Sunday, April 27, 2014

#19 - Healing Balm (Through January 27, 2011)

After a day like today, I hope we are making progress.  It started with a visit with Bryer at the Health and Welfare office.  I will never forget how she looked today.  My Mom brought her in to me.  I uncovered her blanket and looked at her laying in her car seat and emotions swept over me.  My grandma and sister had gone shopping so that Bryer would have a cute outfit to wear to come see me.  She was precious in her pale purple dress, tights and shoes to match, and a hat with matching bow to top it off.  This wasn't the same 'comfy pj's' look that she had come to visits with the foster mom in.  This was a sight that screamed out, "Bryer is with family now and no detail of her well being is being overlooked!"  I blinked back the tears, feeling silly that I was getting this emotional over a simple matching outfit.  I reached into the car seat and pick up my sweet girl to feel her melt into my arms.  We are one step closer to being back together for good, now that she's with my Mom.  But as soon as I think things like that, the case workers words echo, "If you make any wrong moves, we will move Bryer back to the other foster mom."  I'm not even doing anything wrong and I feel like I'm walking on egg shells.  From the very beginning, we have been punished for being too protective, too proactive, too involved.  So 'any false move' could be some new rule that pops up out of no where and we are held accountable to know it.  It makes me mentally tired to think of it. 

The visit with Bryer felt different.  The whole visit I didn't feel like I had to prepare myself physically to leave her again, even thought I knew I would be.  She's with my Mom now and that is so much easier on my emotions.  I got to snuggle her.  Nurse her.  Sing to her.  Stretch her arms and press on the palms of her hands the way the PT in the hospital had showed us, to replicate womb-like feelings.  I can feel her body relax when she's in my arms.  We called Jason while I nursed.  I put him on speaker and as soon as she heard his voice, she stopped sucking.  She waited and listened so intently to every word he said.  When he was done talking and singing a couple songs to her, I took him off speaker to tell him good bye.  Bryer went right back to nursing like normal.  I don't have a word for it.  Peculiar?  Funny?  She clearly remembers his voice.  On the visits I've had with Bryer when Jason has had to work, we've called so he could talk or sing to her.  But that's still not for very many minutes when you factor in her whole week.  Somehow she still has a very strong connection to us.  Not just us to her, but from her to us.  However her little brain is recovering and however our prayers are being answered, she is still very much in tune to her family. 

I wondered about this off and on all day.  Am I as in-tune with my Father in Heaven as Bryer is to her Daddy's voice?  Do I hear His words?  Do I understand what He's trying to tell me?  What He's trying to teach me?  Right now I feel so broken.  That's not a fun time to have to concentrate on learning something new.  Or to use so much of my energy to focus on hearing Him.  But when I don't force it, I just let it happen - I let myself feel what He's trying to tell me, there's no doubt about that feeling.  It comes as naturally as breathing or eating.  It doesn't take 'more' energy or 'more' time or 'more' of anything that I don't have left at this point.  It's more about letting go of all that and allowing Him in.  All the things that seem so important - the attorney appointments and Health and Welfare phone calls and researching misdiagnosed cases - all those things that seem so pressing and so far on the top of my To Do List - just really don't matter if I'm not willing to listen.  What I really need is the vision of the one who has created my spirit.  I need to be so in-tune with His voice that no matter what I am doing, I will stop when I have that feeling.  Physically and mentally stop - just like Bryer did - and listen.  Feel it.  Pay attention to the inspired thoughts that come to my mind or the feeling that hits my heart.  It makes no sense if I look at it from my own point of view.  The attorney appointments are a must.  Those phone calls to Health and Welfare still need to be made.  The researching is necessary for our case.  But what if He has a different phone call I need to make that would be more beneficial to our case?  A different website to research I hadn't thought of before?  Whatever those answers are that He has for me, I need to know.  I desperately need to know.   

The rest of my day was spent running errands and then we had a family meeting scheduled with Health and Welfare.  We were scheduled to have this meeting 2 days ago, but the case worker and staff didn't have all their plans in place, so they postponed it.  As we pulled up to the building, so ready to do something, anything to move forward, I worried that this would turn out like the visit we showed up for that wasn't scheduled.  It's such a tease with my emotions.  The case worker had said to invite those that are closest to us that are supportive of Bryer and our situation.  We didn't know that most families involved with Health and Welfare usually come up with 2-5 people.  The room they had ready for us was not big enough for the close-knit group we invited.  Health and Welfare brought 6 staff members - including our current case worker, as well as the one we will be transferred to.  Our case worker's superviser does not usually attend these kinds of meetings, but she decided to be here at ours.  The visit coordinator also came - the angel that arranged extra visits with Bryer and has commented on how sweet our family is to 'supervise' during visits. 

We brought a room full.  From my side of the family we had my Mom, Dad, my brother, and my grandma.  From Jason's side we had both Jason's parents, his brother, his sister and her husband, our sister-in-law, and Jason's good friend that was with us in the hospital the day Bryer was admitted.  We also had one of our state representatives, who is over decisions made with Health and Welfare.  My mom brought Bryer, so Jason and I got to pass her back and forth through the meeting - a bonus to our visit earlier!  

They put down some ground rules - no talking out of turn, no yelling, no curse words, raise your hand to be called on.  We kind of had a chuckle at the absurdness of it all.  We went around the room and made a list of our family's strengths.

