Thursday, February 06, 2014

Thankful Thursday - Medical Information

I cannot express to you how important it is to try to work with birth parents as a foster parent whenever it is at all feasible to do so.  I have found building relationships with them to be nearly as rewarding to me as parenting the children themselves but also has very practical benefits.  When the situation is relatively safe to do so, I've found relationships with birth parents to lead to one of two outcomes:
  • Strong Reunification - when you're working with birth parents who are on the path to reunification they tend to relax a little bit knowing their children are in good hands.  This can lead them to focus more on their recovery, whatever that is supposed to look like, spending their energy getting better rather than mourning the loss of their children/being angry at the system.  I've also found we are often the only "light" some of these parents have had and our encouragement has gone a long way not only in helping them to get better but also as reunification occurs in that we're able to help coach them as parents even after the case is over.  There have been a couple situations where we've been able to really cheer on parents as they get their life together to get their children back.
  • Decision to Relinquish - In both of our adoption cases the relationship we've had with the birth parents has played a factor in their decision to relinquish.  At the end of the day, the parents have come to the decision that their children would be "better off" staying with us than going home to live with them.  I can't imagine how agonizing that decision is.  I know it may seem like they make that choice so they can leave their kids and continue partying.  I'm sure this happens but hasn't been our experience.  Our children's birth parents have come to the conclusion that their children are loved, they are safe, and we as parents will provide them with the life they want their kids to have.  
In both of these examples, continued contact with the first parents has been a side benefit (or, a primary benefit I suppose).  When #3 went home with his first parents they would call me to talk about why he was doing X and I was there to coach them as they learned to parent in a healthy manner.  I am positive that this contact will be beneficial for summer as she continues to grow-up. 

The agreement with our newest 4 includes a level of contact not usually seen.  I'll explain that in a future post but basically one parent has a form of custody.  The other chose to take chances in court and lost, therefore having no formal agreement.  That being said she still has our Google Voice number and can call, text, leave messages, etc. to maintain contact according to what we feel will be beneficial (after adoption occurs).  

This has paid off HUGE for us recently.

Often times when you adopt you have limited information about medical history.  You get whatever the caseworker tells you, often whatever the parents felt like sharing, and that's typically it.  It's awkward when you answer questions at the doctors office because it's either "I don't know" to things like "is there a history of cancer in the family" (or even "was the baby born vaginally") or when you have to say things like "He was born addicted to meth" when you haven't yet explained that you are the adoptive parent.  When you have a good relationship with the first family this changes.  You can at least ask the questions you need answers to (they may not answer, I suppose) and you might be able to trust the answers they give you.

This recently paid off for us in a big way.  One of our newest 4's birth parents was admitted to the hospital.  This parent texted us to let us know.  Later they texted us to let us know it was serious and wanted to talk to us.  (Granted, sometimes this can be a ploy or drama produced by birth families and that is something that needs to be considered as well).  In this case we learned that this parent has a serious heart condition.  A grandparent died from this condition in her early 30s.  This parent is about that same age and experiencing the same symptoms.  All 4 of our children need to be monitored by a cardiologist for this same condition.  It's the type of things even biological parents don't always know about until their child collapses in middle school during a sporting event.  It is highly likely one or more of our children have a congenital heart defect that will lead to congenital heart failure if not treated properly throughout their lifetime.  

We are beyond blessed that we were able to find this information out before some sort of tragedy struck and it's only because we had this relationship with the first family.  

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Working Mama Wednesday - Choosing Family

Life is full of choices.

As a working mama I face my own set of choices daily and none of them appear to be easy.  Do I leave at 4:30 to get home 1/2 hour earlier today to spend extra time with my kids?  Yes?  Then that means I save 1/2 hour of work for after they go to bed or the next day to work 1/2 hour longer.  OR, it means I don't do the work and risk some sort of career-related consequence.  Do I go ahead and stay 1/2 hour later to get everything done?  Yes? Then that means getting home 1/2 hour before bed time, rushing to produce dinner and eat together and skipping baths and getting the kids to bed on-time OR giving baths and getting to bed late OR eating out which requires an additional stop and getting home about the same time dinner would have been ready anyway AND nearly no time with the kids AND additional stress for everyone making the "no-time" with the kids less enjoyable.  See what I mean?  Choices.  Constantly.

