Friday, May 28, 2010

He sees London, He sees France...

Little J sees my underpants!

Since I am on a small "maternity leave" with Little J and Tony is still working daily, the two of us are together constantly. It is great for bonding and murder on any kind of privacy. He follows me everywhere, which is fine because that is better than wandering the house and getting into trouble. He even follows me to the bathroom. *sigh* I guess I have to let him because if I go in alone, he'll be unsupervised and will also pound on the door and demand to come in.

So for now I guess I have a bathroom attendant. He hands me toilet paper and washes hands with me. He is very interested in my toilet progress, since so far he only uses his potty as a step stool to get up to the sink.

We have funny conversations in the bathroom. Since he is just now learning to talk, he is master of the obvious and asks me if I am going potty. You bet kiddo, and someday you will do this too.

Is it a little wrong to look forward to going back to work so I can use the toilet alone? Oh yeah, I am a nurse now, so I don't get to use the toilet because I am so busy!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Being a Mother

Image: Gustav Klimt: Mother and Child, 1905

Being a mother is a big deal. Not that it shouldn't be, because it is just about the hardest thing there is to do. There are about as many kinds of mothers as there are children to parent. I'm going to be a foster mother again very soon, and that brings up all sorts of feelings. Bear with me while I sort them out in writing.

Yes, being a mother is a big deal. Our culture idolizes mothers to the point where it is generally accepted that being a parent is by default just better than not being one. It is assumed that until you have had a child, you are incapable of feeling or expressing unconditional love or deep empathy or protectiveness for other people. Women who are unable for whatever reason to give birth or choose to not have children are creatures to be pitied.

I'm pretty sure being pitied is one of the worst feelings there is. Being pitied when you have suffered a great loss such as losing a child is so dis-empowering. For as long as people pity you, you are pitiful, no?

We have pictures of Little A all over our house, reminders of when we were her proud parents. She was a beautiful daughter and adding Little J to our family will not make me stop missing her or wondering how she is doing with her family.

I have been not-a-mother yet, a foster mother, a former mother, and now a foster mother-to-be again. While being a mother (and I was that in almost every sense to Little A) taught me many things about myself, it didn't make me better than anyone else. I am proud to say that I already knew about love and empathy before she became part of our family. I am a purposeful person and examine myself and my motives on a regular basis, so there was no big a-ha moment there.

It is a little hard for me, around holidays like Mothers' Day, to not feel a little annoyed at the cult of the Mother around me. That in-club that I have both been included and excluded from. It is a rite of passage to be a parent, and it is almost like I am not considered fully a woman unless I am a frazzled mother.

But having a functioning uterus doesn't make you a woman any more than having a functioning appendix does. All sorts of people have babies that have neither the coping skills nor the interest to parent. As a foster parent, I see that side of it and just can't wrap my head around it.

I will say that I have known people who have suffered illness and loss and personal tragedy, and not one of them would trade places with me for a million dollars. I carry my loss of Little A like a piece of secret shame, even though I lost her due to no wrongdoing of my own, but to a court system that places a higher value on her biological mother's rights than to what was clearly making Little A happy and healthy. I can't tell that story out loud without being like a black raincloud that brings unwanted sadness to anyone who hears it. So most of the time I just gloss over it, or say nothing at all, even though to do so makes me feel like less of a mother, like it was all a dream that ended badly. I'm like the mother that other mothers must not touch for fear of my bad luck rubbing off. I honestly try hard not to touch pregnant women, just in case.

In a few hours I get to meet the little boy who will hopefully be my forever son one day. He is his own person and is not coming into my life to heal my hurts, but to have his own soothed. He has his own issues and cannot bear the burden of my anxiety. I have to teach him that I can be trusted to provide comfort, as if he were a newborn. Today I will start slow, like a first date, hoping for love but not letting a show of it overwhelm. I cannot merely claim him and expect him to fall into my arms in gratitude. In fact, at first, he may reject me for moving him away from his current foster mother or the even more distant figment of the woman he never sees but who gave birth to him.

Being a Mother is a big deal, but not in the ways popular culture would have you believe. It means being a whole person and showing a child how to rise above pain and still have an open heart. It means accepting a child as a person with flaws like any other. And ultimately, it means eventually saying goodbye to that child, hopefully because you have successfully raised them to adulthood and not some other, sadder reason. It means becoming an archetype in the life of another person, expanding beyond yourself into mythic proportions before you even have your morning coffee. It means dead-lifting cars and making healing food that, if you are lucky, will be remembered long after you are ash in the wind.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Buzz: It's a Boy!

The news on the Ferrante Family front is that we are taking another Flex Family placement of a 2 year old boy. He's not a newborn baby, but he'll be our "baby". For the purposes of the interwebs, I will call him "Little J". His privacy is very important, so I will not be discussing the finer points of the reasons he came into foster care other than to say that it was because of neglect, which has given him a few special needs for which he is receiving therapy services. I also, alas, will not be posting pictures of him on my facebook page or my blog, at least until his legal status is more secure.

Being a Flex family means that we take him as a foster child, and are able to adopt him if that is the way his case plan goes. This is what we did with Little A, and we all know that we ended up on the losing end of that particular gamble. It is scary to venture into this arena again, but with great risk there is potential for great reward, or so I explain to my frazzled nerves.

It's like we are on the county's radar at the moment, because now that we are committed to Little J, we are getting calls for all kinds of situations. I got a phone call yesterday to see if we could take an emergency placement of a 12 month old baby girl. That tugged hard on my heart strings, but we want to take time to get Little J moved in and settled and bonded before we go adding more kids to the family.

If this post sounds all somber and serious, don't let that fool you. I am super freaking excited about it. We are meeting him next week, and will move him in in about a week or two. I'm buying paint for his room today. I know I will feel much more ready after we get things put together in there.

After having a super girly girl for two years, I am now trying to figure out how to raise a son. I have my own ideas, but I am open to suggestion as to what cultural touchstones are important for raising a boy to be freethinking and sort of hip and unconventional. Does he need comic books in his life, which ones? Are ninja movies essential? Any really good books? I'm shaping a person here, and I want him to be someone you can stand to hang out with. I don't want to raise him to be pretentious, but to have discerning tastes.

Oh me and my lofty ideas. A month from now all I will want is some sleep! ;)