Thursday, July 25, 2013

Chapter Five

I won't go into detail about every foster child that we had but there are some significant things that should be mention. In the life of a foster family, you can have many, many different children come through your home over the life span of your fostering. Yes, we fostered for nineteen years but we were what was termed as long care....which means that the children stayed months, some even years before they moved on.
Our very first child was a little boy, less than a year old named Joey. It was Joey's mother that taught me never to allow birth parents to know where we live! In fostering, sometimes there is a lot of interaction between birth parents and is encouraged by the agency....but in the case of Joey's mother, her child was apprehended, ( taken without the consent of the parent by the Children's Aid agency because the child was in need of help and protection for whatever reason) . I remember being very nervous before they brought Joey out here to our home. He was a cute little guy, looking back on pictures I realize now that he could have been slightly Downs Syndrome....we only had Joey for a month...I guess the agency couldn't prove he was at risk so he went back to month....meanwhile, in that month he gained five pounds in our care. I remember meeting mom at the pediatrician's office for the check up and recoiling when the mother showed up with a baby bottle of green Kool Aid and the bottle top was rimmed with brown dirt. That was the first time that I dealt with the frustration of working hard to get a child healthy only to have the birth mother mess it up. I was also very frustrated when the pediatrician ordered an uncomfortable test to be done on the little guy that was not needed. When I questioned the doctor about it, ( out of hearing of the birth mother, her reply was this...' You know that he doesn't need the test, and I know it too, but I'm trying to gain the trust of the mother so I'll order the test'......I lost all respect for this doctor at that moment and it was reinforced with the next child that we had, a child that came with a whole box of medications, inhalers and a breathing machine!.....all ordered by this doctor.

So, after a month, Joey went back home to his mom and we awaited the next call.

It didn't take long......the phone rang and the agency said that there had been a special request.....a little girl that the mom had specifically asked that she be placed in our home......Tanya had come back.

For whatever reason, Anne wasn't able to look after Tanya and so the agency brought her to us. Our poor wee girl was in pretty bad shape. She wasn't walking and she looked very pale. She also came , as I mentioned, with a box filled with different medications and a breathing machine, which I never had to use on her. In our home, her breathing was fine, she gained weight, she learned to walk and talk. She stayed with us for several months before the agency felt Anne was able to look after her again.

We were to be part of Tanya's life one more time, this time Tanya was much older, in grade eight....she came and stayed with us, not as a foster child but just as a favour . Tanya was failing, the school didn't think that she would graduate. Anne asked for help and so we did. Tanya moved in with us for about three months...we worked with her and she graduated ! She was suppose to come back in the fall, for highschool , but over the summer we decided that we could no longer go down that path, and we told Anne that Tanya would be fine in her care. I will admit to some misgivings when I'd hear that she had to be placed in a special program in school, but we had our own drama going on in our household at that time and you can only help so many at one time, and family does come first.

It was very difficult to let Tanya go back to Anne when she was a toddler.....we knew it was for the best....we knew that Anne would just continue to use us as her 'stop gap' parents for Tanya if we didn't let the agency handle it.....but it was still very hard.

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Chapter Four

I remember that they used to put a daily column...I believe it was daily, since it was called Today's Child, in our city newspaper. One day , the featured child caught my eye and at the end of the article of describing the child it said to contact our Children's Aid Society.....actually, this child was just the 'hook'...obviously they're not going to feature local children where relatives might recognize them. I got up my nerve to call CAS, and inquire about this child. The worker questioned me about becoming foster parents. 'Oh no', I thought....'I want one of my own'. So, I dropped that idea. A few weeks later, my friend Sue and I went to visit a friend of Sue's also coincidentally named Sue, and also coincidentally was a Foster Parent.....what do you think of that? Sue the FP, had the sweetest little baby....Don and I have always had a soft spot for babies.....Sue talked about what it was like to be a foster parent and a foster does affect your whole family! My interest was piqued and I went home and talked it out with Donald. We talked about it at some length...Leslie and Ryan had to be considered ...they were about 8 and 10 years old at the time. We talked to a worker and found out that we'd have to take a course before was a huge undertaking but we decided to do it.

