Posts Tagged 'stress-related shortness of breath'

Took My Breath Away (The End)

Some of you already know what happened.  Others may have guessed.  The final loss in the “year of losses” was the abrupt exit of our two beautiful foster daughters.  You realize this is a distinct possibility when you take in foster children.  In fact, in most cases, it is the desired outcome.  It is usually the goal of the state, county, and foster care system to improve the home situation of these children so that they can be returned to their biological families.  We understood that role and were fine with it.  We were naive.

First of all, I never expected our very first placement to last over 15 months.  I figured we’d take someone in for a few months, keep them fed and happy, comfort them and play some games, and send them home when things were better.  We had specifically asked for an elementary school-aged child, one child (boy or girl–although all the guys in this house said they would PREFER a boy–so I fully expected to get a boy), with no major abuse in their history.  (Yes, I know they’re all there for a reason–but you probably know what I mean).  I wanted someone old enough that I could converse and interact with, but who would not be big enough or scarred enough to kill me (and I’m just being honest here).  I figured the child care situation would be easier during the two months I work if the child was in elementary school with our after-school programs.  I definitely did not want an infant because to me, that is just endless busy work with very little personal connection.  I really didn’t think there would be that much of a personality to work with in a pre-school aged child, and I thought a slightly older child would be easier.   Life is full of surprises!

I fell in love with Bonus Baby the moment I laid eyes on her teeny-tiny pint-sized body with her big brown eyes and coke-bottle glasses.  She came as an extra bonus along with her eldest sister.  She was “almost three”, as the caseworker stated, trying to convince me to take them, but she was the size of an 18-month old, still in diapers, and busier than a tornado.  And she was loaded with personality.  At first, okay, even later, she was a lot of work.  Physical work–changing diapers, potty training, keeping everything out of her reach, trying to meet her constant demands for food and entertainment.   When these kids came, they were very needy–for time and attention.  They never just chilled for even 5 minutes to pause and watch TV or sit still and play.  It took a lot of energy.  It was a great exercise plan 😀  (I lost a good 10 lbs. those first 2 months)!

Bonus Child was a big help to me from the very first day she came.  She was very much used to being in charge since she was the eldest of five surviving children.  She came with me to the supermarket to help me figure out what size diapers to get Bonus Baby since she’d arrived without a spare and I had no idea how much the darling weighed. Bonus Child knew exactly which package to get, and also accurately informed me what kinds of food to buy.  She also showed me how to fix Bonus Baby’s hair properly.  Raising three boys, I was pretty much all thumbs at making little braids and pony tails.  As a not-too-girly mom who thought I’d dodged a huge bullet by having boys, I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed buying clothes and hairbands for the girls!

Before you knew it, these little strangers were a part of our family.  Surprisingly, all the expectations were topsy-turvy.  The younger one was the easier one, in so many ways.  She made the astute observation one afternoon on the way home from preschool that “I have two mommies.  And two daddies”.  And that was just the way it was.  No problems.  No issues.  She loved all of us and she loved life.

I learned that it’s harder for the older kids to accept their situations.  Sometimes they feel they are being disloyal if they’re having too much fun.  Often they’re afraid of bonding to new people because they never know when they’ll be leaving.  They are stressed and angry about events in their young lives and sometimes act out without knowing why.  You learn a lot when you’re a foster parent–by reading, researching, observing, and talking to other foster parents.  No matter what, though, by the end of the second summer we were a family.  Bonus Child had finally turned the corner and had firmly bonded with me and seemed to genuinely want to be here.  I felt this bond would help get us through any little bumps in the road.

But that was not to be.  The unfortunate “perfect storm” of events occurred.  The kids were once again “in between” case workers at the overworked understaffed county.  The agency we worked with had just assigned us a new case worker.  My eldest son’s wedding in California was coming up and of course since we’d never even dreamed we would still have the kids in September when we had to make travel plans in the spring (although the case worker at the time had assured us that we could get respite care for the children during the trip if we DID still have them) I kept checking to see if arrangements had been made.  You can’t just leave foster kids with anyone; they must be watched only by an adult with clearances.  Since my entire family was going to the wedding, and even my neighbor, who is a CASA volunteer and has clearances, was going to be out of state that weekend visiting her son, I had to rely on the agency.  And they couldn’t come through unless the kids went to another county and Bonus Child would miss 4 days of school.  And that just didn’t sit well with the supervisor-acting-as-interim-caseworker at the county.

