Sunday, April 21, 2013

Springing

Oh, I am so ready for spring! I'm tired of the cold shadows and I'm craving bright colors, especially yellow, reflected in bright sunshine. So when I saw these bright yellow clothes in the store, I had to buy them for the girls' Easter outfits. On Easter morning, we dressed them in their new outfits and took them to church. When we got home, Elizabeth went down for a nap while Evie decorated some eggs with Mommy and Daddy.
While she finished with that, Todd and I hid candy-filled plastic eggs all around the back yard. We saved some aside for when Elizabeth woke up, but most of them were hidden for Evie. We armed her with a huge basket and let her loose! Following her around with my camera on video, I got some funny scenes!
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Once all of the eggs were collected and opened, and Elizabeth had woken up, we moved around to the front porch to enjoy the bright, warm sunshine and the yummy treats. I must say, though, that as bright as the sunshine and the yellow clothes are, they are still dimmed by the brightness of my sweet girls' brilliant smiles!
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Yesterday, a couple of weeks after Easter, our family had our pictures taken. Once again wearing their complementary yellow outfits, the girls looked very spring-like, and Todd and I dressed in white to match them. The girls cooperated with the photographer better than I even imagined, and as a result, we got some of my very favorite family pictures so far!
Oh, my girls are so sweet and pretty!
This is the first professional picture of just the two of us since our wedding almost 4 years ago!
And look what those 4 years have brought us!
20 bare piggy-toes, ready for spring!
Who could resist picking up such a sweetie?
I'm always amazed at how smart and funny Evie is.
She loves standing up now and showing off her new skill!
That's my happy girl!
And my other happy girl!
"Shhh! Don't tell anyone about how cute I am; it'll make all the other babies out there jealous!"
Our precious family.
She's been practicing cocking the one eyebrow.
Cute from every angle.
This grin sometimes seems like a permanent fixture of Evie's cute little face.
Sisters!
I'm always impressed that, despite their different coloring, it's obvious my girls are sisters.
I defy anyone to look at that face and not smile back.
I love the sweet innocence in those bright blue eyes!
A close-up of the cuteness!
Evie's turn in the chair.
I also love how such dark eyes can radiate such joy and light.
I can't remember my life before this smile started lighting it up!
Spring is now here, chasing away the shadows of winter. But I'm grateful that well before the weather turned warmer, I had such sunbeams in my family, lighting up my life!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The CRISIS

For a while now, I haven't known how--or even whether--to write this post. But this event has had a real impact on our family, and on me personally, and I feel the need to get it off of my chest so I can start to heal.

On the 25th of last month, the day after I posted the pictures of Evie's birthday party and her zoo trip, I was still coming down off of the high of a great week spent celebrating my little girl, when I got a knock on the front door. A lady standing on the porch identified herself as from social services and asked to come in. I sat down on the couch and felt my world crumble as she told me that someone "anonymously" called them to voice a concern for the well-being of my babies. I can't even remember everything she said; all I can remember is a whirl of words and phrases like "skeletal," "not eating enough," "no doctor visits," "tiny," "afraid," and "take away."

Let me side-step for just a minute to clear something up. I had been nursing Elizabeth exclusively for the first six months of her life, which is what I wanted to do for Evie, too, but hadn't been able to manage. So I was very proud of having succeeded in my goal with Elizabeth, but it was a fragile pride because I was still very nervous about failing to help her thrive. So I had made a joke to some friends and family that I was almost afraid to take her to the doctor in case she was still too little and the doctor got concerned enough to call social services to take her away. From what I can piece together, someone had taken my joke way too seriously, and had interpreted that to mean that I never took my babies to their pediatrician appointments. And instead of talking to me about their concern for whether or not Elizabeth (and Evie, too, it later came out) was getting enough to eat, this "well-meaning soul" had gone straight to the government to call me out.

At this point, I bless my mother-in-law. When she heard what was going on in the living room, she came out, sat next to me, and defended my actions as a mother to this lady while I was still wrapping my head around the nightmare that had become my life. She told the social worker that I was a great mother, and she saw all of the love and care and fun that I poured onto my kids on a daily basis. The social worker asked me questions about what I fed my children, and asked to see the baby food we were feeding Elizabeth. I had to show her the few remaining jars and explain that I was still mostly nursing. She asked me questions about how Todd and I dealt with disputes in our relationship and how we disciplined our children. I showed her my doctor charts with proof that I was, in fact, taking my children to regularly scheduled pediatrician appointments, and they were both current on their vaccines. She asked what my height was, as well as Todd's. She asked to see Elizabeth for herself, but Elizabeth was taking a nap. I somewhat sarcastically asked if she wanted me to wake my sleeping child for her, and she said yes. So I woke Elizabeth up from her nap and brought her upstairs to be judged. Evie had been playing quietly downstairs by herself and had apparently taken all of her clothes off, because she followed me up the stairs--stark naked. I was sure that her nudity was the final nail in my coffin. No one is going to let a mother keep children whom she can't even keep clothed, right?

