Saturday, September 27, 2008

Babies

I've been thinking a bit lately, about quite a few things, that on the surface might seem unrelated, but wait until I string them together, and then they'll make sense, maybe. I've been thinking about puppies, and babies, and therapists, and older adopted children. And money.

The reason I'm thinking about puppies, is because my house seems to be teeming with little white dogs behaving like puppies...which mostly involves a lot of peeing. Little new dog is almost still a puppy, and she is in fact new here, so she can almost be excused for her puppy behavior. Little old dog is a sour old lady who does not like the changes in her life, and protests by acting badly. So for all intents and purposes, I have two puppies to mind, and that is a lot of work. (and pee)

But not nearly as much work as babies, and for that I am grateful. My friend Queen B hasn't had much time to heckle and hassle me lately because she has been knee deep in babies. And she is tired, really tired. Poor little babies came on an emergency foster placement that was to be temporary/permanent/temporary. All the while she wondered what would happen, the poor babies cried and cried and cried. In the end, the good news is that they are going to stay with family, and it really is good news for two reasons. First reason is, their family cares for them, and second reason is, Queen B needs some rest. And my point here is NOT to point out how OLD the Queen is getting, or anything like that. In a roundabout way I am trying to get at something she said to me the other day, which rattled around in my head...still does. She said that although the children were sweet, and she had lots of helpers among her immediate family members, something in her was waiting for all the outpouring of love and support that comes from friends, and family, and church when a new baby comes. Where were the cards, and shower, and week or two of meals?

And of course none of those things were forthcoming. These were not her children, and as such, no one even remarked on them, or thought about it. Except she was just as tired as any new mother, and her family was thrown into as much chaos as any family who brings home two new babies. Maybe more, because they had about an hour to prepare, while most families have months. These children needed all the things babies need, and although foster care provides a bit toward the necessities, the reality is that anyone I know who fosters babies, reports how much the baby has cost them personally at the end of the month. The money NEVER covers all of the child's needs, and in the end, it ALWAYS costs the family to care for them.

And then there's therapists. With them, it's either feast or famine, and right now of course we have a feast. A ridiculous feast actually. Kind of like when we used to live in a certain area of the country where they favor what my sister calls "the feeding trough" over the simple family restaurant. These are massive buffets, boasting mounds and mounds of every sort of food, where you can fill and refill your plate until you can't walk to the buffet line anymore. And then, after a short rest and a trip to the bathroom, you can start on the dessert buffet. When you finish off that last piece of cheesecake and a half cup of coffee, you can painfully make your way out to your car, hoping you still fit behind the steering wheel. And for us, therapy is like that right now. I have all these helping hands, with nothing to give them to do. I have all this advice, to do what we've already been doing for a long time, so my "help" isn't really help at all. I actually have to manufacture things for them to do, and dig deep for "issues" to address and work on.

I think to myself, "Where were all of you when I really needed you?" This would be the first six months to a year, when we were all still reeling from the shock of the whole thing. I also think, "Why can't I hire you to babysit, so Hubby and I can go out by ourselves?"...because that's what we really need these days; a babysitter that "does no harm". And then I continue to wonder, and ponder.

Did we really need therapists at all? We, as a society, have created a machine called foster care and foster adoption, yet we have no community supports in place to uphold it. Did we need trained professionals, or like Queen B and many others, did we need community? Did we need regular phone calls, and congratulatory cards? Did we need meals brought in, and "baby" showers, to shower these precious children with the things all children need? Did we need the sympathetic ears (or shoulders to cry on) of other parents who have experienced these growing pains themselves. Because I am here to tell you, this did not exist. We brought home four "babies", who caused at least as much upheaval and exhaustion as any set of quads, and we got almost no support or even recognition that anything had even changed in our home.

To say we were overwhelmed was the understatement of the year, but to say we were grieved is even more accurate. The reception into our community of family, friends, and faith was underwhelming, and seems to underscore how devalued other folk's cast off children really are. This is NOT to say that there were not individuals who greeted our new children with great joy...only to say that this was an isolated reaction, and not the rule. Eight months later, when Soapy left us, to fall back into the void of "the system", people were even more absent. Now that a couple of years have passed, I have this sense that most people simply accept that these children have come to stay, and that they are likely to continue being around. But it is still not the same as when we had and raised our bio children, and I don't expect it ever will be. Which is ironic, because one of the biggest criticisms we face from the community, is that we treat our adopted children differently than our bio children...but that's a whole different post.

