Category Archives: Baby

You Can’t Fix “The System”

No one sits behind their desk and says “Lets emotionally scar a child”.

No one speaks out in a courtroom and tells a judge, “Your Honor, we need to ensure this child ends up with RAD.”

No one sits at your dining room table and says, “We really ought to set this baby up for complete emotional failure in life.”

In foster parent circles, you hear a lot of people saying, “The system is so broken! It must be fixed!” And indeed it is broken. Like the public school system, it is a one size fits all path. So while slight variations may be made here or there, it’s designed to work for the average case— whatever that is.

In my county, young children are not supposed to end up in the system terribly long. This is a good thing. But what is supposed to happen and what does happen are two different things. A child whose life hangs in the balance. A baby who has formed attachments to people other than their parents for months or even years, suffers from the instability of belonging nowhere. An older child passed from home to home, racking up a line of diagnoses and worsening behavior with each disruption. A teenager, ready to age out, with no real hope or plan of what comes next.

So we should speed up the process, right? Well, if we reunite these children too quickly, their parents will fail. Often times, parents have a long history of struggles to overcome in a short time. Addiction, mental health problems, abusive tendencies, and the like cannot be fixed with the swish of a wand. These hurdles can take a long time to overcome. We set children up for failure and re-entry into the system, we risk their physical and mental health, and sometimes we risk even their lives by reuniting too soon.

But, if we terminate parents’ rights too quickly, we needlessly rip families apart. This leads to resentment on the part of the adoptee. We see depression, RAD, we see regret, we see that a family may have been reunited if the parents only had more time. We see two families worn down and broken.

So what’s the fix? How do we “reform the system!”? I don’t think there is an answer to that. Call me a pessimist, but there is no fix that would work in a one size fits all system. The system, “broken” though it may be, is the most effective formula for the middle cases. The ones on top and the ones on bottom get the short end of the stick, but there simply has to be a middle of the road procedure they slap on every case.

Individualizing every case would be ideal of course. But this would require so much more manpower, so many less hard and fast laws, and so much more personal interpretation of the rules on a case by case basis by the decision makers. While that sounds great, it is, of course, a lawsuit nightmare waiting to happen. You terminate the rights of one parent at 3 months into the case, give others 6 years, and you’re asking for revolt.

So what happens? What happens is you sit awake all night with a screaming baby on visit days who is torn apart by anxiety because you left her with a stranger for a few hours. Except that stranger is her mother. You have a little boy, so shaken up by instability that he eats obsessively, hoards food, and steals more for later, because it’s the only thing he can control. You have a preteen girl punching holes in walls, completely conflicted by the stability she gets in one home, and the love she feels for her mother— no matter how unstable her mom’s home may be. You have an adolescent boy shooting up heroine to stop feeling the rejection he has felt from being bounced around home to home for the majority of his life.

So, no. There are no lawyers asking to inflict RAD on a child. There are no social workers providing drugs for foster youth. There are no judges sentencing small humans to a life of depression and instability— but it’s still what’s happening. Fix the system? I don’t think you can.

Sound bleak? Yeah. It is. I’m worn out. I’m weary. I’m tired. I’m wrecked. What can I do? What can you do? If we can’t save the foster care system, how do we make a difference?

By taking the punches— sometimes literally. By being a child’s rock to cling to when they’ve been shipwrecked in a stormy ocean of instability. By praying for that baby while you rock him, since he is too small to understand why he is so scared of visit days. By advocating for resources when you are personally tapped out, and that young lady needs clinical help. By not giving up on the child— even when you’ve given up on the system.

You cannot control the system. You cannot control the parent. You cannot control the judges, lawyers, and social workers. You cannot control the child sometimes. But, you can control the conscious decision to keep going.

So. Tired though we may be. Exhausted. Wrecked. Jaded. Bruised and broken. Soldier on. Keep going.

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I Don’t Want To

I don’t want to co-parent today. I don’t want to pretend that it isn’t frustrating that someone parents differently from me. I don’t want to get a child back with a diaper put on incorrectly. I don’t want to smell someone else’s strong perfume on him.

I don’t want to have to spend 3 days getting eczema flares down after a visit. I don’t want to deal with the meltdowns that will plague us for the next 24 hours. The clingy baby who refuses to let you pee alone, because he’s so afraid you’re going to leave him with someone else again. I don’t want to deal with crappy naps and night terrors for the next day.

I don’t want to send texts and pictures every day. I don’t want to give updates that aren’t appreciated. I don’t want to spend hours writing up parenting instructions per the social worker to find out they were never read. I don’t want to spend hours every week transporting and dealing with 3 other whiny children stuck in a car. I don’t want to make pleasant small talk at drop off and pick up.

I don’t want to worry. I don’t want to be scared about something going wrong. I don’t want to spend hours with my stomach in knots in fear. I don’t want to get a baby back who has gotten hurt.

