five things I learned this week

Friday, July 26, 2013

1) Newborns are exhausting. Also, preemies are newborns for a long, long time.

2) When mamas and papas are super exhausted, they don’t talk about stuff that matters. Then they fight. Even if they’re not really mad at each other, there’s yelling and crying and fighting, but it’s just because we’re all. so. tired.

3) We always give meals to first-time moms. You know who really needs meals? Older parents who already have piles of children. A friend of mine offered to buy us pizza this week, and I literally wept with relief. I’m so tired of Hamburger Helper. (That’s one thing my Maggie can make.)

4) Preemies also have terrible trouble with reflux for a variety of reasons including high-calorie formulas, constipation, and just a general lack of GI tract development. There are tons of tricks to help, but they all require more work. Feed baby at angle. Keep back perfectly straight. Sleep baby at 30 degree angle. Keep baby immobile and upright for 20-30 minutes after each feeding. Fortunately our doctor gave us permission to let her sleep on her side. Two nights in, it seems to be working fairly well. Fingers crossed. (did I mention I’m tired?)

5) Song Pop is my best friend. Middle of the night feedings have become a lot more musical. For reference, I’m terrible at Punk and surprisingly good at 90s Slow Jams.

Did you learn anything this week? In spite of my best efforts, everything around me is baby-related right now. Except my Netflix viewing, which is not exactly children-friendly at the moment. Any Netflix recommendations for me? Lots of sitting time during feedings = lots of TV watching.

something in the water

Friday, July 19, 2013

It’s been awhile since I posted links, as evidenced by the wintry date of one of them, so I thought I’d take the opportunity today. So here’s some of my favorite posts from the last few months:

Until I could ignore it no longer - The Stanley Clan

“Because I know these boys look at the news, staring into the eyes of Trayvon, and see themselves reflected. I worry for their safety, and for the anger I sense building in their hearts. More than anything, I want them to know the freedom found in Jesus. I long to impart to them the truth that they can shake off the shackles of poverty and racism, and rise above on wings of hope. But I also long for them to know that they are heard. That they are angry, and that’s ok. And when they are ready to listen, I will remind them that their anger does not define them. I will remind them to rise and grow into the men they are already becoming. I will assure them that we recognize and echo their cry for justice, and that we will keep marching and fighting alongside them until the day when that justice becomes reality.”

 

One Way We Discriminate - Flower Patch Farm Girl

I can't pretend to even know the half of it, but I can tell you that it doesn't matter what color your skin is, if you show up wearing house slippers at an office staffed with middle class people, there is a good possibility that you will be flicked away like a pesky house fly, not trusted with important information about your own life or the lives of your children, not given the time of day. If you want our genuine help, our full attention and all of our available resources, bring someone along who looks, acts, talks like us. We'll talk to her.

 

If I had known then, what I know now... - The High Calling

“I remember taking Big Sis to get her nails done. She was incredibly verbal that she was a foster child. As soon as she mentioned it to the woman doing our nails and hair, she was asked how long she had lived with us. At that time it had been a year. The woman responded with, Don't you want to be adopted by your momma? To which, Sis replied, She's not my momma. She loves for me and cares for me, but she's the one cheering for my momma to get better.”

 

Whenever we have a new kid enter our home, one of my first tasks is to make a music playlist for that child. I believe so strongly in the power of music, in the ability it has to shape our brains and thoughts, even while we sleep. So I try to pick songs with healing words, with soothing tunes, with all the promises that I want these little lives to learn and believe. The one I made for Sweet M, while filled with that type of music, begins with a song that’s not very reflective of all those things I just said. It’s just that I can’t stop singing it to her. While she’s sleeping, when she wakes up, when we’re dancing around the living room in those late night hours before we attempt to put her in her crib. I sang it the first night we came home and every day since. I don’t know exactly why, but the song and Sweet M make me feel the same way. It’s our song.

 

in the deep waters

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

We are on our way to Sweet M’s first visit with her mom, and my own littlest speaks a prayer from the very back seat: “Thank you that Sweet M is in our family. Thank you that she can go see her mama because she didn’t see her a long time when she was in the hospital a long time. We all love her and we love her so much and we love her to go see her mama. Everyone loves her. She loves everyone.” I’m overwhelmed by her simple prayers. I wish mine could be as pure.

It breaks my heart that my five-year-old’s desire is for Sweet M not to live here forever. Not because he doesn’t love her, but because “I just don’t want her to never live with her mama again.” I know that pain will always run deep for him. I know that desire for his first mama will forever be in his own heart, no matter how much I love him, no matter how much he loves me.

