Social Work: What I learned, What I’ll Miss & What I’m looking forward to About Being A SAHM

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May 14, 2005, I was 23 years old, fresh out of college and looking for work. I obtained my bachelors degree in Psychology from Oakland University and wasn’t exactly sure what type of job I was looking for when my BFF, Marcia, told me that Judson Center had an opening for a foster care worker. While I didn’t know much about foster care, I needed a job and knew that I wanted to help people, so I reluctantly submitted my resume. After two interviews I was offered the job, though I’m still not sure how because I was so wet behind the ears. I was very nervous but I accepted the position. Foster care was intense, a lot of work with very few happy endings, therefore after six months I decided to transfer to the Family Reunification Program (FRP). FRP is where I built my career. I loved working in FRP and I believe in the work that we do.

Sadly my agency lost their FRP contracts to other agencies and my program will be closing today, 9/30/13. I know that all of my coworkers will land of their feet and I am excited about the opportunity to become a stay at home mother, which has been my desire for a while now. It’s been a awesome journey and I’ve learned a lot but I believe now is the season for me to focus on my family.

Over the pasted nine years while working in FRP, I’ve been honored to work with some amazing families throughout Wayne County MI. I worked with families who’ve had their children removed due to some form of abuse or neglect and the courts returned back home after most of the safety issues had been resolved. I did in home case management for four years and then after obtaining my Masters in Counseling while working full time, I became a supervisor in FRP. Over the years I’ve seen parents maintain their sobriety so that their children’s wardship could be dismissed from the system. I’ve seen father’s step up and get full custody of their children while the mothers work to get themselves stable and back on track. I’ve seen families rebuild their trust and repair their relationships and communication skills so that their home environment can be peaceful again. It’s been a beautiful thing to be a stepping stone in several families lives on their road to successful and a better future.

Social work can be very challenging at times and it isn’t for everyone. I believe that my relationship with Jesus Christ is what helped me to be an affective social worker. I often prayed for guidance on how to best serve the families. I had to listen to Holy Spirit regarding when to respond and when to be quiet. The love of Christ kept me going back to some homes each week though I knew I would not be well received. I thank God for protecting me while in the community and for showing me favor with my clients, supervisors and other professionals.

What Social Work Has Taught Me

Over the years I’ve learned….

1. Early on that the families ultimate success or failure was not up to me, it was up to them. I learned to pray for my families and leave them in God’s hands, instead of staying up all night worrying about them.

2. That my role as a mandated reporter was to report any suspected child abuse or neglect and to leave the investigating up to Child Protective Services. I didn’t need to look under people’s beds and in their basement, that wasn’t my job. I was there to keep families together.

3. To dot all my i’s and cross all my t’s because in social work, if it wasn’t documented, it didn’t happen.

4. Not to take bags into clients homes because you might bring unwanted guest home with you.

5. How to remain professional and not freak out when I saw bugs or mice running around people’s living rooms.

6. My way around the City of Detroit after the first two years of continually being lost and calling my dad, my husband or my dad’s buddy Ron for directions (before GPS was popular).

7. How to testify in court and how to interact with Judges, Referees and lawyers.

8. How to pay rent and utility bills, file police reports and sign up for government assistance, all things that at 23 I had not been exposed.

9. How to work with people of all different backgrounds and to appreciate other’s differences. To be open minded and understand that all families don’t look like mine and that is ok.

10. How to safety plan with my clients and help them to be resourceful. This was helpful in the situations where I was able to locate free resources for families in their communities and help them safety plan so that their families needs were met and everyone was safe.

11. The most important thing I’ve learned was how to be strength based and solution focused, which is the foundation that FRP is built on. No matter what the situations looked like when we initially started working with a family, we were taught to ALWAYS locate the families strengths and to build on that. We were taught to focus on the solutions and not the problems. We were taught to be optimistic and to believe in our clients success even when our clients were doubtful. The strength based solution focus model has been imbedded in my brain and I plan to continue using it in my everyday life.

I’ll never forget some of the great success stories where families beat the odds or challenging cases that ended in the children being removed from the home. I’ll never forget the stress of file reviews, countless interviews in attempts to locate competent staff or the few after hours home visits I had to attend in times of crisis. I’ll never forget the supervisors I had that trained, supported, and challenged me and who made me the social worker/therapist that I am today.

