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Hope Springs Eternal

     My husband and I have been married for three years. Three years seems like such a short period of time, and yet, as we've reflected on ALL that has taken place during this time span, it feels as though we've lived a lifetime and a half! My biggest dream growing up was always to be a mother. As I got a bit older, I realized that I wanted other things as well... to help others, to have a job that required me to show compassion to the underdogs of society, to pursue music, to write, to love God and my family with my whole heart. After year 1 of marriage, it looked as if I was going to have to abandon one of my most precious goals in life: Motherhood. Crushed and exhausted from fertility pills that made me super-sick, we moved to Plan B: Foster Care.

     With so many children in need of placement, surely, we thought, we would get a child immediately! Ahh, but let us not forget the months of paperwork followed by the months of waiting.

More Waiting!!

Was it possible that even needy children weren't meant for us? Good grief!! If I can't have my own and I can't help someone elses', what was left? But lo and behold, after almost a year into the fostering process, we got the call. TWO children instead of one.... what a deal!! Two weeks after their arrival, CYS asked us to consider adopting them.

Um.... they obviously haven't seen me mother... I'm really not very good! I always thought I would be this awesome Mom, but I've realized that I basically stink at it!

 But our hearts did what our brains couldn't.... and we said "Yes".

     Several months later, Baby Isaac came along. I'm pretty sure most of our family thought we were crazy by this point! Afterall, we were dealing with some "fun" and "interesting" behaviors (both from the kids AND from us!), but we figured that adding their baby brother to the mix would be worth it in the end. P.S.

It was.

Fast forward 9 months.... Both Cameron and Taylor have been adopted, Isaac is set for adoption, and then the bomb hits. Words like "biological father" and "reunification" started haunting my dreams and turning my stomach sour. After a month and a half, Isaac left us for good. Grateful for weekend visits, Pat and I tried to compose ourselves for the sake of each other and for Cameron and Taylor.... we left our weeping for late at night, in the privacy of our cars, our pillows, and the great outdoors.

     What I didn't tell you in last night's post is that Sunday night, just after returning Isaac to his father for what we thought to be the final time, we had one more change of events. My husband was at the video store, walking the isles in tears, desperate to find something to distract him from the great loss Isaac left in him. I was at home, getting sick with grief....literally. I texted him repeatedly, as he was taking an unusually long time. He assured me he would be home soon. I waited on the couch for him anxiously, knowing that the day had been more than we could handle, but that I was going to do what I could to cheer him. So, when my hubby walked through the door, the first thing I did was put my arms around him and we both cried. And the second thing I did was present him with a present:

     I realized that God loves poetry more than even I, because no one could have written this more poetically if they had tried. On the very night we lose one baby, God grants us another. Pat and I stared at the tests with their beautiful, pink, double lines, and we did the only thing we could in the moment. We laughed. It was much needed laughter in a moment that we were feeling so much sadness. We we overjoyed, nervous, and broken, all in the same moment, and laughter was the best release we found! After further thought, our giggles continued, because, not only had I not ovulated in 3 years, but we had only had a week of "sexy time" in a two month span due to feeling so distraught over Isaac. We made time for the obligatory "stress relief" that is supposed to occur for one's anniversary, and that was it! So, one egg in three years just happened to occur during a particularly long dry spell we were in? I don't think so. This has miracle written all over it! And that's exactly how I will always see it.

     Our little bean-shaped baby is 7-weeks along and due May 8th. Baby Bean's heart beat was small but strong. Watching the tiny flashes of light signifying Bean's heartrate filled me with such a peace that I haven't felt in years. I no longer have to imagine what this "would have been like". It's here. It's my moment.

My baby.

A baby that no one can ever take away. There has always been Hope... but Hope Realized is soooo much cooler! Ladies and Gentelmen, meet Baby Bean.




