Thursday, February 28, 2013


Tonight I want to talk about something I've held fairly close to my chest for some time now. At first it was because we were not allowed to share it. Now we make the call on what part of the kids story we share. We make decisions about what to share with great care. If it is done for the need of venting, it's not ok for us to share that with more than a handful of people and certainly not in a public forum such as this. My reason for sharing now is that we'll be a featured family on our agencies blog next week and it discusses the start of my sons life which was the catalyst for my kids being placed with us.

I'm sure many people have assumed there were issues with drug exposure but I want to clearly say there were. My son tested positive for several substances at birth meaning he'd recently been exposed. We have no idea how many times he was exposed through the course of his mother's pregnancy but we do know what it was just before she went into labor. He spent the first 5 weeks of his life at the Pediatric Infant Care Center (PICC) in Kent, WA going through withdrawals until he was weaned and no longer in need of morphine to help ease him through the process. 5 weeks at this center is on the shorter end of time usually spent there so we felt lucky he was able to come home to us that quickly.

The first two months were rough. There's no way to sugar coat it. That was in part due to his special needs of low stimulus (low lights, little to no noise, and kept tightly swaddled) but even more so the shock of becoming first time parents to two children under the age of 1. It rocked our world but in a great way.

We had 24/7 support over the phone for any questions or concerns. We had in home visits from nurses and access to a fantastic children's center who helped us find strategies to get Little Dude through the roughest patches. Yes we had to deal with inconsolable crying for hours on end for the first two months but now he's a chill and mellow kid. We never had to see him go through shakes or other withdrawal symptoms which can be hard to watch.

We felt it was important to speak out because kids born with drug exposure (excluding alcohol which often causes permanent damage) are incredibly resilient and if given a loving supportive home they can accomplish incredible things and go on to live without any issues linked to those found at birth. I'm proud to say my son is exceeding in every developmental category, he's perfect.

There is so much stigma of what a "crack baby" is and it's tragic. There is also not a lot of data available because there is so much unknown. It's rare that a child is born with exposure to just one thing, as was the case with Little Dude. You can read about what say cocaine does to a child but you don't know what it means for your child when paired with other drugs. Each child often has their own "cocktail" of substances present so comparing one to another is difficult.

I want people to know these children should not be neglected and people should not be afraid to open their hearts to them. I also never want a label assigned to my son that reflects in anything other than positive. I don't know yet how we'll talk to him about the start of his life but it's a discussion we'll have to have. We want him to know he has risks and experimentation with drugs for him could result in very different outcomes than what might happen for his friends.

We have no regrets and are VERY proud of the child he is today. No one could convince us he's is less than perfect in anyway...not from the moment we first laid eyes on him or until he's an old man himself.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

New doors

It's been an eventful week on an emotional level. I'm not a stranger to grief and grief for the sudden loss of a parent is one that hits a little too close to home. I think of my Dad constantly and I think of little things I wish he was around to see or for me to tell him about all the time. Those are the times that the loss hits you. This has now started to happen with the kids birth Mom. In addition to the things I think about telling her I think about things the kids will want to tell her and won't really be able to do outside of a prayer.

Along with the news of her passing we were given contact information for her mother. They had not been in contact for several years at the time of her passing so getting this info was a surprise. One door closes, another cliche but so true.

I struggled with what to do with this information for a few days because while I saw it as a way to possibly get answers to some of the questions I know my kids will have it was a potential threat to our family. They have no legal rights as we're finalized with adoption but it still felt/feels like a threat. That's one of the biggest struggles of open adoption. The internal fight to opening your heart and family unit to other people. It takes getting over your own feelings of how you might be judged by others and your children to let other people in to love them.

I knew deep down from the moment I got the info I'd contact her, it was just a matter of when and what to say. It would have to be by email for so many reasons, it would have to express our sympathy for her loss, we need to prove we're decent people, show her the kids are well cared for, and most important for us it needed to outline our boundaries while clearly showing we have no intention of allowing any disruption to our family unit to occur. I also wanted to include a gift. A message of hope for the future of her grandchildren and the final heart wrenching words we received from her daughter not long before she died. Words that spoke of her peace of mind with us and the dire situation she was in. Even though they were hard words to read they are the final words from her child.

We waited 4 days to hear back from her but received emails from other family members within 24 hours. I knew she had read it and forwarded our email address. This has opened many new doors which are exciting, loving, strange, scary, and just plain painful. Each family has their own flavor of  "crazy" and when it's your own you might recognize it as crazy but you know it's boundary and you understand the good along with the bad. I'm an outsider and it's scary seeing this mix of good and bad. After all my kids were removed for a reason so to think other than their birth mother, there is a family just like mine or that of my friends is unreasonable. If there was, why didn't they take the kids in?

I'm learning those answers now and doing constant checks on our safety and limits. I'm SO thankful we have finalized and I'm in control. I can't imagine the State ordering me to leave my kids for a few hours with strangers for visitation. Three or four months ago we would have had to comply. Now we're in charge and there's no book on how to do this. We're making it up as we go along and using our hearts and God as our guide.