This is the point where you ask “Then why are you a foster parent? Stop complaining and find something else to do with your life!”

Because this is what I’m supposed to do. Because doing the right thing is hard— but you still have to do it. Because being selfish isn’t a right– and it’s a pretty crappy character quality. Because, if I don’t do it, someone else also might not. Because this is what i signed up to do. Because being a co-parent is a necessary role for a foster parent to fulfill. Because this is how I can help a family reunite. Because sometimes you have to fake it ‘til you make it. Because this baby is worth trying for. Because his mama is worth trying for. Because it’s not about me. Because, today is just a bad day. Because, tomorrow will probably be better.

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Managing SPD and PGP in Pregnancy

If you’ve ever had the feeling of a steel toed boot kicking you in your pubic bone and been told “it’s because your baby is low”…

If you’ve ever tried to get out of bed in the morning only to feel like your pelvis is about to snap in half and been told “oh that’s just because you need to do prenatal yoga”…

If you’ve ever had pain radiating from your SI points down your legs, like electric shocks and firey needles and been told “that’s just normal pregnancy back pain!”…

I’m here to tell you honey, that ain’t normal. And I hereby give you permission to tell your Aunt Barbara, Dr. Know-it-All, and Queen Earth Mother Yogi where to hang it.

I can’t tell you how many times I have read posts like these in mom groups, only for “veteran” moms to tell other moms that it’s normal. Can back pain in pregnancy be normal? Sure. Should normal pregnancy back pain debilitate you? No. Do women experience round ligament pain? Even though that concept seems like a made up term to push mothers out of OB and Midwife appointments quickly, sure, it exists. But is it normal to feel like your pubic bone is about to snap in half? No, ma’am, it is not.

Let’s talk a little about Symphysis pubis dysfunction aka SPD and PGP— that’s pelvic girdle pain. (I’m not a medical professional, so this is in super laymen’s terms… laymoms? That sounds weird. Laymen’s.) SPD is what occurs when your body produces too much relaxin and your joints get all mushy. Your ligaments stretch out, and become useless, because your body thinks it’s time to push a baby out. Except, for most is us with SPD, this hits long before it’s baby time, and often lasts for some time after baby has left. With your joints and ligaments in an uber relaxed state, your pelvis becomes unstable. Nerves get stuck between bones, your ability to balance becomes iffy, and your pubic bone and SI points click and grind. In a nutshell, it’s a little taste of torture, often with no real end date in sight. This can lead to depression, agoraphobia, PPD, PPA, and a whole lot of frustration.

From Pregmed.org

This is my 5th pregnancy, with SPD and PGP. I am taking several proactive measures to (hopefully!) help make for a smoother journey with my SPD this time around!

Here’s what’s worked in the past that I’ll be continuing:

Physical Therapy: I actually didn’t have success with PT during my previous pregnancies. I had PTs who didn’t know what to do with me, handed me a cane or a walker and said “Sorry, we don’t know what to do with you.” However, after Peachy was almost a year, I connected with a great PT who took me seriously and got me strong again! I’ll be working with him this pregnancy, and I look forward to seeing how that will help in the midst of pregnancy!

Acupuncture: I was so hesitant to try acupuncture, partially because I thought it was fake and partially because I had given up on anything working. But at the urging of a physical medicine doctor, who assured me there was science behind it, I gave it a go! I had tremendous results! Now, mind you, tremendous results for me meant 2-10 hours worth relief or maybe 24 hours without a walker, but when you are living in constant pain, those breaks are what keep you going! The acupuncturist I saw, focused on needling and massage, not on herbs. We were a good fit, and I look forward to connecting with her sooner than last time.

Quality medical equipment: I have a wonderful and trusty cane at my ready! I started out with a walker that was for a much shorter person last time, and I was crouched too low. This time, I’m planning on getting a walker that suits my height better! And in time, hopefully I can snag a great wheelchair (my last one was a little rickety!)

Here’s what didn’t work in the past, that I will be doing without:

Chiropractor: I have been to MANY chiropractors. 2 certified in the Webster technique. What I got was really high quotes for treatment, cockiness (two chiropractors told me they were going to hang my cane on their walls for a trophy once they “fixed” me— which neither accomplished!), worse pain that before each adjustment, and no relief whatsoever. Because this is an issue of your ligaments and joints constantly failing you, even if I found a chiropractor who could set me straight, I would be out of alignment within an hour with how loose my pelvis is. Some have found relief, but overall, the ladies I’ve talked to with SPD, there are many of us who have not had success with chiropractic care.

