Secret Daughter Mine

My family has a lot of good stories I may never share. Some because they belong to all of us and are still unfolding, some because they don’t belong to me at all. They belong to my wife, my son, and now my daughter.

TrulyRose - 1Today I can say she’s my daughter, because yesterday we went through the final court hearing for her adoption. She is no longer our foster-child, she is our daughter. She has a new name, Truly Rose Flynn, an epic name for an epic pirate buccaneer! She will know her other name, her other family, that is part of her too. She will know that her journey into this world started out pretty rough, and that her birth into our family took not nine months, but nineteen.

I held her in my heart as a daughter before the legal process finally caught up and brought us to this moment of family. I checked in with the spirits often about what was best for her, and how our love for her fit into her life. They told me the most important factor in determining her destiny would be our bond. It was time to open up and go deep.

She’ll know all of that and more. We will give her the story when she can hold it without falling over, probably small pieces here and there. Why she was shaking like a leaf when she first came to us at six days old. The work I did to ease her nightmares and protect her. Why she did not leave Terry’s side for the first 3 months, her new Momma touching, caressing, soothing her – conjuring moments of safety that eventually wove themselves into a new a new life, a new family.

Terry carries so much of her story. It was Terry who first signed us up for the training to become a foster home. She fielded the calls when a new child needed a home, jumped into the car to drive somewhere and pick up some soul recently orphaned (perhaps temporarily) by the state. Doctors appointments, child development appointments, and of course court with all of the people connected to her.

Thats something you don’t often hear about when you sign up to become a foster home, the court proceedings with the families you’ll have to attend. Terry did those too, decompressing with me, sharing the heart break that True’s birth family was going through. When you foster a child and hold her close to your heart, you are connecting yourself and your family to a constellation of people you never knew before. You become a part of a family in the midst of a full shit-storm-meltdown being run through a well meaning, if ogerish legal system. At its worst moments, its a cage-fight thrown into a meat-grinder.

The only thing that makes the process sane is the social workers. Mostly women, their hearts are only outsized by their keen minds. I have yet to meet a more skillful, intelligent, caring staff in any area of my life to date. No exaggeration. Hospitals, working with Apple – Sony Games – UC Regents – Pixar, Academics of various stripes – meh. I wish these women were running the world right now.

True is now a loud strong girl who knows just what she wants. She laughs like a hysterical bear. She came through the first months of her transition with amazing strength and warmth. She started hugging at about 3 months old, squeezes you so hard your head feels like it will pop off. She loves her new parents, brother ( adopted too, but not through the foster system ) and dog almost as much as she loves Elmo. She lets you know when its bedtime by dragging you into the bedroom and falling into her pile of blankets.

She has siblings, much older, who were separated from their parents months before True’s birth. The constellation continues. Her parents were second generation in the system, married too young, unable to parent, unable to make a peaceful home. They did everything to fight losing their kids, except the one thing they needed to do – look at their behavior and take responsibility for it. The foster system is an imperfect, blunt instrument, but here it has given a family of children a chance to succeed. All of her siblings are thriving in ways their parents could only dream of.

As foster parents its our job to work towards re-unification of the child with the parents, until they have exhausted all attempts to correct their problems. The job of foster parents is really not humanly possible. In truth your enthusiasm for the birth parents ebbs and flows while your attachment to the child only grows. What holds you is the truth of the parents bond to their own children, the humanity of their struggles. The knowledge that even though you have loved this child in ways they can’t, their bond trumps all – until the courts, therapists, and all the social workers say otherwise.

So most of the time you love and live in denial. She’s ours and she isn’t. You draw her in, gaze into her eyes telling her how deeply you love her, how radiant she is, what an amazing being she is, and try not to think to hard about the next court date. She needs to be deeply held, without feeling like you are going to pull away. Make the nest in your heart bigger, not smaller.

I find my denial is only slowly trickling away. I have to remind myself that if Tadg bumps heads with her again, if it leaves a mark we DON’T have to file a report. That we DON’T need to scrub the house from top to bottom, check the fire extinguisher and the alarms again because the social worker will be visiting next week. I don’t have to ask Terry to read something I’m posting on the web to make sure it won’t betray some sensitive fact about her or us that could change the courts opinion. Now we have time to make our own decisions, without considering the State of California. That part of the constellation is no longer orbiting us. Gravity takes a while to shift.

We have a cat that adopted Tadg and has setup residence in our home. He named her (I love this) “Night Moon” {add dramatic music here}. She’s now so pregnant she looks like a furry balloon with feet. Add that to the three turkey chicks Terry got me for our anniversary and we are about to burst at the seams. A son, a new daughter, 13 hens (added 8 this spring), 3 turkeys, a dog, a cat about to have ? kittens. And yes a new daughter. How the hell did that happen?

When you adopt your kids you think about them a little differently than when you birth them. You wonder at what you have, this extraordinary gift that came to you through a mundane civil process. She is with you, not them. The treasure we have,  to discover her spirit, I wonder if they feel the loss of that? Perhaps some part of them knows they’re not ready to contain the fullness of that experience.

So one part of the adventure of Truly Rose Flynn ends and another begins. This morning, while Tadg and I were moving the turkeys into a cage outside, she decided to rip off her diaper (her last bit of clothing) and make an attempt to run down the road. The sun at her backside, bangs newly trimmed (thanks Grandma!), she’s was off to meet the world. More power to you miss-too-much-sugar. Can’t wait to run down that road with you.

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