The H Word

Writing about my son’s physical therapy falls under the things I don’t want to talk about or write about, but it has to come out somehow.  I am having major feelings about it.  He has torticollis, likely from the way he was positioned in the womb.  I have a bicornuate uterus, which means it is heart shaped and therefore gave my baby less room to move around.  This means that he has a preference to look to his left side vs. his right side.  He also has a flat spot at the back of his head, mostly in the middle, but it is a little flatter on the left side due to him always wanting to position his head that way, even in his sleep.  (Yes, even when I reposition it.)  File this under the things that I have major mommy guilt about.  Maybe it sounds lame to have mommy guilt about something like this, but I do.  (I shouldn’t have let him sleep in the rock ‘n play.  I read about those things causing flat head.  I should have held him more and put him down less.)  I could go on.

While at first the pediatrician wanted to “keep an eye on it”, we have now landed ourselves in physical therapy as of yesterday, learning exercises that can help with his stiffness and preference of looking always to his left and now also rolling always to his left.  The exercises seem easy enough, but we are supposed to do them at every diaper change and even more if we can.  Two exercises 4-6 reps on each side.  Each rep takes 20-30 seconds with rest time in between.  So that’s a minumum of 16 thirty second exercises, which is 8 minutes minus the rest times.  If we do the 6 reps, it’s 24 exercises, which is 12 minutes.  The thing is, it takes a lot longer than that.  If he is unhappy and starts fussing at any point, we are supposed to stop and make him happy/distracted so we can try again.  One exercise he tolerates pretty well.  The other one, he hates.  I haven’t even been able to successfully do it at all yet today, though not for lack of trying.  He is also supposed to have a minimum of 60 minutes of tummy time per day (broken up however it works) and floor time on his back to help him look both right and left, which is also supposed to happen after each diaper change.

Whew, okay, so with all of that, he is 4 months old.  I think he is teething, and he is on a 90 minute wake schedule.  He wakes up, diaper change, eats, plays, and then is being put back down at about the 90 minute mark.  He is also breast fed and a slower eater, so he takes about 25-30 minutes to nurse.  Then he sleeps anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour for each nap.

It was hard to leave the house to do any errands or outings before because of this 90 minute schedule.  He typically doesn’t sleep in the car or when we’re out, even if I have him in the carrier, because there is too much to look at, so when we would go out on an errand, I knew it just meant his awake time would be stretched and we would likely not reach his 14-16 hours of recommended sleep that day.  Now, I am wondering how I can ever keep up with these exercises and go anywhere or do anything.

File this under things I really really don’t want to talk about.  When we were at the physical therapy appointment yesterday, she brought up the “h” word.  Helmet.  She wants to give him a month and a half to see how he does and then at that point determine if we need to take him to have a consultation with some cranial technologies people to assess his need for a helmet to reshape his head.  (Of course I can’t see them saying that he doesn’t need one, given that making helmets is how they make money.)

I can’t even.  I’ve been crying off and on since the appointment.  I really really really don’t want him to have to wear a helmet.   I really really really don’t want to go out of the house with him in this helmet that the pamphlet says will have to be worn 23 hours a day.  I don’t want to deal with the stares, people’s judgements and comments, and feeling like a bad mom because I allowed it to get this bad. This is why I am determined to do these exercises correctly and with the frequency I am supposed to do them despite it seeming like that will leave me stuck in the house most of these next few months.

My fear is that I will do everything I am supposed to do with him to the best of my ability, and yet we will still be told that he needs to wear the stupid helmet.  People are mean and judgmental and gawking.  I have social anxiety disorder and an extreme case of the mama bears.  I feel like I will alternatively spontaneously combust from holding things in and erupt at people who dare to make one false move or glare or comment.  I fear I will be mom shamed.  I fear even my family and friends will judge me quietly, even if they are nice to me to my face.  I fear that my baby will not be okay because of his mis-shapen head and that I will have to deal with the guilt of that as he grows up.

