Secret thoughts of a new mother

Preface: Yesterday we had our annual winter board meeting for the Nebraska Writing Project. We meet in the morning, have lunch, and then venture out on a writing marathon for the afternoon. For four years I've attended this writing marathon and have cherished this time in Lincoln writing with some of Nebraska's finest teachers. Yesterday, however, feeling overwhelmed, I skipped out after lunch and went on my own writing marathon.  Here's what came from it: 

For seven years I dreamed of being a mom. And now, here I am: six months a mother and today I find myself escaping the role. I could be at home--I could've been home two hours ago, but I'm still in Lincoln, hiding out at a little coffee shop that is literally underground. I want to stay and wander the streets of Lincoln--spend money on frivolous things like Billy Collins poetry books, handmade earrings in the shapes of birds, and notebooks touting Whitman quotes on the front cover. I want to crawl into a tavern, drink a black and tan and eat all carbs and no vegetables. I want to strike up conversations with adults, conversations that don't include mention of bodily functions or superheroes.

I don't know how to deal with this sudden 24/7 responsibility that has given me a new identity. No longer am I Danielle--the teacher, writer, and aspiring intellectual. Now I am Danielle--J's mom--laundry folder, kid-wrangler. In some social situations I don't even know who to flock to anymore. Normally I gravitate towards readers, writers, thinkers, and society-shakers, but I feel like all I have to talk about is my new role as a mother since that's really all I've had time for lately. It seems natural then to lean towards mothers--especially new mothers. However, I don't feel like a "real" mom. I don't have labor and delivery stories, diaper-changing memories, or breast-feeding tips. So I'm an outcast--a haggard outcast who had read nothing more substantial than the newspaper or a fly-by article in The Atlantic once a month.

Deep down I think I am still a writer and aspiring intellectual, but this identity is buried beneath layers of insecurities from my new identity as a mom. Perhaps this is why I'm stuck in this underground coffee shop an hour away from my home spilling my heart on paper. I have a feeling there's a way to merge the two--who I once was with who I now am, but I haven't figured it out yet. Right now I just feel guilty for this confusion. Before we were blessed with little man, I hated hearing moms lament about their kids or their loss of freedom, but now that I'm here, I get it. Of course I appreciate my son, and I wouldn't change my life for anything. It's just difficult to transition rather suddenly into this new role. I didn't have a baby stewing inside of me for nine months forming that natural attachment; my baby came as a four year-old--broken and reluctant to accept me as his mom. I know this confusion is natural, but I can't help feeling like Douglas county's worst mother for feeling a need to escape.

I hope someday I'll feel like my same old self again. But...maybe feeling like my old self isn't the point at all. Maybe the point of all of this is to figure out who I'm intended to be....


Glitch in the adoption process

Of course, things can never be smooth for us. We are complication magnets.

The week before Christmas we had a family team meeting with all of the caseworkers involved in our fostering/adoption of little man. We had been preparing our subsidy and paperwork to send off to the Department of Health and Human Services for his adoption. The subsidy and continued Medicaid would help us to continue providing therapy for little man, would cover any meds he might need in the future, and would financially cover any future trips to psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, etc. He has experienced quite a lot in his five years that will take professional help to address. He has also developed some extreme behavior tendencies that often prevent him from achieving success and could possibly interfere with academics later on in his life if help is not provided early. Because he's still a foster kid, all of his current treatments are covered by Medicaid. While we filled out our paperwork for the subsidy and Medicaid, we were assured there would be no problems; he would receive both a subsidy and Medicaid. So at this family team meeting, we found out that DHHS denied him for Medicaid. DENIED. Paperwork was re-submitted, phone calls were made, emails sent, and still he was denied.