It should be mentioned at this time that the helping relationship with the single mom Anne had lapsed after she lied to us about being pregnant again and then tried to get us to adopt Tanya. Under the advice of a good friend who was also our minister we declined to do that. It was pointed out to us that Anne wouldn't leave us alone to actually parent Tanya and that it would put us into an untenable position. It broke our heart to walk away from Tanya but we had to 'cut the apron strings'.

We took our course and were full fledged foster parents....our home was inspected, our children were questioned and inspected, police checks were done, medicals were done. Reference letters from reliable sources were checked and double checked!

We waited for our first call....the first call that opened up a brand new journey in our family....a journey that would take twists and turns, fractures and sprains.....

Don and I had already prayed that any child that we were called about would be a child that we would take......we were opening up our family and our home in this new adventure and we left it to God to bring in the kids that he wanted to be there.

It was a journey that lasted nineteen years.....looking after and loving about seventeen children, and adopting seven of was quite a ride!

...but the story goes on....

Chapter Three

The days that followed were very difficult, I still struggled with extreme anxiety. I called the psychiatrist that I had seen while pregnant ...I asked if I could come in for an appointment....his reply astounded me and put me into further despair......'I had heard about your baby dying and I thought you would be fine and didn't need to see me anymore', he said. I could feel myself sliding down the wall to the floor, thinking...'oh no, what do I do now'....

It was a sunny afternoon a few months later that I was visiting with my cousin Patti. Patti and I were quite close growing up, we had been born only a few weeks apart and we were friends as well as cousins. I shared with her the struggles I was still experiencing and the feelings of frustration i had that there seemed to be no one who could help me. There was no one who really understood what I was going through.

She looked at me and said..'our old pastor is doing counseling at our church...maybe he could help you'...I remembered the pastor that she spoke of, Harland Smith had conducted my grandfathers' funeral. I talked it over with Don and he agreed...there was one huge didn't have it to pay for counseling ,but fortunately when my parents heard about it they agreed to cover the cost.

I remember it well, sitting in his office...pouring my heart out, praying that he would see, anybody that I had talked to about it all, Don, my mom, my sister...they all had the same response, 'I wish I could help you but I haven't gone through this, I really don't know what to say'. That day, when I finished talking , I looked at Harland, he looked back at me and said these words...' Well, Marie, I can help you, I've been in the exact same position as you are right now and I understand. We will work together and I will help you......the relief that I felt at that moment was indescribable.....I thought I had been losing my mind and this man said he one had ever said that to me.....for the first time in a very long time I felt hope.

Harland Smith did help me, using the scriptures and giving me different exercises ( for lack of better terminology) to do...for instance, I had a fear over leaving the house and going to a ladies bible study with my mom and sister,...Harland told me to think of one woman in the group who had shared a problem or difficulty, and when I had thought of this person...I'll call her Mary....than I was to think about Mary, think about going there to help Mary, he said' just keep telling yourself that you're doing this for Mary'...don't think of was a great got me out of the house, it got me thinking about others, how I could help others more than worked! There were many other exercises, now that I've started thinking about them again thirty four years later, I could recount many more but I won' might not find them as interesting as I, and it might become tedious to read, but suffice to say, after a number of months....I had the courage to look after my children, to go out and go to public functions , to even go to family gatherings.
I will forever be grateful to God and Harland Smith for bringing me through that valley of despair and up the other side.
Throughout it all my husbands' love and support was unwavering, he never emotionally left my side....that was invaluable to me.

