Can you tell me a little bit about your current journey since you’ve been so open about it?
“After Kevin, because I was so sick, we didn’t even have the conversation about biologically having more kids until he was two. I felt like my body underwent a lot of trauma being pregnant; plus, I breastfed him for a year, and I didn’t really like breastfeeding. I think if I’m being honest, in retrospect, I did it more out of guilt and duty or something, like this is what a mom is “supposed” to do. Breastfeeding was painful for me, and I’m not sure it’s something I would do again.
And in addition to physically recovering, we were adjusting to life with a baby, so waiting a couple of years felt like the best course of action for our family. After two years, we revisited the adoption conversation. At that point we’d been working diligently to get out of debt, so we were still not in a place where we could afford adoption. So we were like, ‘Ok, how can we do this in a way that is financially responsible, servant-minded, and help us grow our family?’ After a lot of research and conversation, we decided to pursue foster care.
I think the initial idea was actually pretty selfish on our part. We wanted to grow our family in a financially responsible way, and it was more of a second tier priority that it would help others. But as our conversation and research evolved, we drastically changed our mindset about foster care leading to adoption and took on more of the mentality of the goal being reunification. We realized that any other way of thinking would be a perspective of privilege, and we weren’t comfortable with that. Just because I’m not the parent who’s hurting doesn’t mean I’m a better parent. I may be able to temporarily offer a more stable living condition, but I am certainly not a better parent or person. At the end of the day, they’re a person, and I’m a person, and we both just want to love their child.
So our goal is just to provide a loving home and be loving people in the hopes that that child can reunite with his or her family. And should the opportunity ever present itself, we would always be willing to adopt that child, but that’s not our ultimate goal anymore.
Timeline wise, we started the process of becoming licensed foster parents in April of 2017. If I could use one word to describe the process, it would be “invasive.” We took classes, filled out many, many forms, sat for interviews, and even moved to accommodate new littles. We were finally approved in November of 2017, 2.5 months after our paperwork was completely submitted.
However, in the first week of October of 2017, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I had my first anxiety attack in October of 2016, but through doing things like reading, writing, seeing a counselor, taking daily walks, and continuing to eat well, it got better. So from February 2017 until October 2017, I felt normal. I felt like me, and it was good. And then in October of 2017, the week before Kevin’s third birthday, I had another anxiety attack. And this time, it didn’t go away. After an emergency meeting with my counselor and an appointment with my general practitioner, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. The diagnosis felt shocking. I’ve always considered myself to be a really happy person, and I didn’t understand how one day I felt on top of the world, and the next day I felt like the world was ending. So that denial was really, really tough. Plus, it was the week before Kevin’s birthday and two weeks before my brother’s wedding, so the timing was horrible. Additionally, my anxiety and depression manifest themselves by physically ravaging my body, so I throw up repeatedly, making the whole experience just super uncomfortable.
After a few weeks of feeling like I was in a living hell, I finally got to the point where I thought that maybe I should try medicine. I still hadn’t told anyone except for Brendan, and it felt like it was becoming too big of a burden for him to carry. So I told both of our immediate families and my four best friends, and that was a huge relief. And then I realized that once I told them, I was no longer in denial, and it was time to do something about it. So I started taking medicine. The first medicine I took I was on for two and a half weeks, and it took things from really bad to significantly worse. That first medicine was truly, truly terrible. One of the worst side effects was pacing, and for hours every day, my body would make me pace. I don’t even know how you explain that medicine makes you pace, but I could not sit down. It was like my brain was programmed to pace our house. I felt very off, and Brendan described me as robotic. He said he felt very lonely during that time. I started to have crazy thoughts that I knew were irrational - I knew that what I was thinking was crazy, but I couldn’t help it. My most persistent thought was ‘Why are we here; what’s the point of all of this?’ So many things were triggers for me. I couldn’t interact in normal life. Phrases like ‘You’re killing me’ would set me off, you know, like things people say in passing at the grocery store would set me off. So that medicine didn’t work well for me.
So I started a new one, and during my time on the first medicine, I took a genetic psych test. It’s where the doctor swabs your cheek and sends the swab away to a lab to determine which anxiety and depression medicines fall into green, yellow, and red categories for your genetic makeup. And the medicine I was on first fell into my yellow category, so it made sense that I was having an adverse reaction. The next medicine I tried was in my green category, and that alone made me feel cautiously optimistic, a feeling I desperately needed to experience at the time. It took me 4 weeks to build up to the full dose, and around week 2 on the full dose, I started feeling better, and it was a slow progression to feeling really great.
Unfortunately, we got the call for our first placement the day I started the new medicine. At that point, we weren’t ready for a placement, deciding to put my health first for the time being. We made the decision to have two full months of me “feeling like me” before we called and said we were ready to open ourselves up to a foster placement again.
We’ve gotten in a good rhythm where I exercise every night; we eat super healthy; and I’ve been doing a lot of reading and a lot of spending time with friends. I need the full balance of stuff. Everything needs to be in the right orbit for me. I need to feel in good relationship with my people; I need to feel balanced within myself, and I need to eat well and take care of my body. And when I do those things, everything feels like it comes together. And I think some people are able to go through life and things can kind of teeter - I’m just not someone who can teeter, like If I teeter, I fall. So I think it’s partly been learning myself, learning how I function. But it’s been hard.
With anxiety, there’s not this stigma about it. When you say you’re anxious everyone’s like, ‘oh yeah me too’ and it’s accepted. When you say you’re depressed everyone’s like ‘oh my gosh are you ok, like are you going to kill yourself?’ Depression is another beast. It’s an interesting combination to be anxious and depressed together. I don’t have the feeling of ‘Oh I need to lay in bed.’ A couple days I have felt like I can’t do anything and am lethargic, but for the most part I have feelings like ‘We’ve got to be helping the world, and saving people!’ And it’s jarring. So I think the medicine does something with the chemicals in my brain and allows everyone to breathe, like ‘Go back to your neutral corners, contestants!’
When I first had that first anxiety attack, I wanted to hide from Kevin, like I wanted him to not see mommy hurting. I remember thinking ‘He’s only two years old, does he really need to deal with this? This seems early for real life struggles.’ And now I feel like, ‘Man what a gift I get to give my kid. He gets to learn empathy and compassion at such a young age and what a gift that in our home, no one wears a mask and everyone is free to be who they really are.’ I recognize in him some of the tendencies I had when as a kid, and depression is genetic in my family. So on my worst days, when I don’t feel like helping myself, I just think, ‘I’ve got to learn how to overcome this because Kevin may go through this someday, and I walk to be able to walk him through, so I need to help myself.’”