Laying Down My Life…

We have been going back and forth a lot lately about what our future in foster care looks like. By no means, is either of us done but we are both looking at, thinking about and praying about redefining. We are weighing what continuing to just foster looks like versus becoming a flex family (meaning we are looking to adopt) until we feel we have our family sort of “established.”

There has been so much pain with one of our current placements that, honestly, I want to run from it and never feel it again. But this, this is my selfishness. Every time I really think about becoming a flex family, I know it’s not what we are called to. I know that easier isn’t the answer here.

Resoundingly, I know that I am called to lay down my life. I know that it’s not about my visions and dreams of what my family looks like and who is in it. It’s not about how comfortable or uncomfortable I am. It’s not about my heart and how much my heart can endure. It’s not about how many nights I will stay up worrying when they go home. It’s not about me at all.

None of the above things matter in light of the cross. None of the above things matter when there are so many children who need a safe and loving home.  Providing this home will be my deepest joy, greatest privilege and maybe even my most excruciating pain. I will lay down my life, my heart, my comfort and my fears and pick up my sweet children and love them fiercely and I will continue to love them no matter where they are.

 

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Knowing them…

“I don’t know who is going to kiss you when I’m gone so I’m going to love you now, like it’s all I have…”

 

Last night, we were all piled on Jude’s bed reading books and as I was looking at my babies, I knew it would be one of those moments I would treasure forever. Honestly, I have a lot of those moments as a mom and even more, I think, as a foster mom. I don’t want to miss a single thing and I know that tomorrow is not guaranteed with these precious souls, so I purposefully take in and store moments like this.

Of course, this got me thinking. This big, scary, never guaranteed life we live is also immeasurably blessed. In two years as a parent, I have gotten two know four beautiful, unique souls. God has brought to me four souls that he intricately, delicately and purposefully created and designed and He trusted me with them. I have gotten four different perspectives and views of the heart of my Father. The beauty and the value in that brings me to tears. I have gotten to journey with, pray over, nurture, love and cherish little pieces of God. How incredibly amazing is that?!

Sometimes, I get so caught up in how hard this is and I forget about the calling and the blessings in the calling. When I reset my mind, when I focus on getting to know these souls and treasuring them then I feel immense pride that God has chosen me for this. I am the one He decided should get to know these specific aspects of his character.  He called them by name before they were born and destined them to this home, to my heart. I’m honestly blown away by this and cannot deny the beauty and the splendor in it all.

So, in-between mother or forever mother, I am going to cherish, treasure and relish in the joy of getting to know my children, their precious souls and the unique traits God has purposefully given them. Yes, the joy of foster parenting is truly in getting to know them.

The Ugly Part of Me…

We just had a really difficult conversation with the social worker for one of our current placements. The conversation was a few weeks in the making and the events that led up to it were all a little bit traumatizing and, at the same time, very revealing.

We are no longer able to supervise visits. It feels like a failure on my part. It feels heavy on my shoulders and thick in my heart. I don’t think the social worker would see it this way but she hasn’t seen my thoughts and my heart in the midst of all of this. It has been really ugly over here. I have learned, in the past six weeks, that at my worst I am jealous, hateful and incredibly petty. The thoughts I have had have not been pretty. You may say that this is normal and to be expected considering the way I have been treated, the situation, etc but this is not who I want to be and it is not helpful to the foster care process.

Here’s the ugly truth: I want the baby. Me. I want to be the baby’s mother. I have been consumed with this. I have had horrible thoughts about all the things I have done for the baby and things I’ve been there for that she has not. I have let myself make keeping the baby my primary mission and that has led me down some dark paths. Deep down, at the root of this, I know this is a representation of a core issue in not trusting God with him. I know this and I know how horrible I have been and yet, I sit paralyzed. I know it’s not okay. I don’t want to be this person but the only solution I can find is to decide not to behave this way again, not let my thoughts get the better of me ever again and stuff away this person inside me that I hate. However, I know this won’t work. Temporarily, sure, I can go back to believing I’m a decent human being who has conquered her pettiness but deep down I know she will pop back up and I will back in this spot again.

It’s time to really conquer this. I have no idea what that looks like but I do know that I never want be here again. Pray for me as I come face to face with the ugly part of me.

