Monthly Archives: February 2017

Exciting update on Yirmi’s growth!

Some of you may remember when Yirmiyahu was younger (he’s now 4.5) I was quite concerned about his growth rate.  He was born weighing 7 pounds but by the time he was 12 months had dropped down to the 50%.  And that downward trend continued the older he got.

You have to know that I’m not a parent who usually cares at all about growth charts.  I can see my kids growing and I trust they’ll each grow at the rate that is right for them.  But Yirmi was different and that’s why this relaxed mom got increasingly concerned.

Yirmi dropped completely off the growth charts for quite a while; he was getting older and older but hardly any bigger.  As a result I was doing a lot of research on human growth hormone deficiencies to gear up for getting him tested.  Two years ago I took him to a pediatric endicronologist to suggest starting the testing for growth hormone deficiencies, she told me that his malfunctioning bladder and kidney might be the cause of the issue.  Her explanation was that his body was using so much energy to function and compensate for the malfunction, that there wasn’t any energy left to grow.  She suggested waiting until after his reconstructive surgery to see what happened.

Well, in October 2015 Yirmi had major surgery and the issue was finally corrected.  He was last weighed and measured before the surgery. When I recently I took him to the pediatrician, I asked to officially check his measurements.

Pictures don't do justice to Yirmi's cuteness but hopefully you can see how tall he's gotten even without him stretching out (I'm 5'9).

Pictures don’t do justice to Yirmi’s cuteness but hopefully you can see how tall he’s gotten even without him stretching out.

She was astonished to see he has gained 5 kilos since then.  And we were both even more taken aback to see he has grown TWENTY TWO centimeters.  Do you know how huge that amount of growth is in less than 18 months?!?  He’s gone from the very bottom of the growth chart to now being in the 35% for height on the typical growth chart!  That means Yirmi is finally the same size as his same age peers!

He’s not a little guy anymore.

I knew he had been growing a lot because after two years of wearing the same size, his clothes had finally gotten too small and needed to be replaced.  And then I replaced that size with another size.  That’s why I didn’t make a special effort to have him measured until now – I was sure he was growing.

I can also see he can reach much higher to press the buttons in our elevator than when we first moved here in April 2015!

But to hear how significant the growth has been, and to know that he’s really solidly on the typical growth chart was quite emotional for me.  It was such a big concern for such a long time, and poof…now it’s not.

So much gratitude…and I was reminded to share this when recently speaking to a mother of a child with T21 who at age 3 is the same size Yirmi was at that age.  It’s one more reminder for me not to get stuck in the limited picture that sometimes presents itself, but to trust in G-d’s remarkable timing!

Avivah

Baby R’s homecoming! (pics)

Exactly two weeks after our official meeting with his birth parents, Baby R has officially joined our family!

Not only was the timing of this placement really fast, it is also amazing that just one week after we received our legal authorization to foster, we were contacted about Baby R.  Usually families wait for months.

When we were told about Baby R, we didn’t know if he had been named yet.  Ds14 told my husband that if we would be able to name him, he had a particular name in mind that he thought would be perfect.

A week and a half later when I first spoke with his birth mother I asked if the baby had a name.  She told me the name was Rafael.  When I told ds14 the name, he told me that this was the name he had thought of! Ds14 told me then, ‘It just feels like this baby is meant to be part of our family.’  Indeed we all had that feeling.  And the name fits perfectly with the kind of names we choose for our kids.  (Not to mention it’s not a name we’ve used yet for our other seven boys!)

Yesterday the placement took place and honestly I found it emotionally extremely draining.  Everyone involved was great – it’s just not the easiest experience.

I called from the taxi when we were a minute from home and the seven children who were at home all ran down and were waiting to greet us when we opened the doors to get out.  Such excitement!  (I’m sure the taxi driver was wondering what the big deal was.  :))

Everyone wanted a turn holding the baby, and to be fair we went from youngest to oldest. I cautioned everyone to stay calm and quiet because going to a home from the hospital is a big transition, and we didn’t want to overwhelm him.

