Today is your 4th birthday. 4. I can’t even believe this will be the 4th year we have celebrated your birthday without you here. Wasn’t I just in the hospital waiting to deliver your tiny, lifeless body?
So much has happened since that day, Sweet Boy. 4 months after I delivered you, I became pregnant with your little sister, our rainbow, Peachy. But that’s not all. There were 4 foster children in and out of our home since then. We moved— my goodness leaving the house we lived in where you lived and died in my womb nearly shattered my heart. I’ve experienced hosts of physical ailments, and a few diagnoses. Your big brother and big sister have gone from toddlers to elementary aged kids. After saying goodbye to you and two of your baby foster brothers who came and left after you, the Lord blessed us with a forever baby boy, your brother Gordito. He’s sleeping now in my arms with a full belly of mama’s milk and swaddled like a chubby burrito.
There has been so much change since you left us, and yet? I still miss you. I still feel your loss in physical and tangible ways.
Sometimes when I am kissing your baby brother, his soft, bubble gummy cheeks, I wonder if you would have looked like him if you had made it. I sniff in his pungent smell and remember all I have of you is a little box of ashes.
Sometimes I think about how different life would be if you had lived. There would be no Peachy, in all her wild insanity, I love her so much I can’t fathom life without her, and yet if you were here, she wouldn’t be. That makes me feel guilty if I think about it too much.
Sometimes when I’m in the living room with your brothers and sisters, I count their heads “1, 2, 3, 4…” and then I go into a mild panic scanning the room looking for you. Where is my other child? There have been times where I have gotten up and looked in other rooms in the house for a fifth child, and as I do, I am overcome with sadness again remembering you aren’t here. There’s no fifth head to count.
Ezra. My beautiful, itty bitty boy. I’ll never stop grieving your loss. I’ll always have a piece of my puzzle missing with you not here. I’ll forever remember you and keep your memory alive in the hearts of your siblings, so that even when I’m dead and gone and holding you in Heaven, your name will not be forgotten on earth.
But for now my love, I know you don’t miss me. You’re complete. You have lived a fuller life in the 4 years you’ve been in the presence of the Lord than I have 32 years on earth. You are held by arms more capable than mine, you are cared for better than I could have done, and you are loved even more than this imperfect mama ever could. I have such great joy knowing you are not mourning, you never have and never will.
God is good— all the time, and I take comfort in knowing that one day, we will be reunited together with Christ.
Let’s talk about something serious: Postpartum. It’s a wonderful time, after 9 months of anticipation, you have this wonderful baby that you get hold, love on, and stare at in amazement. There’s so much good that comes from having a baby! But, we’re lying if we say nothing difficult can also come out of it.
Sometimes your significant other, or even you, may experience feeling bluesy, anxious, or depressed after having a baby. There’s often a stigma associated with these things, but there shouldn’t be. It’s real, it can be serious, and when left untreated, it can lead down a scary and dangerous path. It’s estimated that 1 in 7 new mothers experience postpartum mood disorders. Before we start, realize that often what gets lumped into Postpartum Depression is actually 3 different mood disorders.
Let’s start with Postpartum Depression OR PPD, as it is commonly referred to, is just that: a state of depression after baby is born. Often brought on by a number of things including postpartum hormones, changes in amount and patterns of sleep, or the stress of caring for a helpless new baby. What does it look like?
Someone with PPD will:
• Bs sad/depressed more than they are happy, and feel disconnected from their baby.
• Have overwhelming anxiety over even the smallest of things
• Be tired with little desire to be active, and will often sleep excessively.
Next let’s look at the next thing that often gets lumped in with PPD: Postpartum Anxiety or PPA. Though Postpartum Anxiety is often labeled as depression it has some key differences that can impact how you can best support your partner in dealing with this. Like PPD, Postpartum Anxiety is anxiety brought on from the same things, hormones, lack of sleep, and a worry for your baby. But this is not an anxiety that comes and goes. It lingers.
What does it look like?
• It’s the constant fear that something bad is going to happen to your baby.
• It’s racing thoughts and excessive worrying.
• It’s a continual cycle of what ifs.
• It’s the fear of not being enough for your baby, while not wanting others to care for your baby.
• It often brings trouble with eating & sleeping
• It can also be experienced other physical symptoms associated with anxiety including panic attacks, dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea
It is important to understand and recognize that someone can have postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety simultaneously.
The third and final postpartum mood disorder is Postpartum Psychosis. This the most serious and least common of the 3, it occurs in less than 1% of new moms. Although not exclusively connected, it is often more common in moms who have dealt with bipolar disorder or had a family history of it.