Parenting Hacks…

I’m a little hesitant to write this, it benefits me and I won’t deny that. But, if I have a trick or secret that is AMAZING, it’s not really nice to you or loving you to keep it from you. So, I’m writing it. Hear me out!

Oils have completely changed the way we parent and work with new placements. This time around was so different. This sleep regression was so different. We have so many little bottles of tools that help us deal with all the emotional things that being a foster kid and a foster parent bring with them.

Baby boy, our newest placement, was not a super awesome night sleeper when we first got him. Conditions had to be just so and even then he would wake. I don’t know why, but I seem to get all of the sleep fighters, maybe because I don’t sleep well myself. Now, the condition for baby boy to sleep is Cedarwood, Lavender and Stress Away in the diffuser. Seriously, he’s out like a light. No fighting, no rocking him to sleep for 40 minutes, nothing. Same for my son, those three are the winning combo! We even put some on his big toe with a little coconut oil!

During this last sleep regression, it seemed that wasn’t enough for my son. He is strong-willed just like his Mama. When I’m all worked up and going through something, the only oil that works for me is Surrender. So I put a little Surrender on him and that was the end of that. He has been going to sleep and staying asleep just like he was before the regression started. So, instead of weeks, me losing my mind, feeling like an awful parent and a failure, him not sleeping for weeks, etc. we had it handled in 3 days! Sooner, if I would have thought it through!

That’s not even all of it! Don’t get me started on the tummy problems foster kids and babies naturally have – handled, naturally, done -no worry of side effects. Teething, handled – no worries about my child having seizures from the so-called “natural option.” Allergies – normally, if our kids are under 2 they are left to suffer with little relief, not in this house.

Beyond all of that, there is SO MUCH to the emotional well-being of these children. Given that we take younger ones, they are unable to express or verbally work through all of it. Which then leads to us, the foster parents, being traumatized by it all. This has been my biggest struggle. How to help my son on his trauma-versary, on the days and nights he was working through so much. If you are a foster parent, you know what I’m talking about. Release has been my personal favorite for all of this. I like to put some in my sons bath or diffuse it for the baby after visits. There are multiple others that have helped so incredibly much, too! Before, I was left to sit, baffled by whatever my son was working through with him not allowing me to hold or comfort him. It hurt both of us. Now, we have a release bath and we cuddle. Amazing.

I take release baths often as well! Let’s be real. I’m not perfect and there’s a lot to work through with bio-parents, social workers, etc. – a lot to release because I have no control, no say and I am so invested. But, I get out of that bath feeling better and with enough hope and strength to pick up my baby and give him what he needs without holding back because of pain. That is the winning ticket in foster care.

Leave a comment if you are interested or want to try oils. I’m not pushing you into trying these but they have changed everything for us and it’s selfish to keep that to myself.

 

Support

We recently got a new placement. A brand new baby boy. A blessing. Ours for as long as God has him here. Destined by God to be in our home and hearts. We are over the moon and simultaneously scared after our last goodbye.

Around this time, I was watching my friend who was expecting her baby boy as she was opening her baby shower gifts. Seeing the celebration and the blessings poured out for this new life and new part of their family was so beautiful it made me cry, a little (motherhood has done this to me). But then a sting came, my children, will never be celebrated like this. I love them the same, their life is just as valuable, their place in our family just as real but they are not blessed and celebrated by our friends and family.

I don’t want you to think I am just whining. We did have a foster shower when we got this all started and it was a huge blessing. However, the idea of each little soul that enters our home being celebrated makes my heart burst with the beauty of it. For this placement, we were also blessed by some friends with outfits and diapers but only one of those friends was from church.

I’m an idealist. In my ideal world, the church would welcome each new placement with some sort of celebration – cake and cards to let them know they are loved or something. Our church community would bless us with meals because a new placement, no matter how old, is hard (even with a newborn, I didn’t give birth but we aren’t sleeping, they have visits that we have to get out of the house for 3 times a week on top of all the other normal newborn stuff). In my ideal world, my grandparents wouldn’t be the only ones offering to babysit for us and we wouldn’t go months without a date.

