Published by PaintingChef on 31 Mar 2014

On popping my cherry and why mother isn’t currently speaking to me…

Today I am a mother. I don’t know for how long. But today I am a mother to an amazing little girl. She is smart and strong. She is funny and stubborn and she is oh so wise beyond her years. That part breaks my heart every day but every now and then it will produce a moment that kick me in the ass and the gut at the same time.

I was helping her get dressed for the bed the other night and she reached down and stroked my hip and said “I love these bumps mama. You’re so pretty and you give such good hugs.”

Oof. Gut. Kick. Heart. Bursting.

She loves those bumps. The ones that I spend way too much time trying to camouflage with just the right clothing and shapewear. They are pretty and they help me give good hugs.

That’s when I realized that, for now, it’s up to me. I am her female role model right now and what am I teaching her if I can’t show her that I love myself and think I’m pretty too? Just the way I am. I can’t wait to love myself, to embrace my body. This is me, today. Curves, bumps and all.

If DCS has their way, I may be the only positive female role model she ever gets. Yes, she is only four years old but SURELY I can instill something in her that will last. If I’m going to do that though, I have to first love the woman that I am right now. Inside AND out. It feels like a new beginning that I hadn’t expected. I want so desperately for her to blossom with confidence in herself. Her intelligence. Her kindness and the gentleness that she is capable of when she’s not trying to destroy the world… because she has that side too… She needs to know that she is worthy of a good life, of happiness and respect and fulfillment and love. I learned those things from the women in my life. My mother, sister, grandmother, great grandmother, aunts, cousins and friends. But somewhere along the way I think I forgot about it.

Until now. And I don’t want to ever forget it again nor do I ever want to forget who reminded me and how much she needs me. That’s where this comes in…

Tattoo

Published by PaintingChef on 07 Mar 2014

Today was a bad day.

Unsupervised Visitation. That phrase was in my email this morning and now I can’t breathe. I can’t look away from it. I cannot wrap my head around it.

I look into that girl’s big blue eyes (oh how I want to show them to you all. She has the biggest, bluest eves I’ve ever seen) and I know, in a place in my heart that I didn’t even know existed, that she is supposed to be mine. It took me some time to get here, to realize that I could carve out a spot for her. But I want her to be mine so desperately.

She is not mine. It doesn’t look like she will be mine. And it feels like someone has kicked me in the gut with steel toes boots. But my anger and frustration isn’t at her parents… I think that on some level they are trying. Maybe…?

Patrick and I felt like we went into this with our eyes as opened as they could be. We were under the impression that we understood the challenges of foster parenting. What we were completely misled on was the absolute pain in the ass and waste of government money (and I’m a tree hugging, universal healthcare supporting, recycled paper card carrying liberal) that DCS would turn out to be. Broken doesn’t even begin to describe the child welfare system.

Her social worker has admitted that she prioritizes reunification above A’s well being and comfort level with this whole situation. In my eyes, that is unforgiveable. It is heartbreaking. And it is completely fucking backwards. Patrick and I are treated as the villains on a nearly daily basis. Never had anyone made me feel as… marginal? Irrelevant? Unwelcome? As A’s social worker. We are the ones who are trying to help her. I’m not trying to toot my own horn here but I’m pretty sure we are the best thing that’s ever happened to her (In all honesty though, I imagine that was a pretty low bar) and we really do want nothing but the best for her.

But what I can’t understand is why nobody seems to even be willing to consider that what is best for her might be NOT being sent back to her birth parents. I am yelling so hard that I am going hoarse and nobody is listening.

People keep telling me that they don’t know how we are doing this. But the truth is this… we have chosen this. I keep telling myself that. When we were doing all those fertility treatments, I became ridiculously adept at compartmentalizing. Step, by step, left foot, right foot, this is what we are doing today. Take a deep breath; get through it and we can cry later. My entire psyche was rewired. I don’t know that that is a good thing. But it is me. The last 8 years have been a war and these are my scars.

Published by PaintingChef on 10 Jan 2014

Somehow I had managed to ignore the part where she isn’t actually mine.

Going into this fostering process, we knew that there was a better than 50% chance that every child that came to our home would, eventually, be returned to their birth parents. As a foster parent, my job is to be A’s port in the storm. A calm place for her to be safe and happy while her parents get the help that they need. And they are doing just that. According to the letter of the law and the standards set forth by DCS, they are making progress.

