Just 2.5 hours after learning about J and X over the phone I saw a stranger getting out of a van with a child and I rushed to meet them in the parking lot. Two CPS workers I had never met arrived. One held a very round chubby baby (X) wearing only a plain white onesie. The other introduced me to the toddler (J). He was SO CUTE and smiley! I just remember thinking they looked so “normal.” Not sure what kind of picture I had in my mind!? 🙂 With them was a diaper box filled with a teddy bear, a small blanket, a Paw Patrol Chase stuffed animal, a foam toy airplane, 1-2 bottles with random bottle parts, a 1/2 can of formula, one diaper, and a couple shirts and shorts for J (all I found later because we are directed to put any items in the garage and then thoroughly wash before using).
While in the parking lot my Case Manager from my CPA (Child Placing Agency) arrived (who I also had not met yet!). And thus we all piled into my small-ish 2-story townhouse to do paperwork for the next hour. The first thing they tell me? The parents were positive for amphetamines and methamphetamines. Hmmm…..funny how they left that out, isn’t it?! I am not sure on the mishap there but now everyone is here in my home, the boys are here, what am I to do? No time to think about if that would’ve changed my mind or not but to me overcoming a drug addiction seemed like a much bigger challenge for mom and dad versus having an unkempt home and lack of supervision. I was a bit perturbed with my CPA (or CPS?). Not sure who was at fault.
I signed what felt like more papers than when you buy a home but in this case three copies of everything! Whilst trying to listen to the CPS worker explain legal things that I am totally clueless about J is running and jumping around on the couch like a wild animal. He doesn’t say any words, just gibberish. I must’ve told him to “sit down” or “no jumping” at least 20 times. Meanwhile, the other CPS worker is holding Baby X. By the way, did I feel weird about CPS sitting at my house?! You bet I did! “CPS” has such a intimidating, scary connotation in my mind. I wondered what they had seen at the boys’ house. I wondered what mom and dad were like. I wondered what the home looked like. I wanted to know everything! But I didn’t get anything. I don’t know what they like to eat, how they like to sleep, what they like to do, how they like to be held or rocked……nothing. I had no pajamas, toothbrushes, diapers or wipes. My first thoughts were, “So do I feed them dinner now?!” “They have no clothes! What are they going to sleep in?!” “I need diapers!”
The rest of the evening was a total blur. What I can recall:
- The CPS Case Worker helps me figure out their clothing and shoe sizes for each so I can activate my social media network with needs.
- The CPS Case Worker left to get some clothes, toothbrushes, diapers and wipes from the CPS office since it was closest by.
- Tomorrow my CPA Case Manager would stop at their agency (further away) and bring me more things.
- The three women leave my home and then it was just a baby, a toddler, and me. It was definitely like WHOA!
- Trying to talk to J was like communicating with someone who speaks a foreign language (no, he was not speaking Spanish). He has alternate words for things that make no sense. I take him to the fridge and show him things to figure out what he wants. He can’t even say water or milk. It is bizarre to say the least! The one word I can understand is “daddy” which is what he called me.
- They both seem content. No one seems scared. They seem to go with the flow.
- Friend(s) arrive with groceries, diapers, formula, etc.
- I give them a bath checking their entire bodies for any bruises, cuts, or any signs of physical abuse (this is required). I don’t see anything that seems serious but of course I feel way out of my league! How am I supposed to know?!
I wish I could say I remember more but this was Day 1 of 6 weeks of massive sleep deprivation. If the first night was like any of the following it went like this:
- Tell toddler to stay in his bed so I could put baby to sleep. Yeah that never worked.
- Rock baby to sleep.
- Lay with toddler until he fell asleep.
- Go to sleep in my own bed (you are not allowed to co-sleep with a foster child).
- Anywhere from 1/2 – 2 hours later, toddler wakes up screaming. Lay with toddler until he falls asleep again.
- Baby wakes up crying. Rock baby back to sleep. While doing this toddler wakes up screaming again.
- Put baby down and go back to toddler’s room. Lay with him until he falls asleep.
- Go to sleep in my own bed.
- Rinse and repeat the entire night.
