Friday, November 9, 2007

Juxtaposition or How to Live on a Lifeboat

(This post includes the two other pictures that are also on this page, dated Nov. 9, 2007)
If someone were to look at these pictures, they might think that they were looking at some sweet photos of cute children who are mugging for the camera. They might think that the babies in the pictures are just fortunate, well-loved little people who are out for dinner with their family, after which they will go home, have a bath, and get lovingly tucked into their beds by their adoring Mommy and Daddy. Well, the photos do tell half of the story, maybe temporarily a little more than half the story, as it stands now, anyway. The truth is, that the older children in all three pictures are my three oldest daughters.(I will post a picture of my youngest soon.) They have gone home every night, since their births, and have been lovingly cared for, adored and protected. Their lives have been charmed in so many ways. They have been viewed as gifts, blessings and very special, special people. The juxtaposition which makes these photos so incredibly bittersweet is that the three babies in the photos, were brought into this world by a drug-addicted woman, who abused, neglected and ultimately lost custody of them to "the system". She is the reason that these children, these babies, were forced to scramble for a lifeboat even before the oldest one was three years old. These babies were drowning in the shear neglect and dangerous lifestyle of a woman who could barely take care of herself, let alone three innocent babies.

Something moved my oldest, and dearest friend, D, to opt for becoming a foster care parent, about a year ago. D and her husband have three wonderful children of their own, ages 17-22, and had seen an advertisement that talked about the need for foster parents in their state. Being the loving parents that they were, they decided that they had room in their homes and in their hearts to share with children in need, and so they signed up to become foster parents. They didn't plan on taking three children. They wanted a younger child who they felt they could have some positive influence on, but never three. We all know what is said about the best laid plans, and so, they opened up their home to Michael, Marie, and baby Mark(names have been changed). I know that they did not expect all of the issues that laid ahead of them, but they were willing, open and ready to take on the challenge. D has a huge heart, and she was willing to open it to three babies who were left to begin life without a Mommy or Daddy. I won't go into all of the problems that this family has had to encounter throughout the past six months, but I do feel that I should share a little bit about what these babies have been exposed to in their short lives.

Michael, the oldest one, is a loving, sweet-hearted little boy. He loves to play with toy trains and has an affinity for making friends with most anyone he meets. On the day that these pictures were taken, he had adopted my husband as his buddy, and made sure that he stayed by his side for the entire day. If my husband left his sight, he would call his name and look for him until he was able to grab onto his hand again. Michael suffers from fetal-alcohol syndrome. He has learning disabilities, attachment problems, and ADHD. He loves to eat, presumably because his birth mother was generally too high to provide him with regular feedings. His birth mother taught him that food was something that would not always be available, and so he ate as much as he could, when he could. He also sees food as comfort.

Marie is a 22 month old princess, who talks constantly. She loves baby dolls, and staying tidy. She is a very independent little toddler who took to my 15 year old daughter, and stayed constantly by her side for the entire day. My girls wanted to bring her home. When we went into the Disney Store(we were at Disneyland for the day), so that the kids could pick out a stuffed animal to take home, Marie took every princess doll into her arms, and gleefully chimed, "Baby". She, too, has many problems that she will be able to thank her birth mother for someday. The therapists think that she was left in a playpen all day, in a room that had trash and junk piled floor to ceiling. They think that she was abused, as well as neglected. She sometimes has uncontrollable fits of rage. The only way to calm her down is to let her work it out by herself for a while.

Mark, the baby, was taken from birth mother in the hospital. He was born addicted to meth, alcohol, and spent the first five days of his life in intensive care. His birth mother, or BM, as I respectfully like to call her, never had the opportunity to take him home, thank God. It was after his birth, that her home was raided by the police, and all of the children were removed and placed into foster care. Because he has had only the loving influence of my friend D, her husband K, and their kids, he is a very happy, smiley, well-adjusted little baby. He thinks they are his Mommy and Daddy. He thinks that D's three other children are his siblings, too. Mark gets passed around from one set of arms to the next. He thinks that D is his Momma, and K is his Dada. D is the first person he looks for when he gets tired or cranky, and she lovingly cradles him in her arms, while he tries to eat her hair. In a way, he is the lifeboat that saved the lives of both his sister and brother.

