We Can Do Better: Protect Our Babies + Our Families

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This little boy doesn’t belong to me. I don't get to call him ”mine.” But it's my job, and an honor and responsibility I don't take lightly, to protect him.

As a foster parent I've sat in countless courtrooms, hospitals, county offices and waiting rooms the last several months and I've seen kids who have no one fighting for them or advocating of them or simply giving them a hug when they need it. There are thousands upon thousands of kids who need you here and now thousands separated from their parents at the border.

We can do more. We can do better. We can do hard things especially for these kids who do not have the voices, the support, the tools, the privilege and the ability to look away from what makes us uncomfortable.

Call your representatives, give to Together Rising, raise your voice, open your home or even just your heart. As adults this is OUR JOB. Protect our babies, protect our neighbors, protect our family we may have never even met. Six months ago this little boy was a stranger and today he is my purpose.

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Boundaries: The Beauty of Saying No and Making Space

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As a mama I have about a quarter of the time I used to have. And it’s made me so much more clear on what I need in that time. Having a busy social life isn’t super high on my list of needs these days.

What is? Taking time to write, to be outside, to connect wholeheartedly when I’m with someone, to nap when I can, to breathe deeply, to spend time on my yoga mat, to dream and scheme about the future with my partner.

When I was younger I used to feel that I had two personalities - quiet and inwardly connected me and super social and “will do anything for a laugh” me. I could never see how these two parts of me could coexist. So I ignored my more introverted self and used booze and really any distraction as a way to ignore my boundaries and personal needs.

I love what Alex Elle says about boundaries : Boundaries and barriers are not synonymous. Boundaries leave room for growth, adjusting, shifting, and learning. Barriers prevent, keep out, insinuate indestructibility, and aren't easy to move through.

As a recovering people pleaser I know how hard it can be to ask for what you need. Then to follow through and make it happen. To let people and things go that no longer serve you. But it’s the most necessary work you can do. There’s no reason to be ashamed of your nature or your needs or the season you are in. It’s all unfolding as it should.

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Foster Care: Choosing to See the Magic

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It’s so easy to get caught up in what is “hard.” I hear myself recounting stories of our experience in foster care, focusing on what’s beautiful but also often about our “broken” system. 

Our narrative of what’s good and bad keeps us stuck.

It keeps up fighting against reality.

When I posted our story this past week about what has been happening with Baby A I got so many beautiful, heartfelt responses. I truly write to process but I also write to share about this world and these babes who need us. There was a lot of resistance to what is happening with his reunification and believe me, I understand it. 

The idea that his life with us would be better because _________ is a choice in perspective.

In this New Age-y world, I sometimes feel like I’m doing it wrong when people tell me they haven’t given up on him staying with us. Did I not pray enough? Did I not manifest hard enough, well enough, aligned enough? This is dangerous territory my friends. 

I’ve had friends and colleagues who have offered to continue to hold the space for the idea that we will stay together. What I haven’t done is give up on Baby A. Not even for one second. Every day I pray for the highest good to be done for him. I’ve been inviting in visions of him with a huge extended family, covered in kisses and absolutely adored.

I truly believe that what is written will happen. No matter what. That a story is unfolding beyond our wildest imagination and dreams. That I must trust and lean into that trust even when it fees like I’m stumbling and tripping and can’t see three feet in front of my face.

God keeps showing up for me in the most beautiful of ways. Some days it’s harder to hear or see, some days it’s so profound it brings me to my knees.

The day I took Baby A to the ER a young medic was taking down his information as we transferred him to another hospital. (On a stretcher and in an ambulance!) As she looked at his info she asked me if I adopted him. I said no, but I would love that more than anything. She told me she was adopted. I asked if she was adopted at birth and she said no, she was adopted at three years old from foster care. Big tears just ran down my cheeks and I said “Thank you.”

This happens over and over again - from my nurse at Children’s telling me about her experience in foster care and how grateful she was to her foster and adoptive parents. To my hairdresser telling me about being adopted from foster care at one month old. To new friends on social media telling me they are following this path inspired by what they have read about our experience.

A new perspective - we foster and love the children who are put on our path with every ounce of our beings. And when we adopt we will be thrilled. But I think both Matt and I need to remind ourselves one again of why we took this path - because there was a need and there was a call and we decided to answer that call.

I’m not writing this and I’m not doing this so you see me as a hero. Honestly that makes my stomach turn over. But instead I’m writing, and being 100 percent honest with our struggles, so you see me as a human and you know that absolutely anything is possible. That magic can and will come through on the hardest of days. That you are stronger than you ever could’ve imagined.

I love you. You’re doing great. And I am too.