Ds4 with Rafael

Ds4 with Rafael

Ds7 with Rafael

Ds7 with Rafael

Ds9 with Rafael

Ds9 with Rafael

Ds10 with Rafael

Ds10 with Rafael

Ds14 with Rafael

Ds14 with Rafael

Ds18 with Rafael

Ds18 with Rafael

Happy to watch even if not able to hold him!

Happy to watch even if not able to hold him!

Dd20 was at work and didn’t get home until later, and somehow even though dd16 spent hours holding him, we don’t have any pictures of her!

Dd22 with Rafael

Dd22 with Rafael

pic - baby hand

Ds23 usually comes home only every few weeks for Shabbos but made a special trip home for the night to meet Rafael.

Ds23 with ds4 and Rafael

Ds23 with ds4 and Rafael

I was up every couple of hours in the night since his days and nights are reversed, but that’s okay.  We’ll get that straightened out within a week.

I am so grateful for the generous nursing mothers who shared their milk with me so we would have it here for Rafael when he arrived.  His immune system and digestive system are already benefiting!  I’ll be needing lots more as time goes on but right now we have enough for at least the next couple of weeks.  (If you are a healthy nursing mother of a baby under 6 months who would like to help out with this and live in this area or have a way to get milk to us, please be in touch with me!)

It’s funny how everything happened so quickly but it feels so right for him to be with us. It’s really, really wonderful and I feel very blessed.

Avivah

A and R cropped

Meeting Baby R for the first time!

Ds18 came home from high school with a nasty virus a week ago. He’s still home, and so is the virus – that has generously been shared with just about everyone else in our family!

This has been a rough week for everyone and I spent three days in bed sick, which isn’t typical for a busy mom even if feeling under the weather.  But I couldn’t do anything else – I was completely knocked out.

I pumped vitamin C and fluids, listened to healing meditations and slept non stop for many hours because I didn’t want to miss our scheduled date to meet Baby R.  And I was there – I was weak, I couldn’t speak very loudly and my brain felt like there was a layer of fuzz overlaying it, but I was there!

Usually the visit to the hospital takes place with both sets of parents and a social worker to facilitate.  I guess we did so well handling the initial meeting privately that they trusted us to handle this one on our own!  The reason there wasn’t a social worker wasn’t because it was ideal – it was done in order to accommodate the differing schedules of all involved – there was no possibility of all of us being available on the same date otherwise.  This was the issue that would have kept the placement from happening with our family, but they had told us they would work with us and they really did.

I very much like and respect the birth parents, and I know they feel that way about us.  But that didn’t make this an easy visit.  Not for us and not for them.

What do you do, when shown the baby that you hope and anticipate will soon be your son, and told by the staff you can hold him….when the parents who gave birth to him are right there watching?  Do you pick him up with obvious delight, do you croon to him and tell him how happy you are he will be joining your family soon?  Do you hold him close to your heart and feel  emotion and connection with this tiny person?

No.  I couldn’t.  Not with them there.

So I asked my husband to pick him up first. :)

The parents sat down with us, and I didn’t feel right to ask them to give us privacy.  It didn’t feel kind.  After a few minutes, my husband passed the baby to me.

IMG_20170217_092326
I felt like an interloper stealing someone’s child.  What do you say?  I told her he’s beautiful.  He really is.  What else could I say?  “Are you sure you don’t want to keep him??  Are you going to change your mind and take him back later on?

After a bit longer they excused themselves and said they’d give us some privacy.  I really appreciated their sensitivity.  It can’t have been easy for them to see us with the baby.  And I was so happy to have the chance to let go of the emotional barrier I put in place and instead feel connected to him as his soon-to-be mother.