Finally, after what felt like an eternity of hell, but what was probably only an hour, the social worker turned to me, and said that she still needed to have a phone conversation with Todd, but what she had seen and heard from me seemed sufficient to clear us of any concern. My babies didn't seem to her to be skeletal at all; in fact she thought they were perfectly fine, and seemed well-adjusted. After talking with Todd, and writing up her report, she would send us a copy of the report saying that the accusations had been looked into, and found to be baseless. However, we now have a permanent record of having social services visit us, even though we've done nothing wrong.

When she left, I was still shaking from the gamut of negative emotions coursing through me: anger, shock, terror, hurt, betrayal, outrage. I wanted to know who had done this to me, but I was also a little glad that I didn't because I've never been so furious in my entire life: who the hell does something like this?? Who did this person think he/she was? It's no one else's damn business how we raise our children! I felt so betrayed: whoever had done this was someone I had trusted, but they hadn't seen fit to talk to me in person about my own children. Instead, they had gone to an institution that I trust least of all--the government! I called Todd at work to let him know what had happened and to be expecting a call from social services, and he was silent until I started sobbing on the phone. I told him all that I was feeling, and that I had never felt so hurt because I had thought I was doing a pretty good job of being a good mommy--I would gladly die for my children!--but instead someone had come along and told me I was a bad mother. And in a quietly contained fury, he replied, "No, someone told the government that you're a bad mother. That's even worse!" He told me he loved me and would be home soon, then we had to hang up. I didn't have any idea what to do next, so I reached for the phone again and called my parents. My mom answered with "Hi, sweetie! How are you?" and I dissolved. I heard my dad pick up the other line as I poured out the whole story. I cried like I haven't cried since I was a little girl myself, and I could feel outrage mixed with love and concern for me radiating through the phone. When I was finally done talking, my mom simply said, "Well, we think you're a wonderful little mommy. We see how much you love those little girls, and we're so proud of the choices you've made." My dad said, "Yeah, and we're so sorry that someone betrayed you like this. I wish we were there and could give you a hug, because I know you could really use one. Be sure to get one from Todd when he gets home, and make sure to give one to him, too. I'm sure that he's hurting, too." Then they promised to keep us in their prayers, and we hung up.

After I got off the phone, I expelled my excess energy by cleaning the house like never before, in terror that the cops were going to show up at any moment, take a look at our living situation, and pry my daughters out of my arms. In fact, I had nightmares every night for a solid week that my precious girls were still going to be taken away. Even after the nightmares faded away, and we got the report in the mail, I was still hurting. I still had no idea who had done this, and so I had no idea who to trust. I had been really striving to make friends in the ward and to open up with nearby family, but I suddenly felt more isolated than ever before. Based on the wording of the accusations, we were sure the tattle-tale was either a member of Todd's family, or a member of our ward. Easter Sunday, we begged the bishop for a meeting. We told him what had happened, and asked for his help to discretely poke around to see if anything came out. He told us that he hadn't heard anything so far, and that if it had been someone in the ward, then it definitely should have gone through him before ever going to the government, but he agreed to keep his ear to the ground for us. Meanwhile, Todd and I quietly pulled aside our home/visiting teachers as well as each of his siblings and told them what had happened, watching closely for any flicker of guilt, but everyone seemed genuinely shocked and horrified.

Now, a month later, we still have no clues as to who it could be. We're trying to cautiously recover. We're going about our lives and trying to enjoy things as we used to, but it's hard for me. I still spend time with my friends, but I'm a lot quieter and keep a lot more to myself, which seems so foreign to me since I'm usually a bubbly, outgoing person. And I go through the motions of planning events and having fun with my family, but the kernel of joy and spontaneity is gone. Because, really, what's the point? Why should I give so much of myself so freely, when it could all be snatched away in an instant? An irrational part of my soul says that being a "good mommy" is what got me into this mess, so now I should just be mediocre and distance myself as much as possible. And in that way, I feel that this social services visit was a bit ironic: I think that the goal is to make parents and families better than before, but I feel like I'm a worse mother than before. The part of me that tries hard and gives a damn is in a coma, and I really hope that it can eventually feel safe enough to wake back up before it's lost forever.