(Taken from the notes they gave us after the meeting)

The Hansen Family Strengths
Family is extremely important to them, very involved in their lives.
Jason and Krissi help coach their kids' athletic teams.
The family attends the children's concerts and award assemblies.
Jason works from home.
The family has family night once a week where they sing songs, play games, make dessert.
They pray as a family morning and night.
Krissi reads to the children daily in the evenings.
The family has a family night with extended family members on the first Sunday of the month.
The family doesn't allow Rated R movies.
No swearing in their house and those that are there are also made aware of those rules - sometimes by the children telling them.
They teach their children that their bodies are sacred.
Krissi and Jason both have college degrees.
Krissi provided a family picture so that everyone could see the faces of their children.
Their children often visit grandparents' houses and homes of cousins.
Hunter and Sawyr are involved in sports - basketball, flag football, and baseball.  Piper has been in dance lessons.
Krissi and Jason will come to any visits, anytime they are asked to.
The relationship of the foster parent and biological parent has worked well together. 
Service is a big part of the family, in all capacities.  The boys will rake the leaves of their neighbors yard.  They also shovel sidewalks of neighbors when the snow comes. 
Krissi and her sister-in-law have written a children's book together.  They are good people.  They live what they mean; there isn't anybody who wouldn't want to be around them.  They have been good examples.
The family is calm and resolved; they are not angry. 

When I had my turn to speak, I passed around our family picture.  I started it on the side of the room with the Health and Welfare staff.  I wanted them to see faces.  I explained that our family is not just another file on your desk.  We are not just another appointment.  Not just another family to deal with.  We are real, live human beings that are being torn apart.  I wanted them to see the faces of our children.  The ones that are trying to make sense of why their baby sister is not with us and why we have to go to a special office to see her, but not take her home with us.  I have to explain why we are sleeping in a different house with Grandma and Grandpa.  I wanted them to connect and really visualize our family.  Our family picture was the best I could do without bringing my kids in and putting them through more turmoil, which I wasn't willing to do. 


Then we made a list of the concerns for our family

Concerns for and from the Hansen Family
The report from the hospital indicated that there were symptoms that looked like Shaken Baby Syndrome.
Krissi failed a polygraph test.
The assessment of the family is still on-going.
The doctor didn't want to send the baby home with the presenting injuries.
Doctors don't take lightly when a baby comes in with unexplained injuries. 
Will they stay in the system because the police haven't pressed charges?
How do they get Bryer home as soon as possible?
Bryer needs daily therapy, chance of seizure is high, contractors are a fact of life, not normal hip flexibility, and doesn't have normal interaction as a newborn. 
Health and Welfare coming into their home.
Family not being allowed to attend doctor's visits. 

We had to clarify that there was nothing in our home or family that we were worried about Health and Welfare 'finding.'  We are an open book.  Stop by.  Come for dinner.  Move in for the week.  Whatever.  What we are worried about is all the new rules that seem to pop up and then we are held accountable for.  We understand that Bryer needs therapy and we are willing to do whatever she needs, but we're uncomfortable with Health and Welfare choosing who comes into our home to do therapy with Bryer.  We are her educated parents and can make informed choices like that.  The idea of the Infant-Toddler Program was brought up.  They said Bryer had received a screening and qualified for therapy services through the state because of the level of development for her age.  I felt like crying.  You lie to me.  You accuse me.  You try to pull me down.  That's one thing.  But when you decide to screen my daughter for everything that is 'wrong' with her, and then you tell me what and who she needs, that's a whole other ball game.  I am not okay receiving services from someone I don't know, have not interviewed, do not have background on.  Someone that is employed by Health and Welfare - the same people that have taken my daughter away.  I can't attend any doctor appointments to find out how she's doing or what therapy she needs.  I get three stinking hours a week with her and then get pushed around with what decisions I should make for her. 

In a very 'legal' kind of way, it was noted that if we decide against Infant-Toddler services, it would look bad on us - that we weren't doing what's in the best interest for Bryer.  I wanted to break down and cry.  I wanted to crawl into a hole with my baby and husband and kids and never have to come out.  I want off this rollercoaster.  This is what I have studied.  This is my passion - Early Childhood Development.  Education.  My passion so much that I got both my associates and bachelor degrees to learn my passion.  This is what I was trained for.  And now Health and Welfare is going to make these decisions for me and call me a bad Mom if I don't allow it?  Makes me want to pull my hair out! 

After a lot of debate back and forth, we agreed to follow up with the Infant-Toddler Program.  We would stick with them long enough to get Health and Welfare out of our lives and then make our own educated decisions on where Bryer would receive therapy. 

More details were approved at the meeting - that we could attend all doctors appointments; and who would be willing to give my Mom a break.  The original foster mom was there and volunteered.  I tried not to cringe at the thought of my Mom needing a break and having to call on that lady again.  There were a whole list of family members that were willing to go get fingerprinted so they would be approved to keep Bryer if my Mom needed them - 4 of which are already fingerprinted.  We talked about also having those same family members keep Bryer in the event my Mom has to go back to work.  She has been off work recovering from a surgery she had, but now is trying to get something called Kin Care - time off for caring for a family member. 

We also agreed in the meeting that I could start seeing Bryer at my Mom's for visits to nurse, but that I wasn't to spend the night there.  They made my visits seem like 'feeding visits,' but I felt like this was a way to spring more rules on me that I somehow wasn't following.  Honestly, I am leery about going to my Mom's to see Bryer.  It's strange and it doesn't make sense - but then again, none of this whole mess makes sense.  Jason's aunt has told us over and over and over again..... "We're dealing with the legal, not the logical."  It's become a saying in the family when we come up against something else that doesn't make sense.  "We're dealing with the legal, not the logical." 