Ill-fitting, poorly made supports: I have 6 or 7 belts, braces, and harnesses in my collection from my last 4 pregnancies. Some given to me my bewildered physical therapists that aren’t even made for pregnant people. Some from amazon, some hand me downs. Some are full over and under the belly braces, others just under the belly belts that cut off blood flow. None of them have worked, but I’ve held on to each one, maybe hoping it might work one of these pregnancies. None of those are made for people with SPD, so none of them address the problems caused by SPD! So, the crappy, useless braces have got to go!

Here’s what I haven’t done before, but am doing this time:

When I was pregnant with Peachy, I read an article about a man in England who had a wife with SPD and had fashioned a brace specifically made for women with SPD and PGP. I told Milkman about it, and he said “if you ever get pregnant again, we are getting that thing!” Well, I got pregnant again, and so guess what? I got “that thing”. The brace is called the Harness Gravidarum Maternity Support Belt. The first time I put it on, I was 10 weeks pregnant, and as I fastened the last strap I let out an audible “ahhhhhhhhh!” The relief was immediate. I’m going to be talking a lot more about this harness and it’s creators in posts to come, but I gotta tell you, I’m already impressed with it! I have high hopes for a better quality of life in this pregnancy!

Yes, please!So! That’s what’s going on with me and SPD this pregnancy! And the next time someone brushes your SPD or PGP off as “normal pregnancy back pain”, you send ‘em to me, and I’ll set them straight!

Have you struggled with SPD and PGP? What helped you find little bits of relief and sanity?

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A Forever Changing Family

First, two became one. And that was the day Milkman and I were married. We were going to wait a year before trying for a baby.

2 months into our marriage we decided to “leave it up to God and see what happens.” We were pregnant the next month. Just two weeks before our first wedding anniversary, we became a family of 3 when Captain was born.

We thought we would wait a year before trying again. And then when Captain was 8 months old, we got another positive pregnancy test. Our sweet Mamitas was born 41 weeks later, and we became a family of 4.

When Mamitas was 11 months old, we had another positive pregnancy test. We were so excited to be a family of 5! We cherished each moment we had, but at my 17 week appointment, our little baby love was no longer. I delivered Ezra’s sleeping body 4 days later, and we remained a family of 4.

4 months later, another positive test! Our rainbow baby was the greatest joy of our lives. Peachy was born that Fall, and then we were 5. We knew after such a difficult pregnancy and traumatic labor and delivery that biological babies would not be in our near future, but we had already completed our foster parenting requirements, so we trusted that our family would grow in time.

9 months later, we received a call for two sisters from our foster agency. Within 24 hours of getting a call, we were a family of 7. Three months later, they reunified, and for two weeks, we became a family of 5 yet again.

It was too quiet, so imagine our joy when we received a call for an “adoptable” 5 day old newborn baby boy. Sweet Warrior. He left us just under 3 months later to a non-family relative home. We were devastated.

And the calls stopped. We were just 5 again. For 6 months we sat by the phone, and no more children came. But then, a call. And we were 6, when little Chatito came to live with us. And 6 we have happily been, and 6 we shall remain for a little while longer. Then 5 again when he reuinifies, but not much longer after that…

And we will be a family of 6 yet again. Because the Lord has blessed us with the gift of pregnancy!

We are grateful to God for giving us another baby to love. Our hands are full, but our hearts are bursting. What a joy to have 4 children at my feet to love on while a 5th steadily grows in my womb! Join us in praying for a healthy pregnancy and a sweet, full of life baby in Summer 2018!

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Visitation Day Blues: Kid Edition

As we all piled for our morning cuddle on the couch the kids asked what the plan was for the day. I told them, “Don’t forget, you guys need to pack your backpacks with quiet activities, today is visitation.”

Captain, my oldest asked, “Is it the one where we go to the coffee shop?”

“No, that’s the other visit. Today is the one where you need to sit quietly in the car in the parking lot so your baby sister can sleep while the baby is visiting with his mom.”

Both my preschooler and kindergartener groaned. This is the least favorite day of the week. We eat an early lunch, every one goes potty, and we load up into the van and head to the other side of the county for our fosterling to visit his mother for an hour. Because of when it’s scheduled, my little ones end up stuck in the car for two and a half hours. I don’t like it either. Trying to keep my older kids quiet and occupied so that my youngest can get some sleep is stressful. On good days, she gets half of her normal length in nap. On bad days, it’s a 5 minute nap and a whole afternoon of meltdowns. It’s not easy on our foster baby either. Some how it always works out that he gets awoken to go to the visit or awoken once we get to the visit. Lots of interrupted sleep usually equals a very long day with lots of crying, nap fighting, and fussiness for him.

“Mom, we don’t like this visitation day! It’s boring!” I sighed as the day had just started and the complaining was already starting. Milkman looked at me sleepily from the corner of the couch where he spent the early morning after a very early wake up call from our foster baby. We trade off nights, so I actually got sleep last night, but I couldn’t say the same for my sweet husband.