I’ll miss Judson Center, it was truly a great agency to work for. I’ll miss exploring cases and problem solving with my peers. I’ll miss the excited yet nervous feeling I’d get every time I went on a initial home visit. I’ll miss the feeling of pride after having a great home visit where the family was open and engaging and had a major break through. I’ll miss the joy of seeing families get praised by the Judge and get their case dismissed at court. I’ll miss some of my staff that I know truly cared about the families and were dedicated to serving them to the best of their ability.

I’m looking forward to being at home with my family and having time to spend with them. My husband and I were working opposite shifts so sometimes it felt like days went by before we got a moment to slow down and enjoy each other. I’m looking forward to being active in our girl’s development and education. Elyssa is 2 1/2 years old and Elaina is 3 1/2 months. I want to be there to watch them grow and take a even bigger role in their daily learning. I’m looking forward to putting Elyssa in dance or swimming classes and taking her to the library for toddler time. I’m looking forward to supporting my husband with his business and being more of a help meet to him. I’m looking forward to seeking God about my future business ventures and educational goals. I’m looking forward to being a therapist at some point. This is truly an end to a great era but the beginning of something awesome as well. I know the Lord is with me and my family and I have complete peace about the journey that is ahead because He is guiding my every step.

A Love Letter to C-Section Moms (That Everyone Should Read)

csectionI saw this letter to C-Section mom’s posted in my Facebook minifeed yesterday and wanted to share it. The letter is written by Michele Zipp and she totally captures the feelings that many women who’ve experienced C-Sections feel. We are not less than because we did not birth our babies naturally. Our birthing experiences are still important, special and should be celebrated.

I remember having a conversation with a mix of older and younger women about birth shortly after Elyssa was born. I had had a C-Section and was very sensitive about the topic. The older women were saying that today’s generation consents to C-Sections too frequently and that doctor’s make a lot of money off of us by performing unnecessary C-Sections. It is a known fact that the C-Section rate is higher than ever before but to slam the 4 younger women in the room who ALL HAD C-SECTIONS DUE TO SERIOUS MEDICAL REASONS was out of line. To make us feel like we were less than because we did not birth vaginally was wrong and to tell me that my doctor lied to me and more could have been done to prevent a C-Section when none of the women had been there or knew my entire story complete infuriated me.

No matter how children come into the world, we must focus on the most important fact, that they are healthy. We must make decisions as individuals about what we want our next birth (should we be so blessed) to be like. I decided that I wanted to have a VBAC and the Lord blessed me but if I had had another C-Section, I would have thanked God for my healthy baby and moved on with my life. I would still have considered myself a good mother and still a real woman. We must make sure that we don’t label one another and try to cause division amongst each other. As women and mothers, we must support, encourage and educate one another. We must celebrate victories together and pray for one another when the challenges of life arise.

A Love Letter to C-Section Moms (That Everyone Should Read)
by Michele Zipp

http://thestir.cafemom.com/baby/131563/a_love_letter_to_csection?utm_medium=sm&utm_source=facebook&utm_content=natural_fanpage

If I were a DJ, I would be shouting “This one is for the c-section mommies!” And then all the moms who have had cesareans would cheer “Wooooooo!” We need that. Women who have had c-sections for reasons beyond their control need to feel the love that moms who got to have the natural birth they wanted are allowed to feel. Moms who have had c-sections need and deserve respect and love for the way they birthed. We need to honor all ways of birth, even the ones that didn’t go as we planned. Because it is still the way some children are brought into our lives. Hear me out. This isn’t about being pro-cesarean. This is about being pro-mom.

You see, some people seem to think there are two kinds of moms — those who have c-sections and those who do not. This ‘battle’ divides us, and makes one side feel like a mother who didn’t do the right thing.

I had a c-section. I didn’t schedule it so I could preserve my vagina, nor did I pick the date because it was convenient. It was necessary and needed. And I really shouldn’t have to explain more than that because well, do we go into detail on how there was sexy lingerie, lots of foreplay, and a glass of wine involved in the conception of your baby? No. Birth is (to some) a private and deeply emotional event in a woman’s life. Being judged for having a c-section without knowing the details is … well … wrong. Many moms like me had to have a c-section in order to be a mother. It’s as simple as that. Life or death. A choice that has to be made quickly given the circumstance. Many times the moms who had an emergency c-section or are still having a difficult time processing their birth or were made to believe they needed one despite their parental instincts are the ones who are often silent, and who are silently hurt. This love letter, this awareness I hope to instill in people, this is for you.

We are still mothers. We just had our babies through what I like to call a little kangaroo kind of pouch.