To finish off the meeting, the case worker  that we would be transferred to spoke.  She was calm and reserved, a quiet lady.  I was reminded that while our first case worker's job was to take Bryer away, this new case worker would have the job of returning her to us.  Finally we had some things to work with!  It was a hard discussion to have, just because we don't know what happened to begin all of this, so it's hard to decide on what precautions to take to make sure Bryer is safe.  We decided on a child monitor while Bryer is sleeping or out of my sight.  We will move her crib into our room so that she won't have to sleep on our bed during naptime, and Piper will still have access to her room to play without Bryer sleeping in there.  We will have a child lock on our bedroom door during Bryer's naptimes, and we will have a portable crib downstairs for the option for Bryer to sleep in while I am downstairs. 

I left the meeting feeling steady that we had some steps to do - some kind of assignment to conquer to get our baby back.  It feels like progress to be able to see Bryer more often and not have to be at a Health and Welfare office, but I'm also feeling anxious about going to see her with everything hanging over my head, like it's another 'trick.'  I also feel frustrated with the decisions the state can make, or force the parents to make.  I don't have that resolved feeling I had hoped for at the close of the meeting.  For me, there is only one place to go.  Next up - we have court and I'll head to the temple. 

January 27, 2011
Today we had court.  I'm beginning to see all the motivation for the family meeting and moving Bryer to my Mom's...  Because the judge asked the case worker and the Health and Welfare attorney 1 - if Bryer had been moved to family and 2 - if there is a plan in place to return her to the family permanently.  The case worker could confidently answer yes to both of them.  I try not to be negative, but she could have answered 'yes' weeks ago if she had her stuff together.  I'm not in her shoes.  I'm not in her shoes.  I'm not in her shoes.  I'll just keep repeating that to myself.  We're dealing with the legal, not the logical. 

The judge decided to appoint a guardian ad litem for Bryer.  We had no idea what that meant, so after court we talked with our attorney about it.  A guardian ad litem is basically a voice for Bryer in court.  This person is a volunteer that will get to know Bryer, our family, those that are working with us, and try to put all these pieces together to see what's best for Bryer.  Right away, I thought, "That's great!"  She'll see how we are, who we are.  She'll totally see that Bryer is meant for our family.  Our attorney probably sensed my confidence and told us that sometimes both parties (Health and Welfare, and the family) can agree on an outcome, and then the guardian ad litem can put in his/her two cents and change the whole situation.  He also said sometimes once a guardian ad litem is assigned, it's hard to get rid of them.  So I decided I shouldn't be as excited to meet this person.  Instead, I started praying for whoever it will be. 

I also made it to the temple.  Some people have special places they go when they need extra direction or inspiration or just plain quiet.  Maybe their closet to pray.  Or their church building.  The outdoors.  Behind the locked bathroom door.  The yoga studio.  Sometimes it's my closet in a pinch, but when I have my choice - it's the temple.  There is a feeling there that is not like anything I have ever felt on this earth.  Sometimes when I go, that feeling is stronger than others, but it's always there.  I walked up the steps and smiled at the temple workers there - those sweet ladies in white dresses.  I passed by several of them on my way to the dressing room to put on my own white dress.  By the time I was changed, I was in tears.  That feeling I feel every time I go to the temple had settled in on my heart.  Like a cold rag for a fever or a band aid for a hurt knee.  I think the Bible calls it Balm of Gilead - but I don't know if that's a physical or spiritual way to refer to the healing that takes place, or maybe both.  It was like my broken heart was able to rest for a little bit. 

As I sat in the Celestial Room of the temple, I looked around at that room, where everything is perfect.  The carpets are white with perfectly chiseled cutouts.  The huge chandelier hangs in the middle of the tall, elevated ceiling.  The end tables are neatly dusted with copies of scripture sitting on them.  There are several chair and couch arrangements for people to sit and pray and ponder.  After I got a good look around and grabbed some Kleenex, I bowed my head to pray.  In this room where every detail is so perfectly orchestrated and in order, I realized how out of order my life felt.  And so I told God.  I spilled my tears and my guts to Him.  I told Him how broken I felt, but how safe this place was for me to share my feelings with Him.  I told Him how much I missed Bryer, how I needed my family under one roof.  I told Him my frustrations with Health and Welfare and therapists and court and attorneys.  I know He knew all these things.  But half the battle in my heart was me telling Him and coming to Him for answers.  I so needed this 'Balm of Gilead' feeling today.  My worried heart needed a rest.  I needed to cry.  I needed to feel confidence - real confidence in something that didn't feel like it would be the next 'trick.'  I wanted to sit there all. day. long. just to take in that feeling and to rest.  As I closed my prayer, I sat in silence.  Shortly after I was baptized, someone taught me to pray - and then to just sit.  Sometimes I am patience enough to do this, but most of the time not.  Today I needed to just sit.  I had told God my feelings.  I needed to sit and feel what He had for me.  My cry spell was not over, and even though I wasn't sobbing, the steady flow of tears wouldn't stop.  It was then that a feeling came so strongly to me.  It wasn't a voice, but a such a strong feeling in my heart. 

"I hold you in the palm of my hand." 

It sent goose bumps down my legs and arms.  The kind you feel when you know so strongly that you can feel it - so confidently - when something is true.  I repeated those words in my head again.  "I hold you in the palm of my hand."  The feeling set in what a sacred place that is to be.  Not taking a ride on his shoulder or the top of his foot where I might fall off - but held - so tenderly - in His hand.  The one who designed the universe.  Who created my spirit.  Who is in charge of every detail that goes on here on earth.  He is here to protect me.  He knows everything - EVERYTHING - I am going through.  He knows my actions, my thoughts, my heart.  And He listens to me spill my guts.  He loves me, as broken and imperfect as my life feels right now.  He holds me in His hand and is here to offer that balm when I feel so broken.  He doesn't take it away.  He doesn't fix everything - but I really feel strongly that He is helping us through this, for whatever reason we have to endure. 