How is Postpartum Psychosis different from the other two?
• Symptoms vary and can include:
-Reduced need for sleep
-Paranoia (beyond anxiety)
-Rapid mood swings
-Thoughts of suicide or infanticide
-Confusion and racing thoughts
-Delusions and strange beliefs
• It is considered a medical emergency and requires treatment
• While PPD & PPA may require medication for treatment, Postpartum Psychosis is a medical condition that is treatable with medication
So dads, you’re probably wondering “What does this have to do with me?” I’m here to tell you that you can be instrumental in supporting your wife and providing the care and help she needs postpartum.
How can you help if your wife is suffering from PPD, PPA or PPP?
First things first: Talk with her. I know this can be difficult for some men, but communication is key. As can often be the case with mood disorders, she may be in denial or not realize her condition, and may need some encouragement to get the help she needs. With Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, this process may take some time and you may not be able to broach the subject directly, you may need to sidestep a bit. However, if you suspect your wife has Postpartum Psychosis, reach out to medical professional immediately to seek treatment.
Here are some other ways to offer support:
• Let mom get some sleep (this means you may need to get up early with the kids on the weekend so she can catch up!)
• Make sure she’s eating properly
• Suggest taking a walk or other exercise so she can get some endorphins pumping
• Help her find community and support
• Encourage social interaction, whether in person or through social media
• Encourage her to meet other new moms or moms that have dealt with Postpartum mood disorders
• If appropriate, help her seek a therapist
• When needed seek professional help, or medication
• Prevention is the best medicine, if your wife has a history of depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder discuss with her doctor early on in pregnancy to get a plan in place.
This is not an exhaustive list, and some things may or may not work with your partner’s personality. Study her, talk to her, and most importantly? Listen. Even when she’s not talking, listen to her, encourage her, let her know she’s not alone, and she is not failing.
Noah or “Milkman” is husband to Rachel at She Rocks the Cradle and father to 4 children. He co-founded a dad’s only support group on Facebook called Dadventure. You can follow his fatherhood journey on instagram at @its.milkman
Disclaimer: This is a really different sort of entry for me to post publicly on the blog, and is more of a personal reflection than it is interesting for others, I’m sure. However, I’ve had some mild postpartum anxiety coupled with writer’s block (which started when my disability worsened near the end of my pregnancy), and this is the first thing I’ve felt compelled to write. So here is a little peek into my mind, heart, and life.
I was speaking with a male friend this week, and I shared that I had historically had more close male friends than close female friends, but since becoming a mother, I had gained more female than male friendships. After that thought was typed out, I stared at it and thought, “What happened to me? And where did all these female friends come from??” So I thought about it. And then I thought some more. And then I came to my answer…
A little history
Since I was a young child, I seemed to surround myself with male friends. As the youngest of 3 sisters, our all (but my dad) female household was an estrogen fest. Of course I loved playing with my sisters and I had dolls, but I always wanted a brother.
My mama has relayed a story to me about being at a church friend’s home for a party. I came out of the hallway with my pockets shoved so full of toy guns that my stonewashed jeans were falling down, when asked what I was doing with all the guns I said that the boys and I were playing war. Where ever Rachel was as a child, there was a small gang of boys surrounding her. I gave orders, and bossed them around, I organized and delegated play, and they went along with whatever rules I set.
Growing up homeschooled, my friends were from my church and homeschool group. It just so happened most of them were boys, and many of them had come into my life when we were toddlers and preschoolers. These were the boys who taught me to skateboard, jimmy candies out of coin operated candy machines, play war, and shoot hoops. These were the boys who I played with in the street til it was long after dark, these were the boys who were okay with me sitting on the boys side of the Sunday school classroom (which was not a rule. It was just how we always ended up!), the boys who didn’t seem to mind my wild and bossy ways. Until high school, I considered these boys to be my dearest friends. Of course I had wonderful girl friends in my cousins, and the occasional girl from church who didn’t have any other friends, but my preference was always to be close to brother figures.
This remained my trend, and in high school when many of the families belonging to my stand in brothers grew apart or moved, I was left alone. Alone in a sea of teenage girls who were prettier, smarter, thinner, and far more popular than I. Those girls had always been there, I had always been intimidated by them, and I had seldom understood them; but with the boys gone, I felt exposed.
