Thursday, October 6, 2011

Meeting the Parents

Monkey has been with me for nearly five months now, and up until last week I still hadn't met his parents. 

His case has been all over the place from the very beginning.  His parents have been "on again, off again" every other week since he came into care.  Mom has health and dependency issues.  Dad has a big problem with women and tends to let that be known in a wide variety of ways (a fact that didn't bode well for him in the beginning considering every major player determining who will gain custody of Monkey is a woman).  His parents seem to be working hard on their service plans now though, and although they are kind of all over the map (one step forward, two steps back; three steps forward, one step back), they do seem to be making progress over this past month.

I have to say, I have so much compassion for this mom and have since I heard her story two weeks after Monkey came to me.  Ordinarily, I wouldn't share this much about my kids' parents, but I think in this case, it kind of breaks the stereotypes that many people have about biological parents of children in care.  Monkey's mom is a recent cancer survivor.  Her dependency issues began while she was fighting her disease.  When she found out she was pregnant only two months after being in remission, her doctors advised her to terminate the pregnancy as her cancer was hormone based.  She carried Monkey against medical advice, and now calls him her "miracle baby."  She has no family in the States, barely speaks English, has an unstable, sometimes volatile relationship with Monkey's dad, and has been fighting for herself (and now for Monkey) pretty much all alone. 

Up until a few weeks ago, the Invisible CPS Caseworker was rather hesitant for me to have any contact with his parents for many reasons.  But last Tuesday, she called me and asked if I could possibly transport Monkey to his Wednesday visitation.  His parents were "on again" that week so their visit was going to be together.  I asked if she thought I might be able to meet them, and after thinking about it she replied, "You know, I don't have a problem with that.  They both seem to be in a lot better place now, and really aren't that crazy."  She went on to say, "Well, I mean...  They're crazy...  But they aren't CUH-RAY-ZEE."  She added that she thought it would be really productive for them to meet me.

So the next morning, I headed to the CPS office with my little Chunky Monkey, and waited in the parking lot for The Invisible One to arrive so we could walk in together.  His parents had no idea that I was going to be there because it was such a last-minute decision so she wanted to be able to introduce us.  We walked in and Monkey's mom immediately ran up and hugged the caseworker and tried to explain where she had been since she got out of rehab two weeks before.  I handed Monkey to his mom as his dad walked towards us, looking at me kind of questioningly.  The Invisible One introduced me to Monkey's dad, and I swear the huge smile that came onto his face turned this man into my Chunky Monkey in 40 years!!!  There is no doubt who Monkey's daddy is.  He looks exactly like his father.  :-)

His dad shook my hand excitedly with that huge smile and just said, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!" over and over.  Any fear that I had about how he would respond to me (the woman raising his child) pretty much disappeared.  You might be able to fake a smile on your lips, but you can't fake the smile in your eyes.  We all turned towards Monkey's mom and The Invisible One tried to introduce us, but I could tell that his mom didn't understand who I actually was.  She smiled and shook my hand, but you could tell she didn't really comprehend things.  I left the office as Monkey's dad was "goo-goo, gaga-ing" him and his mom was hugging and kissing all over him.  I have to admit, seeing Monkey's dad going all melty over him made me feel a bit better about him gaining custody of my baby.  I definitely have my reservations, but it's good to know that he does love that baby.  I've never had any doubt about how Monkey's mom feels.  She has been sending letters home in his diaper bag after visits...  Some in Spanish, some in broken English so I can understand and read them to him.  It is very, very clear how much she loves him and how hard she is trying to bring him home.

When I came back to the CPS office an hour later, Monkey's mom spotted me from across the room and came running out towards me carrying the baby.  Her eyes were huge, and she just kept saying, "I so sorry!!!  I no understand!!!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!"  Monkey's dad explained to her who I was during the visit and she was so happy to really meet me when I came back.  She grabbed me in a huge hug and I thought she'd never let go.  She just kept thanking me over and over and started tearing up.
Monkey was so good.  He's a ridiculously happy baby, so not much phases him.  He did take one look at me and lunged for me (in an "excited to see my Mama" way), but his mom seemed okay with it.  She just handed him to me and kept on smiling and thanking me.  By this time, Monkey's dad and The Invisible CPS Caseworker were standing with us, and we all talked for a few minutes.  Monkey's dad did his best to translate for his mom.  His English is very broken as well, but he does a good job explaining things.  Things that were said:
  • Both parents commented on how happy Monkey is and how he is always smiling.
  • They thanked me for sending all of the pictures and photobooks.
  • We talked about how Monkey is teething and drools a lot.
  • We talked about how Monkey hates peaches and I showed them the face that he makes when I try to give them to him.
  • His mom asked if I read her letters and I assured her that I have read them to Monkey and that I've saved all of them for him to keep.
  • I told them that I talk about his Momi and Papi every night before bed and tell him that they love him.
  • We talked about lots of little things that only I know about him and that I knew they would love to hear. 
And then his mom said something to me that completely broke my heart.  His dad translated when she asked me...  "Please love my baby."  I assured them both that I love him very, very much and that they never have to worry about that.  She nodded, hugged me again, and said "he very happy."  ...and then she turned away to compose herself.  :(  I swear, I've never wanted to take a mom home with me so badly!

Overall, the visit was a huge success.  I left there feeling much better about where Monkey's case is headed, and really hoping that his mom can overcome all of the obstacles that she is facing.  And if you think about it, please say a little prayer for her...  She is worried that her cancer is back, and the thought of that is devastating for everyone.  She loves her son...  She fought hard to carry him and give birth to him...  She is fighting so hard to be the kind of mom he deserves...  And more than anything, he needs the opportunity to know and love her.


MamaFoster said...

what a sad story. so glad they got to meet you!

Mama P said...

**Big Sigh**

I have always said that for me, the parents are the hardest part of foster care.

Im so glad that the meeting turned out well. Im sure that it was a huge deal for the parents to know how safe and loved their baby is.

You're such a good mommy, Tammy.

Jenny said...

What a sweet, heartbreaking story. Monkey is blessed to have so many people that love him and so lucky to have you caring for him now no matter where he ends up in the future!

kate said...

Wow. THAT is a post.

I will pray for her right now.

Diane said...

Sounds like a wonderful meeting for all involved! So glad things went so well.

Suggestion if you are able to meet with them again: take a camera and ask to take pictures of all of them together, and then send copies of the pictures to the following visit.

My biggest regret is not taking a picture of my (now adopted) daughter's mom, because she never surfaced again after just a few visits in her case.

Learned my lesson and took a picture of my (now adopted) son's mom on the one and only visit he ever had with her!

Sandra Zimmerman said...

What a beautiful post! Your comment about wanting to take Birthmom home with you struck a chord with me, I have often yearned to take my youngest daughters mom along with me. I wish I could nurture and parent her. She is such a lovely vulnerable young woman and she loves her baby dearly. Wishing you the best as you continue on your journey!

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