The Next Two Weeks
Needless to say the arrival was rough. I wondered how I was going to survive living on only two hours of broken sleep per night. I spent all night going back and forth from room to room. My house was complete and utter chaos. The beauty of social media and my church community was in full swing bringing piles, bags, and boxes upon boxes of things to my door daily. We would leave for a morning walk to the park and return to my sidewalk FULL of toys, books, boxes of diapers and more! J must’ve thought it was Christmas every day! I remember his disappointment the first time someone arrived with nothing in their hands.
I wish I could thank every single person that dropped off items for the boys but I have no idea who all of you are. We went from having nothing to having an abundance. I didn’t have to buy a diaper for four months! My tiny townhouse was packed to the brim. I even had a friend send me a Costco order of bulk-sized chicken nuggets, almond butter, Himalayan pink sea salt and more. Another friend came to organize my freezer and pantry because it was insane. Others came just to help sort and organize all the things that arrived. I felt like I was living in a tornado of people and things swirling around me in massive fog of sleep deprivation.
During this time I managed to:
- Find a daycare that takes CCMS (the government subsidy so daycare is free) and has immediate openings for both and infant and a toddler and enroll them.
- Find a pediatrician that takes Medicaid plus open to new patients and take them to their first checkup.
- Complete all required foster care paperwork.
- Email work that I can’t come back to work anytime soon (I ended up taking off two weeks).
- Acquire carseats and learn how to install them.
- Attend our first CPS Visit with the biological parents. I dropped them at the back door for the first two visits until I got the “clear” that it seemed safe for us to interact.
- Try not to die.
The Next Four Weeks
Waking up to a screaming, scared toddler multiple times a night was the worst. I expected the 6-month-old to wake up but not the almost 3-year-old. The mistake I made? Treating him like an almost 3-year-old. A child with a history of trauma and neglect just cannot be held to the same standard as their peers. Let alone you add the fact that he is living in a unfamiliar home with a complete stranger! I didn’t even know if he was potty trained (he came wearing underwear but what about overnight?). We didn’t even know whether to call him by the long or short version of his name. Something I wouldn’t be able to ask mom until 3 weeks in. He couldn’t say his own name. What child cannot say “mommy?!” THIS CHILD! He couldn’t understand anything I said to him.
I had to do something about his fear during the night. We had a routine, we had all the nighttime things (light, sound machine, diffuser, etc.). You name it, we had it! With my return to full-time work I HAD to get more sleep so I decided to take the mattress off of the top bunk in his room and sleep on the floor of his room (because per foster care requirements I cannot co-sleep with him and he cannot sleep on the floor of my room, he has to be in a bed). And that’s where I slept for the next four weeks. And little by little he went from:
Waking up and screaming 3-4x times -> Waking up, not screaming, but coming to lay with me (I woke up with him curled up around my legs several times!) -> Waking up and laying at the very end of his bed (closest to my mattress) -> Waking up and sitting up to look for me -> Not Waking Up -> Me sleeping on the top bunk the last 2 nights -> Me back in my own bed!!!
I really thought that I would have a mental break, have a seizure, or even die because of the lack of sleep. It was horrific. I couldn’t remember ANYTHING anyone said to me. I told my boss I couldn’t make any decisions at work. I was afraid to reply to any email knowing I would say something crazy! I was in complete chronic zombie mode with no relief in sight. Only twice during this time did I have an amazing friend who offered to SLEEP AT MY HOUSE and endure the outrageous night shift of no sleep and crying babies. I closed my door, turned on my own white noise, and slept all night!! Looking back, I would’ve had more people on standby!
I am not sure what I was thinking when I said yes to a baby and a toddler. I usually joke that only a crazy person would do it! But somehow we survived. When I was hit with excruciating sciatic pain shooting from my low back down to my foot, the Lord miraculously healed me. When I didn’t think I could go on, my community rallied around and prayed and helped. My boss was gracious. My God is good. People always say to me, “I don’t know how you do it!” But the truth is you really can do more than you know. You just have to step out in faith, take a little risk, and go for it!
Stay tuned to hear about what it’s like to meet the bio parents, how I gained their trust and built a relationship with them.
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