As much as I wanted to reply, “Stop complaining, too bad!” I realized this was a teaching moment. “You know what guys? I don’t necessarily like this visitation day either. It’s stressful for me trying to ensure every one is quiet in the car. But… Well. Do you know why we do this? God says that we need to care for orphans and widows. Do you know what a widow is? It’s someone who has lost their spouse and has no one to care for them. Do you know what an orphan is?”

They looked at me blankly.

“An orphan is someone who either doesn’t have living parents, or their parents cannot currently safely care for them. The foster children we’ve had in and out of our home are considered orphans. So we actually have a really important job, because we are obeying God when we care for foster children. We don’t just do this because babies are cute— even though they are! We do this because we love them, and have a duty to obey God, and this is how our family has been called to obey. And one of the jobs of foster families is to make sure foster children get to see their parents.”

They nodded slowly. Well, the older kids did. My youngest, Peachy, was dancing around like a wild maniac to Celtic Christmas music. Never a dull moment.

Milkman chimed in, “Can you imagine if you only got to see mama and papa two hours a week?? You would miss us so much and we would miss you so much, right? The baby’s mommy wants to see her baby.”

I continued, “Exactly! And that’s one way we can serve his mommy, too. She loves her baby. So I know that visitation day is kinda lousy and boring for us. But it’s a sacrifice we make together as a family to obey God and to serve the baby and his mommy. Can you understand that?”

“Yes, mama.” They replied. I’m sure they didn’t feel super happy to go on with the plan for the day, but at least they now knew there was a valid reason behind their boring day ahead.

Sometimes teaching moments are hard to come by, and sometimes they fall perfectly in your lap, like it did for us today. My kiddos do sacrifice a lot for our family to continue fostering. While it’s not as much as Milkman and I have to, it’s a decent amount for very young children.

I hope they know, for as long or short as we have to foster, it’s not just something we do for the heck of it. It’s something that takes self sacrifice. It’s something that is hard to do. It’s something that takes giving up our schedules, preferences, and desires. It’s certainly not something we do for praise from others or accolades. But, most importantly it’s something that we do in love and obedience— together. As a family.

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I Remember Ezra.

I won’t forget the butterflies I felt when I saw those two lines.

I won’t forget the excited look on your daddy’s face when I told him you existed.

I won’t forget the sound of your big brother and sister praying for their “tummy baby” every night at bedtime.

I won’t forget the first time I heard your heartbeat.

I won’t forget my tummy bulging with you growing inside.

I won’t forget you moving around on the ultrasound, dancing like a little sprite on the screen.

I won’t forget the feeling that something was amiss.

I won’t forget when the Doppler was placed on my stomach and came back silent.

I won’t forget when your body was so very still on the ultrasound.

I won’t forget how hard my body shook as I wept for your short life.

I won’t forget picking out the green yarn for your baby blanket, and wanting you to be warm.

I won’t forget driving to the hospital for your induction.

I won’t forget the awful, heart breaking, soul crushing feeling of my water breaking and your body beginning to detach from mine.

I won’t forget the nurse wrapping you up in a wash cloth and exclaiming, “dear God, he’s so tiny!” As she handed your lifeless body to me.

I won’t forget how we bundled you in the little green blanket I crocheted during your labor.

I won’t forget how we sang to you. 10,000 reasons, stay awake, Jesus loves me…

I won’t forget your itty nail beds, precious earlobes, your miniature nose that looked like Captain’s, your absolutely perfect little feet.

I won’t forget parting your mouth as I dropped a single drop of mama’s milk in between your lips.

I won’t forget when we gave you one last kiss, placed your sweet, small body wrapped in that soft green blanket into the white basket so the nurse could take your body down to the hospital morgue.  

I won’t forget any of it. I will remember. I will mourn. I will miss you. I will cry. I will say your name. And I will keep telling your story, so that other people will remember you, too.

My sweet, sleeping Baby.

Happy 3rd Birthday in Heaven, Ezra Eugene. I love you. 

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So You Wanna Nurse in Church?

In the last five and a half years since becoming a mother, one of the topics that comes up regularly in the mom groups I am in, is the topic of nursing in church. Invariably, there will be a mother who posts that she nursed in church and was told not to and is (understandably!) upset. I have seen many comments of people religious or otherwise who try to offer their advice in the comment section. Some will say “I always nursed in the bathroom at church, and I was okay with it, so you should be, too!” Whereas others will say, “TIME TO FIND A NEW CHURCH! You can take legal action for that! Alert your local news station!”

I tend to get frustrated with both of those extremes, and having gone through this myself, I feel there is such a much better and healthier option!

