Tag Archives: difficult

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.

Heartbreak

It is nights like tonight that my thoughts turn to parents who have lost their children to the foster care system.  There’s not much special about tonight. In fact, it’s the ordinariness of the night that has my thoughts turning to the parents who are not caring for their own children, not out of a selfless act of making a decision to give them a better life through adoption, but because a report was filed and investigated, and it was found that they were not, at that time, fit to be parenting their own cild(ren).  In some cases these parents were products of the foster care system themselves, and it can feel like it was only a matter of time before the vicious cycle continued.  In other cases drug and/or alcohol abuse are a factor, and in yet other cases, abuse and neglect were present in their own childhood. Whatever the case, it breaks my heart for them.  It breaks my heart that someone that was supposed to protect them, likely let them down.  It breaks my heart that they never learned to take responsibility for their own lives, despite the unfair and difficult things that no doubt happened in their lives.  It breaks my heart that they did not learn resiliency and perseverance and hope that their futures and the futures of their children could be different.    

It breaks my heart that while I am making Baby Incredible’s first baby food, his parents are at home or at work or working on one of their court ordered responsibilities.  It breaks my heart that they miss so many of his milestones, moments that they can never get back, moments that I will remember long after Baby Incredible moves on to the next step of this process, whatever the Lord determines that to be.  So many of my firsts as a mom have been with Baby Incredible, and that can never be taken away: first plane ride, first Christmas, first New Years, first solid foods, first time making baby food…  Baby incredible has now been with me for almost three times as long as he was with his parents.  It breaks my heart that he knows me better than he knows them, that he identifies me as mom, and that eventually that bond with me will be broken when he goes to his next place, whether it be with his parents or into a foster home or with other family members.  

There is so much heartbreak in this system.  Yesterday I got a call from DCFS to ask me if I had room to take a baby.  They were desperate.  They had to be to call me.  I haven’t been doing this long enough to have a relationship with anyone there who would call me for a placement, and I am with an agency.  The agency is the one who calls me for placements.  I am only certified for one at a time, so I have no room.  I’m glad I don’t have room, because if I did, I might not have been able to say “no”.  The baby was that of an underage mom.  Heartbreaking.

There is so much brokenness, so much heartbreak, so much need.  Being a foster parent is without a doubt the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.  It requires so much sacrifice and selflessness and unconditional love and loving your enemies and resiliency and perseverance and a million other things.  You can’t know exactly how something is going to be until you do it for yourself.  That is SO true with fostering.  You can learn and read and go to classes, but you are truly tested when you are in it.  Even after all the sleepless nights and tears and stress and crying and issues with adults involved in this process, I wouldn’t go back and change my decision to do this.  It is so important and needed, and God knew I could handle it and make a difference in some babies’ lives.  That is priceless.  

Why do I do this?

Some days I even wonder why I do this, why I foster. This morning I woke up at 4:30 to Baby Incredible’s wails. It’s so hard when he wakes up at 4:30 because I have to be up at 5:30 to get us out the door on time to go to day care and work. That means I don’t get to go back to sleep if he needs me at 4:30. He woke up grumpy and was crying. I woke up exhausted and overwhelmed. I cried, too. Yes, as he cried, I cried and called out to God that this was too hard. I’m sure it was a sight. I’m glad only God could see it.

As I’ve prayed and talked to friends today, processing through my over active emotions, I have realized something. Fostering isn’t what’s too hard. It’s working full time as a middle school teacher at the same time as fostering that’s too hard. It’s not that I’m unequipped to be a foster mom. It’s not that I’m unequipped to be a teacher. It’s that doing both of those things at the same time is a little bit cuckoo. I know this seems like kind of a “duh” realization, but for me it is a big deal. I have been having a lot of thoughts lately like, “Am I the right person to be a foster mom?” and “Can I handle this?” and “Maybe I made a mistake.” All those thoughts are full of doubt. And as I entertained those doubtful thoughts, I did not think about what it would be like to foster if I weren’t teaching full time. It would be completely different.

Teaching and fostering are two things I feel God created me to do…maybe just not at the same time.

As I have been learning to overcome my social anxiety, one of the strategies I’ve learned is reframing my thinking. This “aha” moment of mine, that I was created by God to be a teacher and a foster mom…just not at the same time, is exactly that: reframing. Just coming to this realization makes me feel more hopeful and at peace.

