The risks and rewards of motherhood


When my daughter was born, the first, strongest emotion I felt was crushing anxiety. A worrier by nature, I should have expected that the love and responsibility I felt for this new soul would manifest itself in a sudden surge of worry.

I worried about everything. I worried about whether she was eating enough, being held enough, having enough developmentally enriching experiences. I worried about the world she was going to grow up in, and the kind of people she would meet along the way.

My heightened stress was primed during the pregnancy, which was considered risky due to the higher-than-average possibility our child would be born with spina bifida or other spinal abnormalities. But in spite of the risk and the worries, my husband and I welcomed a perfectly healthy baby into the world. A healthy baby who never slept.

The first couple of years are a blur due to extreme sleep deprivation, but I do have a fuzzy memory of asking the pediatrician at one point – or perhaps at every single checkup – whether it was really OK for my daughter to sleep only 20 minutes at a time every two hours. I may also have inquired about baby sleeping pills. He chuckled that she was growing steadily and developing normally, so I shouldn’t worry about it. Some babies just don’t need much sleep.

My daughter is 12 now, on the cusp of becoming a teenager, and she still doesn’t need much sleep. On school nights, she’s up with her dad and me until almost 10 p.m.

This time together each night has been a saving grace since we welcomed her little brother into our household; he conks out hours earlier, leaving the rest of us to enjoy some much-needed peace and quiet.

That’s right: I signed up for a second child – and double the worry.

And my son certainly gives me plenty to worry about. He is a gung-ho risk-taker who once dived, head-first, off that train in the children’s play area in the mall. And off the top bunk in his sister’s room. And from the pine tree in the back yard. I may never understand his enduring need to jump off of things – or why he so often softened his landings with his head.

He also had chronic ear infections when he was younger, until we had ear tubes put in, and now he keeps finding ways to break off pieces of the braces on his teeth (a first for the orthodontist).

Aside from the usual parental worries, I share a lot of the same concerns as other parents of adopted children. We didn’t meet my son until he was 4 ½ years old, and he had had a pretty rough life before then. Reading his file for the first time, there was a lot in there to worry a parent. And of course I worried about how he would fit in with our family, and whether we could be the kind of parents he needed, and most of all, how our daughter might be affected.

There were many, many things to worry about, and I worried about all of them. Now that my son is about to turn 10, I find that a lot of those old anxieties have faded – only to be replaced with new ones. It seems there’s always something to worry about.

There are no guarantees in life, and nobody can know what the future will bring. These are the clichés that haunt parents who only want some assurance that our children will grow up healthy, happy and safe, but who know all too well that sickness, sadness and death can strike at any moment.

It probably doesn’t help that I work at a newspaper. For me, there’s no escaping the news about North Korea’s latest missile test, or the most recent air pollution study, or the child molester who was just released from jail. I’m sometimes the only person to read some of the worst of the profanity-ridden, mean-spirited letters to the editor – letters written by people who live right here in our community – that never make it to print.

It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Just how crazy are we parents, to bring children into this crazy world? And why on earth would we want to make ourselves even crazier by going through the agonizing process of foster care and adoption?

I struggle to explain my reasoning every few months or so, when my husband and I speak to panels of prospective foster parents for the Dan Fox Family Care Program, the amazing local organization that matched us with our amazing son and which continues to support us in so many important ways. We try to simultaneously warn these foster-parents-to-be about all the heartbreaking things they will probably experience, including the possibility that their foster child will be reunited with his or her birth family, while still encouraging them to go for it anyway.

But why? Why would anyone sign up for that?

Well, why not. Why not accept a little less security, in order to give a child a little more security? Why not gamble on your own heartbreak, to improve the odds that a child’s heart won’t be broken?

Isn’t that what parents do?

I know well enough that no parent is perfect. We all make mistakes. But if we are willing to work at it, and if we are willing to ask for help when we need it, and if we are very lucky, we might find that the rewards of parenthood are somehow worth the risks. Because it’s our children who will reap those rewards.

And knowing that helps ease this mom’s worried mind. A little.

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Missoula couple named Foster Parents of the Year

Wow, congratulations – and thank you – to Kim and Tyson Moore. The Missoula couple are this year’s Montana Foster Parents of the Year.  So if you see them around town with their kids – they have two bio kids, a foster kid and are adopting a 1-year-old foster child – give them a round of applause.