With that, I wiped my tears and walked back to the dressing room to change out of my white temple dress and put my regular dress back on.  I walked through the front doors back to the outside world, my broken heart all coated in balm, feeling more confident than I did when I went in. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

#18 - Hearts Are Softened (Through January 25, 2011)

Sometimes it just sweeps over me when I'm not expecting it.  I start replaying that day over and over in my mind, thinking maybe I missed something.  Some clue.  Some sound.  Anything that would help us decide what happened the day Bryer stopped breathing.  It keeps running through my head, expecting that at some point I will remember some noise or cry or something.  Anything.  Have I missed some huge piece of this puzzle?  The doctors say that she was just fine before I layed her down, but that's not true.  She was fussy all weekend.  Was my baby trying to tell me something was wrong then?  Was it more than colic?  Some people refer to 'Bryer's accident,' but I'm not comfortable referring to it as an accident.  Something could have been terribly wrong before I layed her down.  I don't know what happened during those 5-10 minutes she was out of my sight, but I know for sure what DID NOT happen!  This same situation could have easily happened anytime this weekend when we had 3 other adults in the house.  What would the doctors have said then if I had witnesses?  What does a baby's brain look like if it's a SIDS case?  Were one of our other kids in the room with her trying to be helpful?  Why were some of her blood counts high to begin with?  That isn't related to trauma.  What happens in a baby's brain with chicken pox?  They confirmed chicken pox at the hospital.  It's even crossed my mind that there was an intruder in our house while we were at church that hid in our room.  As unlikely as that is, it still would be more likely than me hurting my sweet baby.  So many questions that take up space in my mind.  All these thoughts just take over without any warning.  Sometimes it's while I'm getting ready for the day.  Lots of times it happens as I lay in bed at night trying to go to sleep.  Today I found myself in the middle of reading a book to Piper and Walker and just drifted off, thinking.  They had to remind me to keep reading.  I want to focus on my kids here and now, but it's a struggle.  I have to physically focus on keeping myself present. 

To be home this past weekend was almost Heaven.  Like an extra long Christmas vacation that went terribly bad, it was good to sleep in my own bed again, over a month later.  The relentless pumping every 3 hours interrupted my sleep, but it's worth it for Bryer.  It was good to go back to our church at home and feel - physically and spiritually feel - the prayers that have been offered for our family.  I have yet to get through church without crocodile tears.  Every song has a deeper meaning.  Every prayer.  Every hug.  Every message and lesson shared.  I have never had a time that the gospel applied so much to my life.  My heart feels so softened and broken - and I suppose that's the best place for God to work his miracles.  It's not fun, and it hurts a lot, but I have to keep the end result in full view.  Someday I will look back and know I survived this.  That we survived this. 

This Sunday was also the first time in 5 weeks Jason sat up on the stand in front of everyone as bishop of our congregation.  As I watched him sit up in front he looked so handsome in his suit and tie.  His face looked worn and tired, but he was so handsome to me.  I remembered praying with him in the months before all this happened.  As bishop, he prayed so ferverently for hearts to be softened.  He prayed....  So sincerely.  He wanted there to be a unity here in our little community.  We hoped for people to see us, as a congregation, as we are.  It doesn't matter what church we each go to or how our prayers may sound a little different or that our basic beliefs differ a little.  God is God.  He hears each one of us the same.  I want to pass someone going to another church Sunday morning, wave, and have that reciprocated.  It's just a friendly hello on our way to worship the way we each choose to, the way America was founded.  But, there seems to be a divide.  Some of my best friends are not members of our church.  I don't love them any less or think they are 'wrong' by any means by going to another church.  In fact, I love the fact that we can share blessings the Lord has given us, spiritual experiences, ways our prayers have been answered - and have unique spiritual insight to bring to a conversation.  As a whole, our community is not this way.  There's a divide.  Some reservation. 

Now, as I watched Jason up on the stand - I realized that his sincere prayer is being answered through our experiences.  Over the past weeks, he's had a clergy member from every single one of the other churches talk to him individually and let him know they are praying for our family.  They are encouraging their congregations to pray for our family and for our little girl.  They have put our name on prayer request lists and included us in prayer chains.  This has not stopped at our community, but also the surrounding areas - even other churches in other states.  God does not recognize a certain church denomination when He hears and answers prayers.  We are all equal to Him.  He loves each one of us dearly and uniquely and knows us individually, just as a father would know each of his children.   

One friend called to say her mom marched around the courthouse the last time we were there.  She circled it 7 times - one time for each of our family members.  That was her plea to God to help our family.  I don't think it's a coincidence that in the story of Joshua in the Bible, they also circled the city asking for God's help.  This is a woman exercising her faith in God for our family.  A complete act of love and sacrifice of her time and energy for us.  All by herself without fanfare.  In fact, if her daughter had not told me, I would not have even known.  I am so thankful for those that show so much support!  I can't say that the 'walls came tumbling down' physically, but maybe those walls in hearts are crumbling.  I love this woman's faith and assurance that comes from a different church than us.  We all need each other - denominations aside.  We are all - each one of us - individually - a child of God.  We're meant to help each other along this road.

There are people still emailing, calling, texting, communicating through our extended family, that are praying for us.  For Bryer.  People.  Individual people - from the person that hasn't prayed for a long time, to the person who is strong in their personal faith.  God has heard my husband's humble prayer - to soften the hearts of the people.  There's nothing extraordinary about us.  There's really not.  But God has chosen to answer this specific prayer in a very distinct way.  He's using our circumstance to bring more people to Him.  What could be better?  Seriously.  What could be better?  When that yucky feeling sweeps over me that my baby is being consoled and rocked by someone else, I have to believe He has a better plan in place even though I can't see it.  Conversations on faith topics that have been awkward before are now flowing smoothly.  We are all finding common ground, and that is a miracle. 

