to tell his story. H is very much my child in that he too lives his life openly, and without pretense.

Now, without further ado, one of the saddest conversations H and I have ever had. 

H: Mommy, why can’t I remember things? I don’t like it when I can’t remember.

Me: Precious boy, I’m sorry. It’s not your fault. When you were in your first mommy’s tummy she drank alcohol and it hurt your brain.

H: What’s alcohol?

Me: Alcohol is something adults drink to feel funny [poor choice of words, it was the first word that came out]. She didn’t mean to hurt you, honey, she made a mistake. She loves you very much.

H: I know that, mom.

Imagine having this conversation multiple times with your child each year starting when he’s four, because he can’t remember the conversation. It’s a conversation I will most likely have to have with him for the rest of his life. 

Please, please, please, don’t drink a single drop of alcohol while pregnant. FASD is 100% preventable, and currently there is no known safe amount of alcohol to consume while pregnant. 

Build Your Ark

There are so many different people in the Bible whose journeys I relate to, but Noah was my inspiration when it came to H’s adoption in a way I didn’t expect.  
The first week I met H, God clearly said to me: “This is your son.” It was illogical. At the time I was also fostering H’s biological brother, J (currently being adopted with a biological sister into a different family), and I couldn’t understand why I was only to adopt H. 

But that was only the beginning; the foster case ended up being full of so many twists and turns, so many unexpected victories and defeats. 

The worst defeat that ended up being the biggest blessing was when I had to have H and his brother moved to another foster family. J had significant needs that I couldn’t meet being a single parent with a full time job. 

I told our worker that J needed to be in a two-parent family with a stay at home mom, other children in the home, and pets. God delivered every single thing on my wish list, and then some. 

During the six months H lived in another foster home, the foster family and I became friends and they graciously allowed me to spend as much time as possible with H. 

They later admitted that they (along with many others) thought I was crazy for thinking I’d be able to adopt H when all the signs weren’t in my favor, but they generously gave me the benefit of the doubt, and when the time came, recommended me to adopt H. 

I took God at His word and believed in my heart that H was my son. I will never forget the look on my poor foster care licensing worker’s face when she saw I’d decorated his bedroom and hung up the letter “H” to signify it was his room. At the time he wasn’t even my foster child, so I understood her trepidation. 

I kept building my “ark” one day at a time, trusting God would keep His word. 15 months after God spoke to my heart, H became my son forever. 

I learned a truly invaluable lesson: when God tells you to build your ark, you’d better pick up the hammer and get to work!

“By faith, Noah built a ship in the middle of dry land. He was warned about something he couldn’t see, and acted on what he was told. The result? His family was saved. His act of faith drew a sharp line between the evil of the unbelieving world and the rightness of the believing world. As a result, Noah became intimate with God.” Hebrews‬ ‭11:7‬ ‭MSG‬‬

The Chosen Child

H and I have been sleeping on the couch for months now due to his difficulties with sleeping. It’s become so routine that most nights I forget I’m not sleeping in my comfy bed. 
It certainly helps that our couch is a gigantic sectional that is almost as wide as a twin size bed. Any discomfort is worth it; most nights H sleeps better and longer than he ever did in a bed. 
And for the most part we finally have calm and peaceful mornings without meltdowns. This morning was no exception. I was half asleep when H bounded up, chattering excitedly, full of stories, energy and excitement for the day.

 
I barely heard his tiny precious raspy voice through my almost-unconscious grogginess: “Mommy, I love you. Thank you for picking me.”
Years ago, I read an article about some adoptive children feeling guilt and shame when they were told they’d been chosen, since not all kids are chosen (horrible, but true). As a result, I’ve never told H that he was chosen or picked, I vowed to let him discern his feelings about how we became a family. I am so thrilled my child is finding is value and worth.
Child, for the record, you were picked, chosen, prayed for, fought for, God-given, and the main reason I was put on this earth. 

 

Today You Are Five

Oh, H. I don’t know how it’s possible, but today, you are five. You have a mom who will always celebrate your Birthday as one of the best days of the year, while simultaneously grieving for the first 11 months of your life I wasn’t a part of, and for your first mommy who loved you too much to not to let you go. 
You came into my life when I least expected you: a tiny ball of chubby, bald, baby-cuteness, filled with sunshine, and cuddles, desperate to take in every moment, every experience and every day with exquisite wonder, expectation and curiosity. You, my child, are the reason I was put on this earth. 