I feel like I did when I was having such a hard time nursing in the beginning, when the baby wasn’t taking enough out despite there being enough supply, yet his not taking enough out made my supply go down.  It looked like we were going to have to supplement with formula, which was the very last thing I wanted to do.  I spent a good few months losing sleep because of being up with a baby like a normal newborn but then also pumping every two hours right after the baby ate and taking all kinds of supplements.  It was exhausting.  In the end it was worth it because I now successfully ebf, and as of our last appointment, the baby was gaining an ounce a day.  Hooray!  But in that few months, I felt like I was doing things wrong, like I was failing, like I wasn’t going to make it out of that phase.  I feel the same fears and sadness with this new challenge.  I fear that it will not turn out as well as the breastfeeding challenge despite my best efforts.  I feel hopeless, and I feel sad that I feel hopeless, and I feel afraid and like I am not really doing very well.  I feel mad that this is another thing that is so hard, and I feel myself comparing to other moms and babies I know who this stuff came so easily to. Comparison is the thief of joy, I know.  I need to learn a lesson from my 4:8 baby who is very joyful oh so much of the time.

My 4:8 Baby

Philippians 4:8
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Recently we did a Sunday series on this scripture at church. It was a great series for me, and a great call on my heart to focus on the good and to practice gratitude, which is the birthplace of joy. I am not naturally a joyful person. As someone who battles anxiety, it is more natural for me to focus on the bad than the good. I am grateful for this scripture and others like it that remind me to focus my thoughts on the good.

God knows my heart so well that he saw fit to give me a living, breathing, smiling reminder of Philippians 4:8 who I can see every day. On April 8th, my first born son ninja kicked his way into the world, and I know I will never be the same.

I am one of those women who loved being pregnant. I had the occasional migraine and heartburn, but overall, I was a happy and healthy pregnant lady. (I’m sure that not being pregnant in the heat of the summer had a great deal to do with my comfort and happiness, as heat and I do not mix, says the southern California girl.) I loved my baby bump. I loved the little kicks and hiccups. I loved hearing his heartbeat. I loved reading of his progress each week, knowing he was dreaming in the womb and learning to suck his thumb and all sorts of other really cool things. I loved the mind blowing idea that I was carrying a life inside of me. God amazes me in his creation of human beings. Every one of us truly is a miracle. Side-note: Did you know that God geniusly created us so that when breast feeding moms kiss their babies, whatever germs are on the baby get transferred to the mom so that her breast milk can build anti-bodies against said germ?! How cool is that?!

IMG_3128

Later in my pregnancy after going back and forth about how we wanted our labor and delivery to be, the hubs and I decided to move from our OB to a midwife. (This was a hard decision for me, as I absolutely love my OB and have been seeing her for over 10 years.) We really wanted to have a natural birth at a birthing center. We knew that it was possible to achieve a natural birth in a hospital, however, it is sometimes a harder fight with the nurses to get what you really need and want. (I wanted all of my fighting to be reserved for actual laboring and pushing.) The hospital that I would have been delivering at with my OB allows you to squat to deliver, which is what I wanted, but you may not stand, and the squatting has to be done by repositioning the bed, as you must stay on the bed for delivery. I didn’t love that rule. I wanted to be a little freer than that, to do what my body needed.

Plus, I have a bicornuate uterus, which makes me a little higher risk. I learned that my contractions may not be strong enough to do the work they need to do to get the baby out. If that was the case, the hospital may have wanted to put me on pitocin, which could have increased the likelihood of me needing an epidural in order to be able to handle harsher contractions, which could have begun the cycle towards an unwanted C Section. My midwife had other more natural ways of getting me to contract if need be, which I was really happy about, and though she couldn’t guarantee that she could help me deliver without unwanted interventions, she gave me a 50/50 shot and assured me that she would do everything she could to help me plus be there with me if we had to go to the hospital. All in all, it was a great choice for us.

Everything was on track for my April 16th due date. The baby was low and in the right position, and the midwife was really happy with how the baby and I were both looking. I had done a big grocery shopping trip on April 7th and set to work making some meals to stock my freezer. I woke up on the morning of April 8th feeling really good and started chopping veggies for a soup that I was going to make and freeze, the last of the meals I was working on for after the baby was born.

IMG_3277

Hubs goes to work super early. He leaves the house at about 5:30am, so he was at work before I woke up. At about 9:15am, I felt something dripping down my leg. At first I thought I had reached the point in pregnancy when you begin to lose control of your bladder. I had read about that but had made it so far without that happening. I put down the veggies and went to the restroom, thinking that would solve the problem. It took me a few minutes to realize what was happening. It was not incontinence. It was my water breaking…a week early. I thought there was no way. My poor mom was pregnant for an extra month with both my sister and myself. I was a first time mom, and you always hear about first time moms being late, not early! I was about to learn that nothing about my labor and delivery would be typical of a first time mom.