Again, I am reminded of so many things Amy Carmichael had to say about her missionary work in India, among orphaned and abandoned children, and how much things really have not changed through the years. That, this really is a missionary life of isolation. That, people enjoy being titillated with exotic or outrageous stories, but are mostly uninterested in the daily round. That, missionaries are largely out of sight, out of mind. But here is the thing to remember...she loved those children, and she poured out her entire life for them. She worked tirelessly, with a handful of workers who loved the way she did. She refused to give up the exciting tidbits, or bow to the authorities of the day, who had their philosophies about how missionary work was to be done. Instead, she chose to be "Amma", or mother. She literally built walls around her vulnerable children, and fought and labored to give them what she believed to be the very best.

Years later, visitors would come to the pretty compound that was built, and sit in the prayer services in the chapel. They would marvel at the beautiful children in their colorful saris, waving little flags in time to the sweet, worshipful choruses they sang. They would admire the devotion of the women who tended and instructed the children, and no doubt they would go home and tell of the amazing work at Dohnavur. What they did not see was the early years of squalor, and illness, and death. They did not see missionaries praying for their next meal, or fighting the uphill battle to be allowed to do what God had called them to do. Because criticism, and discouragement, and isolation, and the feeling of being forgotten at the end of the earth...were all part of the package. The part of the package that gets forgotten when we can arrange a pretty tableau for "visitors".

Many people forgot, or did not know, or neglected their duty...and in the end God still did His miraculous work, and they missed the blessing of being part of it. Today, in the lands of prosperity, we have our own ugly system, that consumes children year by year. People with vision must fight the uphill battle to redeem those children out of the slavery they have been sold into. Like "Amma", mothers and fathers press forward, certain that good decent people everywhere stand behind them, ready to fill the gap, give to the need, and above all, love the children...even if it is necessarily from afar. And they, like "Amma", are shocked to learn that they are largely wrong.

But God will still do His miraculous work, and many will miss the blessing of being part of it. We cannot blame them if they clamor for sensational stories. Our Oprahfied culture clamors for it. We must learn to shake off bitterness when we feel alone and abandoned, because we are not. The gap is huge, and the need is even bigger, and loving unlovely children is beyond difficult. I am firmly convinced that we can with God's aid, build walls around our vulnerable children, and within those walls create a unique world of safety and light. Loving helpers will come, as will every physical necessity. We need not bow to the "wisdom of the day", as we know this is as changing as the wind. We must endeavor to send out our "Scraps by Nobody" in hopes that they might find fertile ground somewhere, for God only knows where our true helpers are. And when we make pretty tableaus, we must guard our hearts even then. Keep us humble. Allow no bitterness to creep in. (Oh, that's all well and good now, but where were you when...) Make us less charming, and more compelling.

4 comments:

Mongoose said...

Interesting post. It kinda resonated in a way with something that happens in my life, which is that because I'm even-tempered in public and I don't believe in people coddling themselves, most people tell me that I haven't got a care in the world and have never had a hard day in my life.

People don't want to know about hardship unless it's made simple, sensational and easy to fix. "Oprahfied," as you said.

And definitely there seems to be very little acceptance to this day for the more non-traditional family structures, be it fostering, adopting older children, or not having any children.

Thanks for the long post, it's nice to read you again. :)

jen said...

When we had our first adoption I felt sad that nobody considered us worthy of celebration of any kind, no gifts, cards or anything. We are in a very special church now that shares our joy with us and values our children more than our old friends did. Also, we have a small circle of friends that share our joy (and pain)

Thanks for saying what I was feeling to a great extent today.

jen

Brenda said...

That was a profound blog. You really said it! I'm going to read this over another ten times and hand it out to some people. You've got a great way with words.

Brenda
http://www.theadoptioncounselor.com

Rose Adoption Journey said...

Hve you thought about sending this to a magazine like Guidepost or Adoptive Families? It is a winner!