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.