I called the birthing center to let them know my water had broken or was breaking. It was not the typical “big gush” that you think of as your water breaking. It was a slow trickle that kept going for a while. She asked me a bunch of questions and said that it sounded like the baby had kicked a hole in my bag of waters. (Baby Ninja!) She was concerned about me going into labor because I was not really having contractions other than a few braxton hicks’ here and there. She told me that when I called the hubs I should tell him to pick up two homeopathic medications to help with contractions. One was Caulophyllum and the other Kali Phos. It looked like I was definitely going to need some help getting contractions going, not because of my bicornute uterus but because my baby was a ninja! If I didn’t go into labor on my own within 24-36 hours, it would be a problem. She told me to lay on my left side and gave me specific instructions of how to take the homeopathics and told me to keep my 2:00 appointment at the birthing center unless my contractions started to get really bad before then.

When I called the hubs, he couldn’t believe it. I think he may have been in more shock than I was. He picked up lunch for us both and also the homeopathics and came home. I was up in bed laying on my left side as directed, and he walked into a kitchen with a counter full of chopped veggies and a pork roast in the crock pot. I’m sure it was a sight to behold.

As I took the homeopathics and rested, we waited and talked. He took a picture of me as I “labored” laying on my left side and remarked that this would be the last time it was just the two of us, a big deal, as we had been married for a little over a year.

image2

We talked about calling family or texting friends but decided that it could be a while, as first births usually take a while to progress. We agreed to wait until we got to the birthing center to get checked before we called or texted anyone.

I had some pretty strong contractions that hubby helped me through as best he could. We had been taught in our birthing class that the point of contractions is to move the baby down and eventually out. The pain is not a sign that you are in trouble but a sign that the body is doing what it is supposed to do. We were taught that the more a mommy could keep the tension out of her body during a contraction, the more work that contraction could do, making the labor progress. It is so counter intuitive to your natural response to pain, but that’s what I tried to do, with my hubby’s help, remain relaxed during each contraction so that the contraction could do its work.

At about 1:30 we got in the car to go to the birthing center with my packed bag and the car seat in tow. The drive seemed to take forever, as I was in a lot of pain. The contractions seemed to get worse just in time for us to drive over there. It seemed I couldn’t really even count the time in between contractions. To me it just felt like one long contraction.

When we arrived, they asked me if I was having contractions. I told them yes, but it was one of those things that, if you have to ask… They had me pee in a cup and then walk back to the birthing room where they hooked me up to a monitor to hear the baby’s heartbeat and monitor my contractions. They could hear the baby’s heartbeat just fine, and it sounded good. They looked at what the machine was telling them about my contractions, and they told me that I wasn’t in labor. In fact, they told me that according to the machine I was in “anti-labor”. What?! What the heck is anti-labor. I thought to myself that I was pretty sure I was in labor. I mean, I’m not an expert, and I’ve never had a baby before, but if this isn’t labor, I thought I might just kill myself…because this hurt!

There were two midwives attending to us, both of whom I trusted implicitly. They were going back and forth about whether to check me because if they checked me and I wasn’t in labor, they didn’t want to put me in labor before my body was ready. They talked about sending me home and waiting until there were stronger contractions. (Stronger contractions??!!!) As they were talking to each other and occasionally to me and the hubs, I began to feel nauseated. I asked for some help and threw up my lunch. Not pleasant. They looked at me and asked why I was throwing up, which I didn’t have an answer to. I mean, what would be a good answer to that? That is when they decided to check me. And guess what? I was four to five centimeters dilated and so relieved that they hadn’t sent me home without checking me! (Can you imagine?) At this point, one of the midwives looked at me and said, “You have a pretty high tolerance for pain, don’t you?” I guess I do.