Two things happened during this time. Firstly, I tried my hand at trying to fit in with other girls, and secondly, I was on the hunt for replacement brother figures. I didn’t like things the girls my age liked. Sure, I liked boy bands, but the Beatles had my heart more than N*sync ever could. I liked makeup, but I wore boys clothing often, and looked very tomboyish despite my long hair and body that developed quite early. I didn’t like or wasn’t allowed to watch most chick flicks and opted for war and action movies. I was obsessed with muscle cars and would rather go to a car show with my old man than go to the mall with a bunch of girls. Some girls I got along with okay, but it was more a mutual existence than friendship. I couldn’t get deep with the girls I knew, and I can’t pin this all on them, because as much as I could play the poor me card, I just didn’t like being with most girls. I found them boring, tedious, shallow, and uninteresting. I found them untrustworthy and petty, and like there was a never ending, silent competition for who was better, prettier, smarter, and more cunning.
Mercifully, during this stage I ended up finding a few other girls who liked the Beatles and Disneyland as much as I did, and was able to gain some solid female friends, some of whom I consider to be very good friends to this day. But still, I was looking for brothers— And brothers I eventually found.
These brothers were different. They weren’t my childhood church friends, these were guys a few years older than I was. These were guys who took me shooting, who taught me to smoke Swisher Sweets on park picnic benches, and who I played practical jokes with in the home improvement store we worked in. These were the guys who taught me to defend myself in a fist fight, who put up with my growing temper, and didn’t get offended when I was sarcastic. These were the guys who taught me an appreciation for violent movies, wild driving, and how to properly use a knife. Let’s just say they were a little more rough around the edges, and my gosh I loved it. I loved every manly, macho, chauvinistic second of it, because they offered me a sense of protection. Once again, I found that though they taught me to be tougher and wilder than ever, I was able to tell them what to do, and they did. Sure, on Saturday nights they were all together wasted at bars I was too young to go to, but if I demanded their heathenous rumps visit my church the next morning, they feigned complaint and showed up anyway. I criticized their girlfriends, and they usually just laughed it off. I was probably incredibly annoying, but they kept me around– and obeyed me, something other gals never did.
Then a whole lot of really dramatic stuff goes in here, and add a few more close female friends (several of whom confirmed my fear of them with their back stabbing and emotional thrashings), and then add some more male friends (most of the United States Marine Corps variety), and more and more dramatic events, and then we get to marriage. (Sorry, this is getting tedious, I swear we are nearing a point… eventually.)
The tipping point
Of course, once I was a newlywed, MOST of my friendships dwindled away. They were largely single, I was mostly twitterpated, and I was left with a few solid and wonderful friends. I got pregnant a hot minute after we were married, and I was lonely. Yes, I had my sweet Milkman, but my single girlfriends were off going to bars, coffee, concerts, and lumberjack festivals (someone’s gonna stab me for mentioning these), and I missed the banter and snark that I had enjoyed so much with my guy friends. So like all good pregnant women do, I went to the Internet in search of OTHER pregnant people, and I found them— by the droves. Consequently, they were all women. I was in uncharted waters. I joined so many mom groups, that my life was completely surrounded by women. And then I started this blog, knowing 99% of my audience (if I ever got one) would be other women. And then I became close to these women, and I let them in my life, and each pregnancy, I added more women to my life. And this blog grew and had even more women in my life.
Some of these women shredded me to pieces, but some of these women became close. And these women? They taught me how to cloth diaper, how to breastfeed, how to babywear, and what baby led weaning was. They taught me how to find the right meme for any conversation, how to survive on zero sleep, and how to be okay with eating chocolate in my closet while hiding from my kids. They taught me to be terrified of secondary drowning, what to do in case of a pea getting stuck in my toddler’s nose, and when to call the doctor for a fever. They taught me that some women are still cutthroat no matter their age or status in life, that it’s okay to cut yourself loose from the pack, and they taught me that being hurt deeply by other women isn’t a reason to swear them off for eternity. They taught me to love the children of strangers, how to file fostering paperwork, and how to say goodbye. They taught me how to trust other women, that it isn’t always a competition, and that some conversations are just better between women. They taught me how to make junk food when pregnant, how to give up sugar, and how to make a whole plate of brownies 9 days after giving up sugar because I was stressed. They taught me how to balance my sarcasm, how to be winsome in settling disagreements, and how to approach hot topics without being a jerk. They taught me love, friendship, and the value of having friends in other time zones.
And I wasn’t lonely anymore. And I wasn’t as insecure anymore. And I wasn’t as tough anymore. I began to soften.
So I sit here, 7 years after joining my first birth group and wondering how I found myself tightly knit to small groups of women across the Internet, and think: wait. When did I stop disliking other women so much? I had spent my whole life before motherhood scared of women, avoiding them as much as I could, and even (foolishly) priding myself in how much I didn’t need them. And yet, I find myself not just tolerating them, but loving them. The ones I’m close with and talk with daily, the ones whose familiar names and profile pictures pop up commenting on the blog, the ones whose little ones I see growing up on Instagram, the in person friends I have who are mothers now, or soon to be mothers, and all the ones in between, and I realized, sure I was always intimidated by other girls and women, but these aren’t just women.