There may always be questions. Should I have trusted the doctors? Did I do all I could have? And that’s okay. C-section moms bear the scar where our babies were born, and we shouldn’t continue to be hurt by the insensitive words that many say without realizing that not all c-sections are frivolous choices. We love our babies just as much. Some of us are just as “crunchy” as homebirthers, we are attachment parents, we love our children and have amazing bonds with them.

Our vulnerability comes from feeling unsupported, and words hurt. I fear that some of my own articles on the topic could have even hurt women just like me, but I have always tried to choose my words carefully. I am a natural birth advocate, but am a c-section mommy. I can be both. I am proudly both. It’s true that when you have pain or deep hurt because of something, sometimes anything on the topic is tough to read. You feel defensive; you feel the words are directed at you as if you did something wrong. Any woman (or man) who has been through something difficult can relate to that. And the subject of birth or how we birth is the same, perhaps even more challenging to process and work through. This is why we need even more compassion and understanding, These battles that are created — the c-section moms versus everyone else — should stop. Generalizing this isn’t helpful for women to process they way they birthed if it didn’t go according to plan.

Not everything in life goes according to plan.

One of my friends told me that her c-section was the best and worst experience of her life. And that’s exactly it for me. It was the best because it enabled me to have my twins healthy after being diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, and the worst because it was frightening and not the way I wanted to birth. It took a long time, but I have come to terms with the way I birthed.

Sometimes the opposite of what we think is best … is what is really best. Just like how this mom wanted to exclusively breastfeed but found that supplementing with formula helped save her from going into a depression and helped her baby thrive. We cannot judge unless we know the full and complete story, every angle, all the background, and I realize that’s not really something we could ever completely know. I don’t want the c-section rates to rise because I do want women to have the births they want to have. But I also don’t want the women whose births were difficult and resulted in surgery to be made to feel like they did something wrong.

Maybe we can all be a little more kind in the words we choose, remembering those who are challenged with the very topic being discussed. Remembering that many women have guilt or sadness because they absolutely had to have a c-section. I know how hard the recovery is even a year or two after. But we deserve to find peace in the way we had our children. Our path to motherhood may not be the same, but it’s our path, something we need to find the beauty in, because all moms deserve that. You deserve that.

VBAC Baby!! A Birth Story To Remember!!

Today our baby girl turns three months! She was born on 6/13/13. After almost 48hours of induced labor, I was blessed to have a successful VBAC! Here is my birth story and why I decided to attempt a VBAC birth (vaginal birth after Csection)

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On 4/1/11 I had an emergency Csection with our first daughter Elyssa. I was induced at 37 weeks because the fluid around Elyssa was too low, my BP was high and I had protein in my urine. After being in the hospital for almost 48hours, pumped with different medications, being subject to different interventions attempting to jump start labor, being forced to stay in bed on one side because of my BP, the already challenging and disappointing experience ended in an emergency Csection. In surgery it was discovered that the umbilical cord was wrapped around Elyssa’s neck which was causing her heart rate to drop. Though I was sad and disappointed about having to have the Csection, I believed that we made the right decision. Elyssa and I’s health was at risk and I was grateful that we both were ok and able to leave the hospital together without any complications.

While I had to seek God’s peace and determine to be happy despite not having the birth that I desired, I did determine that I wanted to attempt a VBAC the next time. When we found out that we were pregnant on Elyssa’s first birthday, we were both so surprised and overjoyed. Sadly, that pregnancy ended in a miscarriage the next month. I was heart broken and we sought couples grief counseling immediately. I wanted to build myself back up emotionally, spiritually and physically so that we could get pregnant again. God showed himself faithful and on our last day of counseling, we reported to our therapist that I was one month pregnant. While I was super excited to be able to conceive again, I knew I had a journey ahead of me. I wanted a complication free, worry free, peaceful pregnancy and a successful VBAC birth. I truly believe that NOTHING is too big for my God so I took my fears, anxiety and concerns to the cross and asked God to guide me and protect my baby and help my body to do all that he created it to do.

I messaged Keva Zeigler Williams, who is also a doula and a associate of mine on FB, and asked her if she knew of any doula’s in the Southfield MI area that were knowledgeable about VBACs that would work with me for a reduced fee. The associate messaged me back within a few hours and gave me the information to a lady name Cate Stolz. She said that she reached out to her doula network and asked if anyone would be able to help me and Cate replied and said that she’d love to meet me. I contacted Cate that day, set up and interview and the rest is history! We immediately clicked and we hired her as our doula.