Again, please don’t hear this as whining. I’m inspired by the picture I painted above. It shouldn’t be just our church or our foster family but every single one. The body supporting another part of the body doing a certain ministry. I want you to be inspired, too. Celebrate and cherish the little souls that these foster families are sacrificing their hearts for. Serve them as they serve the fatherless

Adoption Letter

“I can’t imagine life before you came along, you are the music to my dance and my song.

I am meant for you, you are meant for me. The one I’ll love forever more, undeniably.”

 

Jude William Augustenborg, my son. I’m crying writing that. Today, you are legally my son. My first legal child. My heart is on the verge of exploding. I cannot even begin to tell you how beautiful and amazing this is. How proud and thrilled I am that it is you.

The journey to get here was not an easy one. Dadoo and I have been married almost 5 years. We wanted a baby so badly, we would frequently talk about how our child would be strong-willed, determined, and bold like me but also gentle and sweet like Dadoo. We talked about how funny our child might be. We wondered if our child would be organized like me or relaxed like Dadoo. We laughed about how klutzy they might be. We didn’t know how much these things would come alive in you. Everything we talked about in our first child you possess. You, my son, are strong, determined, bold, loving, sweet, gentle, very organized, a little klutzy and oh so incredibly smart. You amaze me. Every aspect of your personality enthralls me and draws me into a deeper love of you. The more you develop and the more you learn to express yourself the more my heart feels like it’s going to burst with pride, joy and love. You see, everything we ever imagined our first child would be you are…and so much more. You exceeded every expectation and hope I had for a child.

The day you came to us feels like a whirlwind. I got the call at work around 3pm and as soon as I was off at 5pm, I headed down the street to pick you up. When they brought you out you looked terrified. You just stared at me with those beautiful eyes. When I took you from the worker, you held tight. It took me almost an hour to get you into the car seat because you were so very afraid. We met Dadoo and your baby foster brother we had had for 6 weeks at a store to get you some basic necessities for the night. You immediately fell in love with Dadoo. You two giggled and played little games in the store. It had been only 2 hours and already you had stolen my heart. When it was bedtime, you were scared – understandably – so, Dadoo held you until you both fell asleep

Soon after you came to us, you met almost the entire family. It was that night, as you went from person to person saying “hi!,” soaking up every second of attention and stealing the hearts of everyone in the room, especially Nona and Papa (you had Mimi before this!), that something in my soul knew you were where you belonged forever.

Son, I won’t lie to you and say these were simply the best days of my life. They were some of my very best days and most treasured memories but I won’t pretend that having two babies only 8 months apart and being a brand new parent was easy. It wasn’t. I was exhausted. But I don’t regret a single second. I never will regret bringing you into our home. You were meant to be here. You were meant to be mine. To be ours. The beginning of our story was hard but incredibly beautiful. Sometimes, you were the only light in the midst of my darkest days.

When I look at you, I see deep love, vivacious tenacity, a bright future, humor and most of all one of the best things in my life. You, my son, are a manifestation of a deep love the Father has lavished onto us and deep love between Dadoo and me. I could not have dreamed or imagined a better first child than you. “I may not have given you the gift of life but the gift of life gave me you.” I can’t believe you are really mine. I love you.

Love,

Mama

P.S.

I’ll love you forever

I’ll like you for always

As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.

Why I Let Him Get A Baby Doll…

We were recently at a friend’s house and Little Man was obsessed with the baby doll there. This began a discussion or, more accurately, a pro/con list, in true Brittney fashion. Truthfully, I couldn’t really find anything negative but I did find a lot of positives.

Here’s what I think – I think it will teach him how to love and care for a baby and that will help him be a better dad when he is grown. In the midst of this fatherless generation, I think that finding something that will show him how to be an excellent dad is greatly to his benefit. Not to mention, he has seen my amazing husband care for other babies in our home and he LOVES to mimic his Dadoo.

I think that it will help him process his emotions and his past. He will have something that represents him. He can work things out with this baby.

I think it will help him with his motor skills as he learns to dress and undress the baby.

I think it will help him as we bring babies into our home. It will help him transition. It will help him know how we treat babies. It will be familiar for him.

I know he has named the baby the name of our previous foster son and it may be helping him work things out already.

