Sunday, June 12, 2005

Part Four: Saving Grace

I had finally gotten an order allowing me to remove my belongings from my former apartment and had enough money from my first paycheck and a benevolence fund for a Uhaul and storage rental. Since there was no-one else to ask, my only help in moving was another resident at the shelter. It took us three solid days, but we managed to get everything out and stored. Unfortunately, it also caused me to go into labor. I was five-and-a-half months into an already high-risk pregnancy. I was made to promise to stay on bed rest and was given medication to stop the contractions. I decided then that this child would be a girl and her name would be Grace. It was only by God's grace she was living inside me at all.

I am, and always have been, a very stubborn person. I have been known to push myself very hard in my determination to accomplish something. I was being told that in my situation it would be impossible to ever have my children returned. I'd had to take a leave of absence from my job, I was still at the shelter and had no way of making a deposit on an apartment.

Still, I refused to give up. I researched programs and talked to churches. I applied for assistance with local HUD housing authorities, but was told there were waiting lists at least 18 months long. I applied anyway. And I applied for apartments, too. I scoured the papers and the internet at the local library. I was allowed to visit my children for an hour a week at the social services offices and did the best I could to help them cope. I was determined to not only get out of that shelter, but to find a home and get my children back to me.

I went into full-blown labor nearly three-and-a-half weeks early. My labor coach was a woman at the shelter. The room was filled with my obstetrician and the birthing ward nurses, as well as several staff from the neonatal intensive care unit. I was told that unless this child came out pink and screaming, I needed to be prepared for them to move her into intensive care immediately. There was a significant chance she would have problems with her lungs, and we were still unsure of other possible problems.

My labor's progression was fast and intense, but my daughter was born crying and got near-perfect APGAR scores. She is my miracle child, and the validation of my continued faith that all would be well. She was allowed to remain with me at the shelter, and I was able to breastfeed her and return to work shortly thereafter.

Out of the blue, a government loophole opened up and the shelter received a letter asking for names of a small number of residents whom they might recommend who had applied for housing assistance. My caseworker at the shelter placed me on the list and I was clear to begin the acceptance process for a home I had been looking at.

Even before I knew what the outcome might be, I was helping to remodel the duplex I had applied for. I had told them my story in its entirety and they had accepted me anyway. HUD bureaucracy was a grueling process, but with the help of my shelter caseworkers, I was able to move into the five bedroom duplex with my now two-month-old daughter.

Soon after, I was asked by my caseworkers at the shelter if they could use Grace's story for a community service program they were starting and wanted to use her picture. Project Saving Grace was born and her image is on both the posters and the main page of their site.

I had, in the meantime, become frinds with the foster family caring for my then two- and five-year-old children. They went so far as to invite me to their home for both Thanksgiving and for Christmas Eve. It was Christmas Day 2003 when I was allowed by social workers to bring my two children in foster care home. They had spent a full year outside of my care.

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