#Fostering Pecans

It was the pecans.

The day before the long and awful night in which I miscarried, I had a handful of pecans while driving to the home of my last patient.  I was hungry.  I needed protein.  Pecans were an easy snack, and full of omega-ness.  I thought it was a good choice.

I know in my clinical-head that it wasn’t the pecans.  Pecans are a tree nut, and just fine during pregnancy.  The debate is over peanuts, which are actually a bean, and the controversy for them has proponents on both sides – one side saying to avoid peanuts to protect your child from getting allergies and asthma, and the other side of research (especially since 2009) saying that the nuts actually prevent allergies and asthma.

But in my mother-heart, the new found place inside me that is ready and willing to be a mother, that part of me is still looking for what went wrong.

My clinical-head argues back again, noting that this is just the bargaining stage of grief, and to let it go.

My mother-heart knows that my clinical-head is going to win, and that it’s right, and so I don’t keep arguing with myself.

But I don’t eat the pecans, either.

I am stubborn that way, even in humble submission.

They sit there in my car, the last of the same bag from that day, found yesterday in my work bag full of toys and art supplies.  The bag got tossed aside when Jessica was here for Thanksgiving, and then I did specific projects with my kid-patients before the holidays, and it’s only this week that I went back to my old routine of therapeutic games and art projects.

That’s when I found them, those guilty pecans.

That’s when my body almost lurched, unconsciously, somehow triggered by the pecans to replay the entire miscarriage scenario in my head – a vivid scene unbidden and unwanted, mixed in with memories of Nathan in a hurricane and far away from home.

I know that the pecans didn’t cause my miscarriage any more than walking around Hobby Lobby did.

But I haven’t been back to Hobby Lobby since that night, either.

The almost empty bag of pecans just sits there, staring at me, waiting to be thrown away, while my mother-heart tries explaining to my clinical-head that it’s a memory, even if a bad one, and that those pecans were happy once, almost celebratory, and no pecan deserves to be thrown away.

My clinical-head knows what’s going on, and tries not to be too dismissive while faking some soothing response.  It is just relieved to know that the mother-heart has been switched on, as if her presence somehow confirms me to be at least a real human and not just a wooden toy.  But it is confused (and somewhat irritated) that grief always has to be a part of it.

But my mother-heart knows.

Any mother-heart knows.

And my clinical-head must concede that grief and hardship has been the stuff of which my strength is made, and that it is the hard things that have grown me up, and that it is diligent endurance that has given me power – and that only by the kind of pain and truth that sends me to my knees and causes me to wrestle with God.

That, I think, is the only reason my clinical-head permitted me to sign those foster care papers.

It was not an impulse, not a naive-decision, not a scrambling-for-a-child.

It was a direct response to a call to action (thank you, Elder Oaks), a specific request for help from DHS, and following prayer and fasting and counsel together with my husband and priesthood leaders.

Naturally, my clinical-head demanded conditions to the agreement.

We set the boundaries that we cannot take in older children or do therapeutic foster care at this time in our lives, not while I am working with them already every day.  I love my work, and have already made that commitment on this contract, and until it finished that is where that part of my time and energy will go.

But if we have a really good marriage thus far, and can maintain a really good marriage by doing the very specific things that keep it good, and so have a home of happiness in which we could offer a safe space and a moment of rest for a little one waiting for a family, then it seems a specific responsibility, a specific stewardship.

To whom much is given, much is required.

My clinical-head is aware that this blog jumps straight from miscarriage to fostering, and normally would be red-flag-disturbed by this.

But honesty and self-awareness trump symptomatology, and healthy verbalization and responsive action trump wallowing in grief (or hiding from it).

The truth is that we had the foster care papers before we were even married.  We were approached in the summer, but said no at that time because our church encourages singles to focus on their own efforts of getting married and starting families before helping other families.  But now we are settled, though still new, and our paperwork has been submitted.

We talked and prayed about the fostering idea lots before we even knew I was pregnant, and began to fill them out before the miscarriage ever happened.

Now we have had a miscarriage, and have a few weeks left before we start trying again.

In the meantime, the paperwork has continued to go forward.

It has unfolded as if it was meant to be, with no difficulties despite the hoop jumping.

It has all been approved, and we have nothing left to do but to finish the training classes.

Everything DHS needed has strangely produced itself, so that applying has been simple and quick.  Even the resources of what we would suddenly need to care for a child has been found or items donated.  So many people have helped, and we are grateful.

We are not too old to have children, and certainly not too old to care for them, but we are getting a late start and do want to get our turn in for the opportunity to do so.

So this is us, jumping in as we do, even while some think we are doing things the hard way.

I had no idea so many people were so resentful against or ugly towards those who try to serve their communities and fight for families and protect children through fostering.

We don’t think it will be easy, and aren’t in it for fun and cuddles.  We know it will be hard work.

But it’s what we have to offer.

Our home is the best part of our life.  It’s what we have to give.

Caring for ourselves and each other is what we are best at, and caring is what we have to offer.

Some guys can go cut down trees with chainsaws after tornadoes, and some ladies make the perfect Relief Society doily.

I’m not a doily.

Nathan and I have the spiritual gifts, capacity, and stewardship of loving well and caring through service, and so for us this makes sense.

We don’t think it is for everyone, but it seems to be for us.

I know it will be hard work, but hard has never stopped me.

And Nathan says that he knew when he married me that he was signing up for the accelerated plan.

And we have faith in – even confidence in – the promises of specific blessings given about our experiences as foster parents.

It is the plan of happiness, and happiness always comes best through sacrifice and service.

Besides, in the plan of happiness, it says that no pecan deserves to be thrown away.

Saving pecans might make us nuts, but we are just glad to help and humbled by the opportunity to do so.  We will be here, and wage war against the adversary by fighting for families, and do what we are able to do in the effort at rescuing and blessing little ones and their families – whether it be families that learn and heal and reunite, or healthy families waiting to be found.  That is something we each learned from our own parents in different ways, and a lesson for which we are grateful.

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About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


#Fostering Pecans — 1 Comment

  1. I’m sorry that I was too “busy” to read this post until now. But because I did this paragraph jumps out to me, as a way to comfort you with your own voice, but also to encourage myself in this difficult life.

    “And my clinical-head must concede that grief and hardship has been the stuff of which my strength is made, and that it is the hard things that have grown me up, and that it is diligent endurance that has given me power – and that only by the kind of pain and truth that sends me to my knees and causes me to wrestle with God.”

    (And while your thoughts are elsewhere today, this post about foster parenting makes me love you even more, as if it were possible!)