Friday, January 18, 2013

Our 48 hour nightmare...retraumatized

It was an ordinary afternoon... I was cleaning up the kitchen from lunch, our kids headed upstairs to their work stations... ready to begin our afternoon homeschooling schedule. 
I was contemplating whether to brew myself another pot of coffee to take a breather before heading into our school room.
My thoughts were suddenly interrupted when I heard Sol screaming out my name...
I heard panic in his voice...
my husband never panics....
he is the steady one in our family...
I ran upstairs to find our sweet little 2 year old lying on the floor, eyes rolled back, unresponsive with a desperate father trying to wake her up. 
"CHRIS! CALL 911!"
My hand shaking, heart pounding...
I grabbed my cell phone and called...

It was the longest 15 minutes of my life. 
"Mommy, how come Elyana is frozen?" asked our 4 year old son
"Will she die?" asked our frightened 8 year old.

I had to keep calm. 
I have never seen my husband in such panic and our children didn't need to experience another traumatic experience. 
" It will be okay... " was all I could tell everyone. 

Paramedics came... I gently closed the door to our schoolroom and tried to proceed with homeschooling... - I had to keep going.... Head spinning. Confused. Scared.  If I break, my kids will break.
"Stay strong, Chris.. " I kept telling myself.

Then there came a knock on our school room door -
"Excuse me, maam... we will have to bring your daughter to Hoag Emergency...
by the way, do you homeschool?
don't worry Mrs., your daughter will be just fine...
my wife is really interested in homeschooling, you are doing such a great thing for your children..."

Comforted. A shot of strength came back and I was able to inhale longer breaths.

Sol left with Elyana and the Paramedics while I tried to keep the rest of our family in tact.  The only comfort I could give my children was consistency and normalcy. 
School resumed as usual.

Every 10 minutes, I received an update from Sol. 
After a while, my phone was suddenly silent... 
No more phone calls... I called and texted. 
No response.

Until... the phone call that left a pit in my stomach.
" Chris, I just finished speaking with a Social Worker and I am getting interviewed by the Police... apparently this has turned into an investigation because Elyana has a bump on her forehead from falling on the ground... let me call you back. "  - I hung up the phone and cried out to God.
"Please God.... not again!" 

Without any hesitation, I piled all 5 of my kids in the car and headed straight to the ER.
Upon arriving, we waited silently for a phone call with an update.  My van was silent until I heard a timid voice ask me " Mommy, can we please watch a DVD? "

I texted our Social Worker to let her know what was going on just in case she received a phone call. I informed close friends, one of them being a Pediatrician at the hospital where our daughter was being examined.  Within 15 minutes, this loyal and dear friend came with her children, bags of snacks and her head held up high ready to be a voice for our family.  Her children provided comfort for ours and she was the comfort and encouragement that Sol and I so desperately needed. 
Two Police officers approached our car to interview myself and all 5 of our children.  I took a deep breath and said a desperate prayer - " Jesus, please speak on our behalf.... may they see the true love we have for our children and that we have had no intention of harming any one of them."

Before I even said a word, one of the officers shared his story with us.  He turned out to be a Foster/Adoptive father himself and had endured a similiar situation just a few months ago. 
" Don't worry Christine, this is only procedure... it is our job to protect children. "
I remained calm... laughed and nearly cried with this officer knowing that he understood the 2 year old adoptive child's trauma and all that comes with adoption as parents.
Thank you Jesus.

One by one, our children went with the officers to be interviewed.  Their horrifed faces broke my heart.  We explained to the officers that our children have had traumatic experiences with police officers and pleaded with them to be gentle. 
After their interviews were complete, the officers smiled with relief as they concluded that we were a loving family and our 2 year old's head injury/seizure was not caused by us. 

Meanwhile, our daughter was getting proper care as the doctors and nurses prepared her to be transferred to another hospital.  She had suffered a seizure and her core temperature had dropped down to 91 degrees.