Herein lies the absolutely unforgivable part of this story. Instead of giving these children up for adoption, and having her tubes tied so that she can go on to ruin nobody else's life but her own, she is going through the motions of trying to regain custody. Instead of doing one good thing in her life, BM, who has relapsed since D has taken custody of these babies, continues to insist that she wants these children. What in the world????? She admits to eight, count 'em, eight pregnancies. She is 26 years old and a third generation drug addict, but she thinks that she should be able to parent these children? This woman tore up her parenting card on the day that she chose drugs over her children! Of course, there is always all of the welfare money to consider in her choice to continue trying to regain custody. You can always park your babies in a crib for the day, but money, now that isn't something that shows up on the doorstep everyday.

My friend D is spending her days up to her ears in diapers. She is constantly juggling therapists, social workers and court appointments for these three little souls. Once a week, she must hand these children over so that they can have supervised visits with BM, so that BM can fulfill her court appointed duties. When BM decides to show up for these visits, if she shows up, she lies on the floor and naps as the babies run around wildly. When D gets them back, they are disoriented, confused, and harder to manage. D's days are spent trying to keep these children happy and fed, as well as trying to reverse some of the major damage that BM has caused them. She admitted to me that some days, she feels like she is a prisoner. Her daughter is a huge help, and loves these children dearly, but she is 20 years old and has her own life to think about. D is not sure what she will do if all three of these children are put up for adoption. She is 45 years old, and on the verge of becoming a grandmother, herself. Her own daughter got married in June. I do know that D could not put these children back into the system, nor could she hand the littlest one, Mark, over to anyone's arms other than those of another loving parent. I can see in her eyes, that she has taken on a world more than what she had expected. I can also see that she has given a huge chunk of her heart to these children. That is something that she will never take back, regardless of what the end of this story turns out to be.

Juxtaposition is the only word that I can think of when I look at the happy faces of all of the children in these photos. It is the difference between knowing that life is a wonderful thing, that it is safe and joyful, full of promise; and learning that life is something that is unpredictable, unsafe, and extremely hurtful. Interesting how it is said that a picture is worth a thousand true those words are here.

The prayer that I keep tucked deeply inside of my heart is that Michael, Marie and Mark are able to move from the lifeboat of D and K's family onto ground that is steady and safe and everlasting. I pray that the rockiness of the life that they lived before being rescued by D and her family, is NEVER allowed to be made part of their lives again. I pray that adoption becomes part of their future. And I pray that all of the other children who are out there living in the same horrible conditions in which these children were, just eight short months ago, are able to find someone who will provide them with a lifeboat. Someone who will bring them all to safer ground. Someone who will open their home and their heart to the littlest ones who don't even know yet, how to swim.

May you always find dry land to rest upon. Even if you need to use a lifeboat in order to get there...


Humble Origins said...

...Too cute!

Debra W said...

Yes, they are, aren't they?!?!?

Anonymous said...

The story is Bittersweet! I'll keep the family in my prayers.

"Puppy Mill" families- generation to generation of drugs, addiction, and living on welfare. A vicious circle.

Patriot said...

Hi! I just came across your blog - wow - 4 teenage daughters!! God bless you!!

Divina said...

I hope everything turns out the right way........for the kids.......

Debra W said...

TJ, Ang, Patriot, and Divina,

Thank you all for your comments. I appreciate each one of them and I thank you for stopping by.

Thank you for keeping the family in your prayers. They need all of the help that they can get, right now!

Humble Origins said...

...Oh Debra, I just read the story and I have tears streaming down my face as I am typing... Isn't that something, I saw those photos before you posted their story and never once by looking at those faces would I have thought they have endured so much pain and hardship so early on!
...Obviously your friends and family are a Godsend to these little souls and God bless you all for what you are doing! Each and every one of them are adorable, my gosh, I just want to scoop them up and hug them!
...Thank you for sharing their story Debra - please keep us posted as to how things go for them.
...They will be in my thoughts and prayers!
...Peace & blessings...

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