IMG_20170217_100957The staff members going by all seemed to have some sense of who we were since they gave us very warm smiles.  A bat sherut (someone doing her national service at the hospital) who passed by smiled at us widely, then the second or third time she passed by (we were sitting with him for about an hour next to a corridor) told me she bought the outfit he was wearing. She then burst out, “Oh, I feel so calm now that I see you with him!  I’ve been so worried what kind of family will take him.  Is there any chance that you’ll take him?”

When I told him we were definitely taking him and the transfer was scheduled for three days later, she was so so excited.  She showed me all the pictures she’s taken of him since he was born and asked I wanted them – I definitely did!  I was so happy to see how loved he was.

I also met a woman who has been been coming twice a week for the last two months, three hours each day.  She’s part of a volunteer organization that holds babies in hospitals who don’t have someone to hold them.  (Other volunteers have come on the remaining days.)  She told me she takes him outside if the weather permits and also puts him skin to skin since that’s so important for babies.  Such a warm, caring woman.

In addition, a family member of the birth parents who lives in the area visited daily until this past week, and his parents came weekly despite the distance.

We met with the doctor, who told us Baby R is something of a celebrity at the hospital and the staff is crazy over him.  I really saw that.  So dramatically different than the situation with Baby M who was left in a mother baby convalescent rest home and was in such an emotionally sterile environment.  It was really nice to see how Israeli hospitals – specifically this hospital, Laniado Hospital in Netanya – is focused on taking care of the child’s needs in non-ideal situations.

After getting home, I called the social worker and left a message letting her know how it went.  She returned my call, and exclaimed, “You did it!! You really did it!!”  She told me the hospital visit is a very hard one even with a social worker there to manage it, and she’s sure that we handled it well.

We sent the pictures to the kids while we were still at the hospital, knowing they wouldn’t want to wait until we got home.  They are so, so excited!  He is adorable and we can’t wait to welcome him home.

So after all the ups and downs, it looks like Baby R is really going to join the Werner family!  The authorization that was holding everything up suddenly was processed a week ahead of the scheduled hearing date, there’s a date for the placement, and the doctors have scheduled his release so he’ll be ready for the meeting with the social workers.

But there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to push ‘publish’ on this post, because of that tiny voice whispering, “What if they change their mind?  What if something else unexpected happens?”  I’ve had that feeling at other points when sharing this experience here, and as I decided then, will continue to share the journey whatever it brings.

I hope my next post will be about his homecoming!

Avivah

 

The importance of acceptance in helping kids move past their current stuckness

I was chatting with someone a few days ago when I shared some of thoughts about raising a child with diagnosed differences.  My position is that our kids are fine the way they are, that we need to love them as they are right now and convey our acceptance of who they are, at the same time that we believe in their future potential to move beyond the current limitations.

It’s a hard balance, to accept and to simultaneously support and believe in what you don’t yet see but this is the attitude I believe is transformative for every parent struggling with some aspect of a child’s behavior or development.

She exclaimed, “I’m reading a book and it’s exactly what you’re talking about, you’d love it!” – and then went to get it for me.

The book is called Sonrise, written in the 1970s. I don’t generally like the style of books written in the 70s, and honestly, this was no exception.  After reading the book I went online to do more research on the Sonrise program, and learned that a video had been made about the Sonrise story.

When the movie began I was dismayed to see it was a 70s movie and I don’t like 70s movies any more than I like 70s books.  Sorry if that offends someone, that’s just my feeling. :)

But I watched The Miracle of Love with a few of my kids (skipping a bit in the beginning because of my impatience) because I believe so strongly in this message and was intrigued to see the portrayal of how this was used to bring a severely autistic child out of autism at a time when there was no hope for kids with a diagnosis like his.

My older kids who watched with me all said it was thought provoking and inspiring; I felt the same way.

It’s unfortunate that there is so much of a focus on rejecting our kids’ behaviors when we deem them unacceptable.  That’s really our societal approach, and there are therapeutic approaches that have elements of this attitude built in.  A parent attending one of my classes once asked me how this idea applied to kids with autism.  I told her that in that case, you need to go into their world and from there bring them into your world.  That’s exactly what the Sonrise program advocates, which has become famous throughout the world.

