After making the hour long drive from the MCFD to my home I stop the car and look up to see my husband, Klaus, sitting on our split rail fence waiting. The babies had been giggling and happy the whole ride home. Klaus jumps off the fence and beams his big smile through the car window, the babies smile back. We each grab a child and bring them into the house.
Within minutes, my son David, Elijah’s father, rolls into the driveway. I can only imagine the overwhelming feeling of relief he must have felt coming into the house and seeing his beautiful baby safe and healthy. He scoped Elijah into his arms.
My daughter Leanne arrived, her car filled with donations from friends and co-workers: play pen, wooden crib, toys and clothes. David had brought a highchair and baby bottles. The mayhem began, safety latches installed, cribs assembled, dinner for the kids, and baby gates puzzled over, all the while time ticks along as bedtime approaches.
“Mom, there’s pieces missing from the crib, I can’t set it up.”
“Hey, the baby gates are too small for our staircase”
“I think someone’s filled their pants, we should open one of the cases of diapers. Eeewww”
“The sippy cups are leaking everywhere, I think we put them together wrong”
“The baby is pulling all your antique books off the shelf…isn’t that shelf supposed to be bolted to the wall?”
“Someone please stop Daniel from smashing the glass coffee table with that metal toy!”
Diapers are changed, tags are ripped off the new pajamas, babies get snuggled in their new flannel onesies, and milk filled baby bottles are plugged into tiny mouths. Bedtime approaches with only one crib and two babies.
My husband, Klaus, who has never had children, or even been around children, is stationed on the couch with a baby on each side. I dash upstairs where Leanne and David are struggling to assemble the incomplete crib.
“Get on Facebook and find a crib, we need one in half an hour or less!” With our phones, we stood in a circle, heads down like we were in a group prayer, typing out our desperate plea.
“Got one!!” David shouted. He jumped into his truck and roared off to pick up the playpen/crib.
And somehow it all came together. By 7:30, the babies were sleeping happily in their little beds with their brand new blankets and stuffed toys, each a perfect little Anne Geddes’ flower.
I walked into the MCFD main lobby and checked in with the front desk clerk. Megan, the social worker, came out and said the kids were on the way and asked if I could I sign some papers. She said she would be right back and sauntered off through a door and disappeared.
Behind me I heard a kerfuffle and when I spun around I looked into the bright blue eyes of my youngest grandson, Elijah. He was perched on the hip of a tiny older woman whom I guessed was the foster mom. She smiled and handed him to me. I watched as Daniel hopped onto the pleather couch and began jumping up and down. Meagan appeared like magic and told Daniel to sit, which he, also like magic, did instantly. I thought to myself, ‘oh, good, he seems well behaved.’ (Omg, I was niave).
The foster mom handed me a small bag which contained one bottle, a tin of formula, a couple of diapers and a t-shirt. The t-shirt was emblazoned with words ‘Captain Mayhem’ and no words could more true. She said Daniel doesn’t nap and both boys go to bed at 6:30, then she was gone.
Megan had vanished again, Elijah squirmed out of my arms and began crawling on the floor while Daniel resumed his trampoline act on the couch. I told Daniel to sit, exactly the way the social worker had said it, and Daniel beamed ear to ear jumping higher and higher. I gently put my hands on Daniels shoulders and told him to stop jumping, he catapulted off the couch, dashed to the toys in the corner and started tossing them to the floor. Elijah, meanwhile had found a tray of crayons and was munching happily on the Burnt Sienna. I picked up the tray of crayons, fished out the little chunks of wax from Elijah’s mouth and put the crayons up onto a counter.
A young mom, sitting with her restless child, bobbed her head side to side, and said, “They’re non-toxic.”
“Ahhh, yes, that’s probably true, but I still don’t want him eating them.” The young mom shrugged her shoulders and looked away.
Finally, Megan and her colleague emerged and informed me the car seats were now going to be installed. We carried the boys downstairs and headed outside to my car. A mere 45 minutes later the seats were installed and the babies were buckled in.
Before I got into the driver’s seat, Megan said, “Have a good weekend!”
The other social worker said with a big smile “Good luck!”
I started the engine and looked back at two angelic little faces, both smiling at me. Ok here we go, I thought as I headed for home.