By this time, my brother Tom and his wife had given birth to their first child, a little boy named Daniel. When Daniel's mom went back to work after a three month leave, she asked me to look after little Daniel. I loved looking after was so nice to have a baby to look after again, and he was a good little guy. We had him everyday til he was seventeen months old and his mom gave him a little brother. After that they decided that having someone coming in to their house everyday would be better, which didn't work for me with our two at home.

This was my first experience in looking after someone else's child as well as my own and it went fairly well. I guess it was the precursor for things to come!

Oh yes, and we moved again....we finally were able to get out of the city, where neither one of us had been happy, and we moved to the suburbs.....actually not far from my parents and my sister.

Leslie and Ryan started school.....I was at home thinking, okay what do you want me to do? I had a few little part time jobs....I worked for a needlework company that did home parties....that went quite well for a few years, I also did some exam invigilating for one of the colleges...that was fun and easy! They were things that I could do in the evening when Don was at home with Leslie and Ryan.

Still, things were difficult financially for us....unfortunately we had made the big mistake of buying our new (to us) house before selling our city went on for nine very long months....I lost quite a bit of weight in this time frame.....when an offer finally came through, it was for a very low offer, but in despair we took it. We were already way in debt with carrying two mortgages for nine months. We had to cut our losses and move on.

About this time a young single mother came into our lives. Anne came from a large family that did not give her any support. She had been coming to our church since she was a child and everyone had kind of taken turns , helping her out. She was really our first introduction into family life that wasn't like ours, and boy did we get our eyes opened! Anne had given birth to a little baby girl named Tanya, but unfortunately Anne was emotionally unstable and for the most part was unable to look after baby Tanya. The very first call that we received from a friend of Anne's was whenTanya was six weeks old. Anne was in crisis, she needed hospitalization , would we look after the baby. The friend brought this wee babe to our house in the middle of the night.....we didn't have anything set up for her, so we cleared out one of Don's dresser drawers, padded it up with blankets and put her into it. That's where she spent her first night! We had Tanya for about a week and when Anne was discharged, she took Tanya back. Six weeks later , another call, another week of baby care...and on and on it went. Anne averaged her crisis times about six weeks apart. Each time Tanya came she would look very pale, tense with a dull look to her eyes. Within a day or two, that would be replaced with rosy cheeks , sparkly eyes and a big smile. Each time it was the same, the transformation was remarkable.

Don and I started talking.....what if there were other kids like Tanya out that needed a safe place to stay, where they'd feel safe and secure. Where there'd be love and consistency......what if?

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Chapter Two

When we married forty years ago, we never, believe it or not.......discussed how many children we would have.....I know if someone had suggested nine or ten I would have wondered if they had lost their mind! The biggest discussion was when we would start a family.....I wasn't getting any younger...I was 22 years old for gosh sakes! I wanted to have any birthing of kids done by the time I was 30! That seemed like a good plan to me. The biggest concern at the time was whether we could afford it or not....dear husband had a total annual salary of $4000 .....yes, we were rolling in it! What we didn't consider was that we were still in the first year of wedded bliss....little did we realize that wedded bliss isn't so blissful when you are clearly hormonal and dealing with morning sickness! A word to the young couples considering this...don't! ...wait til after the first anniversary.....enough said.

Our first child was a girl....she was born fifteen months and two days after we were married! We named her Leslie mother came and stayed for a week....and then left...left me with this baby that I thought I knew what to do with...but I didn't ! You see...before I married I did a lot of babysitting....I was good with babies...but...when it's your own, it's a whole different story. When my mother was there, she did e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.....I was recovering from a c-section, she didn't let me do anything but nurse the baby....she thought she was helping reality, she wasn't. When she left I went into a panic and despair...I still remember crying on Don before he went to work, saying that I couldn't do this.....looking back I realize that the responsibility hit hard but Leslie and I got through it.