At that point, neither the hubs nor I were thinking about much but getting through each contraction, but I believe he did send out a text to our families letting them know I was in labor and how much progress I had made. I was so impressed by my husband and the amazing job he did as a first time father and coach through labor. He was with me and for me and did exactly what I needed as I needed it. He was constantly re-adjusting himself to my needs without me having to direct him at all. He re-focused me again and again and reassured me when I was afraid. I remember several times during the process stating out loud, “I am afraid.” Labor is a scary thing sometimes because you’re not sure what to expect or how you will be able to handle it. I was so grateful for his calm and collected presence through the entire labor and delivery, and even afterward when I had to have some stitches, which seemed like the longest part of the whole ordeal.

The midwife who was second in command helped me immeasurably by putting pressure on just the right places to help relieve some of the pain so that I could more easily relax my body during each contraction.

After I had thrown up a few more times, they decided I needed an IV and that I should probably go in the tub to help relieve some of the pain. They began filling the tub and also tried to start an IV. This would be a good time to mention that I have an extreme needle phobia. It stems from a traumatic childhood experience, which makes it neither rational nor any less terrifying. I was laying on my side as they tried to get a vein in my hand during on and off contractions. They couldn’t get it, so they tried to roll me onto my back so that they could get the darn thing in my arm. I was having none of that being on my back stuff. It hurt way too much. This prompted them to check me again, only to realize that it was too late for the bath and that it was time to push!

When they tell you that your body knows what to do in labor, they aren’t joking. Nothing could have stopped me from pushing at that point. It was more than an urge. I pushed and pushed harder, and I felt so much relief when the head came out. At this point, they told me very sternly to stop pushing because the cord was around the baby’s neck. I did as I was told, which was much easier to do with the head being out. The midwife tried to slip the cord over the baby’s head, but since my uterus is heart shaped, too much of the cord was in the other side of my uterus, making the cord very short. They had to cut it before the rest of his body was out, which they did, and he was totally fine, thankfully. His shoulders did a little damage to me when they came out, but other than that, we were both healthy and came through the labor and delivery with no complications.

The euphoria that you feel after giving birth naturally is like nothing I can describe. It was almost like an out of body experience. Oxytocin is real and powerful! All I can remember after he was born was looking at him and stroking him and saying, “My baby! My beautiful baby!” It was like I couldn’t stop saying it or touching him or looking at him. My husband jokingly says it was like the baby was lost at the supermarket and we had been reunited again.

After my husband cut the cord shorter and we spent a little time as a family, fawning over the baby, and after I had delivered the placenta, which was so not as bad as I thought it would be, the hubs sent out a text to our families letting them know that the baby had been born, and, of course, attaching a picture.

image1

image3

My mom, in particular, was in disbelief. The first she learned of me being in labor was at approximately 2:30pm or so, which is when she was told I was at 4 or 5 centimeters. At just about 5:30pm, she got the text that the baby had been born. Yes, this first time mom was in active labor for three hours and pushed for twenty minutes, and the baby was born. To God be ALL of the glory in this experience. I did not know how my labor and delivery would be. Who ever does? But I do know that God showed up and showed off and gave me a very special and very merciful labor and delivery. 4:8 indeed.

IMG_3336

I don’t know how to say this…

I don’t know how to say this, and I know I need to just say it. I have wanted to get back here to write about my experiences as a first time mama of my very own baby, but I have not been able to bring myself to do it because I feel I have to close out the last chapter of my mommy-hood as a foster mama. Even though I have already somewhat written about my feelings and experiences of closure with the fostering part of my life, something new has come up.

Shortly after I gave birth to my son, I learned some news of my first foster baby, Little Dude. He tragically passed away at the age of two, likely due to parental neglect. Without revealing details, his mom and dad both broke some rules, knew they were breaking rules, and when Little Dude had an accident, they did not take him to the hospital as they should have since they were worried that all of their children would be taken away from them. When they finally took him several days later, it was too late.

I feel sad, mad, and afraid since hearing this news. I have not wanted to address those feelings or spend time grieving this loss because I am putting so much time and energy into my new role as a mom and all of the love, joy, hard work, tears, and anxieties that come with it.

I feel mad that the foster system failed Little Dude and his brothers. I feel mad that the decisions being made about his brothers are still not in their best interest. I feel mad that the parents did not make their childrens’ safety more important than their need to hold onto their children. I feel so sad that this sweet baby had to senselessly die because the adults in his life did not protect him. I feel sad that his brothers are having to deal with the grief of losing their little brother and the grief of being shifted from place to place to place with no sense of safety or home or family. I wonder if they worry that what has happened to Little Dude could happen to them. I worry that they are not getting what they need, especially since they all have some kind of a special need or medical need.