So what do you do?  Just the best you can.

How do I do it?  I don't.  I just take it one step at a time.  I do it the best I can.  God first.  Hubby second.  Kids 3rd-8th, Work last.  At least this is what I try to do.

For me at this time in my life it means making choices that probably don't help my career.  I travel as minimally as possible (cuz leaving kids from traumatic backgrounds is hard on everyone and it's not easy to find suitable overnight-type care for 6 little kids).  A couple friends of mine have been chosen to do an ex-pat assignment in a foreign country, something seen as extremely valuable career-wise around here.  In response I told someone "I'm not going there any time soon".  Really, taking a family of 8 to live overseas for a year in a tiny apartment (cuz that's all that's available around there) in a place they don't even remotely speak the language while mom works 12 hours a day is hardly my idea of "possible".  I mean, if God brought it to us we'd figure it out I just don't see me volunteering for that role in the near future.  (And I'm certainly not going by myself, leaving them home as my friends are...).  Choices.

Truth-be-told, people know my situation and I'm sure I wouldn't be considered for such an opportunity because of my family life.  I'm positive if/when my name comes up for things like that it is met with "she has 6 young kids" regardless of whether or not that is supposed to enter into the equation.

Would my career progress more rapidly if I didn't have my family or I didn't talk about them as much or I didn't put them first?  Probably.  I'd be free to move around the country.  I could take whatever position came across our plate that made sense career-wise.  I could work longer hours and not worry about it.  I wouldn't need to take off work for so many doctor appointments.

Do I care that my career is hindered because of my family?  Of course I do.  I'd be lying if I said I never cared.  I'm not a "career-woman" despite my successful career but that doesn't mean I'm not aware of the impact choosing to have a family (like mine) has on my opportunities and "levels of success".  I do have career-related aspirations, not to have a certain position necessarily but to do certain things like hold board roles, write publicly more, engage more in public speaking, tell my story, and continue making a difference in the corporate world.

Doing that takes time, time away from my family that I just don't have to give right now, so it will have to wait.

Last week I took a trip to Las Vegas for work.  It's an annual thing and pretty much my only big work trip I plan for each year.  I greatly look forward to it not only because it's a fun event but because I get a chance to get away and just be a woman for a bit.  I am forced to put me first simply because I'm not all that effective as being a wife and mom when I'm so far away from my kids.  I stay out late with friends.  I play Blackjack. I go to the spa (all day).  I do the career-mingle thing.  I love it, but there's a part of mie missing when I'm away from home.  I can't do all of those other things without being abundantly cognizant of the things I'm missing with my hubby and kids.  I miss bed time.  I miss getting them ready for school.  Last week I missed two dentist appointments and the PTA skate party.  As much as I enjoyed my time away I would give it all up to not miss those important daily events in my kids lives.

As a side note, it was beneficial for my kids to know I can go away for a short time and then I'll come back.  It helped build trust between us so I'm not saying every mom should stay with their kids 100% of the time, all the time. 

I talked to a non-profit organization yesterday doing work I'm passionate about that is looking for a board member.  As much as I wanted to snatch up that role, I indicated I can't over commit myself at this time.  You know, any more than I already have.  Maybe I'll do some work with them over the next few years and step into a board role as my kids get older.  Maybe.

Here's the thing - this world is full of distractions trying to take us from what is important.  Our mission in life, those things God has called us to do, is constantly at risk from video games and spa days and movies and Facebook. (and dirty floors and folding laundry and The Bachelor and blogs).  These things are not inherently bad but we need to be careful that we don't get caught up in our (sometimes selfish, sometimes well-meaning) desires to please (ourselves or others) that we end up missing the really important things that go by so fast.