I know God will bring me through as I continue to teach full time and take care of Baby Incredible. It won’t be easy, but God will provide.

Tonight, I write this as I am lounging in my big, soft, chair in my comfies, with Baby Incredible peacefully sleeping on my chest. He’s been out for almost two hours, yet I’m not ready to put him in bed yet. This is why I do this, for moments like this, moments that are as much a gift to me as they are to him. It is in these moments that I wish I were independently wealthy so that I could quit my job and be with this baby every moment of the day.

As I spend my Friday night with a sleeping baby, I am reading a book that was recommended to me by a friend who is in the process of fost/adopt. It is called Middle Mom. So far I’ve read the introduction and the first chapter, and the author, Christie Erwin, is speaking to my heart. I could have written the first paragraph if the first chapter myself. That’s how relatable she is. I also love what she had to say about “the system”. The government wasn’t called to care for the fatherless. The church, God’s people are. And He gives is the strength and power to do so. (James 1:27) Wow. Just wow.

Perseverance

Yesterday I wanted to give up at least a dozen times, maybe more.  It’s funny how the things we worry about and pray about can sometimes go swimmingly, while the normal day-to-day things that we wouldn’t normally worry about go totally awry.

I was so worried about the long times in the car that we would have on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, going to and from different festivities, because Baby Incredible doesn’t do well in the car most of the time.  He pretty much detests the car seat, and if he doesn’t fall asleep, he often cries to the point of not being able to be comforted.

Well, he did absolutely wonderfully in the car.  He was an angel on all four of our one-hour car trips.  The unexpected problem started on Christmas Eve when we reached our first destination.  We got to my boyfriend’s family’s house, my amazing boyfriend who has been 100% supportive of my foster mama responsibilities since I began the classes and trainings, before we were dating, while we were just friends…and Baby Incredible screamed his head off for an hour or more.  He wouldn’t eat, he had a clean diaper, and he wasn’t responding to any of the ways I normally comfort and soothe him.  This was not the way I had pictured Christmas Eve going.  Eventually, he calmed down and fell asleep for the remainder of our evening and even slept through our car trip home.  I was a little worse for the wear, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed with some deep breaths, some prayer, and some kind words from my boyfriend.

Baby Incredible slept through the night on Christmas Eve and woke up at around 7am Christmas day, at which point he, again, screamed his head off for the majority of the next five hours.  He would not be comforted by much of anything for much longer than five or ten minutes at a time.  I wanted to have a peaceful morning at home before my boyfriend picked me up to go out to my family’s house for Christmas, but instead, I got a stressful morning of lots of screaming.

While the crying was stressful, what was more difficult was not knowing what to do to comfort Baby Incredible.  Normally, I am great with babies.  At least one of the myriad of things I try can comfort or calm a crying baby, but yesterday, no.  For whatever reason, he was a mess.  I had so many moments of feeling like I knew nothing about what I was doing, when normally I feel like I know my way around babies.

During those five hours, I cried with him at some points, and at many points, I felt like I had made a mistake taking on the responsibility of a foster baby, as a single woman who has a full time job, a boyfriend, friends, a family I’d like to spend time with, etc.

The truth?  Being a foster mom is a sacrifice.  Actually, it’s a lot of little sacrifices that happen every day.  The truth?  There are good, even great moments of having the privilege of being in the care of a precious infant, of knowing I am saving him, giving him a chance of a bright future as I nurture him through part of some of the formative years of his life.  The truth?  I’m learning a lot from being a foster mama, and God is growing my character through it.  He is also growing my relationship with my boyfriend through it.

Although I would be sad, I would be ready if the agency called me tomorrow and told me that they had a new place for Baby Incredible.  I do feel ready for him to move on.  I have been praying that God would move Baby Incredible when he sees fit.  Sometimes I do feel like I have more than I can handle, but when I feel that way, I know that I need to lean on God more and ask for help from my friends and family.  I know that God will move Baby Incredible when he knows it’s too much for me.  Until then, I will continue to be grateful for God, my friends, and my family, and especially my boyfriend, as I continue on this challenging yet rewarding road.

Today has been much better.  Baby Incredible seems to be back to his old self, I got babysitting for the New Year’s Eve dance (huge sigh of relief), I went for a short walk with Baby Incredible, and I haven’t had to go anywhere or do anything pressing other than taking care of him and doing some things around the house.  I’m grateful.

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