But in nearly the same way, it breaks me when during the drive, my oldest turns his face to the window, trying to hide his tears. I know he’s remembering how painful it is to say goodbye when we send kids we love, who have truly become part of our family, home. I know he fears the pain to come.

Fostering becomes so complicated. I’m not confused or in disagreement over the goal of this whole thing, but that doesn’t mean that my feelings don’t get all tangled up in the process. It’s taking us some time to sort stuff out, to try to keep our motives sincere, to maintain objectivity, to fight back the judgment when things fail and fall through again and again, when we don’t remotely understand why people make the choices they do. It’s a messy business, and sometimes I just struggle to keep my eyes focused up and my soul at rest.

 

 

We’re in the deep waters here, but as always, it’s where we’re finding the grace to stand.

friday five, a day late: baby things edition

Saturday, July 13, 2013

I’ll get over the baby things soon, I promise. I’m just a little bit infatuated with our newest family member. She is perfect, and her story is amazing. Also, she’s a lot of work. Preemies, even relatively healthy ones, are apparently harder than the fully baked babies, mostly due to the sheer amount of appointments they have. We have one a week for the next foreseeable future, and in about three weeks, we might be adding to that. Not to mention starting visits with mom, possible team meetings, court dates, etc. Ugh. Somehow, even though I know the scheduling becomes the most dominant part of my life, it still catches me off guard when I realize just how busy things are going to be. Today, though, I’m still stuck on Sweet M and all the accoutrements available to babies now. We haven’t had a true newborn in 8 years, so we’re behind the times apparently. Here’s my favorite things from the past week:

IMG_14391) Moby Wrap – how on earth did I ever have babies without this? Love, love, love it. It is a mama’s best friend just for the convenience factor alone. Beyond that, the benefits to baby-wearing are so many that I don’t know why they don’t make it standard equipment for everyone. No flat heads, no need for tummy time, greater brain development, better attachment building…I am in love with this thing. My favorite thing about it right now is the safety factor: people are very reluctant to touch a baby that is so close to a mama’s chest and face. That’s exactly how we want it. Look, but don’t touch, please.

 

2) Swaddle blankets and sleep-sacks – Now this is a handy invention. No more wriggling out of the swaddle, and no matter how tight, mine always wiggled right out of the blanket. We have a couple different kinds. One is a sack with the swaddle part attached, and the other is just a velcro swaddle blanket. I think I prefer the one with the sack. They’re pretty pricey, as I learned, so I was thankful to find one at Once Upon a Child.

 

3) Foster care friends. There is no substitute for the encouragement and support of people who have chosen this same crazy lifestyle as us. We would not be able to do what we do if we hadn’t found our tribe. They answer questions when we’re involved in a new kind of case we’ve never done before. They post just the right things at the very moment we need encouragement. They lift us in prayer, even across the miles, as we open our family yet again. And beyond all of that, they understand. We’re all in this together, and it’s a bond that I am so grateful to have.

 

IMG_1452

4) Tiny baby clothes. For reals. It’s like dressing a doll baby. Only a few preemie things still fit, we’re almost entirely in newborn clothes now, but newborn clothes are teeny tiny too.

 

5) Diaper showers from our church family. This is especially welcome now that our county has switched systems where we won’t get her daily stipend until the end of August. We’re immensely grateful to have some budget relief and people who love us and support our family’s calling.

newborn update

Monday, July 8, 2013

I need to preface this by saying that I am fairly sleep-deprived. Bringing home a tiny foster baby from the hospital is remarkably similar to bringing home a tiny baby that you actually birthed. Except. Pregnancy recovery. Labor and delivery recovery. Hormones. Hormones. Hormones. Can’t say that I’m missing that part of babying.

We won’t have had a caseworker visit until Sweet M has been home a week, so we’re still a bit uncertain as to what this particular placement will be. The waiting is kind of getting to me a bit. That, and the lack of sleep.

This small and premature of a baby is definitely a new experience for us. I’m just so nervous about everything. That wasn’t a feeling I had with my other babies. I tend to be fairly relaxed about babies in general. Except this one is small. She technically shouldn’t even be born yet. I find that simultaneously miraculous and terrifying.

