Saturday, April 5, 2014

...and a Crazy Day!

I answered the phone and Mr D told me that he was still at the hospital, M was fine, but he was exhausted and I should check my texts and call him back. He had sent me text updates as things happened, knowing they wouldn't wake me, and that way the timeline was clear and coherent as it would not have been if he'd tried to tell me about it by the time we were talking. (He's a smart man.)

The children's hospital had not agreed with the emergency room's plan to send M home. Instead, they wanted her transported to their emergency room, via a special pediatric transport ambulance. Mr D waited 3 hours for the ambulance, because there's only one and she was now pretty low on the triage list for it. (After all, she was stable and in a hospital.)

Around 3am, she was in the children's hospital ER and nurses were attempting to take blood. That was when it happened again. Monitors went crazy and she began turning blue again. One nurse ran out of the room, carrying M and giving rescue breaths as she went. Another paused long enough to tell Mr D that they were heading to a trauma room immediately because M's heart and respiratory rates had dropped dangerously low. Once they had her stable again, she was admitted.

When Mr D and I spoke on the phone, they were in a PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care) room. He had an idea for a plan for the day, so we discussed it. I would get the respite boys up and take them with me to take Peter to his event, drop Peter off, come home to meet person picking up the respite boys, then go back to the event. Seemed like the best idea and it worked fairly well. (The sporting event was the opposite direction from the person who was coming to get the boys, so it wasn't realistic to change that plan, even if I had wanted to call that person -- who I didn't know -- that early on a Saturday morning!) In the end, I missed all of Peter's actual competition, but he was graciously understanding, which was a relief.

M was transferred from the PICU to the NICU on Saturday afternoon, at which point Mr D finally came home. She had spent a total of about 24 hours in our home before returning to the hospital.

...Followed by a Scary Night...

I survived the afternoon with the 3 year old and the baby. (How did I do this every day when Susan was born and Peter was not-yet-2?) Peter was invited out to dinner by a friend to celebrate his birthday, so he left the house before Mr D came home from work and took the next baby feeding at about 6pm. While the baby was eating, I fed the other kids dinner, with Mr D and I planning to eat together after all the kids were down for the night.

That didn't happen.

M had mostly finished her bottle and Mr D was trying to convince her to take a little more, when he suddenly went very still and stared at her. He called me over and asked if her color was OK, hoping what he was seeing was a trick of the fading light.

It wasn't.

She had stopped breathing and was turning blue. We immediately began tickling her feet, moving her arms and mentally rehearsing infant CPR steps....when she suddenly inhaled again. Her breathing was uneven and choppy for a few minutes and her color slowly changed from blue to white to her natural skin color again. She was OK, but now what?

It didn't seem right to call 911 now. The emergency was over, wasn't it?

It wasn't possible to just assume everything was OK and go back to normal. We were both terrified to take our eyes off of her now, knowing that the only reason we had known she'd stopped breathing at all was that Mr D happened to be holding her and looking at her at the time. How could we possibly sleep tonight?

So, we called the pediatrician's office to ask what to do. They told us to take her to the emergency room, but to be sure that a second adult was in the car to sit in the back with her just in case it happened again while on the way. (If it did, we were to pull over immediately and call 911.) Well, that could be tricky.

At that time, we actually had 2 adults in the house. But we also had a 3 year old foster child, who we certainly weren't going to take to the emergency room. The 1 year old was still off with Marcie. We also had Susan and Edmund, who we would have left at home alone in an emergency, but couldn't leave in charge of a foster child. After staring at each other blankly for a few seconds, Mr D and I agreed we should call the caseworker. Maybe she knew of someone nearby who could come sit at the house for a while....

Mr D explained what was going on. Unfortunately, the caseworker didn't have an immediate idea for someone to call. She asked if we would be comfortable with any of our biological kids in charge, prepared to break the rule about caregivers for foster kids because of the emergency. But, the only child we would leave in charge of a 3 year old was out at a birthday dinner. While we were all desperately trying to brainstorm a solution, it rang the doorbell. Marcie was back.

After some discussion, the plan was formed. Marcie rode in the car with M while Mr D drove, leaving Marcie's car in our driveway. I stayed at the house with the other kids and got them to bed. The caseworker met Mr D at the emergency room, intending to drive Marcie back to our house to get her car, but Marcie called a good friend to pick her up instead, so the caseworker ended up staying at the emergency room with Mr D.