We learned last night that it is expected that A will, indeed, go home this year. The timeline is uncertain right now and it is probably several months, at least, out in the future. We still have time to do fun things. Maybe take another trip to the beach in the spring. Have a birthday party. But in the coming months, the line between our family and the parents she is returning to will become more and more blurred. She will not always know for sure where she is resting her head at night. She may spend part of a week at their house and the rest with us.

Despite the fact that we KNEW this, that this is exactly what we signed up for, my heart is breaking in places that I didn’t know existed. I want her to be mine. I want someone to acknowledge that her life, her future, would be better and brighter with us. I want to not feel like I am losing to them. To her parents who lost her in the first place. I want to not feel like someone is putting the two sets of parents side by side and pointing to them and saying “Yes! Them! We pick YOU!” And I lose yet another baby. Numero eight if you are playing along at home.

I, of all people, should believe in the value of second, third, fourth and fifteenth chances. In the power of redemption and the fact that there is good in people if you just look hard enough. But I’ve never looked at it from the angle of a three year old. Sure. She’s three. And let me tell you one thing about her… she is GOOD at being three. She pushes me to limits that I’ve never seen before. The number of times I have to just get up, walk away, shut myself in the bathroom for a few minutes and fake explosive diarrhea have increased exponentially (from zero… which… if my vague math memory serves me, I think isn’t possible in the first place but whatever math police… it’s more than pre-kid, okay? Jesus.)

And yet… I have a hard time believing that her parents can change. There is a very definitive process for A to return to them. Step A then B then C and so on and so forth until the court and DCS decide that her parents have met whatever minimum threshold of competency they have established and boom… A goes home to them. And this is supposed to be a good thing. This is something that, allegedly, we are all wanting.

I call bullshit. I think. But maybe not? Maybe I miss my life sometimes. Maybe I enjoy no pants Thursday and all ice cream for dinner Tuesday. And wine for breakfast Saturday. And then also “Let’s spend all day going to open houses of places we can’t ever afford and then drink a late lunch at the Mexican restaurant” Sunday. I love that day most of all. And yet there is this little girl who I’m so afraid will have nobody is she doesn’t have me and Patrick. Do I cheer for her parents to succeed? Do I hope they fail miserably so she can come back to us? I sort of love when we cuddle on my bed and watch a movie while we brush each other’s hair and kiss each other’s cheeks. Patrick NEVER lets me braid his hair.

Or, when the time comes, do I wash all her little clothes, pack them in a suitcase (newly purchased, probably one of the worst purchases I’ll ever have to make), give her so many hugs and try to hide the fact that part of me is dying as I whisper in her ear that I will always, always be on her team and that I will always love the little person who taught me to be mama.

This isn’t even on the immediate horizon. It isn’t even decided. But yesterday was the first time someone looked at me and said “Yes, she will be going home. I am certain.” And I just wasn’t there yet and didn’t realize that anyone else was either.

Published by PaintingChef on 06 Dec 2013

Making this one count.

I know, without a doubt, that as we get older, our memories of significant childhood events take on kind of a hazy, glowing, sparkly quality. We have an incredible ability to filter out things that we’d rather not remember or that just don’t really jive with the way we would prefer to have something burned into our minds.

So while I tried to keep that in the back of my mind as I thought back over my favorite memories of the holidays of my childhood, I am also quite confident that whatever wine goggle haze the memories have taken on, I still had it pretty damn good. Patrick and I both did. Still do.

This holiday season is unlike any other for Patrick and I. We have this little person. And we have no idea if we will have her for another holiday, we honestly don’t even know if we will have her for her birthday in February. What we know is that we have her NOW. And so we sat down and made the decision that everything was going to sparkle. We were all in on Christmas. Lights, parties, Christmas dresses, cookies, the whole deal. We are doing ALL of the things.

Because even if they send her back to her parents in February, even if the courts decide that her parents are making the required efforts and that living with them again is the best possible place for her, they are… ill-equipped. I don’t know how to say it any nicer than that. But like I said… we have her now. And regardless of what happens in her coming years, I can do everything in my power as her mama to make sure that she remembers this Christmas as magical.