I spent the weekend before my son’s wedding packing up over 15 months worth of toys, clothes, books, school supplies, etc. for two little girls who had a lot of things!  I still didn’t even know for sure what I was going to wear to the wedding and for the rest of the time we would be in California and hadn’t started packing my own stuff.  I was grieving for them while I packed up boxes and backpacks to send with them to the foster mom who had expressed that she wanted to adopt all 5 of the kids to keep them together, trying so hard not to let the girls see me cry so I could put the positive spin on it that they would get to be with their brother and sisters who they really loved and missed.  The supervisor from our agency picked up the girls the day before we had to fly to California to take them and most of their belongings to the county, and Bonus Child made me promise to write and call as soon as I got back from California.  I sent a note with her to give to their new foster mom promising to get the rest of the kids’ stuff to them and thanking her for keeping all these precious children together in one home.  I included our phone number and address so the kids could keep in touch.   It was during this frantic week in my life that I found it impossible to take a full complete breath.  I’m still struggling.

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Took My Breath Away (Part I)

The massage therapist knowingly nodded, and said several of her clients complained of similar symptoms.  “The body remembers,” she continued, “even long after the triggers are gone”–which is what baffled me.  When I went to her, the week after Christmas, I should have been a model of health and tranquility.  I had started working out at least three times a week, had no major deadlines or responsibilities, and the things that had me so stressed out were months behind me, or at least at the point where I’d done everything I could to make things right and had no personal regrets.  I had wholeheartedly resigned my fate to a higher power, feeling certain that not only what will be will be, but will be for the best.  Yet I still had trouble taking in a good deep cleansing breath.  I was hoping she could rub out some of the knots in my back that seemed to be blocking the air from fully reaching and filling every bit of my lungs.

Hosting foster children is something we had thought about doing for a long time.  Big Daddy seemed to be more apprehensive about it because he was worried we might become attached  to a child that we would have to give back.  I was less worried about that because I expected from the start that it would be temporary and was OK with that.  I only wanted to be a safe port in a child’s stormy life until things calmed down.  In fact, I like temporary arrangements.  I love my two-month a year job.  I prefer open-ended contracts.  I figured we’d provide some fun for a child that needed to laugh and then he or she would return home after a few months.  I had no way of knowing how challenging and unpredictable this choice would be.

We had planned, and splurged, on renting the beach house in July.  One of the reasons was so the girls could see the ocean.  But all along, we never knew for sure if we would still have them by the time July rolled around.  We hoped…but that is the nature of foster care.  We rented a house that slept 8 just in case, though, figuring we wouldn’t have much trouble filling up the extra beds if something happened.  Then J came home with his horribly crushed leg…and with only a couple of weeks to go, we faced the possibility that none of us would be going on vacation.  We spent days keeping his leg iced, helping him with everyday life, and watching helplessly while he dealt with pain that even his prescription pain killers couldn’t dull.  The girls were so sweet, tiptoeing around quietly and trying to help by making ice packs and bringing him water.

Although we had to watch for what could have been gruesome developments, J’s leg seemed to be improving enough that we decided to make the long drive to North Carolina.  J stretched out in our old van that we luckily never sold while Youngest Son did the driving.  J’s girlfriend and my 15-year-old niece rode along with them.  Big Daddy and I took the girls with us in the SUV and we kind of followed each other.  We had a great time there–even though Big Daddy had to lose a full day at the beach shopping around for a competent repair guy–miles from the little island we were staying–to replace the muffler that had decided to fall off the van two days before we had to leave.  Meanwhile, Youngest Son had been struggling all week, long distance, to find out why his car was still sitting untouched and unrepaired back home when he had left it a week ago.  They still hadn’t gotten the part they needed and Youngest Son was stressing big time about having to start med school in less than a week with no car to get him there!  All of these annoyances were quickly forgotten, however, when Big Daddy took a call on his cell phone the night we were packing up to leave for home.  The guy that was watching our beautiful 7-year-old Boxer dog, Sky, called to tell us that he was rushing her to the animal hospital with what appeared to be Bloat, which is a twisting of the dog’s stomach and which we knew immediately was a very bad thing.  We waited teary-eyed and in stunned silence for further news, and our worst fears were confirmed when he called to say she hadn’t made it after suffering from two heart attacks, one while en route, and the other at the hospital.

RIP Baby Girl

 


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