Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Doctor Office Torture

Having spent what seemed like 7,000 hours in two doctors' offices with a 19-month-old last week, I think I can safely say that a root canal without anesthesia performed by a blind Tourette's patient would quite possibly be a more pleasant experience than what I endured.  I'm sure that anyone who has ever taken a toddler to the doctor can sympathize with me.

Bug's appointment on Tuesday was with his new non-Medicaid (HOLLA!!!) primary care doctor, so of course they handed me a stack of incredibly detailed paperwork to complete in the waiting room.  I tucked us into the thankfully empty children's corner and tried to contain him while I spent entirely too long filling out those forms.

With his uncanny ability to know the precise moment that Mommy is distracted, Bug took the opportunity to attempt to:

  • climb every empty chair in our corner
  • move furniture
  • pull out every book and magazine he could find
  • "straighten" all of the art on the walls

Then the little toot noticed the giant aquarium on the other end of the packed waiting room and took off running for it the second I went to sign my name on one of the 10,000 forms.  That's when Bug realized that there was so much more to offer in that room than what our little corner had provided, and I spent the next 30 minutes attempting to distract him with snacks, his sippy cup, books, anything to get him to stay close me. I would have given him a Sharpie and let him color on the walls if I'd had one available!  At one point, I had my clipboard in hand completing forms and had Bug securely locked in "leglock" of sorts just to keep him from running up to complete strangers and shouting "HI!"  

All I could think of as I called out Bug's name for the millionth time was this skit that Bill Cosby had done about 4-year-old "Jeffrey."

Kind of like "Jeffrey" -

Yes...  That was my son...  "Jeffrey."  I was shocked that I didn't hear applause when the nurse finally called us back to the exam room!

Any hopes that I had that waiting in the exam room with Bug would be easier were quickly dashed when he realized that he could open the door all by himself.  I sat on the floor with my back to that door filling out even more forms as Bug took the opportunity to explore his new surroundings.  He once again pulled out every book, magazine, and puzzle in the room.  He pushed the doctor's rolling stool around the room until he realized that it swiveled.  Then he laid on top of it on his stomach and spun around and around in circles.  He located the brand new Kleenex box as well as the trash can.  I am fully expecting a bill for tissues and a new puzzle as I am fairly certain an entire box of Kleenex and a puzzle piece or two ended up in there.  He found the crinkle paper on the exam table and tried to "mummify" himself.  I believe he spotted the computer just as the doctor arrived.  At least that was one crisis averted!

As soon as the doctor walked in, Bug sat quietly in the corner putting together a puzzle (the one without the missing pieces hidden in the trash can).  She probably took one look at me...  the out of breath, perspiration-drenched, disheveled mess with the glazed-over expression, rocking herself back and forth in the fetal position...  and thought to herself that I probably needed medical intervention more than the adorable, well-behaved toddler who smiled up at her with his big hazel eyes and adorable grin.  I apologized for his behavior earlier, and she just smiled and nodded with that "knowing" look that car mechanics get when you tell them your car is acting up and it drives perfectly for them.

Bug was an angel throughout the entire exam.  He got his 18-month shots like a trooper, and then my little terror in size 5 toddler shoes reached into the diaper bag, grabbed his sparkly pink Mr. Flamingo Bird, held my hand, and we walked out the door as he exclaimed "bye-bye!" to every person we passed along the way to our car.  Apparently the sight of a little boy with a sparkly pink flamingo in tow goes a long way towards restoring peace and tranquility where chaos once reigned.  The other patients who will forevermore remember my child's name just as Mr. Cosby will remember "Jeffrey" were all smiles and gushing all over my son as we walked towards our car.

...where he promptly fell asleep with Mr. Flamingo Bird in his arms.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Another "First"

So a couple of weeks ago, I added another item to the list of "Things I Never Thought I'd Do Before Foster Care" when I wrote a letter to Bug's birthmother in prison.  I have never met the woman who gave birth to my son, and she hasn't seen him since he was two months old so I really didn't know what to expect.  I had heard from several different sources over the past year and a half that led me to believe that despite everything that happened early in his life and the choices that she made, she loves Bug very much.  The fact that she voluntarily relinquished her parental rights and added for the record that she knew that Bug was in a good and loving home and would have the life that she wants for him with me gave me the added push to reach out to her when Bug's adoption became finalized.

I had no idea what to say or where to begin.  What exactly do you say to the woman who gave your son life, but made terrible choices that ultimately ended in her losing her child?  I decided to start by explaining who I was and letting her know that I was writing because I wanted to tell her about Bug.  I knew that she had a general idea of who Bug was with after meeting Heaven's mother in jail earlier last year and Heaven making the connection (another one of those "only in foster care" moments), but I was never allowed to contact her while Bug was a ward of the state.  Now that he's officially mine, I wanted to do what I thought was right for my son and reach out to the woman who loved him first.

I told her all about Bug's personality, his likes and dislikes, shared a couple of funny stories, and sent a few recent photos.  I acknowledged that I understood how difficult it was for her to relinquish and to be apart from him. I ended by opening the door for contact with me and told her that I understood if that would be too difficult. I didn't specifically say "thank you for giving me my son" - just acknowledged her feelings and put the ball in her court for correspondence with me.  I specifically said, "My hope is that you would like to keep in contact and that [Bug] will have the opportunity to meet you and know you when he’s older." I thought that statement would make it clear that there will be no personal contact with Bug now, but that I'm not opposed to it in the future.

Then I looked up the guidelines for mailing letters to inmates at her prison because I had no clue what I was doing, wrote what seemed like a novel to address an envelope, plopped on a couple of stamps, and dropped the letter in the outgoing mail at work (I'm sure the mailroom staff had some raised eyebrows when they came across that one!).  That was two weeks ago, and I have since sat with baited breath and wondered whether or not I had done the right thing.

Then came today...

I woke up with a gnawing feeling that I needed to go check Bug's PO box.  I set up a post office box under his birth name so his birth family could maintain contact with him and we could maintain our anonymity.  His maternal grandmother was given the address back in September, but has never used it and the box has sat unused since it was opened.

                             Until today!!!

I drove to the post office at lunch, and in our box was a lone key to one of the parcel boxes.  Inside was a package that contained this book, a CD, and a form letter from the director of the volunteer organization that helps incarcerated mothers connect with their children by giving them the opportunity to read a book to their child.  I immediately put the CD in my car's CD player and was able to hear the voice of the young woman who gave birth to my son as she read the book that she had chosen especially for him.

Several people have asked me how I can be so invested in my children's birth families.  Why does it matter so much to me that my children have some sort of connection to the people who gave them life when they failed them time and time again?  For me, the answer is simple.  I have three forever children whose birthmothers have all battled addictions and demons that they just haven't been able to overcome.  They love their children, but addiction often has such an incredible stronghold over a person that someone without a strong support system simply can't escape it.  I love my children more than words can say, and I feel like I owe it to them to extend a piece of that love to the women who gave birth to them - to show them compassion and grace.

Bug's birthmother may never be able to overcome her addictions or heal to the point where she can have an ongoing relationship with him, but as of today my son will be able to hear the voice of his first mommy telling him that he "is more loved than he will ever know."  And that, my friends, is worth the risk.

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