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Cate met with my husband, mom and I three times to develop my birth plan and to educate us about VBAC’s, medication options, tips for natural labor, positions and massages to assist with labor and so much more. Cate was always respectful of our desires and beliefs and remained patient and compassionate as she answered my questions and eased my mind about certain concerns.

I educated myself about VBAC’s and talked to my friend Erica Andrews who had been blessed to have a successful VBAC. My network of mommy friends were encouraging me, praying for me and cheering me on every step of the way. Erica, Stephanie and Shereena had all had awesome experience with doulas and midwives and were helpful in educating me about why a doula would be a added blessing during my birth. My husband was on board with me birth plan and was hopeful that I would get the birth that I desired. He remained encouraging and supportive from the beginning to the end.

My BP remained stable and the end of my pregnancy arrived and Elaina appeared to be very comfortable in my womb. I was not dilating or showing any signs that labor was approaching. My OB told me that she would induce me at 41 weeks if I had not gone into labor on my own. At 39 weeks I became concerned and desperate to go into labor on my own. I tried many recommended methods to induce labor naturally. I read a book by my friends Pastors Rich and Karla Walker entitled How To Give Birth In The Presence Of The Lord. I contacted Pastor Karla on FB and told her about my desire to go into labor naturally and to have a VBAC. Pastor Karla sent me encouraging words about the remaining days of my pregnancy as well as my labor and delivery. After asking me a series of questions, she also developed a Customized Natural-Induction Guide just for me. The tools given to me inside my CNIG helped me to remain at peace and the interventions used helped to prepare my body for labor.

I was induced on Tuesday night, 6/11/13. I was concerned that being induced would cause me to end up with a repeated Csection but I continued to pray and ask God to be with me and our baby. My doula Cate came to that hospital everyday that I was there, sometimes twice a day. My husband and mother also remained by myself. Unlike with my first pregnancy, I was educated about the different interventions and medications and was able to advocate for myself. I was confident and bold enough to say no when the doctor’s on call attempted to rush and intimidate me into breaking my water too early. I was bold enough to fire one doctor who was clearly not in support of my VBAC and was cocky and even rude. I continued to get out of bed and walk the halls and get on the exercise ball until I received the epidural later in the day on 6/12/13. The nurses were frustrated because they had to continue adjusting the baby monitor on my belly because I wouldn’t stay in bed and just lay on back like a good patient. My husband told me not to worry about the monitor, just to remain active and let them come in and fix it.

I received an epidural after being in labor for 24hours with no pain medications and no labor progression. I had been at 5cms all day and was in a lot of pain. I tried one dosage of pain meds in my IV but that was a huge disappointment. The IV meds may have worked for 20 mins and then the intense pain was back and for some reason felt even worse than before. I was afraid to get the epidural because when attempting a VBAC, you should avoid as many interventions as you can so that you decrease your chances of complications. Also when I received the epidural with Elyssa, her heart rate immediately went down and I was wheeled into the OR. After receiving the epidural I was able to get a good nights sleep and prepare for the big day.

The next morning is when I fired the doctor on call because of his negative attitude and him telling me that the chances of me receiving a Csection that day was high. I knew that I had not been making progress, that my water had been broken the previous afternoon and that I had a Csection once and might end up with another. I DID NOT need a cocky doctor with poor bedside manner to wake me up at 6am to tell me those facts. My internal monitors to monitor my contractions and the baby’s heart rate continued to come out (I had them both inserted three times a piece already) and the doctor was insisting on going inside of me and putting them back on and my husband said no. He told him that my cervix is shaped awkward and it’s hard to get to, therefore it hurts like high heaven everytime Im checked. Also, since my water has been broken, to reduce the risk of infection, we should reduce the number of checks and internal interventions. The doctor continued to insist that I had to get the monitors inserted again anyway. I said ok thank you and when he left the room and informed my nurse that I wanted another doctor assigned to my case and I wanted to speak to my OB immediately.