Another Missoulian you’ll want to applaud: Cori Stern, who is being given the CASA Volunteer of the Year award.

Read on for more details on the awards ceremony this Monday, as well as the full list of Montanans receiving awards for their work preventing child abuse and neglect:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Butte couple adopts five siblings

“It is my quintuple pleasure,” attorney Mary Kay Starin says in this heartwarming story about a day of adoptions in Butte.

The five siblings were removed from their birth parents’ home by Child Protective Services and placed with the LaPiers, who are relatives, on a foster-case basis at first. Nearly three years later, the day of adoption has arrived.

Congrats to all!

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Foster parent education sessions

As it’s National Adoption Awareness Month, all through November you can expect to see a lot of stories about the processes, challenges and outcomes involved with adoption.

TODAY, for one, is running a week-long series on adoption. Today’s segment, “Adoption challenges: It’s worth it – but it’s not easy,” includes some tips from adoption experts for prospective parents. The third tip made me laugh: “Keep your mind on your end goal. Therese thinks the pain of labor must be similar to the grueling adoption process: It’s horrible while you’re in it, but the memory of the pain fades away when your baby is in your arms.”

As someone who’s been lucky enough to experience both birth and adoption, I think that’s totally true. Although we finalized our adoption in August and I still have nightmares about missing paperwork.

If you’re interested in sharing my nightmares, another TODAY segment lists a few suggestions to help you get started. The first step, it says, is to decide which kind of adoption is right for you.

But how do you decide?

My family went with the Dan Fox Family Care Program at Youth Homes, and we highly recommend it. The awesome staff there offers a regular series of Foster Parent Education sessions, and it’s a great way to learn more about this particular kind of adoption without any commitment or cost.

Watch this short (eight and half minutes is all!) documentary featuring actual parents who have worked with the program, try not to cry, then call 541-1664 to sign up for the next session.

The next series will start in January. Here’s the full schedule.

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Our adoption story

One summer day, Willow and your dad and I were walking home from the farmer’s market when we passed a table. And who was at that table? Bill! You remember Bill, don’t you?

Well, Bill gave us all kinds of information about foster care and adoption. We took it home and read it and we decided that, yes, this is how we would find you.

So we took lots and lots of classes, and we filled out lots and lots of paperwork, and we got our house all ready for you, which was hard to do because we didn’t know if you were a boy or girl, or how old you were, or what kinds of things you liked and what kinds of things you hated.

Then we waited and waited and waited. One day we got a call about a little kid who needed a home, so we went to the office and read about this kid – but you know what? That kid just wasn’t the right fit for our family. That kid went to live with some other family.

So we waited and waited and waited, until one day we got another call about another kid who needed a home, so we went to the office again and we read about this kid, who was actually a newborn baby. But you know what? That baby wasn’t the right fit for our family either. That baby went to live with some other family.

We waited and waited and waited some more, until we were very tired of waiting. Then we got a call about TWO kids who needed a family. They were sisters, and they were the cutest pair you ever saw. We wanted very much to be the right family for these two, but it turns out, we just weren’t – and a good thing too, because those girls went to live with another family that actually is perfect for them. And if they had stayed with us, we might never have found you.

Anyway, we were done with waiting. Your dad and I said that’s it, we’re not waiting any more!

But still, we waited.

Until finally, one day, we got another call. And this call was about you.

We went to the office and read a little bit about you. We found out that you were 4 years old, and your name is Landon, and you like cars and trucks. We thought, hmm, we’d like to meet this kid!

And when we met you – when we met you! – we knew for sure that you were just right for us, and we were just right for you. You were the one we had been hoping for, and waiting for, all that time.

I remember the very first time I saw you. Your dad and I were walking across the parking lot to Kari’s office, and you were walking across that same parking lot with your foster mom, Momma Kim. We all went inside together, and you sat down at a little table and showed us how you could find letters in the newspaper. And then while the grownups talked, you played with cars. You lined them up all nice and neat, and then you and your dad played cars together, only back then, he wasn’t your dad yet.

After that I got to visit with you a few more times before you came to our house and met your sister – only back then, she wasn’t your sister yet. Willow couldn’t wait to meet you! She was so jealous because your dad and I got to see you before she did. She asked us and asked us and asked us, “When do I get to meet Landon?”