Part of me feels like my time with Little Dude, all of the love and care I put into him were for nothing. I know that is not true in my head. I know that the seven weeks he spent with me at the beginning of his life were so important, that he got invaluable love and security from my care, but my heart feels heavy that he is gone. I feel grateful that he is now in heaven where he can no longer feel pain. I continue to pray that his brothers will be reunited with the family that should be allowed to adopt them so that they can be together with a familiar and loving family that will take care of all of their special needs.

So You Want to be a Foster Parent…

From time to time, people ask me about being a foster parent. Whether they have been considering it for years or have just recently thought about it, they always have questions. Most people don’t know anyone who has been a foster parent in real life and don’t have much of an idea what being a foster parent looks like day to day. Since different people have asked me to share what being a foster parent is like, I thought I would share my thoughts here.

I am no expert. I fostered two different babies. One was a preemie right out of the hospital. I had him for 7 weeks before he went to extended family members. After about 6 months, sadly, he went back into the system. The other was several months old when he came to live with me, and I had him for about 8 months before he went home to his birthparents. Unfortunately, about six months later he went back into the system as well. Cumulatively, I was a foster parent for less than a year. My experience was incredibly wonderful and incredibly challenging at the same time.

One of the first things I would recommend to anyone who is considering becoming a foster parent is to read “The Middle Mom” by Christie Erwin. She and her husband have made fostering their life’s work, and she has some great advice and experiences to share. One of my favorite lines in her book says, “God can only bless a heart that is willing to be broken.” If you do it right, foster care is heartbreaking work.

The single most important part of being a foster parent is to love completely, recklessly, without abandon, fully knowing that you will eventually be physically separated from that child. So many foster children become adults without having ever experienced loving attachment, which is essential for development. If you don’t know anything about attachment, please read up on it so that you can understand how vital it is for all children to experience. A lack of attachment has far reaching negative effects throughout a lifetime. Essentially, by making a commitment to love and attach to a child in the foster care system, you are selflessly allowing yourself to hurt so that they don’t have to hurt later on. At the very least, there will have been one adult in their young life with whom they have experienced attachment. Even if they leave you when they are very young like my babies did, and will not remember you consciously, their unconscious mind will remember. That experience will be embedded in their psyche forever, and will be vitally helpful to them as they grow into adulthood. They will remember that feeling of love and comfort, and it will help them to become more resilient teens and adults.

Being a foster parent is not like being a regular parent. If you are “all in” as a foster parent, you will feel every bit that child’s parent, even though you didn’t give birth to them. In addition to all of the responsibilities of being a parent, you also have extra duties. At the very least, there will be meetings with social workers, regular visits with birthparents, and paperwork. You must document everything you do with your foster child, including visits to doctors or specialists, visits with birthparents, medications you give, and bumps, falls, or illnesses they have. There are also periodic evaluations, phone calls with the child’s lawyer, occasional court dates, and team meetings. You are not a solo parent. You are a “team” who’s collective job it is to work towards reunification of the child with his/her biological parents. If this is not possible, then the goal of the team becomes to find a placement in a permanent home for the child to be adopted. It takes a lot of time for parental rights to be terminated, so the process is easily dragged out. I don’t know what the statistics are, but it is sad to say that from my experience and the experiences of others alongside of whom I have taken this journey, many times kids are reunified with biological parents too soon or without enough support and sadly end up back in the system, a trend that you are powerless to fight against, as you have few to no rights as a foster parent. Oftentimes it feels as if you are a glorified babysitter, although I urge all foster parents to fight that feeling and act like a true parent, no matter how you are treated.