She was an active baby....hardly slept..I was convinced I was doing something wasn't until she was older that I realized that she was bored! One day when Leslie was about three months old...I was in despair...I still hadn't figured out the boredom bit...I had looked after all her needs...and she was still crying....I had no idea what to this time, I was crying too! Poor Don, when he returned home from work...his baby was in her crib, in her room, crying.....his wife was in their room crying...he didn't know whom to go to first!

By the time Leslie was born we had moved...again....Don worked for a trust company and every time he got a raise/new position.....he was transferred...we started out married life in a town called Owen Sound. We lived there three months, then moved to a wee little town called Exeter....about a half hour drive from London , Ontario.

We stayed in Exeter for about a year...then we moved to Chatham, Ontario....while we were there, we decided to try for our second child. After all, Leslie was past a year, 18 months to be exact.....another babe would put them about two years apart.....sounds crazy now but at the time it seemed perfectly reasonable!

I did become pregnant and just to make life interesting, a month before my due date...Don was transferred once again...this time to Sarnia....even further away from family! We also bought our very first home...up until this point we had rented. So, 26 months and 7 days after Leslie had been born....I gave birth to our first son....we called him Ryan Donald.....we were very creative using our first names as the middle names for our first two children...don't ya think?

Ryan was a tiny little guy, almost a pound smaller than Leslie...and completely different in his personality! Once again, my mom came and stayed for a week...this time I was smarter though...I insisted on doing everything for Ryan...I wasn't going to be unprepared this time when she went!

When Ryan was six months old we decided that all this moving every eighteen months really wasn't good for a small, young family. We were concerned that when Leslie started school that we'd be pulling her out if school with very little notice and that would be very difficult for her. Plus, now I had two small children and absolutely no family around to help...we were more than three hours away from everyone and I felt very alone.

Don decided to leave the trust company and he applied to a manufacturing company, in Hamilton, Ontario...he worked in their office. We bought our second home...we were very disappointed that we couldn't afford to live outside the city, where my family was but housing was much more expensive there and we had to settle in the inner city. Neither one of us were very happy about that but there was nothing else we could do!

When Ryan was two I decided that I really wanted to get my drivers license!
I had been getting learner permits since I was 16 but never really became serious about getting the real thing til a little more than ten years later! My grandmother very generously offered to pay for four lessons....I took the road test and passed the first time! It was exciting but I also was in despair because I had found out that I was pregnant....again.

This pregnancy was different....the other two we had planned for, the other two we had anticipated...this one came out of the blue. I was upset...Ryan wasn't an easy fact he was very difficult....he didn't even talk, and Leslie was all over the place...once, when we were visiting my parents, when she was two years...we couldn't find her...then we noticed that she had climbed my parents television antenna tower...which went higher than their house! Don had to climb up the tower to get her back down! Then, when she was about five and Ryan was two and a half, she convinced him to walk across a glass storm door that was lying on it's side in an open trailer. Well, Leslie walked gently across but Ryan stomped his way and put his foot straight through the glass! I carried him into the house, blood was going everywhere...I tried calling Don at I rushed to my neighbors' house and begged him to take us to the hospital. Poor Don...came home to his house empty, blood everywhere and absolutely no idea what had happened! Meanwhile I was at the hospital, where they had to put many stitches into my little boy's foot while he screamed and they told me to talk to him...have a conversation with him...I looked at them like they were daft...he'd only been talking for six months...what did they really think I could say to him! Have a conversation indeed!