January 24, 2011
Another visit with Bryer... And more entertaining of Piper and Walker while I nursed.  It really is a miracle that she will continue to nurse, given that every other feeding all week is with a bottle.  I know with certainty this is a tender mercy from God - with as hard as we worked to get her to nurse in the hospital, only to have her separated from us for this long.  It took so much work to get her to the point of nursing and now she has a bottle that flows so much easier and faster.  She is such a little champ to work hard at nursing the 1-3 times each week we get to see her! 

It is so hard to emotionally be so attached and at the same time to prepare myself to hand her back over to leave in a separate car when we are done.  My heart breaks over and over and over again. 

Sweet Sisters, Piper and Bryer
It's been nearly 2 weeks since the judge told our case worker that Bryer was to be placed with family, yet she still remains with the foster mom.  It breaks my heart to not know what she's doing, how well she sleeps each night, how her doctors appointments are going.  They still won't even let me attend those appointments!  Jason's parents have been certified all along, but our case worker is against that whole side of the family because they have been so involved and trying to find ways to accept Bryer.  I guess that's intimidating to our case worker?  I would think it would be a good thing that we have such great support.  My mom is now also certified and we have heard that Bryer's transfer to her house is expected soon.  I want to get excited and hope that everything will go as planned, but my experience with Health and Welfare tells me otherwise.   

January 25, 2011
Today we met at Health and Welfare for a scheduled visit with Bryer - but even better was the transfer from the foster mom to my Mom!  I can't explain the relief off my shoulders to know she's with my Mom!  Along with Bryer, the foster mom passed on the journal she has kept, to my mom.  She left a nice message in the last journal entry,

"Even though we have had Bryer just a short time, she has a place in our hearts forever.  We have enjoyed our time with Bryer.  She and all her family will remain in our hearts and prayers."

This poor woman didn't know what she was accepting when she chose to accept a foster baby into her home.  She said no other baby she has cared for came with a journal to keep, a letter to the foster parents, and a smelly shirt to keep close to the baby.  I am thankful for her patience, love for our baby, and prayers on our behalf. 

Our case worker will still be keeping a close eye on us, so I'm still supposed to meet my Mom for supervised visits at a Health and Welfare office, rather than visiting at her house.  It seems silly, but I'll jump through whatever hoop they want me to.  They have told us that if we make any wrong moves that Bryer could be moved back with the foster mom.  I try not to think of what kind of people they have to deal with on a regular basis that may be so dishonest.  Mostly it makes me sad that they use Bryer to hang over our heads.  We will do anything for our baby and we don't want to compromise the situation now that she's with MaMaw.  We're praying for the next case worker to take over soon - that she will be the one God intends us to have.  She'll be the one to help put together a plan to reunite our family for good. 

Thank you to you who follow each week.  
There is now a Facebook page for The Briar Effect.  I would love for you to Like the page and invite others also.  Happy Easter! 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

#17 - Prove Me (Through January 22, 2011)

I've been storing up all this knowledge for so long.  Most of my adult life has been relatively easy.  I don't know why I'm so blessed.  All around me I have watched marriages sturggle.  A child pass away before his parents.  Addictions.  Fertility trouble.  Financial struggles.  Today I was remembering a conversation Jason and I had about those that are close to us that are having a hard time conceiving.  After a discussion of what we would do in their situation, we ended by agreeing that we have never wanted something so badly that we couldn't have.  And now we are experiencing just that - something that we want so bad, but there's nothing we can do about it.  All the time and energy and support and spinning our wheels is getting us no where.  So I have to stop and try to find a reason in the bigger picture of things.  All this knowledge and learning that has been stored up is now being put to the test. 

We have been learning more about the Health and Welfare system.  Something I want to turn my head and never face, but when our baby is stuck in their care, we have no other choice.  The case worker that is in charge of our case will be with us for the first 30 days.  Her job is to take kids out of homes.  That's it.  It's not her job to place them back in the home.  That will be up to our next case worker.  A family has 21 months to get their child back or they can be placed for adoption.  Even 1 day closer to 21 months seems scary to me.  We can't get anything out of our case worker, as far as what we are supposed to be doing in the meantime.  No steps we should be taking to move forward.  Despite what the judge told our case worker about placing Bryer with family ASAP, she still hasn't.  30 days is a long time to be with this case worker.  Especially with a nursing baby.  Especially with a baby recovering from brain issues.  We're at day 18 now, counting down until we work with someone new. 

We got another visit with Bryer today.  An hour wasn't enough, but it will have to tide me over through the weekend.  I am so thankful to the visit facilitator who has arranged more visits.  3 hours a week isn't much, but it's better than the 1 hour a week we were getting.  Jason is trying to transition back to work and getting our older boys back to start school, so I took Piper and Walker with me to the visit today.  They were excited to see Bryer, but also stir crazy in a small room with nothing to do.  I tried to balance my quality time with Bryer while entertaining my 4 year old and 2 year old.  We played a lot of Eye Spy and shooting Cheerios into the trashcan while I nursed.  Toward the end of the visit Walker took pictures of his boots.   I must have 100 pictures just like this one. 

And a 'few' like this one that Piper took...

I had a chance to scan through the journal I gave the foster mom to write about Bryer.  She's done well at writing nearly every day, but sometimes it's just 'Today she was fussy,' or 'Got a couple smiles from her today.'  I want details.  Tell me how she ate, how much she slept, what she wore, what she smiled at.  Again, I have to remind myself not to be critical.  It really is a conscience choice.    

Our family will now be split in 3 different homes - Bryer in foster care; Jason home with Hunter and Sawyr; and Piper, Walker, and I will stay with Jason's parents to stay close to Bryer.  It's tough.  I feel the same feelings as I did in the hospital - I just want to be together.  I don't want to feel like my heart is pulling in different directions. 