A little background: When I began nursing five and a half years ago, I originally felt most comfortable nursing in the designated nursing room of our church. After some time, I felt segregated and alone and missed worshiping with my husband. My husband and I agreed it was time for me to come out of the back room so we could be together during worship. By the time we had our second child, it came to our attention that there was an older woman who was offended by my nursing in church, though I was always covered (I have a personal preference of nursing while covered in church. I don’t cover elsewhere, this is just what’s in my comfort zone.) After two years of prayer, meetings with the elders, letters back and forth with the leadership, support from my husband, and patience, we were able to make a policy change in our church so that nursing mothers would be welcome, whether in the nursery, sanctuary, or lobby! And about a year and a half after that, we successfully pioneered the way for a family room. 

WAIT! DID SHE JUST SAY *TWO* YEARS??

Yes, TWO years. But it was worthwhile, because instead of quietly being bowled over by the naysayers or getting angry and suing the church and leaving, I was able to help make a difference. So how does this work? Here’s how it worked for us:

1. Someone in the church approaches you and tells you that you need to go nurse in another room, that nursing babies are not welcome in your place of worship. Take a deep breath, don’t make a scene, if you are nursing your baby, I would personally let the baby finish nursing, and then step out if you need to calm down.

When you get home, assess the situation. Is the person who confronted you in a place of leadership? Was this person kind in how they approached you? Even though their tactic was wrong, did they perhaps have good intentions? Asking these questions can help you to get some objectivity. In my situation, my husband had been approached rather than me, so we talked through it together. If you have a supportive partner, now is a good time to talk to them about this to bounce some thoughts off each other and pray.

2. Address the situation with your church leaders. Don’t complain to the woman in your small group who can do nothing about this, or to your neighbor, or the hairstylist and expect change. We are Christians, so this was a great time to exercise Matthew 18* principles. Airing the dirty laundry of your church will most likely only work against your cause. If you are already close to one of your elders or to your pastor, you may want to call them to set up a meeting to talk. This isn’t something I would want to bring up to the pastor right after preaching, because I would want to have time set aside for a meaningful conversation. In my case, the written word is always my friend. I find that both my husband and I get our words out clearer when they are in a letter that we can write, mull over, edit, pray over, and edit again before sending. We sent a group email to all of our elders, informing them of the complaint, showing from biblical texts that nursing has historically been a normal thing for the people of God (Joel 2:16 is a beautiful verse!)**, and asked for their counsel on the matter. Ask when they can meet with you to discuss this further.

3. Pray. As a Christian, I believe in the power of prayer. I prayed that God would give the leadership of my church wisdom and flexibility. I asked forgiveness for bitterness in my heart towards those who complained about my nursing baby. My husband and I prayed together about this and individually. This was really important to us, not because nursing is my hobby horse, but because being together as a family to worship is important to us, and making sure that a visitor or new Christian nursing in our church wouldn’t undergo the same situation is important to us.

4. Meet with your leadership. My husband accompanied me to the meetings we had with our elders as a show of support and solidarity. We both had things to say during our meetings. If you don’t have a supportive partner, maybe bring a spiritually mature and wise friend with you. The meetings we had with our church leadership were uncomfortable at times, healing in others, and could also be frustrating. It’s important to try and keep a level head. What kept me grounded was the desire to help normalize nursing in church not just for me, but for mothers who would be nursing in the future. In our situation, this became a marathon, not a sprint.

5. And, finally! Hopefully resolution and restoration after coming to a meeting of the minds with your leadership. It is possible you will find out the person who confronted you had their own preferences in mind and it was not church policy. Hopefully your leadership will say “OF COURSE your baby is welcome! We’ll talk to the person who made this complaint with you to inform them they spoke out of turn.” Or they may say “That was a policy we had, but you’ve raised some good points, and we need to change our policy to make worship inclusive for ALL our attendees!” And I hope that one of those responses will be the case.

But! If it was like ours, maybe you have to go back to step 1! In two years, I think there were probably 5 or so emails back and forth, 4 or 5 meetings with our leadership, and my husband and I prayed specifically for our elders every, single Wednesday about this topic. I cried many tears, felt frustrated, felt lonely, and sad. At one point, we even had to take a break from our congregation and attend another church as it seemed we weren’t going to make any progress on the matter. But we kept praying and kept in contact with our leadership during this time, letting them know we loved them, but that it was so important for our family to worship TOGETHER. Not scattered in different rooms each Sunday. 

When we were finally able to come to an agreement, it turned out there had been some miscommunication between some of the leadership, and when all was said and done, we were told, not only were we all welcome to worship together, nursing babies and crazy toddlers alike– our leadership asked us to help come up with ideas that would help make our church more welcoming to families with babies! We now have a room for families to worship together, that includes a private nursing area within it for those who want privacy. But fathers and mothers, babies and young children have a place to worship TOGETHER if the sanctuary isn’t working out, due to noisy toddlers. No more moms only room apart from my family.  (Take a look at the pictures below to see the family room we designed at our church!)
Because of our unfortunate situation, we were able to help turn the ship around and make our church a better place for nursing mothers and young families who would find themselves in our situation down the road.  