Another time, we couldn't find Leslie but we heard her screaming....we went running out the back yard...she had tried to climb the chain link fence but her sandal had become caught in the fencing...there she was...hanging by the sandal, upside down, screaming for all she was worth!
.....and yet another time....we couldn't find Leslie anywhere....we looked and looked, went up and down the street....a police man was driving down the street and I flagged him down , desperate for help to find my little girl.....I went into the house to call my sister to tell her, when all of a sudden I looked up and there was Leslie, peeking around the corner of the stairway....she had been hiding and then when she heard all the commotion was scared to come down. She knew she was going to get into trouble , but when I saw her all I wanted to do was hold her tight. What a relief!
So, suffice to say...I had my hands full....I really didn't know how I was going to handle a new born too.
Before I had become pregnant I was also having a very dark time in my life.....I went through a time of great anxiety...the doctor prescribed an anti anxiety medication...but unfortunately did not recommend any other help. It became very difficult to leave the house, any kind of interaction with other people caused me great find out I was pregnant on top of it all nearly put me over the edge.
I got through the first three months of pregnancy with great difficulty....I was feeling sicker than I had with the previous two, probably due to the added anxiety, and I had to have a new obstetrician than I had with the first two. My old OB lived in London which was too far away. I started seeing an obstetrician at McMaster Hospital...he came highly recommended since he was head of the department but I remember being horrified when he found out that we hadn't planned this pregnancy, and he asked if we wanted to terminate it! Even though I was so very scared of being pregnant, I would never ever consider termination. Unfortunately because I was so anxious at this time, my OB suggested seeing a psychaiatrist in the same hospital. I saw him a few times but he seemed to make me feel more confused then ever. Six weeks later, at eighteen weeks of pregnancy, I had some spotting. I was terrified.

By this time, I had started to warm up to the idea of a third child, and now faced with the thought of something going wrong was more than I could bear. We immediately went to the hospital and they did some tests...they couldn't tell if the baby had was the weekend. They said, go home and rest, come back on Monday for an ultrasound. It was on the Monday, after the ultrasound, that they told us that there wasn't any heart beat. We were devastated. Not only was I scared of what was going on, I was scared of delivering a baby,since before, I had only had Cesarian sections...they assured me that it was small enough that I could deliver it, I was filled with guilt....this was all my fault, I hadn't wanted this pregnancy...I had wanted the baby but not the pregnancy....Leslie and Ryan's births hadn't been easy and they had been quite traumatic....I was scared to death.

They gave me the option of inducing or letting things happen naturally....since I was so scared , I chose natural.
We went home to mother would come each day to stay with us and help with Leslie and Ryan, while Don was at work.
Finally, after ten days, the doctor said,'re coming in.

So, we did.

The evening of the first day, my room mate and I, (she was going through the same thing) had a procedure done where they place some kind of seaweed material inside you to slowly dilate you. It was very scary...Don had already gone home to look after our children, I was alone. My room mate was very calm and was a wonderful support. The next day, the IV nurse came in.....I have tiny veins and she had a very difficult time getting it in.....she blamed it on me...told me that it was my choice to be here....I was choice to have my dead baby removed from me? I think not. I happened to see my said Missed Abortion.....I was shocked! I hadn't had an abortion! Upon questioning a nurse she assured me that that was the medical term for a miscarriage that hadn't delivered on its own. It still sounded terrible to me!

A few hours later, Don arrived and they took me into the surgery to remove my child....I remember vividly , lying on the stretcher outside the OR, waiting....when my doctor came along and answered a phone right above me....he calmly, and in a quite good mood chatted about some holiday plans to whomever...I remember thinking...he's talking about holidays on one of the worst days of my life. Afterward, it was over and later in the day Don took me home to recover. A few days later , while lying on the chesterfield, resting.....Don took a break from studying....(he was doing courses to become a Certified General Accountant) , he sat by me and as we spoke of the past events, he started to weep. We had chosen that our unborn child had been a girl...they couldn't really tell at that stage......his tears concerned me and I asked what was wrong.....he said,....'I never even got to hold her' broke my heart and from then on realized that I had been very selfish in thinking that it had only happened to had happened to both of us.

We named her Leah Catherine, and even though , if she had lived, she would be thirty-four years old....we still miss her.

I covered this event in our lives as a couple and as a family in such detail because I believe that this was a pivotal point in our family life.....but this chapter has gone on long enough.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

In the Beginning...