After feeling as full as I could after a visit with my baby girl, we decided to go home for the weekend.  There are no visits on the weekends.  No attorney appointments.  No court dates.  No Health and Welfare.  Such a bittersweet feeling to know that I will be 100 miles away from Bryer.  But another part of my heart feels close-to-complete knowing there will be 6 of the 7 of us together again. 

January 22, 2011
We went to Hunter's basketball game today.  There wasn't a minute of that game that I was not keenly aware that my arms were empty.  No baby to keep happy.  No baby to sway with at the corner of the court.  I try to be in the moment.  I really do.  I hugged friends I hadn't seen in a month.  I took pictures of the game in action.  I tried.  But it's very hard when a piece of me is 100 miles away.  After the game, an acquaintance from our community walked past me and sincerely said how happy he was to see our family all together again.  My mind went blank.  Had he not noticed that we are missing a very important detail, a tiny little body, that is part of our 'together'?  It was so apparent to me - as if my right arm had been completely chopped off and he overlooked it.  In a moment of hesitation, I just said, "Thank you."  I knew he was sincere.  His hope of us being together was my hope too.  My own hope was already dashed.  I decided not to add his to mine.  I'm sure he will find out from someone that we are not complete and he will be very embarrassed.  I didn't need to be face-to-face with him when he realized. 

We hear it over and over and over again.  Read the scriptures.  Have daily scripture study.  Read His word.  Liken yourself to the scriptures.  There have been times in my life that I really feel it, but a lot of the time lately I just go through the motions.  Check it off my list.  Now I am trying.  I really am!  I can't say that I understand everything I read or receive any answers directly from what I'm reading, but there's a new peace in my heart.   I don't understand how it works, but God has sent us great blessings right here in the middle of our trials because of it.  Somehow obedience converts our situation from the inside-out.  I feel a transformation happening within myself and I don't know that I can explain it in words.  Nothing has changed on the outward.  Our baby is still gone.  Our family is still not complete.  There's a giant hole in my heart.  We're nearing the end of our stay with Jason's parents, which brings more changes.  I have continued to pray for our case worker.  And several times I have been able to put myself in her position.  If this really were what she thinks it is, then she is doing her job.  She's just going on what the doctors say.  She's hardened from the job she does  But in the end, I'm still held accountable for how I treat her.  How I think about her.  Even how God sees her, if I can catch a glimpse of that.  Yes, I'm completely upset that she took my baby, but when I have prayed every day for as long as I can remember to 'be a good example,' now is my time.  I'm far from perfect, but He does not ask for a perfect example.  Just like He doesn't ask us only when it's easy to be a good example.  But even in the most trying times, it's important.  Especially in the most trying times.  I feel the confidence God has in me.  It's not a prideful thing or a "I'm better than you," just a feeling of pure confidence to get me through this hard time and know and feel exactly how He feels about me.  He loves me enough to stretch me and try me and help me along the whole way.  Every single step. 

While I was at home, I popped in one of my favorite CD's.  Hilary Weeks always has just the right words and today was no exception.  The stories I read are not just 'old Bible stories' that are ancient.  They are the result of faith and prayers and real, tangible experiences.  These people proved themselves - their character, their integrity, their devotion - and they didn't write about the 'nice times' while they did it - but those times when all those qualities were called to action.  God has given me this opportunity.  I can do this! 

(Thanks to those who put videos together on YouTube so I can share these songs with you.  I didn't have the video at the time, but it illustrates the music.) 

Hilary Weeks, Prove Me

Sunday, April 6, 2014

#16 - Hard Times Prepare Us For Blessings (Through January 20, 2011)

January 14, 2011
We had a very long Shelter Care Hearing today.  The purpose for a hearing like this is, after 3 days of a child being in state custody, to determine if he/she should remain in custody or not.  Going into it, our attorney warned us that the burden of proof is very low, meaning it doesn't take much to keep a child in custody and the state would rather error on the side of caution than place a child back in a possibly abusive home. 

I was feeling composed and pulled-together until I stepped off the elevator to see a mass of people outside our courtroom.  Family members, people from church, friends from our hometown that drove two hours to be with us, an amazing amount of support for us.  It was hard to hold my composure and I tried to hold back tears for those supporting us.  In addition to all the friends and family, we had the support of 4 legislators (including the Speaker of the House) and our state senator there. 

Shortly after arriving we were informed that court proceedings like this with Health and Welfare are closed hearings, meaning that the public is not aloud in the courtroom.  The legislators and senator pushed the issue and got special permission from the judge to sit in on the hearing, given their elected positions. 

Walking into the courtroom was like walking into a movie set ready for filming, except that it all feels so real.  It's not a movie that I can pause or quit watching if I don't like the way it's going.  It's our life.  There was a big stand where the judge would sit, and the lady that sat ready to type the transcript just below the stand.  Jason and I sat with our two attorneys in the front on the right side at a big table.  Our case worker and the attorney for Health and Welfare sat at the left at a similar table.  There were several rows of empty benches behind us.  The only ones that sat there were the 5 men that held legislative positions. 

Jason and I have been advised to hire 2 attorneys now - one for me, and one for him.  The 4 of us sat in a line of chairs behind the table.  Both attorneys are professional, well-experienced men.  Jason and I have been so united in this so far and willing to stand together through thick and thin, so it seems odd that we each have our own attorney now. 