I’m walking through Walmart in a surreal twilight-zone state of mind. Less than 24 hours earlier, I had learned that I was about to become the full time caregiver to not one baby but two babies. Daniel, just two years old and his one year old baby brother, Elijah. That morning I was on the phone with the boys’ social worker who arranged for a home visit at 11am. A home visit is when a social worker comes to your house and looks in every room, every closet, the pantry, mud room, laundry room, every bedroom and bathroom, the garage and the yard. Yeah, at the end of the visit there are no secrets, she has seen everything. Am I a clean freak by nature? AAAh no. Did I care that morning? Maybe a little (a lot).
Before the home visit, I dashed off to the local grocery store to buy what I hoped would be baby friendly food such as animal shaped cookies and pasta, fishy crackers, eggs, peanut butter, chicken and fish (I’m vegetarian so figured I should buy some meat products for the children), fruit cups and frozen veggies, sippy cups, toothbrushes and bubble-gum flavoured toothpaste. Then I raced home for the visit.
The social worker, after inspecting our messy house gave us the stamp of approval, after all children are coming to live with us not the Queen. Before she left our home she had me prepare my Walmart shopping list. Baby gates, electrical plugs, fire extinguisher, interior door looks, two cases of diapers, one for each child, case of baby wipes, t-shirts, shorts, pants, socks, shoes, sweaters, baby blankets, crib sheets (oh my god I need to find two cribs and two high chairs), and two car seats.
I was told to buy all the items on the list and then drive to the MCFD office by 3:30pm to pick up the children.
By the time I arrived at Walmart I had an hour and a half to do the shopping. I cruised around the baby section and started grabbing the items like some dazed Price Is Right contestant. As the item began to pile up in the buggy I found it more and more difficult to see over the huge pile of stuff and people started to look at me with shock and humour. “Are you having twins?” was the main comment. “Hahaha, something like that.” Was my hysterical answer.
Pulling the buggy behind me, since I could no longer see over, I headed to the check out. The young checkout girl started to ring up the items and wisely called for a packer to help me out to my car.
“That will $808.65.”
I pulled out my interact card and said, “I hope I have enough money.”
The check out girl looked very sad and said ”I hope so too.” YES! Approved! Both of us sighed with relief.
I now had $23.00 left to my name and was about to drive downtown and pick up two babies. Deep breath in, put my car in drive and off I drove to The Ministry of Children’s and Families.
God help me.
After several sleepless nights, I awoke, on a Thursday morning May 20th 2016, with thoughts of driving my car through the front doors of the Ministry of Children and Families and screaming “GIVE ME MY GRANDSON!!”
The nightmare had begun a couple of days earlier when I received a call from my son, David, telling me his one year old baby, Elijah and Elijah’s two year old brother, Daniel, were in a foster home. David’s ex-girlfriend Brianna had had the children with her for the past few weeks and David was trying to obtain legal shared custody. While in her care, the children had been apprehended by the MCFD and placed in a temporary foster home. Two days later, David received a msg from one of Brianna’s relatives telling him that his son was in an unknown foster home. David called me right away and for the next 48 hours we desperately tried to find out where the kids were and how we could get Elijah back.
David and I made desperate calls to MCFD trying to find out information but our calls were left unanswered. Two frustrating days later, I transformed into “Psycho-Mother Bear” (my superhero form) and, as the saying goes, come hell or high water I was getting my grandson!
The next morning, although I was fully prepared to jump in my car, drive like a mad woman to the nearest MCFD office and demand they handover my grandson, I made my last attempt at calling a ministry worker and by some miracle my call was answered. The social worker assigned to Elijah’s file, Megan, apologized for not calling sooner (my eyes rolled) and we discussed the situation. As the call progressed Megan determined that I was the best candidate to take over the care of Elijah until David could be given custody. I was flooded with relief knowing Elijah would be back with his family.
Then Megan asked me a question that would forever change the path of my life, “What about Daniel?”
I started to cry and said, “I love him.” I had known Daniel since he was 7 months old when David and Brianna had started dating.
“Will you take Daniel too?” I thought for a few seconds about the enormous responsibility of taking on this second child and said, “Absolutely.”
Thus began the journey of raising my ‘chosen’ grandson, Daniel.