These are nurturers, life givers, advocates, warriors, survivors, booboo kissers, macaroni n cheese slingers, kale smoothie blenders, healers, comforters, researchers, counselors, and go getters.
I don’t have to watch chick flicks, paint my nails, go shopping, look perfect, or be smart for these women to connect with me, because we have one of the highest callings on earth in common:
Today’s post is written by one of my favorite writers, the woman who taught me to write– my middle sister, Beky. Beky is my senior by 4 years, but became a mother 4 years after my first child was born. My two sisters are my dearest and closest friends, each of us parents a little differently, but I respect each of them immensely. Yesterday my sister Beky was sharing how glad she was that she relished the long periods of holding her first for naps as she nursed, and said she wished she could reassure other first time mothers that it’s okay to hold and nurse their babies for sleep. I told her I had the perfect place for her to share that reassurance, right here on She Rocks the Cradle! So without further ado, here is a guest post from my big sis, Beky.
As I nursed and rocked my little one (we’ll call him Small Fry) down for his morning nap, watching carefully for that magical moment when I was sure he was OUT, so that I could successfully transfer him to his crib, so that I could get back to momming my 3-year-old (we’ll call him Nugget), it hit me. This is why I did it.
This is why I held Nugget for almost every nap when he was a baby. This is why I allowed him to nurse sometimes for entire naps. This is why I stayed firmly planted on my rocking chair, hardly daring to move a muscle for fear of waking him. This is why I never bothered to “train” him to nap in his crib, independently of me. This is why, in my first-time-mom uncertainty, I posted on a local mom group on Facebook to ask if it was ok to nurse my baby to sleep, to let him nurse in his sleep, to hold him in my arms until he was ready to wake up.
Among the many responses, one stood out. “What do YOUR instincts say?”
I responded, “My instincts tell me that this is a unique experience, having only one baby right now, and I should relish the freedom to be as responsive to him as I can right now because I know it will be harder when the next one comes.”
“There’s your answer!” came the sweet and reassuring reply.
Nearly three years later, that post came to my mind as I gently laid Small Fry in his crib this morning. I took a few seconds to gaze at his pursed, pink lips, his curled up fingers, and the rise and fall of his chest. “Mamaaaa!” came blaring from the living room as Nugget pulled me back to the reality that my days of long, sleepy cuddles on the rocker are no more. Those days of an hour or more of side-lying-nursing in bed while lazily scrolling Facebook, watching a show on Netflix with my headphones on, or just simply closing my eyes and embracing the forced rest. Nope, those days are gone. Naps are business with Small Fry. Get him to sleep as quickly as possible, keeping an attentive ear pealed for Nugget in the other room, transfer him to the crib, and pray for a decent nap so I can catch up on laundry, dishes, and maybe a few moments of quality, one-on-one time with Nugget before Small Fry awakes.
I knew back then that I was right to embrace the once-in-a-lifetime flexibility that came with being a stay at home mom to my first baby. So I followed my gut without apology. But the epiphany I experienced this morning gave me such a surge of confidence in my choices as a new mama, that I wanted to shout it from the rooftops to all new mamas out there: “YES! It’s ok! It’s ok to rock and shush and nurse and hold your sweet baby until they drift off to sleep! It’s ok to continue that *while* they sleep if that’s what keeps them asleep! Don’t feel guilty for breathing in the fragrance of your precious baby’s fuzzy head, for staring at them the whole time they sleep (while you ‘should’ be sleeping according to many) because you still just can’t believe they’re yours, so perfectly and beautifully yours. It’s ok, mama. It’s ok.”
What practice or habit are you second-guessing yourself on today? What piece of advice have you received recently that has you wondering if you’re doing it all wrong? The answer is the question: What do YOUR instincts say?
[Fun fact: That response “What do YOUR instincts say?” came from none other than our favorite mom-blogger, SheRocksTheCradle. Thanks, SRTC!]
This isn’t a typical post for me, because it doesn’t relate to parenting specifically, but this is a big deal for me, and has really affected every aspect of my life!
One year ago today, I received a call from my doctor, telling me that after years of vomiting, chronic anemia, crippling anxiety, and lots and lots of blood tests, specialists, and dead ends, that we finally had a diagnosis after an endoscopy: Celiac Disease. I was in shock on the other end of the phone as he congratulated me for not giving up and advocating for myself to seek what was wrong with me, and said that a nutritionist would follow up with me. I had never been a big bread eater, and to someone who just thought of white bread when someone said “gluten” I knew I had a lot to learn.