We're hoping that if for some strange reason they won't release Bryer back to us, then they will release her back to Jason.  He wasn't at home at the time she stopped breathing, so he's obviously out of the running as a 'suspect.'  I'm trying hard not to read too far into it, but my wheels have started turning on how to be a help if I'm not aloud to be there if Jason can get Bryer back.  We've talked about the possibility of him staying with his parents and I can stay at my mom's.  It's hard to imagine, but it would be better than Bryer being with a foster mom we know very little about.  I could do whatever I could from a distance - laundry, fixing meals.  That's about it.  It's not an ideal situation, but it would be a start towards something better. 

They called, "All rise" for the judge and we stood until she told us to be seated.  Our judge has been changed from this time forward and we hope that with her being a woman that she will understand my point of view in being a good mom.  One of our attorneys called Jason to the stand.  After he was sworn in, they asked him questions for his answers to show what our home is like.  They asked him questions about how we discipline our kids, what my tolerance level is like, how our kids react to me, what I was like on that day.  Jason was a strong witness for me as to what our normal life is like.  He explained how sincere my patience is with our kids; when there is bad behavior, that timeout or sitting down with them to talk about it is usually all that it takes.  He explained that Bryer had been fussy during church, but that I was naturally a calm person and he testified that I would never hurt one of our children.

Next they called our family doctor from our hometown.  He was very professional in his dealings with us.  He talked a little about the reasons we have been in to see him, that abuse never crossed his mind on any occasion we have been in to his office.  He talked about my normal demeanor at church that Sunday.  He testified that he has even trusted his own daughter to be in our home for youth activities, to babysit, and to spend time with me one-on-one. 

The attorney for Health and Welfare called 2 different detectives to the stand.  One was the detective that came to the hospital the night Bryer was admitted.  The second was the detective that served me the Eminent Danger paperwork and escorted Jason and I out of the hospital from Bryer's side.  The first testified of my interview with her.  She confirmed that I had found Bryer not breathing, did CPR, and called 911.  She also confirmed what the doctor's opinions were about the cause, in detail.  My body shakes to hear their explanation.  Physically shakes.  It's so horrifying to hear that someone can do something like that to an innocent baby, let alone myself.  No 'alternate' diagnoses were mentioned. 

The second detective confirmed parts of what the first had testified and also pointed out that Jason and I have both been willing to work with law enforcement to this point, including leaving the hospital without a fight with officers.  Do they know what that feels like?  Fighting has never crossed my mind.  It's just not in my nature.  Unbelievably sad and depressed, but not a fight.

After hearing both sides, the judge took a recess to make her decision.  After we stood for her to leave the room, my attorney pointed out that usually in a Shelter Care Hearing the judge rules from the bench.  They don't take a recess.  We mingled with the legislators, who all felt really good about what was said for our family and the outcome would be positive.  The senator said he was so impressed with the way we handled ourselves and the picture that was painted about our family and home being so peaceful.  He also told Jason that he was so happy with the way we presented ourselves as people of faith.  He referred to us as a 'model family' and as one who he would love to see all our families in our state be like.  That was a very nice compliment in our favor. 

After hearing the testimonies and talking with the legislators, we were feeling good by the time the judge reentered the courtroom with another 'All rise.'  She sat down and began, "Because the burden of proof is so low in a Shelter Care Hearing..." and she went on to site the state code and number where the loophole is.  She stated that Bryer is to remain in the foster care system.  My heart dropped, along with everyone else from our side.  How could a doctor's misdiagnosis consume a baby girl's life?  That's the basic representation here.  What the doctors' diagnosis is, is completely false.  How do we get out of this mess in one piece as a family?!  The judge went on to say that Bryer was to be placed with family as soon as possible - by Monday the 17th at the very latest, but she also pointed out that it's not the court's decision in placement.  That is a Health and Welfare responsibility.  It was pointed out that because Jason couldn't offer an explanation of what happened (he wasn't even there!) and that he was willing to stand by me as a supportive husband, that they could not release Bryer to him either.  It all seems so wrong and twisted. 

I really felt, along with the rest of those on our side, that the judge wanted to give Bryer back to us.  Because of the low burden of proof and the way the law is stated, she lawfully couldn't do it.  She sited the exact code that said she wasn't able to.  I believe she did that for the political leaders that were there - so they could see the loophole and find a solution to the current problem.  It won't help us now, but maybe it will save some other innocent family from our same suffering. 

We talked with our case worker after court.  I gave her a new 'smelly shirt' to swap the foster mom.  I also brought her more diapers and the tape recording we made for Bryer.  I asked again about doctors appointments.  I know Bryer has more appointments with specialists tomorrow and I desperately want to go.  Our case worker denied us that opportunity, saying that all our visits will still need to be supervised by a member of Health and Welfare.  I asked if she, herself, would be willing to come along to the appointments and she said that wouldn't work out either with her schedule.  Whew.  Deep breath.  Her schedule?  I'd like more than 1 hour a week with my baby!  I want to know what's going on with her medically and help make decisions about her care.  I'll continue to pray for her.  It's obvious her heart has become very hardened to the work she does.  I can't imagine checking in to work and taking kids out of their homes every day.  Every. Day.  That's what she does.  What a sad career to choose!  Sometimes if helps to try to understand her point of view.  It's so hard to do, but it helps me make sense of things.  I have to hope that if she had all the parts to the puzzle, she would return Bryer in an instant.  The judge would have also.  And the doctors.  It's just a lot to feel that all these people are against us and our baby hangs in the balance. 

January 15, 2011
The only thing I could think of to help comfort me was to write the foster mom and ask how Bryer is doing.  I can't hold her or smell her sweet baby smell, but I need to know she's OK.  I have to have some kind of contact, even if it's just an email.  I feel so helpless not being able to go to doctor appointments, not knowing how much she's eating, if she's fussy or happy, if she's sleeping well, how long her nap time is, how many dirty diapers she's had.  So many things a mom just 'knows' without sending an email or having a visit. 