They say that God chooses the willing, not the qualified, and boy, did He ever. I was willing, but naive, unsure, and full of mistakes. You’ve molded me into a mom. An imperfect mom who will always be a bit too chaotic to live like everyone else, but too weary, and maybe strangely – too content to care. 
You will change the world, my child. I know this, because you changed my world so completely that I no longer recognize what I used to have, or who I used to be. 

You, my precious H, are an explorer, a near-genius with spacial reasoning, an engineer, and a purveyor of life. You often announce to me with your eyes shining, and your chin set determinedly: “I like to figure things out.” Yes. Yes, my child, you do. 

I never imagined or planned I’d have a life with someone as amazing as you, but the best moments are unplanned moments because that’s when God shows up and His mercy permeates our dark corners, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities with light, love, and perfect hope.

Remember, you, my child, my beautiful H, are a gift. Don’t let the world, deceptive thoughts, or misguided friends ever tell you differently. 

I love you H for now, for later, forever, and for always. 

Foster Parent No More

Being a foster parent has been one of the most life-defining and life-altering things I’ve ever done. I imagined at the beginning of my journey I’d be a mother (albeit temporary) to countless children, and oh, how noble I would be. 
Then the truth was thrust upon me: foster care is exhausting, overwhelming, heartbreaking, and requires tremendous amounts of self-sacrifice. 

I went into foster parenting expecting and hoping to change countless lives, but instead my journey changed two lives, mine and the life of H, whom I adopted at the age of 27 months.

Then, before I could blink, my fostering journey has come to an end. With much thought and prayer, my heart is calm and at peace: I am closing my foster care license. I no longer feel the need to look for another child to adopt, to fill a gap, or to say “I’m a foster parent” to feel complete. I can say “I’m a parent,” and it’s more than enough. 

I am humbled and amazed that God knows my heart, knows my weaknesses, yet still entrusted me with the precious son who now bears my last name. 

I am grateful that God only gave me one placement before I was able to adopt. I am well aware that many foster families toil for years hoping to adopt, or watch other competing parties adopt their foster children instead, or seeing their foster kids being reunited with their biological family (which of course is the entire point and mission of foster care). 

I don’t know what the future holds, maybe I’ll be a foster parent again someday, maybe I’ll adopt again domestically or internationally, or maybe our family is complete. That is the beauty of life, learning to live contentedly and in the moment without sorrow for what might have been.

I am looking forward to completing our tiny family of two by adopting a dog (and maybe even a backyard goat and chickens!) and making our lives as enriching, exciting, and fulfilling as possible.

Happy Family Induction Day!

Happy Family Induction Day to my precious H!
It feels as though I’ve scarcely had time to take a breath, yet 730 days have passed, 730 new beginnings since we became a tiny family of two. There is no more true or real family than the one we’ve become.
We laugh, cry, play, and dream. I’m watching you grow up before my eyes: all curly hair (just like mine, a miracle without the benefit of genetics!), beautiful brown eyes, and a fiercely independent streak.
My life has new dimension, color, and joy with you in it, and I am so grateful for you. 
Thank you, H for being my son; and thank you Jesus for giving me the biggest blessing of my life. 

Adoption 

Adoption is:
Beautiful, yet brutal.

Enriching, yet depleting.

Happiness, yet heartbreaking.

Joyous, yet bittersweet. 

Captivating, yet crushing. 

Highest highs, yet lowest lows.

Exciting, yet sacrificial. 

A new hand to hold, a new forehead to kiss, an endless sea of worry: will I be enough, or will my child always be seeking, missing, yearning for what was lost? 

Gratitude for the gift of a child to treasure, love, and raise. Sadness for missing the first new moments of precious life, and disappointment for not being able to capture the child’s fears of abandonment and loss. 

More love than you can ever imagine being chosen and anointed by God’s hand. It is not by accident, but by design that I am my child’s mom. 

November is National Adoption Month.

How to create your own plate wall in 84 (give or take!) easy steps

1. Scour thrift stores for a month or two to find cool plates with personality and color.

2. Experiment with several inexpensive homemade hangers after going to two stores, looking online, and calling a local store with no luck. 

3. Give up, and spend more buying fancy adhesive plate hangers than you paid for the plates. 

4. Painstakingly trace EVERY SINGLE PLATE on paper to cut out and make a template. 

5. Armed with several plate wall pictures, put templates on wall; obsessively arrange, again and again, and again… 

6. Feel despair and frustration that so far you have nothing more than a stack of mismatched plates, and a wall full of paper circles (and one square!) to view.  

To be continued…

  

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