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In Gratitude: Sunday mornings, sunny afternoons, good books

For airplanes and time to write, meditate and unplug.
For Sunday mornings in bed with my family.
For Shelli, my newly found coach and confidant, and her wisdom and grace.
For deep breaths and remembering to take them.
For the super sweet gifts from my friend Tracy Keough.
For this book
For the ability to travel and teach and learn.
For sunny afternoons in Echo Park Lake.
For Lacy Phillips and her teachings.
For this tea infusion that is making my hair grow so freaking fast and full.
For my library card and the eight zillion YA novels I’ve read in the past two months.

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Part 4: We Pray

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Sometimes when Baby A goes to sleep I sit on the couch on my phone and stare at photographs of him. See how much he has changed. His tiny fingers always gripped around mine. His eyes lit up from the inside.

Sometimes when I run errands with him I get congratulated. "Congrats on your new baby. Will change your whole life."

Sometimes I wonder how I could've possibly thought that this path would simply be “challenging.”

My friend Goldie told me the other night that she was talking to her husband about what we were doing, fostering and dealing with uncertainty and all the things. Her husband said "Well they must have their guards up." And Goldie said, "That's the thing. They don't."

My guard is so far gone I wouldn't even know what to do with it. I left it in the car before I walked into that hospital to meet Baby A and my heart as I knew it was blown to bits. Stretched, over stretched, transformed, forever altered.  I'd like to build the Great Wall around all three of us and our hearts, untouchable by social workers and judges and stuffy court waiting rooms. But that's the thing. I can't do anything at all except love him and let him go when I'm told I have to.

I haven't written much about foster care as of late or about Baby A because it's been so damn painful. When we met him almost six months ago, we were told that it was likely we would be able to adopt him. I can't give details of his case, nor would I, but we had the full support of everyone around us - social workers, doctors, most certainly our family and friends. And then it changed. 

We knew this was a possibility. We knew we might fall in love and get our hearts broken. I've written about it, I've sat in classes about it, I've talked to other foster parents about it. But I had never felt it.

It is so beyond painful.

Since it changed we have had ten court hearings. We are told almost twice a month that this could be the moment he leaves and do we have his things ready? 

How do you plan your week when you know you might be saying goodbye to one of the loves of your life? How do you return phone calls? How do you try to update people and keep them in the "loop"? I'm living in it and I don't know the answers to this.

A couple of weeks ago we were sure he was leaving. It was out of nowhere and my husband had a work trip that day. I awoke at 4 am to see him dressed to go to the airport, his suitcase by his side. He leaned over to Baby A, who was sleeping next to me, and just said “Thank you” over and over again, tears rolling down his cheeks. When Baby A and I awoke we did all of our favorite things - took a lavender bubble bath together, strolled around Echo Park Lake with Rosy, sang songs, read books, stared at the fan, stared at each other.

Then he stayed. 

My husband wraps me in a bear hug at least once a day and tells me how in awe he is of me, how he would do this over and over again for the experience we have had with him, with each other. I cry, sometimes I sob and heave, but I feel it all.

What I do know is this - we are told our time with Baby A is coming to an end and we are cherishing every single moment. A couple of weeks could turn into longer, as we've found nothing is ever certain in foster care. We now pray every single day for his safety, his future, his giant heart housed in a tiny body. We pray for his family. We pray for his father to have the strength and the patience to love him like we do.

And we remember this - we saved this little boy's life and he, in turn, saved ours. We will not for one single moment be the same and we will carry him with us. Always.

He has taught me something else that’s very important. To truly treasure every moment you can together as if it’s your last. Not a Hallmark card platitude but to truly live it. To pay more attention, To open your heart as it will go. My relationship with him isn’t the only one that has deepened. My relationship with life has. How differently do we live if we are saying goodbye? Our relationship to oursleves, to one another, changes. There’s a sense of reverence. Of honoring the fragility and resilience of all things. Of bowing and knowing we don’t know a damn thing. I am humbled by the uncertainty and forever changed because of it.

We are not done. This story is by no means finished. We are Baby A’s parents forever in our hearts and we will give him every ounce of while we can. And there are children who need us to love them and there are our hearts that will continue to grow and expand and defy all of our odds.

I pray. And I cry.

But deep down I do trust. 

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In Gratitude

Now bear with me here as I dig deeply for this. Gratitude is one of my most cherished values, an inherent part of who I am, and I'm currently being challenged in more ways than I've ever experienced. This is life. Messy, uncertain, beautiful, transformative.

I'll write more about what has been happening as a I process it but for now here's what I'm grateful for because there's always, always something. In fact, a lot of things.

My friends and family who are holding us in a giant bear hug right now, all over the country.
Young Adult novels by Sarah Dessen. I've read three just this week.
Breakfast burritos. (True story.)
My foster parent friends. You are my lifeline!
Dreaming about the future - a big farm table in our backyard surrounded by friends and family and our babies.
The relationship I have with my husband. Our bond has never been more real, never been stronger.
Surrender. I had it tattooed on my arm in Sanskrit when I was 30 and only now am I able to even slightly understand what it means.

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