It’s intrinsically about the power of love.  It transforms a parent, it transforms a child, it transforms a family.

It’s not easy.  It’s not easy at all.  It’s a powerful but subtle and nuanced position, and it’s taken me a lot of conscious thought to figure out how to find this balance inside of myself.  I continue to work on this, to maintain my balance and that means sometimes I lose my balance!  But the effort has been worth it, as it’s changed me at the same time it’s helped me to support the different needs of each of my children.

Avivah

The meeting with the birth parents was great – now there’s another problem

I began writing this post after our official meeting with the parents and social workers two days ago, but due to changes needed to change the title, tone and information that I was sharing.

The meeting with the birth parents went really well. When she opened the meeting, the placement worker told us that this is the first time in the hundreds of placements she’s facilitated she’s ever been at a meeting in which the two sets of parents met in advance.  After the meeting, she exclaimed a few times with delight at how very smooth the meeting was and told me it was a really good thing that we met on our own!

I’m going to fast forward and delete a bunch of things I wrote that are no longer immediately relevant.

After this meeting we got a clear go ahead with an anticipated homecoming date for the baby (for now to be referred to as Baby R) in the coming week.  I was told to cancel my plans for a trip to the north, which I did, because Baby R would either be here by then or the placement would take place on one of the days that I would be away (Tue/Wed/Thur).

We also scheduled a visit together with the birth parents to take place on Friday to see Baby R and speak with his doctors.

I went directly home, very happily informed my kids Baby R would be here within a week and went out to buy a crib.  Ds14 and I converted it to a cosleeper and set it up next to my bed.  I requested a refund for the conference I had planned to attend, and posted a request on our local group for donations of mother’s milk for Baby R.

Yesterday I went out to shop for a stroller.  On my way home, I got a call that there has been a significant wrench thrown into the plans.

When I was first told about Baby R, I learned that his parents aren’t Israeli citizens.  At that time I asked if there was any legal concern that could delay the process and was told that there wasn’t.  That’s what the social worker believed until two days ago.

disappointmentIn fact there is a problem.  A significant problem.  There is a hearing to be held regarding his status by the higher ups in the government on February 20, and nothing can happen until then.  That doesn’t mean he can come to us then; it means that depending what their decision is, whatever process is necessary will begin at that time.

The social worker told me this is well beyond the realm of social services, and they are trying to find someone with proteksia (pull) to get the date of the hearing moved up.  (Why was this scheduled for Feb. 20 when the paperwork was submitted over a month ago and this is regarding a tiny baby waiting in the hospital?  That’s government timing for you.)

Although the hospital has authorized our visit on Friday, we have been asked to cancel because the social worker doesn’t want us to meet Baby R until after this hearing has taken place.  The placement definitely won’t take place in the coming week and today I will be making reservations for the conference that I cancelled a couple of days ago.

So….it’s a bit of an emotional roller coaster.  None of us expected this; we all thought the biggest variable would be if there would be a meeting with the birth parents and how it would go.  None of us thought that there would be any delay once that was over and the jubilant and optimistic tone that we all left that meeting with has been replaced by disappointment and caution.

I say it’s a bit of a roller coaster and not more because it’s completely clear to me that the timing of all of this is in the hands of G-d.  Technically we shouldn’t have gotten to this point, based on the constraints that were in place regarding our availability.  And everything has proceeded in spite of that.

I don’t know what will happen, and I don’t know when it will happen.  I don’t even know for sure that this placement will happen.  We all (our family, the birth parents and the social workers involved) all want to see this happen very soon.  So we’ll have to continue to wait and see how every unfolds.

Avivah

waiting teddy

Meeting the baby’s birth parents

Before I met the birth parents of the baby whose file we had been recommended for, I had a clear idea of what we were looking for.