Well, she got to meet you when you came over to our house for the first time and you two spent the whole afternoon playing in the mud in the backyard. It was summertime, so it was hot outside.

Right after that you moved in with us for good. And now I am your mom, and your dad is your dad, and your sister is your sister – and you are a part of our family for ever and ever, no matter what.

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Happy National Adoption Awareness Month!

November is National Adoption Awareness Month!

In that spirit, check out this sweet video of an adoption judge who dressed up like a Fairy Godmother to grant the dearest wish of the families whose adoption hearings were scheduled for Halloween yesterday:


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Long time no blog

Regular Missoula Mom readers may have noticed that there hasn’t been a whole lotta activity on this site in recent months. Why the long silence?

The short story: I’ve been busy growing my family!

Long story: Let’s save that for another day. Suffice to say that my family has a lot of gratitude for the folks at Youth Homes‘s Dan Fox Foster Care and Adoption Program right now.

Funny enough, Youth Homes has been busy expanding lately too. The new Tom Roy Youth Guidance Home will feature 10 bedrooms for teens (ages 16 to 18) who are aging out of foster care. The new 5,000-plus square-foot building will replace the old one which, as Youth Homes executive director Geoff Birnbaum has been saying for the past four years or more, was never designed to function as a group home.

In a perfect world we wouldn’t need places like this. I’m not happy we need them, but I’m so grateful we have them.


Get fired up about foster care with dinner and a documentary

The new documentary from Missoula producer Matt Anderson and Missoula filmmaker Paige Williams is a must-see. It’s called “From Place to Place.” I watched it last night and was incredibly moved by the stories of these young adults making their way in Missoula after aging out the foster care system.

Then I read Joe Nickell’s story about the documentary in this morning’s Entertainer and was moved again by the story of how this film came to be.

One of the things I really like about the documentary is that it ends with different people in the film directly telling us what we can do to help repair a badly broken situation: We can watch out for the kids in our neighborhood; we can check in on all our extended family members to make sure everyone’s accounted for; and, of course, we can become foster parents.

Whatever you do, you should watch this documentary. It is screening for the first time in Montana this upcoming Thursday, June 2, at 7 p.m. at the Wilma Theater. The doors will open at 6 p.m., and if you buy a ticket in advance (available through the website,, it’s only $5.

Here’s something else: For the past few years I have had the privilege of getting to know the fine folks at the Dan Fox Foster Care and Adoption Program, a part of Youth Homes Inc. I’ve seen first-hand just how much they care about these kids – and how hard they work to find them safe, loving, long-term families. I highly recommend that anyone interested in foster care or adoption check out their website or give them a call (721-2704 in Missoula).

And if you want to support Youth Homes, one fun way to do so is coming up on June 6. On that day, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., if you buy a burger (or veggie burger) at Scotty’s Table, the proceeds will be donated to Youth Homes.

The burgers at Scotty’s are all locally produced, and for $15 you get a burger, fries and a local beer. The restaurant is located in the bottom unit of the Wilma Theater, at 131 S. Higgins Ave.

For more information about the burger benefit call 541-1642.

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Take Heart Gallery to heart on last day of National Adoption Month

Have you been to Southgate Mall recently? Did you notice the large lighted posters of children on display? Did you stop and read about them – about how they are all children currently available for adoption?

The display is called the Heart Gallery, and it’s meant to draw attention to children in need of forever homes by drawing attention to a handful of individual kids. It has been on display throughout the month of November because November is National Adoption Month.

Read more about the Heart Gallery and Montana’s foster care children in Coral Beck’s recent guest opinion piece in the Missoulian. Coral Beck works in Missoula, and is the Western region administrator for the Child and Family Services Division of the Department of Public Health and Human Services.

She notes that you can get more information about Montana’s adoption process by calling 1-866-9FOSTER (1-866-936-7837).

– MM

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More than 30,000 children adopted on National Adoption Day

Today, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, will personally finalize adoptions for two families in advance of National Adoption Day tomorrow.

According to HHS, “Over the past 11 years, more than 30,000 children have been adopted from foster care on National Adoption Day through the efforts of adoption advocates, policymakers, judges and lawyers.”

National Adoption Day, marked each year on Nov. 20, is meant to raise awareness of the thousands of children in the United States who are eligible for adoption. In the U.S. there are an estimated 114,000 children currently in foster care, waiting to be adopted into a family.

– MM

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