It turned out that my OB was on her way to the hospital to see me. It was 7:30am by this time. She checked me and I was at 8cms! I was overjoyed after being at 5 for a day, to move up to 8 was such a victory! My OB agreed that I did not have to have any more internal monitors and she ordered me to get more pain medication when I was ready. When my OB checked me at 12pm or 1 pm I was at 9cms. I was making slow progress but hey at least I was progressing. My OB went back to her office and I had to continue to labor. All that day my pain was intense. The epidural did provide me some relief in certain areas but did nothing for the pain and pressure in my back and butt. My husband, mom and doula continued massaging the different parts of my body throughout the day. Often times they were massaging different body parts at the same time while worship and praise music played on low in the background. The three of them were rock stars, they were my dream team! Both of our fathers were in the lobby, praying and being supportive from a distance. Most of the afternoon I was quiet and focused on my goal. My eyes remained closed and I rarely spoke. Sometimes I practiced my breathing when the pain or pressure felt too intense. Sometimes I hymned or moaned but I kept praying in my head, Lord help me, give me strength. Words can’t describe how my body felt or the state of mind I was in. All I can say was I was determined and focused and I kept my eyes on Christ. I was picturing my baby girl’s arrival.

Around 2-230pm Rolisia, one of my closest sistafriends, surprised me and came to visit. She came to pray in the hall outside my room but my father encouraged her to go into my room to see me and encourage me. I don’t believe I opened my eyes much during her visit because I was in so much discomfort but I was super glad that she was there. My parents, my husband, Rolisia and Cate and I took hands and had prayer. Rolisia prayed a POWERFUL on time prayer with such authority and boldness and my faith was completely stirred up!! I was coming down the home stretch of my journey and her bringing the presence of God into my room was just what I needed to finish my race! Now that I think about it, the only time I cried the entire time I was in the hospital was when she came to visit. Rolisia and I have been friends since we met at college in 1999 and she is the sister I never had. To have her obey the Holy Ghost and come to pray for me meant so much because I was tired and casting down fear and I needed all the support that I could get!

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The on call doctor checked me at 4:00pm and said I was at 10cms and needed to start pushing even though my OB had not arrived back to the hospital yet. Hearing the phrase, “it’s time to start pushing,” were bittersweet because I was so excited that my body and baby had worked together and I was going to get a chance to have my vaginal birth BUT I was so nervous at the same time! I handed my camera to Cate and asked her to take pictures during the birth since my husband and mother were going to hold my legs. I did a few pushes and the baby started coming down faster than they expected and my OB still wasn’t there so they asked me to try to wait for her. My OB ran through the doors, told me exactly what to do and Elaina was born 20 mins later!!

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It’s an indescribable feeling when your legs are in the air and you’re pushing with all your might and there are lots of people in the room all looking at your vagina and cheering you on. Everyone kept saying, she’s almost here keep pushing, push harder push harder. I never cried or yelled throughout my 40 mins of pushing. I remained focused and wanted to save my energy for the battle. I would push while my doula counted to ten then I would rest for a few seconds and start pushing again. It was intense to say the least but once I felt her shoulders slide out and then the rest of her body, I was in awe and felt pure joy. My OB lifted Elaina up so I could see her and we saw how big she was and my husband and I’s eyes got so big! She was almost 9lbs! They laid her on my chest so we could meet and Eddie got to cut the cord. They cleaned her up and examined her all in our room. I had to birth the placenta which was a little painful and messy but I didn’t care because I had done it, I had given birth vaginally and my baby girl was finally here and doing well. I did get two stitches as my take home prize but again I wasn’t complaining.

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Elaina wanted to nurse as soon as they gave her back to me. Everyone but my mom and Cate left the room to get us food and to call the family and share the good news so I was able to nurse my precious newborn in peace. Elaina latched on perfectly and nursed like a pro. I truly enjoyed nursing my first daughter and was excited that my nursing journey with Elaina was starting out so well.

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Our first night in the hospital with Elaina was perfect. Elaina and I were both healthy and happy and were able to go home from the hospital that next day at my request. I couldn’t wait to see Elyssa and have her meet her new baby sister. Elyssa was excited and curious about her new sister and it was cute to see her stand next to her rocker and watch her sister sleep. It felt so good to have my family back under the same roof together with our new addition sleeping soundly next to our bed. Once again God had shown himself mighty and faithful and I went to sleep with a smile of happiness and gratitude on my face!

If you are a woman who hopes to have a VBAC, I encourage you to get educated, locate a OB that supports VBACs and to build a support system. Never lose hope, no matter what it looks like. Remember that your body was created to birth babies and Lord willing, you will get the birth that you desire. While VBAC’s are important, we must remember that our health and safety as well as our babies always come first. For different health reasons, VBACs are not an option for some women and that is ok. We do not receive metals based on how our children come into the world. I’m really encouraging the women that are healthy and completely able to have VBACs to know their rights and take control of their births. The medical professionals sometimes have their own agenda so the more educated you are and support you have around you, the less likely that you will be bullied into having a repeated csection.

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