I’m fairly sure my Celiac Disease was triggered by my second pregnancy. During Mamita’s pregnancy I was SICK. And not just your typical morning sickness, we are talking vomit every day, stomach cramps that woke me up and had me in the bath at 2am for hours, unable to eat real food for days at a time until I delivered her at 41 weeks. While there was a slight improvement stomach-wise after she was born, I was tired all the time, and more than typical mom tired.
Then I got pregnant with Ezra, and once again, my body was thrown for a loop. I was going to bed at 8pm, and waking up 11 hours later totally exhausted. While I didn’t vomit as much, I was generally ick feeling and unwell.
During Peachy’s pregnancy, it was back to full blown misery. Vomit, cramping, migraines, anemia, and some of the worst anxiety I have ever had started then. But this time, after I delivered her, the symptoms did not decrease. I was often moaning and groaning on the couch, or writing with nausea on the floor. It became typical for me to just randomly wake up at 3am vomiting. I remember one time being so weak that I couldn’t get up off the bathroom floor, and I began pounding on the bathroom door for Milkman to come get me Zofran to stop the vomiting and help me back into bed.
During this time, I saw endocrinologists, rheumatologists, had scores of blood tests, and ran into lots of “we don’t know what’s wrong with you. Are you sure it’s not in your head?” Scenarios. I was thankfully diagnosed with hashimotos hypothyroidism during this time and for on thyroid medication which helped mildly, but still, the nausea was only getting worse and I was more sickly than ever. I became extremely paranoid, and Milkman was afraid I would become an agoraphobic shut in, as even the thought of getting in the car made me worry we would be killed. I insisted on the kids sleeping in our room, and I checked them for breathing constantly in their sleep, I even checked my husband all night. I became terrified to eat at restaurants, always convinced I would be poisoned and vomit more. Food became my enemy, and I ate foods based on how to minimize my pain when they would come back up. I ate a LOT of crackers because everyone knows crackers calm your stomach, right? Well, except when you are celiac and don’t know it, then those gluteny crackers just poison you slowly.
By the time I got to the endoscopy, I was expecting anything but celiac disease. My grandfather, aunt, and two cousins all had celiac disease, but I didn’t think of myself as a gluten consumer, so I didn’t even consider it as a possibility. After my diagnosis by endoscopy and a follow up blood test to confirm, my celiac friend in Oregon and google became two of my biggest resources in wading through the new waters of my diagnosis. Suddenly, I began to realize that gluten was everywhere. It was in soy sauce, canned chili beans, and even in regular oatmeal. Barley, rye, and wheat became my enemies, and looking for ingredients in the store to check for things like malt or barley syrup turned a typical grocery trip into a long distance marathon. Then I learned about cross contamination. Oh my goodness, was that ever depressing. I was skeptical of cross contamination, right up until I was glutened horribly by gluten free pasta at Macaroni Grill while out of town. I was out of commission for a solid week with vomiting, stomach cramps, extreme fatigue and migraines. No more eating corn tortilla chips or French fries at restaurants because they are fried in the same fryers as gluten breaded items, no more trusting any sauces blindly when out and about, and everywhere I eat asking people to change their gloves.
Life changed drastically in our home. Just 7 months earlier we had stopped making meat a regular part of our meals, as I had begun to associate vomiting with meat. (Something I still have yet to recover from. This pregnancy, I have had a few cravings for red meat and crispy bacon, but we still have not gone back to regular carnivorism, as I associate it too much with feeling ill). My sweet husband voted to make our home a gluten free zone to make our kitchen a safe place for me to eat. This means my husband and children have given up peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, good pasta, burritos, and chewy pizza dough. They will enjoy gluten when out of our home, but never in our home. It’s been an incredible sacrifice.
Within a month, the regular nausea all but disappeared. Within 2 months, my anxiety just began melting away. I could breathe easier. I no longer lived in fear about irrational things (like airplanes flying overhead, which was such an awful anxiety that I would make the kids run inside with me when a plane came into view!), I could enjoy food again, I was able to check my children a few times less each night for breathing. Life didn’t seem quite so dismal anymore.
This pregnancy has been markedly different. After spending other pregnancies so very ill, I have struggled with normal first trimester morning sickness this time, and nausea or aversions here and there, but it’s been incredibly normal. I lost weight with my previous pregnancies from vomiting the entire time, and this time I’ve gained (which, let’s be real, I’m not totally pleased with, but it just shows how much more normal of a pregnancy this has been compared to my others!) I’ve needed IV fluids only a few times, as opposed to regular trips to receive bags of saline from extreme dehydration, and have had only a couple of migraines.