Was it easy? No. Did it take a long time? YES. Was it a good learning experience? You bet. Was it worth all those tears, prayers, and meetings? Undoubtedly, so.

So, the next time Mrs. Jones from the seniors ministry tells you to go nurse in the bathroom, try to remain calm, and remember this is a huge opportunity– the opportunity to normalize breastfeeding, to cling closer to your faith, and to make changes for the next generation.

*Matthew 18:15-17 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church…

** Joel 2:16 “…gather the people.Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber.”

Some inspiration for you! Here is the family room at our church. It has special consideration for nursing mothers who wish to nurse privately, but it is not a “nursing room” because we want our formula feeding mamas to feel welcome here too. It’s not a “cry room” because it’s not a place to be sad. It’s not a “mommy comfort room” because dads need a place to comfort their children, too. 

Can’t You Just Breastfeed Your Foster Baby?

Me formula feeding our foster baby while nursing our bio baby

On a Tuesday afternoon last October we got the call. “Would you take a 5 day old baby boy?” 3 hours later we were pulling into the driveway with a tiny stranger, screaming both from withdrawal and hunger.  

We jumped out of the van, unbuckled everyone, ran into the house and I yelled to Milkman, “Make him a bottle!” He looked at me completely confused. 

“How? Do we use hot water? Cold water? How much do we scoop in? How much does he need?”

I was frustrated– not because of *his* lack of knowledge on the subject, but of our collective ignorance. As I fumbled with the pacifier and white noise, Milkman was googling and so was I. “Okay! Warm water, sanitized bottle, 2 ounces, so that’s one scoop!”

How is it that 2 adults who had been parents for 4.5 years to 3 children not know how to make a bottle and feed a baby?

As a nursing advocate, lactation hobbyist, and exclusive breastfeeder, I was (and am!) steeped in all things human milk related. I can help you latch a newborn, hook you up to a pump, make you lactation cookies, and assure you at 4am that that screaming gassy 3 week old you have is totally normal, and it’ll pass. (No pun intended…) but formula feeding? Totally new. We were lost. 

So, we began to educate ourselves, learned proper handling, preparing, and best practices for formula feeding. I thought time and time again how much easier it would be if I could just give him breastmilk. I did some googling and found that while it was not common to get approval for human milk, it was in the realm of possibility.

Because of the baby’s particular set of health concerns, I presented the idea to his pediatrician. She agreed that human milk would be optimum for him. The next step was to get approval from the social workers, who surprisingly were also in support of the idea. The last (and most important) approval I needed to receive was from the baby’s mother. I was so nervous, it was my first time meeting her, and while all the social workers had told me his case would go to permanence and he would likely end up apart of our forever family (he didn’t by the way, because foster care!), I knew this was still her baby. I told her of his particular struggles and that the pediatrician had recommended human milk. Before I could even finish my question, the response she gave was, “Ew. No.” Of course I was disheartened. It was a long road to get him on the right formula, to help with his various health issues, but thankfully we were able to sort his problems out with Gerber Gentle formula.  

I had been cautiously optimistic about being able to give human milk to our foster baby, but once I talked to other foster parents I began to realize how rare approval was. Since then I’ve been asked dozens of times in breastfeeding groups online, crunchy mom circles, and friends “since you have milk, can’t you just nurse your foster baby?”

So let’s break this down.

Biologically, can I nurse a foster baby while still nursing my bio child? Yes. Absolutely. I’ve spent almost half of my nursing journey tandem nursing– that is, nursing two babies (of different ages) at the same time. Milk production works based on demand. In general, the more you nurse, or the more children you nurse, the more milk you make. So biologically, it would be possible for me to nurse a foster child– or any other child for that matter.

Legally, could I nurse a foster baby? The short answer is no. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but the general rule is, this isn’t my baby, so I don’t have the authorization to feed this baby whatever I please. In my county, I can’t even switch formula brands without pediatrician approval. The other issue we fall into is the matter of that of physical boundaries. We live in a culture that has re-assigned the human breast to one task: sexual arousal. Of course, we know biologically that the primary purpose of the female breast is to provide nourishment to children, but nonetheless, offering your breast to a child who is not yours, and may have experienced sexual abuse is going to be a logistical nightmare. 

So can you bottle feed pumped human milk to a foster baby? There will be times where a baby is struggling badly with withdrawal, is having serious digestive problems, or is premature, and a doctor will approve human milk, likely from a milk bank. If a biological mother were to refuse this recommendation and it was deemed to be medically necessary for the child to receive human milk, with proper documentation and approval, it could go to court for a judge to overrule the mother’s protest. Again, there could be a biological mother who says yes, and it’s approved that way. On the other hand, some mothers send their own milk with baby, which (if pumped safely and mom is sober and healthy) is a great option. However, the most common answer is going to be no. Of course, this is a hard pill to swallow for me as an advocate for human milk for human children, but it all comes back to this: these foster babies are not my children, so it is not my choice to do something I have been told not to. 