Another hour passed by as we waited with the officers for a Social Worker from Child Protective Services to come and interview us.  Once again, we wondered... " would we be falsely accused.... again? What's wrong with Elyana? Does she have serious medical conditions, we aren't aware of? " We have absolutely no medical history of our daughter but we have always been concerned that she wasn't absorbing anything she ate. Her stomach would swell up with eating the smallest portion of food and she would eat as though she was never full.  We felt helpless.  With poor absorption and malnourishment... would they blame us?  Would they accuse us of her being underweight?  Maybe this was God's sovereign way of getting immediate help for her.  or what if..... what if our world crashed (again) and they decide to find us guilty before proven innocent. 
Once again, we were traumatized. Retraumatized. 
I had to find strength.... strength in God and be steady for my husband and our children.  Up until now, Sol has held our family was time for him to just be and let me keep the ship from sinking.

The Social Worker finally came. 
He provided the most pleasant experience for all 7 of us.  One by one, we sat with him and were interviewed. 
During the very last interview with our 10 year old son, our dear friend sat with him and heard the CPS Social Worker give these last words to our son:
" Derick, I have one more thing to tell you.  Your parents have done a wonderful thing for you.  Go out there, make good choices and be responsible." 

Before leaving the ER, this dear man, a CPS Social Worker relieved us from our "what ifs" and told us we were clear.
As grateful as we were, we were still very traumatized.  If we hadn't experienced our previous incident in Ghana, I don't think we would have felt such tremendous anxiety and fear. 

As we stepped out of the ER, one of the nurses came running out to give me a big hug.  Out of breath, she said " You don't know how much you blessed us today.  You and your husband have done an amazing thing for your children.  I am so inpired. Please don't ever forget." 
Once again, I knew God's hand had never left us alone.

The CHOC ambulance came and transferred Sol and Elyana to the hospital. Our dear friends stepped into care for all 5 of our children to allow me to go to the hospital. 
Sweet friends met us at the hospital to provide comfort and keep us sane.
So grateful. 

During our time at the hospital, our sweet and tough little girl had every possible test done. The bumps on her head were concluded " to be part of the actual shape of her cute head. "
We were then interrogated by doctors as to why Elyana is so underweight. 
If only, we knew why!  Suddenly we felt as if we were under a microscope.... they were trying to find anything and everything wrong with us.
We were spiraling down again...

Elyana getting an EEG to test for seizure activity
Thankfully, we were able to document and videotape her eating and the size of her stomach afterwards.  After convincing the doctors of the amount of nutrients I try to give her at home and the amount of food that she could eat and cannot absorb... they came to an agreement... we were not crazy. 

After an agonizing 48 hours, our dear Elyana was finally discharged.  Although she has a journey of healing ahead of her, we are grateful to finally be home with her.

Sol and I journal everything she eats, we measure her stomach size and we document every temper tantrum she has where she injurs herself.  
I am thankful that there are Social Workers and Police officers out there that are sincerely protecting children.  But I also know that we have to do everything within our means to protect our own children and we cannot take that lightly. 

Our journey continues...
Last night as we drove away from the hospital, Sol and I both looked at each other, took a deep breath and laughed with relief.
  " We are a pretty tough couple." Sol said with a sigh.
It has given us such a different perspective of life.... yet again.
We are reminded that life is fragile... we cannot take it or our children's lives for granted. 


Monday, January 14, 2013

Cultivating thankfulness.

All 6 of our children, struggle with entitlement on various levels.  It has driven us to a point where we decided there has to be some cure for this mentality of " mom and dad are their loving providers and care givers, so they MUST give them everything they ask for... or NOT?   Sol and I have made very intentional decisions of not parenting out of "what feels good" to us but rather "what is best for our children... long-term." We seek God daily to give us wisdom on how to teach our children life lessons. Courage. Integrity. Humility. Discipline. Contentment. Generosity. Thankfulness. 
Right before Christmas, we decided that our gift giving was going to be very minimal. We kindly asked family members to hold on to their gifts for our children and explained to them why.  We truly wanted to celebrate Christ's birth, live and breathe thankfulness and understand what it means to be content.  As someone that loves giving gifts, it was difficult for me.  But Sol and I both felt this was best for them. We still gave, but we gave minimally, they gave to each other and we let Christmas reflect its true meaning. We also gave each of our children a journal to begin their personal journey of Thankfulness.  Every morning, before breakfast they write 3 things that they are thankful for. 
Cultivating thankfulness. 

