I bet there ain't too many people who tell their parents "When I grow up, I wanna be a Cheek-Swabber and DNA-Gatherer and Paternity-Checker Man."
I met one of these guys today, though. While I didn't bother to ask about the specifics of his job duties, I did learn a few things. I also experienced a level of humiliation that I didn't know existed.
The paternity of one of our foster children is in question, so I had the lovely experience of taking her in for testing today. Our county is relatively small and rural, so of course we don't have DNA testing readily available. All testing is performed once a month at the local social services office.
I was not prepared in the least for this day. There is no way I could have been, because it isn't something I've ever thought about. Our social worker wasn't even aware of all the details involved in the testing process. I learned that when paternity is being established, they test Alleged Father, Baby, and Alleged Mother. We know who the mother is. However, there have apparently been cases where the mother wants nothing to do with the father, so she won't bring her own baby for testing - she'll bring in a baby of the same age, knowing that the testing will be negative. To avoid court problems, they now test all people involved. They also take pictures of everyone. Including me! I attempted to move out of camera range, but the gentleman (and he truly was - bless his heart. What a job!) stated, "Oh no, ma'am. I need you in there, too." I half expected him to whip out a swab and say "Open up and say 'Ah'". (I would have done fine, as I'd had plenty of mental practice in the waiting room!)
I try extra hard to not be judgemental in situations like I was in today, but some days my imagination runs wild. I think I was hearing voices telling me to stand on one of the ugly vinyl chairs and scream "Doesn't ANYbody keep their clothes on anymore??!?? How drunk would you have to be to sleep with that person??!?" I'm not overly germaphobic, but my mind was playing evil tricks that involved antibacterial wipes and confidential testing.
Primal urges and drunken binges aside...good gravy, people - do you actually want to admit you had a tryst with that person?
In addition to my baby, there were 2 other babies, and at least 3 men, present for testing.
Their socks were dirty. They had sloppy clothes on. Jeans were half unzipped. Hair hadn't been combed. One man stated loudly, "This is the 3rd time I've had this done". AAAAAAAhhhhhh! I'VE STEPPED ONTO THE SET OF THE JERRY SPRINGER SHOW! I wonder if Steve is the person administering the tests today!
In the middle of this, I'm sitting there - holding a precious, beautiful baby. These people think I'm the biological mother. I felt dirty. I was angry that I had to be there. I had no say over being there. I just wanted to crawl in a hole and cry.
Maybe - No, I KNOW that the weather has got me down. It's the middle of April and we've had very few warm sunny days. I desperately need some sunshine and laughter. But once I get past the sheer horror of today, and get over the need to shower, and remember that my baby will NOT remember today...
I have to realize that the people I rubbed elbows with today are every bit as human as I am. That isn't something I want to admit, because then I have to admit that
I AM NOT BETTER THAN THEY ARE.
Our circumstances are different. Our cultures are different. Our value systems are different. Our decision-making processes are different. Our cleanliness levels are *WAY* different. But I am not better than them.
Being a foster parent has opened my eyes to sections of other people's lives that I have never had reason to even know existed. Some days, I just want to recede into my bubble and pretend that life isn't as ugly as it's currently appearing. I can not answer "HOW can people do that?" because I'm not those people. My reality is that I have two babies in my arms because there ARE people that "do that", so I put on my boots and wade the muck because on the other side of the road are children who need fed, and read to, and tucked into bed in a safe, warm home. And in the end, my comfort zone just doesn't matter.