I have a high value for win-win relationships and it was important to me that the parents are people whom we liked and respected, and who would like and respect us.  It’s also important to me that the child we bring into our family can be raised like all of our other kids, to have a true sense of belonging – not to be pulled between two families.  This was my biggest concern about fostering.

If I made a wish list of what I wanted the birth parents to be like, it would look like this couple.  Really.  I couldn’t have custom ordered a better set of parents to be in this relationship with.

By the time they met us, they had already met with two other families and interviewed a third on the phone.   (We were the only family recommended by our agency; the other families were through other agencies.) The wife told me they aren’t going to just take whoever is available, that they’ll wait two or three weeks longer if necessary to find a really good home for him. Since this is a placement for the next 21 years, they want him to be in a home where he will be truly loved and nurtured.

(This placement is in some ways more similar to an open adoption than what is typically referred to as ‘foster care’.  Foster care is intended as a temporary situation with the intent to rehabilitate the family so the child can return.  We certified to do foster care for children with special needs, and in these cases, the child is given up because of a disability that the parents aren’t able to deal with and there is no expectation that the child will return to live with his biological parents.  However, the biological parents are expected to maintain some kind of connection with the child – this can be as infrequent as two hours once a year – the child keeps their last name and they have the legal rights to make decisions for the child.)

We were the last option – the couple was told some inaccurate information about what kind of community RBS is and that’s why we weren’t initially contacted for a meeting. That was later corrected and then they were in touch with me.

They are kind, intelligent, caring, open minded, and very very much appreciate the kind of home environment we can provide.  Our expectations of one another and how we see the fostering relationship being handled is very compatible.  We genuinely  like and respect them, and it seems the feeling is mutual.

We agreed that we’d all like to move forward with this placement and if it were up to us, we’d have all driven to the hospital together and taken care of it right then!  But it’s not up to us.

Though there are two motivated sets of parents and a seven week old infant waiting in the hospital who is medically ready to be released, we have to wait for the social workers to be in touch with one another to set an official time for us all to meet in their presence.  Then there are technical details to sort out and then we have to meet with the doctors at the hospital and meet the baby himself.

None of that sounds to me like it should take that long and I expected that the parents having already met would have expedited this process significantly.  But there seems to be a protocol that needs to be followed regardless.

Almost two weeks ago I was told the placement could be done within two days, and then told it could even be pushed into one long day if necessary.  Today I asked for some kind of timeline so I can make plans for my week – I can’t leave every day completely open just in case they decide to call me in at the last minute.  She said that she really can’t tell me how long it could be, that all these factors aren’t in her control and it could take another week.  Or maybe more?  It’s very undefined, which leaves me wondering how long this could drag out for?

I called a friend who is an experienced foster parent and outlined the entire situation.  Is it likely, I asked, that in this situation – with both sets of parents in agreement along with us already being certified – that something can happen so that it won’t work out?  She didn’t think it was likely.  Possible, but not likely.

An Israeli friend who is a lawyer told me to be careful not to get emotionally involved, that until everything has been tied up, there’s no assurances of anything.

She’s right.  Anything can happen and there’s no guarantee that this will work out, as positive as it all seems right now.

So that’s where I am now.  Once more, waiting and wondering.

Avivah

 

A surprising call from the baby’s mother

I told you that we emotionally closed the door on the possibility of bringing home the baby boy whose file we were shown.  I was disappointed but I had closure and closure is good.

Two days after my final talk with the social worker, I was waking up from a mid day nap when I heard the phone.  Still lying in bed, I picked up and heard someone on the other line introducing herself – the baby’s mother.   At that moment I impressed myself with how fast my mind cleared and simultaneously how completely calm I was.  You would have thought someone had called to ask me what time it was.

I didn’t think that it was typical protocol for me to be contacted directly, but then again, I had been told the birth parents wouldn’t know anything about us until we met them in the agency’s office, that we would have complete anonymity until that point.  And the next thing I knew, I was told that their social worker gave them details about us for them to check us out.  Clearly what was said and what happened in practice weren’t congruent, and though it was completely unexpected, I wasn’t shocked to receive this call.