A glimpse into a couple of our children's thankful journals

I realize that in spite of all the headaches, emotional roller coasters and many tears shed from feeling completely taken, manipulated and "bully like" attitudes, I also must choose to be thankful.   We have SO much to be thankful for and I don't want a single moment to pass by where I miss seeing the beauty hidden in the pain of what our children carry. Within the past month, our 7 year old daughter (my Mt. Rainier) has intentionally made some positive changes.  Because of all the ups and downs we have had with her, I still find myself hyper vigilant... I want to relax and yet I'm anticipating her next episode... because realistically, 1 month isn't long enough.  In all honesty, I find myself guarding my heart instead of embracing her courageous choices. It's convicting to know that while I am encouraging her and the rest of my children to be thankful... I am struggling to do the same.  I want to celebrate. I want to be thankful. I want to breathe it all in and just be in this moment with our daughter.  After all, I should be thanking God for her heart and the conviction He has given her to make better choices. 

It's a journey...
A few days ago, our 10 year old son decided he was better off without us.  His "fight" has begun and now we have yet another Mt. Rainer to embark on.  He has lived 10 years of his life with a "survival" mentality.  He was never taught how to deal with his emotions in a "safe and respectful" way.  His education was extremely poor and traumatizing...every time he didn't understand, complete his work or asked a question, he would get beaten. As a result, he learned to fake competency. The reality is...
our son desperately needs to heal. 
We have and are seeking proper help for him and yet at the same time... 10 years of his life has already passed. 
As much as our heart aches for his past - the losses he experienced and the lies he was told as a child... it IS our job to guide him in the right way and provide a safe and loving home for him. There are certain behaviors and attitudes that we don't let slide by us and we make sure he is fully aware of it.  Unfortunately, he is used to living a life of his own... And just like his sister...he is fighting for control. 
Thankfully, my husband who began his life on the streets at the age of 12, has more than enough street smarts to outsmart our son.  But it doesn't make it any easier... our push/pull dance with our son has now begun and we may as well be here for a very long time. 
So, where and how does thankfulness fit in here?
Can I be thankful when we feel like we have given the "world" to our son and he simply rejects it with an attitude of  " I deserve better than this," threatens to leave and walks out the front door?
My answer is yes.  I have to be.  At this point, thankfulness cannot be based on my circumstances or on his behavior.  He is our son. We fought for him in Ghana and we will always fight for him. 
The fight isn't easy. 
But we never signed up for "easy." 
... I know I have to cultivate a heart of gratitude within my own heart.  I can't expect my children to walk in thankfulness if I'm not willing to walk the journey with them.
My prayer is that within each trial and outburst that we face with our children, I can still praise God and know that He designed each one so uniquely to fit perfectly in our family. 
Although I can't push my children to heal, I will do what I can to help them choose to heal. Every morning as I hand each child all of their vitamins, I pray desperately that God uses it to bless and heal their bodies.

And then I pray that He gives my children a lot of laughter.
Laughter is healing.

Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God,
and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.
- J.W. Tozer
Although our first Christmas together started out with hours of meltdowns and defiance... we still captured some smiles.
"The best way to show my gratitude to God is
to accept everything, even my problems, with joy."
- Mother Teresa
I just want to say "thank you" to all of you that have written me such encouraging, life giving words.  Even though its difficult to find time to reply to your messages, please know that it blesses me more than you will ever know.  May God bless you as you continue to embark on the journey He has for you.