Imagine if you were an exclusive breastfeeder and you found out that your child’s day care provider was feeding them formula every day. You’d probably be pretty floored, right? Well the same goes in this situation. I’m caring for this child, I make decisions to keep this child safe, fed, and loved, but generally it’s not in my jurisdiction to change their food source if I’ve been denied that request. 

Do foster parents breastfeed or bottle feed human milk to their foster children? Yes. I’ve talked to many of them who have. Some in hushed tones, others with boldness. Many social workers will say “don’t ask, don’t tell”, some doctors will say the same, and some bio parents aren’t around to give approval or denial for the request. Most of these foster parents have the best interest of the child in mind, I’ve never met anyone doing it maliciously. Some counties care less than others and leave more decision making up to foster parent, so it’s not as big of a deal.

The important thing is that we feed babies using best practices. Clean hands, sanitized bottles, properly prepared, and portioned. So if you’re a crazy breastfeeder like me who ends up formula feeding, instead of being too crestfallen at your denial for human milk, do all you can to become educated on formula feeding so the baby has their best chance at a healthy start! And if you’re a formula feeder who has been told to feed human milk, do your research for best practices on handling human milk!

Nursing my toddler while she helped feed formula to our current foster baby

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on foster parenting, breastfeeding, or everyone’s experiences ever with feeding every foster child on the planet, these are merely my thoughts, experiences, and observations. If you’re unsure about human milk and your foster baby, contact your social worker!

Want to read more on fostering, infant feeding, and see some stupid memes? Come check out She Rocks the Cradle on Facebook!

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There’s No Such Thing as Fostering to Adopt


Before you bristle too hard at the title, stick with me.
Back when Milkman and I started our journey to welcome non-biological children into our home, it was with one goal in mind: adoption.

We knew that we wanted to adopt, and we knew that private and international adoption was costly, and were familiar with fostering enough to know that it was a good thing, and thought of it as a means to an end. The end? To adopt a child.

When going through our training and our initial home study interviews, we made our goal clear to our agency from the onset. We were a “Foster to Adopt” home. Foster to adopt… that’s totally a thing, right?

 Our first placement was last July. We were asked to take 2 children for a 3 day stint. We agreed to it firstly because it meant our paperwork would be expedited, and secondly because it was so short term. Those 3 days turned into 3 months, and by the end of it, we informed our agency we were no longer looking strictly for “adoptable kids”, but that we were happy to foster with the intent of reunification. 

The next baby we fostered came into our home at 5 days old. He was an “open and shut adoption case”. Guess what? He left us to live with a distant relative 3 months later. Not so open and shut. It was really hard, but he was never ours to begin with. 

Our current fosterling is headed toward eventual reunification, and though we desire to one day have our forever child via the system, I’ve learned something really important: There is no such thing as Foster to Adopt.

The very point of foster care is to be a temporary caregiver. Your social worker could tell you all day that this is a for sure adoption case and even still, foster care should be looked at as a temporary thing. You are to welcome a child into your home, care for them, feed them, love them, protect them, all with the goal of them reunifying.

You then tell me, “Well, I have a friend who adopted through foster care! And I’ve seen all those cute pictures with families holding signs that say how long the child has been in foster care, posed next to their forever family on adoption day!” Yes, we all know people who have adopted from foster care. I hope to be one of those people one day. Some of those people didn’t intend on adoption, but it happened that way. For some, adoption was the initial hope. But let’s think about what has to happen for a child to become “adoptable”. 

If a child in foster care is supposed to be a temporary fix while their biological caregiver gets their ducks in a row, how is it that children are adopted through foster care every day? Because something has gone TERRIBLY wrong. 

“WRONG?? Adoption isn’t wrong!” I didn’t say that. For a child to become “adoptable” a parent’s rights have to be terminated. Let that sink in for just a second. This means that (in general, there are always exceptions) a parent has been given the tools they need to get their child back, and they couldn’t or wouldn’t use those tools in order to reunify. That’s tragic. Even if the foster family that is set to adopt them is the best family in the world, we cannot brush past the real and awful reality that parent and child have a tie that has been severed. Their flesh and blood has lost the legal right to raise and nurture that child. That’s a terrible thing to have to happen. 

Would you not agree, that assuming a parent has followed the steps they need to, and is safe, the best place for a child to be is with their biological family? When I say this I really mean “safe” not “my standards”. It’s easy to think you need to fight reunification because your house is bigger, you provide higher quality food, and you dress them nicer. Those aren’t qualifications for being a parent, though. Your job as a foster parent is to love and care for this child, all the while supporting reunification.