There have been so many times, too numerous to count that someone has said to me..'you should write a book'....pshaw...I would say....I'm not a writer....I do love to read..but way.

As I have been on holidays this last week, the idea has come to the forefront...not that I think I've become a writer overnight but, who else would tell the stories of this huge family that my husband and I have! We're not talking Duggar size...but pretty big by today's standards.

The only thing I ever really write is my blog post....and that of late hasn't been very often, but.....I thought maybe, just maybe I could write a blog post once a week or so...lets not get carried away by deadlines now....that could be like a series...we won't say book...that's just too intimidating...but series,...yes, maybe I could give that a try.....

My husband and I have ten children....yes, ten.....nine on earth and one in heaven....are we amazing, as some people say....absolutely not....are we crazy....ABSOLUTELY!

In thinking about the absolute beginning of this story, we must go back sixty-two years to when I was was in the middle of the night, a few weeks before my due date that my mother most pregnant women do, with the urgent need to get to the bathroom. As she quickly went down the hallway, she was horrified to think that she was peeing as she walked! Upon arriving at the bathroom though, she discovered that she was actually bleeding. As she waited, on a chair by the front door for the ambulance to come, she was scared. I was her second child, the previous year her husband ( my dad) had fallen thirty feet of a bridge, while welding and broke his back in three places....she had been through enough, she thought...but things had just begun.

Upon arriving at the hospital, she was admitted and tests were done...placenta previa was the diagnosis ....the placenta was coming first....certain death for babies back then. She laid in the bed for hours, and then felt something happening...she called for the nurse, and upon examination, the placenta and I had switched places and now I was coming first. And come I did...hands first, my mother says....guess I had to feel my way !

It didn't take them long to figure out that I had a few things muscles! Not all of them, just 50% of my arm muscles, and underdeveloped deltoids....that would never develop to full strength. My mother, as mothers before her accepted my deficiencies and forged ahead. Over the years, we went through hours and hours of physiotherapy , four surgeries, doctors upon doctors appointments, and ballet lessons! Yes, ballet....due to the arms not working correctly it affected my posture which the doctors said would be helped with ballet!

My parents, but especially my mother, pushed me into being the independent person that I am today....that I could look after the needs if a large family is completely from my mothers total dedication to me developing into a person that could and would function without the help of others....from dressing myself, feeding growing up, learning all the domestic chores, to doing crafts, knitting, sewing my own clothes, to playing baseball...yes, catching the ball! I was on the school team...and no, I couldn't catch those fly balls with my hands but I could with my stomach ! (I ended up with extremely strong stomach muscles!)

Throughout highschool, I like every other highschool girl, had crushes on certain guys.....of course, most of them didn't notice.....there were two or three that seemed to but I would immediately be very questioning of their intentions....after all I reasoned....why would any reasonable guy want to date someone with crooked arms when he could have any number of girls who didn't!

After I graduated high school, I got my first job.....something my high school typing teacher said I'd never get....I was a typist! For two years I was a statistical typist for a wholesale hardware company...not very glamorous but it was a job.....

I also met my husband......

The summer after I graduated, my grandparents were going on one of their regular jaunts back to the 'old country' as they referred to it...Ireland. My grandfather had been making little comments that gave me the impression that they might ask me to go with them! I was very excited....the waiting was very difficult....summertime was starting though and still they hadn't said anything, so when I received a call asking if I could come and work at a camp for the month of August, I agreed. It was after that my grandfather confirmed that they had been going to ask me!

So, off to camp I was a camp for underprivileged kids and I was given a cabin of 12 eight year old boys. Myself and another girl were suppose to look after these kids for a the end if the week , a new batch would come...this went in for the whole month if August! The very first weekend my roommate/co counselor was late , by a few days , coming in.....the head of the camp asked this quiet young man to help me....and the rest is history....this past June we celebrated forty years of marriage.....there was somebody for me...someone who accepted and loved me just the way I was.....amazing .