The nearest emergency room is not a children's hospital, but it does have a separate children's emergency department, so that's where they went. M spent almost no time in the waiting room (preemies are very high on the triage priority list!), and the doctors and nurses were pretty sure it was sleep apnea, something very common in preemies. At about 10pm, Mr D told me that they were probably going to discharge her soon, but had put a call in to the nearby children's hospital (where N had his surgeries) to get their opinion first. I went to bed, expecting that he would be home sometime in the wee hours of the morning and wanting to be sure that at least one of us was rested for the next day. Because the next day was already going to be busy. Respite boys were to be picked up at 9am, Peter had a sporting event in the morning where he (and an adult to drive him) needed to leave the house around 7am and would be back around 1pm, immediately followed by a birthday party that afternoon.

I woke to the phone ringing just before 6am, with no Mr D in the bed beside me.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Crazy Week....

So, Baby M was supposed to come to us on a Monday, direct from the NICU.

I was meeting the foster mom of the respite boys for the handoff on the Wednesday, mid-day.

We spent Monday morning scurrying about, doing everything we could think of that might need to be done in the next week. Caught up on laundry and ironing, grocery shopping done, bedrooms prepped for kids to arrive, pack-and-play set up in our room for the baby. Early Monday afternoon, we got a phone call that the baby wasn't coming today after all. She'd had "a rough weekend," the hospital said, and they would keep her until Thursday, probably not arriving here until early evening that day. (The "rough weekend" was later defined as a drop on one of her monitors, the hospital insisting that it was so short that it wouldn't have even been noticed if she hadn't been on the monitor already.)

Well, that was OK, we thought. It meant the first day and half with the respite boys would be just them. It meant we'd really only have Friday when we would have 6 kids in our home as the respite boys were set to be picked up Saturday at 9am.

The respite boys were a lot of fun. The 3 year old was lots of energy, lots of questions, lots of playing with trucks and trains and blocks and crayons. The 1 year old was cuddly and easy; he ate, he slept, he crawled slowly across the floor to pick up things and then hand them to me. We did some fun stuff on the Thursday -- go to the park, make some muffins, play with Play-dough -- knowing that Friday would be very much a survival day. Unfortunately, the 1 year old had a touch of the sniffles. Not a good thing with a preemie coming into the house....

The respite boys were fed, but not yet down for the night when Baby M came. She is tiny and came with instructions to keep her homebound as much as possible for about 2 months. The agency caseworker who brought her to me informed me that the hospital had made her an appointment with the pediatrician for Friday morning. Could I make that appointment? A moment of panic ensued as I envisioned trying to manage a doctor's appointment with all 3 of these kids. Mr D decided that he could take the morning off of work, so we could divide and conquer. The caseworker insisted that I call her if we needed anything, mentioning a specific person she had in mind who could probably come to the house to help me out if needed.

I posted about how bad I am at asking for, of course, I said I'd be fine.

By morning, I knew I wouldn't be fine.  M was eating every 3 hours (whether she thought she was hungry or not), but taking nearly an hour at each feeding. We were both exhausted and the 1 year old's sniffles had added a cough.

We texted the caseworker at 7am, telling her that it would actually be great if that person ("Marcie") could come help out. The caseworker called me about 30 minutes later to talk through what exactly we needed. I told her about the 1 year old's cough and said I was concerned about keeping the germs causing that away from the baby. Mr D would be home until about noon, but then he did need to go to work; I didn't want to be alone with the 3 little ones, so maybe Marcie could lend me a hand that afternoon? Caseworker would call Marcie, figure out a plan, then call me back. Mr D and I discussed the fact that the ideal would really be for Marcie to just come take the two respite boys out for the afternoon.

Caseworker called me back and said that Marcie didn't think she should be around the baby (she was on antibiotics for a sinus infection herself) and she had some errands to run, but she could come take the 1 year old with her and bring him back after her work was done. She probably couldn't have him back here until about 7 or 8 o'clock, was that OK?

Um, yes! I could cope with the 3 year old and the baby. The 3 year old was old enough to wait a minute or two if necessary, old enough to be set up with an activity that would keep him occupied through a feeding, old enough to keep toys out of his mouth! The baby just ate and slept.

So, that was the Friday. It got even more exciting that evening, but this post is already too long....

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I am insane

Well, I'm either insane or unable to form the word "No."

We were going to wait until the first of April to even consider taking any new placements. The last weekend in March was going to be busy with family activities, so we'd get through that and then be "open."

(Have we ever actually waited as long as we said we would to be open?)

Then I got an email. "I know you aren't open yet, but would you be willing to do a few respite days next week? This family is trying to go out of town for a wedding and need someone to take the foster boys, ages 1 and 3...." And, of course, my favorite part of the email: "If you can't do it, feel free to say no. But you're kind of our last option. It's hard to find someone to take them during the week."