Tonight we met with a representative from an agency who is handling little man's permanency plan who was able to explain this denial more fully. Apparently this agency, which deals with all of the foster and foster to adopt cases in eastern Nebraska, was notified the day before a new policy change with Medicaid that would essentially deny kids Medicaid on certain grounds that are incredibly gray rather than black and white. It sounds like little man's paperwork was the first to be processed with this new law. Currently we have two options: accept only the subsidy (a monthly stipend) and move on with the adoption process or take DHHS to court and drag out the adoption an undefined amount of time (but I can only imagine this would take months). There is a local advocacy agency who has agreed to provide us legal representation because this new policy change happened so quickly and doesn't appear to have followed the standard protocol for changing policy (essentially this is a revision to a law, so it's filled with heavy legal stuff that I don't even pretend to understand); ultimately this agency is suspicious of this recent policy change. What none of us can figure out is how our little man can be eligible to receive Medicaid now to cover treatment for his extreme behavior issues, but when he is adopted, he will no longer be eligible for help with no explanation as to why he will not receive help. It's as if these people think his adoption would magically cure him of any issue he would ever have...despite being diagnosed with psychiatric disorders from licensed medical professionals. The documentation we've provided in support of little man receiving Medicaid is undeniable: he needs help and will continue to need help. With our teaching salaries, there is no way we could afford to provide him the help he needs without assistance from Medicaid. If this new Medicaid policy goes left unchallenged, it could mean scores of Nebraska foster-adopt kids won't get assistance they need; it could mean that wards of the state would wait longer for adoptive families because there may not be assistance for these families.

Part of me wants to just accept the subsidy and scrape by eating rice and beans simply so we can make little man official--so he can be a Helzer. It would just be that finalization that I think he needs right now. Selfishly, I don't wait to take DHHS to court because I want to move on with our family. But....another huge part of me feels a huge responsibility to see how this plays out in court for the sake of other kids. I've always been one to fight for injustice; if I can intervene, why shouldn't I? Gah. There's just too much to think about.

So, in the next week we'll be contacting an attorney from the previously mentioned agency to see what we can do, crunching numbers with our anticipated subsidy figures and the cost of mental health professionals---and praying we make the right decision (all while parenting and teaching). If you're the praying type, please pray we would have wisdom and peace throughout this process.


2013 Recap

Last night Nate, little dude, and I rang in the new year by making (and eating) personal pizzas, playing board games, and finally, eating ice cream. Little dude made it until 9:15, and Nate and I fell asleep an hour later watching TV. Eight years ago this would not have been my ideal New Years Eve celebration. But I really can't think of a better way to ring in the new year. Typically I do my year end reflections on NYE, but my body decided it needed sleep more than reflection. So, this morning on my snowy trail run, I took time to mentally rehash 2013. Here's a quick recap of the major events:

  • I continued running and added five more half marathons to my list and a new PR. 
  • I left Gretna Public Schools with the intentions of not teaching again and then ended up taking a last minute job the day before school started at Burke. I was hesitant about taking the position, and I really wanted to stick to my guns and take a year off of the chaos, but I knew this job (and the insurance) would be better for our family's financial stability. While I still wish I didn't have papers to grade, parents to call, and long hours of planning, I am content with my decision to jump back in the teaching game. I appreciate the experience I am gaining by teaching in an urban setting; it lends new perspective to teaching. 
  • We sold our home in Ogallala and bought a new home in Omaha. It was a long road, but we finally found a home we both liked and were able to move in May. Our neighborhood is quiet, people on our street look out for one another, we have great neighbors, a park and pool at the end of our street, and are relatively close to school and other necessities. 
  • We became licensed foster parents in June and soon after added a vibrant, joyful, and intelligent four (now five) year old to our family. This has by far been the best part of our 2013. Little dude is an answer to our prayers. The transition has been no walk in the park, but when we reflect on how far he's come, we are simply astonished. We cannot wait to make it official when we can adopt him later this winter. 
  • We said goodbye to my Grandma Kush right before Christmas. This was a tough loss for the family, but we can rejoice knowing she was a believer and is now spending eternity with our Savior. 
God blessed us richly in 2013, and we're anxious to see what 2014 has in store.