Being a foster parent will stretch you in ways that you do not anticipate. In addition to being a loving, caring, safe, and educational place for a child that you know will eventually be leaving you, you also have to be prepared to work with all of the adults involved. This means working with people you may not agree with or get along with, remembering that this is one of the ways you can try your hardest to do good for the child who is in your care. At a minimum you will work with a social worker, or two if you decide to foster through an agency rather than through the county (I had two.), the birthparents, sometimes having visits separately if the parents can’t get along or there has been a history of domestic violence, and the child’s lawyer. It can be frustrating to say the least because often it can feel like the social workers and the parents do not understand what is best for the child. You feel like you know better since you are with them all the time, and often your ideas and pleas are listened to but not regarded. It is essential to be able to handle conflict with respect and grace, knowing that ultimately, the social workers and birth parents have more pull than you do. The best way to make a difference is to be a positive presence even when you disagree. It is important to speak up and voice your concerns AND to do it in a respectful way. When I went through hard times with this, I had to pray and pray and pray that God would fill in the gaps. And there were such obvious gaps that I SO wanted to fill but was not allowed to. I had to trust God to fill them in and to fill in my own that I sometimes couldn’t even see.

Also, realize that most often, as the foster parent, you will be responsible for monitoring the visits with the birthparents. Often birthparents have some kind of substance abuse issue or some trauma in their lives that stunt them emotionally. Many times you can be dealing with a birthparent who is physically in their twenties or thirties but emotionally is still a teenager. You have to have so much patience. Making the birthparents your enemy will cause so many problems. Work to love them and have compassion towards them. If you have children rather than babies, make sure you don’t speak negatively about their birthparents to them. Many times you will have to be the adult and hold your tongue. Remember that you are dealing with people who are hurting, and they feel jealous that you get to have so much time with their children. It can be hard for them to see a way out of their situation, even if it is easy for you to see what they “just need to do” to get it together. They are overwhelmed and need your help. I’m not talking about enabling. I’m talking about having a compassionate heart, an open line of communication, and healthy boundaries. This may be the very first time they have experienced anything like the relationship you could have with them. You could change their lives by your presence in it. Be deliberate.

If you are going to foster, you need a support system. I fostered as a single woman, and while I am so grateful for my experience, I would not necessarily recommend going down this road as a single mom. It is hard. Painfully hard. I had a great support system in close family and friends, but it was still hard. If you are planning on fostering as a married couple, be on the same page as much as possible. If one person is passionate about being a foster parent and the other agrees because they see how important it is to their spouse, things will begin to go south quickly. Pray and research and pray and plan and pray. Trust the Holy Spirit to guide you. Trust that God will lead you to what is right for you.

photo

This is a week of “anniversaries”. Yesterday was my parents’ 39th wedding anniversary. What a blessing it is to have parents who have worked at their relationship and remain happily married. I am truly grateful to them for their love and example. Today is the one year anniversary of the day my wonderful husband proposed to me. I am in awe of what God has done in our relationship since we began dating, and I am so happy to be married to my best friend, the love of my life, and the man God chose for me to do life with.

Fiive days from now is one year since the day my second and last foster baby went home. Since he went home, I have had contact off an on, feeling blessed at getting to still be a part of his life, or at least a party to it, no matter how minimal or sporadic the contact. After several months of not hearing from him, I got a few pictures and word about how he is doing. Details aside, the situation is less than perfect, but from what I gather, he is happy and safe. It goes without saying that I miss him, and I hope that one day soon hubby and I will get to visit him.

Whenever I receive pictures of Baby Incredible or hear news about how he is doing, I share it with my family and friends. When a baby spends almost a year of his life with you, everyone becomes attached. This is so good for the baby. Forming bonds with people who love him help him to form neuropathways in his brain that will last for a lifetime and have the potential to help him in more difficult and trying times. It is also hard on the people because in a fostering situation, those bonds are not always lasting.

After sharing the latest pictures with my dad, he sent me this e-card. I cried happy tears. To have a father who loves me that much and who cares about me that much and who knows how to express that to me is a blessing beyond blessings. Happy Father’s Day, Daddy-O. I love you, and you are a gift to me.

Musings

I was just speaking with a couple of co-workers about the progress of some shared students, and one of them mentioned that the two of them were both moms. I didn’t catch it at first, but then the other one spoke up and said, “and so is she,” pointing at me. Her comment made me happy to be included, but more than that, it made me remember that, yes, I still am a mom. I am grateful for the reminder.

Love is Like a Stream

When I get a little emotional, my right eye begins to “leak”.  It’s like a little stream, but just out of that one eye.  I’m not sure why it happens that way, but it does.  As I was sitting in my bedroom in the Ikea “rocking chair” that was given to me by a friend who was moving, long before I had any idea I would be a foster parent, my eye began to leak.  I wasn’t alone as I sat rocking, my eye stream activated; Baby Incredible was lying on my chest.  He’s almost getting to big to do that now.  His legs curl up under him, and his arms hang off of the side of me.  