I’ve even closed up shop in the bakery until the first of the year. No Christmas Boxes. No bags and bags of cookies. And you know what? I feel really good about that. I don’t want to be stressing about the things I need to get done after she goes to sleep. I want to be putting together easels and dollhouses and tricycles. I want to be figuring out where we are going to look at outrageous Christmas lights. I want to have one more glass of wine and cuddle up with Patrick and know that while we have no idea what’s coming, we are both so happy that THIS is our life right this second and that there is no one else in the world that we would rather share it with.

(yes… I may have glossed over that whole 180 degree swing in the outlook of all of this and how I kind of dig being a mama now. I’m still working on getting that one out on paper. I have no explanation for it. But it happened.)

There is a line that I must draw though. There will be no motherfucking elves on my motherfucking shelves. You can all push me on it all you want but hear this now… one day, that bastard will kill you in your sleep. How do you not all have nightmares every single day that you know he is in your house where you can see him? Absolutely. No. Elves.

Other than that? Bring it on. Because if anyone in the world deserves it? It’s this little girl…

Abi

Published by PaintingChef on 13 Nov 2013

On the Vagina Embargo

So… I have a daughter. I have a daughter until at least February and then, who knows. She is three. But at some point, she will be thirteen. And sixteen. And eighteen and twenty-three and on and on and on. At all those ages, barring some significant event, she will be the owner of a vagina and it has become clear to me that someone early on has put some crazy in her head.

Here is what is weighing heavily on me right now. At no point in time did it ever occur to me that she was already forming opinions and impressions about her own body. But the other night during her bath, she referred to her vagina as a “cushy” and said it was ugly and yucky. I was speechless. Heartbroken. FURIOUS! Who told her that?? How do I address that? Where do I start? It never occurred to me to call it anything other than a vagina but as I jogged my memory, I recalled my mother using the word “tutu” as some point very early on. It was quickly replaced by the proper name once I was able to form the word.

My three year old is unable to pronounce vagina. I know. I tried. But calling it a “cushy” brings to mind the word “coochie” which I find incredibly crass and so I nipped that shit in the bud (bad pun) immediately. We agreed on tutu for the time being however I also introduced her to the word vagina, told her that was the proper name and that it was not a bad word at all and when she felt comfortable saying it, she should.

Next step? It is ugly. And yucky. I corrected that too. It is not ugly. Or dirty or anything to be ashamed of. It is part of who you are and it is a special and beautiful part of your body, my dear. Love it, care for it and keep it happy and healthy. (But the reason it hurts sometimes is because it is tired. Let her sleep honey. Hands out of your pants please.)**

But this sent me down a thought spiral. Why do we even insist on cute little names? Or worse, vulgar, disgusting ones? Why are we teaching our daughters that their vagina is something ugly or shameful? It’s no wonder that so many girls grow up with body image problems. We are drilling into their heads from an early age that they carry with them something we can’t even name. That one of the parts of their body that makes them a girl (and eventually, a woman) is something so shameful that we can’t even talk about it.

Why have we made vaginas so terrifying? They are beautiful and neat in their perfect little packages. And when we take care of them, they take care of us right back. They bring life into the world. They give us pleasure. Those are both GOOD things! And yes. She’s three. Obviously we aren’t talking about “where do babies come from” and bath time isn’t a lecture on the beauty of the female orgasm. But it is a chance to plant the seed that her body isn’t something to be ashamed of.

So I propose we bring back the vagina! Let’s get rid of nicknames, slang and degrading terms. Let’s teach our daughters to love their bodies, to be proud of them and to care for and respect them. Yes. I’ve been a mother for all of 2 ½ months. But this one? I never saw this one coming. It never occurred to me. And I think I’m probably guilty as well. I know for a fact that I’ve used the terms “lady business” and “lady garden” more times than I can possibly count and I’m sure I thought I was being cute or clever.

Thoughts? What say you, dear internet? Am I crazy or is perhaps the Vagina Embargo the root of more problems/issues than we imagined?

** And yes. I know this for sure. She has been to the doctor. She does not have a UTI or anything that requires medical attention. She has good old run of the mill irritation. Chafing, if you will. From… exploration. Which I am all in favor of at some point. Just maybe… not at the dinner table?

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