I know that sharing this might bring some criticism. For those of you that think I am opening up my son to some gender crisis, please let me ask you – is there anything strictly feminine about caring for a baby?

So, I bought Little Man a baby doll. He picked a black baby and monster outfit to put him in. I bought him a baby and I’m proud of that.

 

Secondary Trauma

Secondary trauma, it’s a term used frequently in the foster/adopt world. Until recently, I thought of it as this big scary looming cloud that was somewhere in my future, you know when we have older kids or see truly horrific things. This seemingly haunting emotional state that is something like PTSD, according to the experts, was something I’ve been gearing up for. It is something I had written off as a possibility at this point because everything has felt somewhat “normal.” But here I am, feeling so very isolated, emotional, exhausted and realizing it’s not really been “normal.

I’ve heard a lot of foster parents talk about how incredibly isolating it is and they aren’t exaggerating. Sometimes, it feels like no matter how wonderful your support group is there is still this feeling of being misunderstood. At first, I thought I was being whiney but after reading through some posts on my support group, I am now realizing this is a common feeling in foster care.

The truth is, we see a lot and we hear a lot. We take the brunt of emotional outbursts. We deal with rules and people that we never would otherwise. While the feeling of being a safe haven is amazing, the reality of it is intense.

This calling of foster care is so amazing. It is beautiful, emotional, deep, spiritual and miraculous but it is also incredibly difficult, horrifying, and intense which is what makes it so very isolating. It’s hard to explain the little moments in the day that make you feel broken, it’s hard not to feel like you are sounding like a broken record to all of your friends, it’s hard to describe what you see in your child’s eyes sometimes but it doesn’t change the fact that it is happening and that it is a constant in your life and that is the very essence of secondary trauma.

Adoptive Heart (my story)

“I hope I’m at least half the dad, he didn’t have to be…”

My uncle was recently talking about what our fostering means to him and how it’s such an amazing thing to be a part of and watch. Sometimes, I think my family forgets that they all took part in that story with me. You see, adoption is woven into my story.

The man I call my Dad isn’t my biological dad. He was never even able to adopt me legally. Regardless, he’s my dad.

He met my mom when I was 2 or 3 years old. I called him “mama” and my mom “mommy.” His family immediately embraced me as the first niece and granddaughter. He taught me to love broccoli and eventually sushi. He introduced me to Star Wars and The B-52s. He gave me my love of camping. He rebuilt my first car with me.

After the divorce, he took me out to dinner once a week. He never missed one. Those dinners may have saved my life. Things were bad and he showed me I was worth devoting his attention to. He sat and listened. He gave fatherly advice when necessary. He made me feel valued and loved.

This is just my dad. This doesn’t even begin to describe the love of my grandpa, who is the most caring, generous, helpful, sweet man who loves our entire family, my little included, like our blood is the same.

I have an adoptive heart because my family had an adoptive heart towards me.

 

1 Year

Today, we have been parents for one whole year. I can’t believe it’s already been a year and yet I can’t believe it’s only been a year. Our first year of parenting doesn’t really resemble a normal first year of parenting, it’s been a roller coaster. A year ago today we took a two week old baby then we took a ten month old two months later, then lost the baby six months later and are now and again parents of one.

I would be lying if I didn’t say it’s been a crazy learning curve! I saw first steps before I saw crawling or even sitting up. I’ve never heard a first word. It’s weird to think I’ve never been the mother of a 9 month old! Discipline is still a muddled mess for me. Sometimes, I think “my kid is coming up on two I should have this more figured out” then I remember we have only had him 10 months and maybe I should extend a little grace to myself. I often wonder if I would be disciplining the same with the baby then I remember they have two very different personalities. Currently, time-out and tantrum rug are my go-to’s but I question that weekly!

When I think about this year and all the joy it has held, all the heartache I have felt and the tears both have brought I can’t swallow that it’s only been 365 days…how can such few days hold such depths and breadth of emotion? How in less than a year did my home see one child, then two then one again? How has my heart not burst from the love and joy or from the pain and sadness?

A year of parenting, an almost two year old and a baby in another home. Bittersweet doesn’t begin to describe our first year of parenting. Here’s to many more.