     If I could change the child welfare system, I would do it in a heart beat. There is no end to the distress any given family experiences at the hand of caseworkers, judges, and lawyers. Everyone passes the buck and no one takes responsibility for their actions... they simply blame it on "the system". One minute the system is on your side, the next minute, you're chopped liver. One hearing you're looking at adoption, the next you're looking at termination. There are so many ups and downs in this program, it's a wonder they haven't started handing out medication and psychiatric business cards with the foster parent sign-up packets. Even with all the irrational craziness my own family has gone through in the last two years, nothing prepared me for the court hearing my husband and I attended on Friday for Isaac.
     Originally, it seemed unfair, almost cruel, to make us attend a hearing for the child we had to give up just days prior. Still grieving our loss, we showed up and were greeted by the sweetest sight these eyes could've seen. Members from our church were sitting in the lobby, ready to surround us with loving arms of support, prayers, and blessed distraction! Even though they couldn't come into the court room, there was so much love radiating from our friends in the hallway that it was like they were right there in the seats next to us.
     When the hearing finally started, we sat and listened to testimony after testimony as lawyers discussed Isaac's father, determining if he was fit to parent an infant. After being told we were not allowed to have a lawyer of our own present, we were asked where our lawyer was.... with questioning glances, CYS told us that we absolutely could've had our lawyer attend, despite the fact that we have the letter from them stating that we couldn't. So, being the only ones unrepresented, I felt a little unarmed and defeated before we even started! (Particularly after each party (Including Isaac's father) was allowed to read the letter that we submitted to the judge, stating our concerns about this man taking our child.... nothing like awkward.) Isaac's mother purgered herself on numerous accounts, Isaac's father made us seem like quibbling nit-wits for writing our letter to the judge, and the CYS caseworker reported inaccurate fact after inaccurate fact. All in all, it was like being tied to railway tracks as you watch the train approaching at full speed.
     The hearing began to wrap up after an hour and a half, which made my upset tummy grateful. Each lawyer presented closing arguments and each lawyer recommended that Isaac be placed in his biological father's care. My heart sank and my stomach soured. And then it was time for the judge's declaration.
     "After hearing the closing arguments, it seems that everyone is in agreement. Everyone except for me."
     Wait, what? I found myself staring at the man dressed in black with my mouth hanging open. I looked around the room and it appeared that I was not alone. "I am here for the best interest of Isaac. And I feel that it is unfair to the Costa family, to Isaac's biological siblings that live with them, and to Isaac himself to sever ties so abruptly." The judge then addressed Isaac's birth father. "Furthermore, you have two older children that will be starting school again very soon, and you said they were very busy with extracurricular activities. Your schedule is going to be changing quite drastically and you need to make sure this is something you can handle. Therefore, I have decided that Isaac will remain in the foster care system for at least the next month. During this time, he will reside with his biological father from Monday through Friday and he will spend Saturday and Sunday with his foster family. This is scheduled to begin this Saturday, tomorrow. We will meet back here in a month to assess the situation again."
     I'm pretty sure we could've heard a pin drop in the court room. I was prepared for everything BUT joint custody... is that even something they do? I mean, children who have been with foster families for much longer than 10 months get ripped away and placed with their criminal parents all the time. I've never even heard of this! And neither had CYS, nor the lawyers, nor the other judges. Apparently, this is an unprecedented ruling, one that left everyone baffled. I want to say I was elated. My baby was coming home the very next morning!! But there was a part of me that felt angry at the judge. I had already gone through saying goodbye once... and now I have to do it over and over again each weekend? The grieving process was something I'd already started. It's like saying that the child you buried may not have been as dead as you thought when you buried them... I mean, they still may be dead and all, but you have to wait at least a month to know for sure what the end result will be. How do I deal with that??
     In the end, I chose to look at this ruling through a more eternal perspective. God knew the results of this hearing from the beginning of time, so obviously, He's got a plan. I have absolutely know idea what it is, mind you, but I know that there is one. So, I chose to take these extra weekends with my baby as a blessing, knowing that in the end, I may be forced to say a final goodbye again and to go through this pain all over again. Perhaps this is the judge's way of giving Isaac's dad time to adjust. Or perhaps it's his way of giving him time to prove he's not able to do this afterall. Or maybe he saw my eyes and knew that I needed more time to hold my little boy. I don't think I'll ever know the reasoning behind his decision, but I'm grateful for time to smother Isaac with more kisses than he can stand.
     Saturday morning came and my husband, the bolder of the two of us, met with Isaac's birth father for the Great Baby Transfer. I stared at the clock, waiting for them to return home; waiting to see my chubby cherub and his toothy smile. And when the car pulled into the driveway, it was like he had never left. We played the same, we cuddled the same, we bathed the same, and we loved the same. Cameron and Taylor were elated that they get to have visits with their baby brother. In fact, I was worried that this change in plans would put them into an emotional tailspin. But I have to say, I've never felt more proud of two kids than I have as they've gone through this entire ordeal. They've taught me a thing or two about coping and grieving. They've also shown me to be grateful for each moment. They weren't worried about what saying goodbye to Isaac later would mean for them. They were just so excited to have him for the next two days. I was inspired by their ability to live in the moment and to enjoy this special gift with abandon, holding nothing back.
     As expected, it was hard to let him leave again tonight. But this time I was able to console myself with thoughts of next weekend. I am able to focus 100% on my job, my husband, and my other two children this week, leaving us to focus all of our love, time, and attention on Baby Bear this weekend. I have no idea what the end of this situation holds. But I know what I hold. HOPE.



Time To Bloom

     It was a long-awaited, much anticipated moment, but Cameron David Costa was finally adopted into our family as of 9:30am yesterday! Leading up to the day was such an emotionally distressing time for Cameron and our family, anxiety being this little boy's kryptonite. Even at the adoption hearing, Cam was nervous, bashful, and very concerned about all the people at the courthouse that day. He even described himself as feeling "shy"; when asked what that meant, he admitted that he had no idea, but it seemed a fairly accurate statement for his behavior!

     We went out for a celebratory lunch at a hibachi restaurant, which was an interesting adventure in and of itself with the kids... Baby Isaac was thoroughly mesmerized by the Asian man tossing the knives around, Taylor was focused on when her food would be done, and Cameron, although terrified of the flames on the hibachi, was far more interested in the mechanics of the table instead of the man's obvious skills with cutlery. We realized rather quickly that we would have to hide all of our knives for at least the next 6 months, just in case anyone got any "creative" ideas!
     Later that evening, I heard Cameron talking in his room (to whom, I wasn't sure!), so I peaked in without him realizing I was there. That's when I saw that Cameron was not talking to himself, but that he was talking to his stuffed animals. I stood there watching as my son introduced himself to his teddy bears as Cameron David Costa. It was so sweet to watch him feel settled in his new name; a name that will hopefully begin to wash away the stigma, negative memories, and anxiety associated with his previous name. When Cameron realized that he was being watched, his shyness returned. I asked what he was up to, and he said, "Nothin'... I'm just practicing my new name for school tomorrow."
     "What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet... but I have a hard time believing that a rose would smell the same if it were called a thistle or a skunk cabbage." (Anne of Green Gables... my favorite character of all time!) Cameron will always be Cameron... sweet, quirky, helpful, mischevious (especially the last one). But my prayer is that this name change that he felt important enough to practice, will be a turning point for his life, one that causes him to see himself in a new way. Cameron, you are no longer the thistle that others have deemed you, nor are you the skunk cabbage that you view yourself as. You are part of our family and you WILL NOT be seen as a weed that needs to be plucked. Cameron, you are our rose. It's time to bloom, Son.