My life is drastically different from what it was a year ago, and I’ve gotta say, though I miss things like dark beer, croissants, real bread, and pasta that doesn’t turn into a gelatinous lump, I wouldn’t trade a bite of that for how good it feels to not be sick all the time! While eating gluten free is a fad for some, it has become essential for my survival as someone with celiac disease.
Do you have celiac disease? How has your life changed since giving up gluten?
Jealousy is an ugly thing. Jealousy is not something I often struggle with. I am content with my life, with my family, with the old house I rent, with the practical car I drive, with the friends I have, with the modest income we have, and with the opportunities life has given me.
But, as I barely scooted along the halls of the medical building to get to my Perinatology appointment this morning, in excruciating pain, with my loud clunking walker, I entered the OB waiting room to see normal pregnant people. Beautiful, standing tall, perfect bellied, walking with a strong gait, normal pregnant people. And when I saw them, a tinge of jealousy surfaced. I know it’s not their fault they can walk, and sit, and sleep, and probably cook, clean, and work still, but it was a sobering reminder of what pregnancy means for someone with severe Symphysis Pubic Disorder.
I told myself “Count your blessings, woman. You have made it so far this pregnancy. You have reached your goal for staying out of a wheelchair (though that’ll probably happen by this weekend), you have been so much more mobile, you have had so much less pain than in the past.” But seeing those perfect looking pregnant women who exude glow and energy and vibrance, it hurts.
Yesterday was my worst day of SPD this pregnancy. Extremely unstable, my pelvis clicking and popping, grinding and sliding all day long. I spent the majority of the day parenting from a chair and sitting on ice packs, but in the evening, I had a little bit of motivation to clean, so I scooted to the laundry room with my walker and got to cleaning and organizing. I thought that since I was just doing a brief task, I wouldn’t bother with my harness. That was my first error. But then? I tripped over a shoe, and slipped just barely, but enough for my unstable pelvis to make a loud snap and crackle as I stopped myself from falling. I screamed. Screamed so loud, that the whole household came running. I couldn’t move, couldn’t talk, couldn’t walk, just cry. So here I am. One stupid shoe, and I’m likely out of commission mobility wise for the duration of my pregnancy.
So, here I sit in the waiting room. With all the normal and beautiful pregnant women. I called Milkman crying. It doesn’t seem fair. How is it that the little girl who wanted scores of babies, has such awful pregnancies now that she is grown? What is it like to be pregnant and walk normally? What is it like to be able to get your pajamas on at night without your husband’s assistance? What is it like to not need a cane, a walker, or a wheelchair to get around? I’m jealous. And I don’t begrudge them, I wouldn’t wish SPD on anyone. But, it’s still hard.
So there’s my confession for the day: Being jealous of normal pregnant people. I’m going to do my best to count my blessings and be grateful that I have so much to be grateful for. Yeah my pregnancies are awful, but I can get pregnant. Yeah, I’m in pain, but my living babies are healthy and whole. Yes, everything hurts, but I have a stable partner to help me through it. Sure, I need medical devices to get from point A to point B, but at least I have access to them. There’s my self pep talk for the day. Thanks for tracking through it with me.
It’s funny the things that annoy other people about a pregnancy that is not theirs. There are two things I keep a secret during every pregnancy.
1. My EDD (that’s estimated due date!)
2. The name we have chosen for the baby
Thankfully, those closest to me no longer hound me (except maybe my friend in Missouri who tries to trick me regularly into telling her the name of this little guy haha!) But for some reason, people get real cranky when you don’t tell them these things.
So why keep it a secret?
With our first pregnancy, we shared Captain’s EDD with people. One minor annoyance was as soon as I would tell people “He’s due March 13th” they had the weirdest responses.
“You should keep that baby in til March 16th! My uncle’s dog’s brother’s owner’s sister’s cousin was born then and he’s a great kid.”
“I’m pulling for March 5th! That’s when my son was born! I hope you have your baby on his birthday!”
“Don’t have your baby on March 8th. That’s the day my father in law died. That’s a horrible day to have a baby.”
I have no control over holding this kid in or making it come out. The baby comes when the baby comes. I guess people were trying to relate, but for some reason, I found it really annoying. This is probably because I’m a horrible person and need to learn patience, but it still makes me feel awkward and I never know quite how to respond.