All of this adds up to a rollercoaster of a few days. All the confidence I felt about this decision being right has fled in the face of fear and exhaustion and overwhelming love for this tiny new life. The beginnings of placements are always emotional for me, and this is no exception. Last night, right at the moment I was feeling pretty low, a friend posted a link that contained exactly the words I needed. Just the right encouragement. If you’re struggling with fear this week like I am, if you know the terrifying feeling to pour yourself out with no guarantees, if you are the middle of a ‘yes’ that is out of your comfort zone and beyond your ability to handle it, then maybe her post will help you too.

“We only have these few years on earth to love a broken world.  And it may be that we’re called in radical ways to get over ourselves and hug this place without letting go….

Wake up and embrace a dangerous path, because we know who we are and we know the One who gives strength.”

Live while you're alive - The Roundabout Way of Christina Gibson

Nearly everything about foster care is beyond me. It’s hard and messy and uncomfortable. I do not have the strength to do it on my own. But I know who I am. And I know the One who gives strength.

today I said yes

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

When we don’t get a placement call for too long, I start to feel anxious. After Baby D left, we had several calls in the space of about three weeks. Then…nothing for months. Until today.

I had three conversations within the three days about how we were pretty much done with babies. I’m kind of liking this stage where we don’t have to take all of the baby gear everywhere. Bottles? I scoffed at the idea of doing bottles again. Diapers? Please. I’m finished with that stage. I have a friend having a baby. Her youngest child is getting ready to turn 10. I literally spent ten minutes talking about it on Sunday with her parents. Laughing. Not at her, but definitely at the situation. Saying how I couldn’t even imagine switching life stages at that point, how I can barely imagine it at this point.

Laughing. I have a sneaking suspicion that God might be laughing at me right now because today we got a placement call. Finally. You’ve probably guessed the punchline: it’s for a baby.

Not just ANY baby either. The smallest, tiniest baby ever. (well, not ever. but that’s sure what it feels like to me) A baby born at 30 weeks. 8 weeks old today. Four and a half pounds.

I called Wendell. We talked for what felt like forever. Then we said yes.

Tonight, while I’m up late frantically washing clothes that are almost definitely too big, researching the best bottles and nipples for preemies, trying to figure out how to work this Moby wrap I borrowed from a friend, I’m wondering why.

In my heart, I know why. I told Wendell tonight that I really felt like just throwing up from all the stress and anticipation, and he said, “Me? Not so much. This is what we do.”

He’s right. This is what we do. This is what we were made to do. I don’t know why, but this particular placement is right. I have no doubts about that. We were supposed to say yes. We are the right family for this baby at this time. I like to imagine that we are the right family for this baby’s mama at this time. I don’t know if she’ll stay with us, but I do know that we will love her with everything we have while she’s here. I pray that she’s here for awhile. After Baby D, I realize that it’s not my favorite thing to send babies to another home when they can’t go home to their own mom or dad. I want this tiny baby to be loved, cared for, in a family – ideally with the mama who gave her life, but in the meantime, we will gladly fill that role.

If you’re reading this right now and you pray, could you spare a couple minutes for us? The kids are excited, but a couple of them are cautious. The goodbye to Baby D is still fresh. Wendell and I are excited, yet anxious. We never, never expected we would say yes to a newborn. Maybe we’re poor planners, but we had agreed upon a criteria for the next placement we accepted. This baby meets that single-item checklist as well as some more practical wish-list type items, but when we talked about that criteria, we never envisioned a newborn. Ha. Maybe this’ll teach us to come up with more than one item to look for when accepting a placement.

This probably sounds ridiculous to those of you not involved with foster care. When you birth a baby, you don’t get to choose anything. You get what God gives you. When you do foster care, however, you get to say no. You still don’t get to choose really, but you do get to say no to anything – any CHILD – that you wish. It sounds crass, and on a certain level, it’s harsh and cold and lacks compassion. On another level, with children who are already hurt and traumatized and uncared for, you definitely want truly capable and willing people to love them and care for them. Thus the weirdness where we can say ‘no’ to children who need a family.

However. We said yes to this baby. Sweet M. She is meant for our family. I don’t understand it, because if I had chosen, this would not have been the scenario.

Nevertheless, it’s Yes.

Yes to the emotional rollercoaster that I know we’re about to embark on.
Yes to the intrusion into our lives that will be occurring.
Yes to the commandeering of my schedule by parental visits and caseworker home visits and home health care nurses and team meetings and court dates.
Yes to the complete giving of my heart to yet another sweet baby who may or may not return my love.
Yes to absolute surrender.

He has called us. We’ve said yes.

(please pray)

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