But what about the parents who are really far gone? Well, of course if a parent is abusive, neglectful, crippled with addiction, or can’t see their way out of a relationship with someone who is, those are the cases where adoption becomes necessary.

Am I saying adopting is bad? Absolutely not. It is still mine and Milkman’s deepest desire to adopt a child. But adopting via foster care is a bitter sweet act. One in which a child has to lose one family in order to gain another. 

And this is why I say, there is no foster to adopt. You foster to foster. You foster to reunify. To help this child and their parent get to a place that is safe enough to become a family again. Adoption, is merely a bittersweet tributary off the main course of foster care. A beautiful, yet tragic thing. 

So you still want to be a foster parent if it means giving every single child back to their family? If it means your heart is broken into a million pieces, so that a biological mother’s can be made whole again? So that a father can raise his child with his own culture and blood as their bond? If the answer is no, foster care may not be the right road for you. But if the answer is yes? Then you are in the right frame of mind. And maybe, just maybe, your family will grow through adoption one day. But let that not be your main goal in this journey, lest you be entirely disappointed and crushed. But if you’re willing to take the risk, I can promise you, it is worth every step if the journey.

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Want to read more unpopular opinions, follow our foster care and bio parenting journey, take a look at our life living on a working farm, and laugh at the stupid memes I post? Come check out She Rocks the Cradle on Facebook. 

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Man Colds and Macho Society

Several years ago, a video came out portraying a “Man Flu”. It was emailed around (this may have been before YouTube was super popular, I have no brains for remembering dates), and it made its way to my dad’s email. I remember we gathered around the family PC where my dad showed us the video and we laughed and laughed! The video was hilarious, and as my dad will willingly admit, when he gets sick, he hibernates and displays some of the typical “man cold” symptoms, so it made the video extra funny for our family.

Throughout the years, I’ve made jokes about man colds, and heard many more women complain about this phenomenon on Facebook. When Milkman caught the first illness he had since we were in a relationship, we were counting down to our wedding day. I wanted to baby him and love on him and tend to his every whim, because my mom always babied us when we were sick, so it was second nature. However, Milkman didn’t require babying or piles of sympathy and tucking in. I think he humored me as I drove to his parent’s house after work and made him a favorite meal and stroked his feverish forehead, but he didn’t seem to be dying. I thought, “well! Maybe he’s just not that sick.” The next day he fainted from a fever, and broke open the skin on the bridge of his nose as he collapsed to the ground. I was so upset (both for him having been hurt and also because I was afraid that gash would ruin my very expensive wedding photos! I know, I know, shallow…) and also a little in awe. Here was a man. A man who was sick. A man who was pretty darned sick. And he didn’t have a man cold?! What gives? Isn’t this a biological thing? Don’t all men look death in the face as soon as they get the sniffles? This is what society was teaching me, so it must be true!

Now, throughout the last 6 years of marriage, Milkman has humored me and does let me care for him a little extra when he is sick. Everyone likes having special attention and care when they are unwell, right? The joke at our house is that I am the one who gets man colds. If I have a cold, you might as well put me out to pasture. Someone spoon feed me some soup and get me a cool compress! I’m not likely to survive the end of the week with the colds I get. Lucky for me, I have a husband who is expert at all things comforting and spoiling.

But it has made me ponder… how was the man cold invented? If not all men get it, it must not be a genetic predisposition. And the more I’ve thought about it, I think it has been a phenomenon created by macho-ism. How can that be? Macho men need nothing! They are manly and self sufficient. They don’t show weakness! Keep tracking with me here.

We live in a society that praises men who never break down, never need help, and never ask for directions. Men have to be strong (or at least appear that way) constantly. Men who admit depression are seen as weak, men who show affection towards their children are labeled effeminate, and men who cry? Well they must be sissies! 

This constant pressure to hold up a macho facade becomes increasingly difficult. But there is one time it’s okay for anyone to show weakness: when you are sick or hurting! Do women show weakness when sick? Sure we do. But it isn’t the last 11 months of emotions coming out at one time. Society has deemed its okay for women to show vulnerability. We can vent, ask a friend for help, go take a spa day– all with minimal judgment. But for some men, it seems the only time they can ask for some babying, some help, and get some pampering is when they are ill.

What if men get “man colds” because it’s the only chance they get to show they need help? What if we stopped expecting unwavering strength the other 51 healthy weeks of the year? What if we stopped making a huge deal out of our fathers, sons, and husbands needing a little pampering when they are sick, and just showed compassion without eyerolling? I can’t help but wonder if that would change the way we see the man cold, and dare I say it? Remove the stigma entirely!

So, the next time the man in your life is “dying” from the common cold, let it remind you to do a little something for him to decompress from time to time when he’s healthy again. Maybe we can change the narrative by just treating others with love, compassion, and being a safe place for people to turn to when they need to show a moment or two of weakness.

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