I've been on the other side of the respite request too many times to say no to that. I kind of tried, because the last day of respite was going to be that busy Saturday at the end of March, so I said I could take them, but would need them to be able to leave first thing Saturday morning.

So, that was planned.

Then (here comes the insane part), I got a phone call. "I know you aren't open yet, but...." We had told the agency we wanted to be considered for potential adoptive placements, specifically of a little girl. They'd just gotten a call -- 1 month old girl, born prematurely, being discharged from the hospital NICU into foster care, mother has been TPR'ed on two other children already. How could I say No to that either?

She was due to come to us two days before the respite boys. The agency offered me the chance to back out of the respite, but how could we do that? Make someone else's respite care fall through 5 days before they were supposed to leave town for a wedding?

The result was craziness in our house for several days. It got even crazier than we could have imagined.....but the baby is waking up, so I'll have to post more later.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Asking for Help

I have never been good at asking others to help me do things that I think are my own responsibility. I've always been independent and self-sufficient; what I think of as "my responsibility" also includes a lot of things that I'm probably not supposed to think I can always handle on my own. And once we had three kids (more than the "norm" in my area), I had a bit of an attitude about covering their needs without asking others for help; I never wanted to be the family that other parents looked at and thought "why did they have so many kids when they can't handle it?" (By the way, no one ever said anything like that to me about myself or any other family; no one ever even implied it. This was all my own internal judgement twisting myself up in knots.)

When we started fostering, I really had to work on this. And I did. And I got a lot better. It helped that asking people to help me care for foster children felt a little less like I was failing; it was easier to see it as a way for those other people to do some of the work of caring for children in need. I managed to develop more of a "it can't hurt to ask" attitude about calling or emailing friends to see if they could babysit or transport or pick up some item or whatever the need was. But I still tend to only ask when it's for the foster kids or, at a stretch, when it's for one of the Originals and I can't due it because of a foster commitment.

I still have a very hard time asking for help when I'm the one who needs something. I have a doctor's appointment this week. It's nothing major or terrifying, but the doctor told me I would need to have some sedation at the appointment and could not drive myself home. The office also told me it would have to be done on a specific day of the week (because that is the only day that the team that does the sedation is in that office). Of course, that day is one when Mr D absolutely, positively cannot miss work. So I need another ride to the doctor's office and home.

Mr D and I had a long conversation about how to do this. I said I didn't want to ask my mother to drive over from a different state for a one hour appointment. He hesitantly offered to ask his mother. (I'm better at accepting this sort of help from family members.) The problem with asking his mother is that she is a retired nurse who worries. So, she will know all the possible worst-case scenarios about the procedure and the medication and she will stress over them. It is quite likely she would insist on staying at the house with me afterwards until Mr D got home from work, which would be excessive and not relaxing; however, she would be offended it I refused. Finally, I agreed to ask a friend. We came up with two or three for me to try, agreeing that if none of them could do it, I would call my mother-in-law.

As often happens when I hesitate to ask something of someone, the result was gratifyingly positive. The first friend I spoke with was enthusiastically willing to drive half an hour to pick me up, drive another half an hour to the doctor's office, wait about an hour, then drive me half an hour home. This was in lieu of the lunch out we had been trying to plan for a few weeks. When I texted Mr D that it was all settled, he responded, "See? You do have friends."

The moral, of course, is one I have seen many times but still haven't quite managed to internalize. There is no shame in asking for help. People want to help, but they can't fill needs they don't know you have.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Goodbye, N!

I had been packing all day, because I didn't really think there was any doubt he was leaving.

So, when I got the call, it didn't take long to put the last few things in the boxes and bags and start loading the car.

I drove him home, unloaded his things and gave him to his mother.

She looked straight at me -- which she rarely does -- and said, in a clearer and louder voice than I have ever heard from her, "Thank you."

I bawled the whole way home.

I know N is where he belongs.

I trust that God watched over that day -- the day he went home -- with a smile.

I believe his time with us has served its purpose.

(Mr. D put it well when he said that what we did for N was prevent this time of his life being a period in which he did not feel loved. He will not remember any of this and that is good. He will not remember the hospital stays and the needles and the staples and the IVs. He will have the scars and whatever stories his family tells him about them. What we hope he will also carry with him is the emotional strength that comes from the simple fact of having been loved through all of it.)

But right now? Oh, right now, I am struggling. Everything rational in me says "this is right, this is how it should be, this is good." But rationality is not the order of the day at the moment. Because this was the case. This was the one where I loved that child as deeply as the ones I birthed. This is the one where I never reached the point where the hard was outweighing the good -- even for a moment or a day. This is the one where it was hard to let him go.

Or maybe it was just the first one of those.