In the email back she said she was needing more diapers and milk, and also mentioned being on a special formula since she was eating more.  It's hard for me to know that she's giving her all my breast milk or just supplementing with formula.  She said the doctor didn't seem worried about more weight gain, but also didn't do a sodium test like was suggested at the hospital for water retention.  It's maddening not to be there as the best advocate for her health and know the whole picture of things. 

She said in the email, "Yesterday she had a lot of very loose stools.  I don't think she felt well, she was very cranky."  I wanted to tell her through the computer - you rip the main person out of your life, stick you in a strange place with people you've never seen before, and see how well you recover and how happy you are.  I continue to pray for her and try my very best not to be critical.  It's hard to be in this situation I have no control. 

I find myself researching more - whether it's the best bottle to use between transitioning from bottle to breast; or researching laws and codes; or the worst kind of research - the misdiagnoses of SBS.  Somehow I feel like researching will bring me closer to Bryer, or solve all our problems, or give me a purpose to focus all my energy. 

I was struggling particularly hard today.  I went to the room where we are staying at my in-law's house to pray.  When I finished, I just sat for a minute, hoping to feel a peace about things.  All our things from the hospital stood in a pile in the corner.  On top was my set of scriptures.  I realized immediately that I hadn't read much since we came home from the hospital.  I had been so good about reading to Bryer in bed, but hadn't been so good about it after leaving her side.  I flipped through the pages, wondering what I should read.  The pages opened to a small handout I made for the girls I taught at church.  It said,

You're Invited
For: An interview with Deity through scripture study.
Time: Fifteen or twenty minutes a day.  Plan a regular time to read.
Place: A quiet place so you can hear and recognize his voice.
RSVP - Read, Study, Visualize, Ponder
I turned it over to the back.  As I read the quote on the back, I knew that this simple handout I had made months and months ago for my young women, was really for me to read right at this moment. 
Elder Carlos E. Asay has encouraged us to imagine the time we spend studying the scriptures as a personal interview with the Lord.  He said:
"I fear that many of us rush about from day to day taking for granted the holy scriptures.  We scramble to honor appointments with physicians, lawyers, and businessmen.  Yet we think nothing of postponing interviews with Deity - postponing scripture study.  Little wonder we develop anemic souls and lose our direction in living.  How much better it would be if we planned and held sacred fifteen or twenty minutes a day for reading the scriptures.  Such interviews with Deity would help us recognize his voice and enable us to receive guidance in all of our affairs.  We must look to God through the scriptures." 
Really, that is me!  I am right now rushing from appointments with physicians (or trying to), lawyers, and businessmen.  In all my research of bottles and misdiagnoses and laws, I had forgotten the most important research is from the scriptures.  God has all the answers that I haven't found on the Internet.  He knows the questions of my heart.  He knows how much I hurt and He knows how to get out of this mess.  I am so thankful for this timely message to remind me.  I opened the scriptures and read.  I'd like to say that the instructions on how to handle Health and Welfare popped out from the page, but it didn't.  What I did get from reading, was the feeling that God heard my prayer and led me back to the scriptures.  He reminded me what is important - not just when we are having our 'normal' family scripture study, but when I desperately need answers and comfort.  And especially when I need to know that He is still with us, every step of the way.   
January 19, 2011
The judge had said Bryer should be in the care of family no later than the 17th.  Now it's 2 days beyond that and she's still with the foster mom.  The more we bring up placement, the more the case worker puts us off.  We now have 3 sets of family members either in the process or already licensed to have Bryer.  We had another visit with Bryer today, which is always a highlight, but this was even better!  We met at an office closer this time, and we learned that the foster mom has been traveling quite a long way to get to the other office, just because it was convenient for our case worker.  Our visit today was a welcome relief.  Jason and I had help with the other kids so just the two of us went to meet Bryer.  She nursed well - in fact, she nursed most of the time until she snuggled up on me and fell asleep.  Jason and I sang songs together to her almost the whole time.  I try to be so present with her while I'm there, but I also find myself preparing myself to leave her again.  It hurts too bad if I don't brace myself for it toward the end of our visit. 


Near the end of our visit, the lady facilitating the visit and supervising behind the glass came in to talk to us.  Her thin, pretty face looked flushed and her eyes looked teary.  She acted like she would talk a couple times before words actually made it out of her mouth.  When she spoke, she said, "Could I offer you another visit with your baby this week?" 
I looked at Jason and he looked at me.  This was the best news we could have heard, given our circumstances!  Yet after what we have been through, I felt like this was a mean trick - that maybe our case worker would put an end to an 'extra visit.'  She assured us that it would be scheduled and confirmed without issues.  I asked her what prompted her to ask us.  She got that same flushed look in her face and said how sweet it has been to watch us through the glass with our baby.  She said it's been a very long time since she watched a family give such sweet attention to their child.  This was the least she could do. 
January 20, 2011
Another visit with Bryer.  This sweet Visit Facilitator has taken time out of her own day and her own job to offer us her time so that we can see Bryer.  I am so thankful for her! 
She explained that many parents that come for visits, fall asleep on the couch, or they talk on their cell phones the whole time.  The majority of them don't play or interact with their children that are in state custody.  It makes me absolutely sick to know they take their children for granted!  How am I mixed up in the same pool of people?!  I try not to think about 'others' that I am in this system with. 

At the end of the visit, our angel Visit Supervisor asked if we could 'squeeze' in one more visit this week with Bryer before the weekend.  I wanted to cry and hug her and squeal.  We went from 1 hour a week the last 3 weeks to 3 visits in 1 week this week.  We set it up before we left her office and made sure the foster mom could bring Bryer.  Oh things are looking up.  Holding my baby brings so much reassurance for me, and I have to believe it helps her too.