We spoke for 25 minutes.  She told me she had already met two other potential families and they had one other family to meet in Bnei Brak.  I asked some details about the baby and her family, she asked about my family. My impression of her  was highly positive and I appreciated her obvious love and concern for this baby.

We set a time to meet two days later with both of our husbands.

A short time later, our social worker called to tell me that the family was still considering us.  Previously we had all assumed that they weren’t interested and that’s why they hadn’t been in touch.

If she expected me to be surprised, then I disappointed her!  I told her the mother had called me directly a short time before.  The social worker was definitely taken aback. She wanted to know about our conversation, and I told her it was very pleasant and planned to meet.

Understandably, she wasn’t happy with this idea, and told me it wasn’t allowed for the two sets of parents to meet without social workers supervising.  I told her that the parents had met other families privately; the social worker explained that different agencies have different policies and the other families weren’t with her agency.  Finally she said she’ll speak to her supervisor and get back to me about what to do.

She called me back a short time later, and said that they never allow this, it’s completely outside of their protocol.  But in light of the fact that there’s a baby who needs a placement waiting, they’re authorizing me to meet with the mother privately.  If we both agree that we’d like to move forward, all four parents will still need to meet in their offices with the social workers present to observe our interactions.

I feel quite grounded about all of this. We’ll see how the appointment with the parents go.  If we get along, then we’ll move along to meet with the parents and then the doctor and meet the baby.  If we don’t see eye to eye on expectations, then we’ll agree to not move forward with this placement.  Of course I’ll keep you posted!

Avivah

Our fostering deadline passed and nothing has moved forward

Some of you who have seen me in person since my last post have asked me what’s happening with the fostering situation.  And the answer is, nothing.

Our deadline was Tuesday.  On Monday afternoon I contacted the placement social worker to ask if she had set up an appointment for us to meet with the baby’s biological parents.   By then we had been waiting a week for this appointment.   She told me she called the social worker representing the parents that morning and since the office was closed due to a strike, the appointment couldn’t be made for the next day.

So I said, “So that’s it, right?  We can take this possibility off the table.”  And she said, “Well, that depends on you and your husband.”  I asked her what she  meant, and she said if we would be willing come in when an appointment could be made it might still be an option.

I was pretty annoyed at this response, as if the responsibility for the outcome depended on us when we were the only ones who had been timely during this period. We made ourselves completely available and from the very beginning were super clear with them that beyond Jan. 31 we couldn’t continue with the process.  I told her that we did everything we could have done and it wasn’t up to us, it was up to them at the placement agency to be flexible about meeting us during non-work hours if it was going to happen. And since they already said they wouldn’t do that, then was nothing more we could do.

After that conversation it was actually a relief to know that it was over.  It was a disappointment, but it was a relief.  Every day I was waiting, waiting, wondering…and now I don’t have to wait and wonder anymore.

By the way, I heard back from the contact person about the other request for a foster family for a baby with T21 that I mentioned in my last post.  The baby that needs a home is Baby M, who we spent so much time with a few months ago when she was left as a newborn at the rest home for new mothers.  Believe me, I wasn’t expecting that at all when I responded to that email!

Contrary to what the plan had been, she was placed with a relative for a few months and now they’re looking for a long term placement (she’s 5.5 months).  I was very upset to learn she hadn’t been placed with a long term family.  Of course I don’t know the specifics and I trust that everyone involved in making the decision had her best interests at heart, but I’m concerned about such a small infant having to undergo so many significant transitions. I had to repeatedly remind myself that G-d is running the world and has the perfect plan for each person.

Just in case you’re wondering, I emailed the person back and asked her not to forward my email on to Baby M’s family.  It’s clear to me that our part was to help her when and how we did, and that this baby is meant to be part of someone else’s family.  Hopefully a wonderful family and very, very soon.

Avivah