The first time I put him down for his nap, he woke up as soon as I left the room.  When it was clear he wasn’t going to go back to sleep, I went in, cleared off the rocking chair that had clothes piled on top of it…after all, what’s the use of it when there’s no baby in the house…and plucked him out of his crib.  He lay on me as I rocked, his ear against my chest, listening to my heartbeat.  We were both quiet.  I played with his hair, a little buzz cut now, his “jewish curls” gone.  His eyes fluttered, and my right eye leaked.  

I thought about how God knows just what we need, how he made the ultimate sacrifice for us, sending his Son to die on the cross, how all of my “sacrifices” for Baby Incredible pale in comparison to that.  I thought about how God knew exactly what I needed in that moment, and God is so amazing that it was actually what Baby Incredible needed, too.  We both needed each other, to have that skin to skin contact, for him to hear my heartbeat and for me to hear his breathing and smooth his hair and skin.  I don’t know if his mom rocks him when he is at home.  I know they don’t have a rocking chair.  I can’t imagine on her doting on him as much as I do when he’s here.  This is a gift for both of us.  

Everyone always tells new moms to sleep while the baby sleeps.  It is advice that seems to make sense.  New moms are sleep deprived and have a very demanding little human whose needs come before their own; moms need sleep.  This advice that sounds great in theory, doesn’t work out so practically.  There is laundry to be done and dishes to do and floors to be swept or mopped.  A lot of times, laundry or dishes or floors trump sleep.  Sometimes, though, holding your sleeping baby trumps all of that.  It is true for all moms that you never get that time back, but for this former foster mom, it is truer than true. I will never get back that opportunity to hold him a little longer while he sleeps, and I only get that opportunity once in a while.  

When I was a little girl, I had a lot of ideas about how my life would go.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be a “co-parent”.  Never did I picture sharing my little boy with another family, one who gets to call the shots.  That’s really what I have become.  Where I once was a foster parent, now I am a “co-parent”.  That said, I am grateful beyond words that I still get to be in this little boy’s life.  Actually, it is a miracle of God that I am able to be a co-parent of sorts.  This kind of thing virtually never happens.  God is definitely working in this situation.  I am grateful for all of my friends who have prayed for Baby Incredible and me and his family.  I am grateful for those who continue to pray.  This is one amazing little boy.

It’s interesting to think about the way I once pictured my life in comparison to the story God has written.  When I was a little girl, I thought I would be married by the time I was in my twenties.  That’s when my mom and dad got married, in their young twenties: my mom was 20, and my dad was 21.  I thought it would be easy to meet my “prince charming” and that we would have a fairytale wedding and have a few years to enjoy some time together before we started having babies.  I thought I would begin having kids when I was in my mid to late twenties, and I thought I would be well into the rhythm of being a mom by the time I was in my thirties.  None of the messy realities of adult life ever entered my consciousness.  I never thought about not meeting my prince charming or not having kids before I turned thirty or of foster care or adoption or co-parenting.  My picture was that so many things were difficult for me during the kid part of my life that things had to go easier in the adult part of my life…easier, no.  Better with God, yes.  

God has given me an amazing man to live the rest of my life with, and I get to marry him in 77 days.  Although fairy tales are not real, God has given me such a phenomenal story that it feels just as good to me as if it were a fairy tale.  Erick, my incredible beyond words fiancé, and I have been through more than most engaged couples and have learned and grown so much through it.  We have each been on a journey that has been tying us closer and closer together.  None of that would have happened the way it has without fostering being in our lives.  God knew.  Every time I am fearful of what lies ahead for us, I think about God’s plan being bigger and better than I could ever ask for or imagine.  Even in all of my ideas of what my adult life would be like, I never pictured that I would get to marry my best friend, that he would propose to me in such a well planned, well thought out, and romantic way, singing a song to me before he asked me to marry him.  Never did I think that we would get to have the courtship and dating relationship and engaged relationship that we get to have.  Never did I think that I would have such amazing friends and family around me during such an important time.  I am truly blessed.  

God is never finished working until Jesus comes.  “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 1:6