However, the main reason we don’t share my EDD is this: it’s just what it says it is. An ESTIMATED due date. I’ve never had a child on their EDD. One was a couple days before, one was a week after, one was 23 weeks too early, one was 2 days after. I don’t need people hounding me at 38 weeks until 41 weeks every day saying “did ya have that baby yet??” Yeah, I totally had the baby weeks ago and just didn’t tell you. Like, c’mon y’all. You’ll know.
Some uteruses are slow cookers and some are microwaves. Mine is a slow cooker. Gotta let that baby marinate a bit longer til s/he is ready.
Our Baby’s Name
Why keep their names a secret? I think this is multifaceted. Firstly, opinions on names are like armpits. You know the rest, right? So let’s say I’ve picked the name Naphtali for my next child. You tell someone little Naphti is on the way and suddenly everyone is an expert on names. “Aren’t you afraid he’ll be nicknamed Nympho-li in 8th grade?” “Isn’t that gonna be hard for people to spell?” “I knew a Naphtali in kindergarten and he used to pee his pants all the time. Whenever I hear the name Naphtali, I smell urine.” But after that baby is born and named, no one can say anything to your face about it without seeming like a major jerk, and that cute baby is already charming them, so they are more likely to be accepting of his name.
Secondly, names are a really big deal. Like you are pegging someone as a Gertrude or a Lambert for life. What you name them will define them. It’ll sometimes decide if they get hired for that right job someday. It will determine how often it is misspelled or mispronounced. It’s a big decision. And it’s one Milkman and I like to make on our own! We love the fun aspect of having a secret that belongs only to us. Yeah, that’s right, we don’t even tell our kiddos! (Mostly because they are all really young and don’t know how to keep secrets!) I love getting into bed at night and Milkman kissing my belly and talking to our baby, using the name that only we two know.
Thirdly, and this applies to both the due date and the name, surprises are fun. I LOVE surprises! They are my love language. When I called my mother to tell her that I had given birth to her granddaughter and told her said grandchild was named for my mother, she cried! It was beautiful. The anticipation leading up to the baby being born and being named is fun. People guess and wonder, and I get to giggle at their ridiculous guesses! We already know so much before our babies are born, their sex, often genetic issues, how much they weigh (okay, they are basically ALWAYS wrong about that), and with 3D ultrasounds, many know what their baby already looks like (if their baby was modeled out of peanut butter that is). So having something to save for the end is always a treat.
Now, I have lots of friends who tell their due dates, names, stats, and post ultrasounds of their unborn child’s genitals. That’s cool for them, and I love knowing and celebrating with them beforehand. So I don’t judge people who do it differently, and I get why people think we are annoying for not sharing. But in a world of information overload, it’s kind of fun to be different.
What things did you keep a secret before delivery? Or do you like to share all your happy news at once?
Do you know what it’s like to have a social worker tell you that the child you have loved and raised is leaving almost immediately?
Now I share this experience with his mother. She was told this when he was a newborn before he came to me. Now I am being told this while he is a toddler headed back to her.
We knew this day was coming. We knew. We are foster parents, and the goal of foster care is reunification. He was only ever supposed to be here temporarily. But time kept going, and dates kept getting pushed, until next thing you know, reunification seems far away, because it’s always been far away. And then you sit down for what you think is a totally benign meeting with the social worker and you’re told “he’s leaving. Presently.”
I’ve read about these situations. Going from 1 hour visits to reunification, but that happened to other people. In less progressive states. We would certainly be doing half days, full days, overnights, weekends… you know, the normal protocol.
The child whose open wounded skin you cleaned and soothed, the child you fed at 3am, the child you rocked for hours on end while staring at his beautiful face, the child you fed his first bite of food to, the child who called you mama first, the child who took his first steps to you, the child you advocated for, the child you loved as much as your own flesh and blood… that child is leaving. In two days.
My heart shattered. My stomach lurched. My voice sprung out of my body involuntarily like an animal wounded. My tears so thick I could not see. My hands shook. My face flushed. My head spun. This is the same feeling I felt when I saw my still baby with no heartbeat on the ultrasound. This is the first part of mourning.
I broke the news to my two oldest children as soon as I walked in the door. Captain held me tightly and said what I have drilled into their heads for months: “We knew this day was coming, mama.”
And so we did. And so he will leave. And so we will weep. And so we will mourn. And so we will worry. And after I deliver this baby who kicks so fiercely in my womb— we will open our home again. We will say yes again. We will love intensely once again… only to say goodbye, yet again. Because this is foster care.
Editing to add:
While I usually try to individually reply to each comment, I currently don’t have the emotional capacity to do so right now. Know that I have read every comment and appreciate each of you, your support, and your prayers.
To those who have walked this road already: I feel what you have felt. There is a comfort in knowing I am not alone.
To those asking why this happens: nothing illegal has happened, it’s more common than we think. I don’t make the decisions, because I’m just a foster parent. I may not always like the decisions others make, but I have to trust that this is just how the system works, and I will not let this sour me— just yet. Our work as a foster family hasn’t finished. (Though it will be on pause til the new baby is born).
We are hurting, we are grieving, but most of all we are praying for this little family that is going to be intact again, for peace, wisdom, strength, and safety. As sad and as broken as I am right now, can you imagine how over the moon his Mommy must be? I dare say as I am packing his things up with tears, she must be preparing with the world’s biggest smile!
We take the bitter with the sweet. Because that’s just what foster care is. Bittersweet.
Thank you again for all the love and encouragement! It has helped tremendously.
One fear I had going into Fostering was “what if I don’t love the children as much as my own biological children?” And then the follow-up was thinking, I suppose if I didn’t love them as much and they are only here temporarily, that’s not the end of the world, but what if I adopted and I didn’t love that child as much as my bios?
I read blogs, Facebook posts, and books where people always just said they loved their foster and adopted children as much as their bios. But, it still scared me. Okay, so those people love their kids as much, but what if I don’t? And frankly, no one can answer that question before they begin fostering or before they’ve adopted, and it may be on a case by case basis. You may have that “as much” love for one child and not another.
Last night, I had the opportunity to speak on a panel with a former foster youth who aged out of the system, a reunified parent, and I was representing foster parents during a training for new foster parents. As I was answering a question about the dynamic in our home between bios and fosters, I came to this realization, and voiced it: I love my foster child with the same intensity that I love my biological children. I often think that no one has ever loved their foster child as much as I love mine. But I would be lying if I said it was the same type of love. Before you judge me too harshly, let me give you an example.
I love my husband intensely. If the dial goes to a 10, I love him at an 11 (name that movie reference!). I also love my bio children, and I love them at an 11. But it’s a different type of love. Same goes for my parents. 11… but on a different dial. I love them all to the same intensity, but my love for each of them is a love that plays out differently. So, when I say I love my foster son just as much as I love my biological children, I don’t want to give you a false idea about how it may be for you, by leaving it as simple as that.
You will (hopefully!!!) love your foster child just as much as you love your bios, but don’t be surprised or feel guilty if that love is different. I don’t know why exactly. Maybe because I co-slept and nursed my bios, so there was that really early physical bonding. Maybe because they are a permanent fixture in my life and in our home. Maybe because I’m parenting with just their father, and not co-parenting with a stranger. I’m sure there are lots of components to the puzzle.
My encouragement to you today is this:
If you are considering foster care or adoption (yes, those are two very different categories!) and the fear of loving a stranger is holding you back, I’m here to encourage you, that it is very possible to love a child who is not from your body, just as much as you love your bio kids.
If you are currently loving on a foster or adoptive child, and you love them just as much, but it feels a different? That’s okay. I think it’s that way for a lot of us. It doesn’t mean you love them less— it’s just a little different.
To the boy who taught me to trust in God’s timing… thank you. If we hadn’t gotten pregnant 3 months after we were married, and about 10 months before we planned on getting pregnant, we may have gotten too used to freedom before becoming parents and would long for it more now.
To the boy who taught me what long labor was… thank you. If your labor had been shorter than 34 hours, your sisters’ labors would have seemed intolerably long.
To the boy who taught me that love at first sight is real… thank you. This cynical, hard to get girl became a little more sensitive when I first laid eyes on you, fresh out of the womb.
To the boy who taught me how to be a 24 hour, around the clock nurser… thank you. I was so tired and so drained, but you showed me it was okay to sit for hours and breathe in every little detail of my baby boy. Little did I know that your first latch would start me on the 6 year, solid nursing journey I’ve been on since you were born.
To the boy who didn’t sleep… thank you. Your record was 23 wake ups in one night. You averaged around 12 wake ups per night for the first year of your life. You taught me patience, perseverance, and how long a mother can go with an incredibly big sleep debt. You also made it seem like your sisters’ 6 average wake ups a night were walks in the park.
To the boy who has always loved to help… thank you. You have your papa’s servant leader heart. Since you could push a step stool up to the kitchen sink, you’ve been eager to lighten my load.
To the boy who loves his younger siblings… thank you. Whether by blood or fostering, you have loved and cared for every child in this home. Asking to learn to change diapers, feeding bottles, playing games, protecting them, and pushing them on the tree swings are just some of the ways you show your love for them. I’m in awe of your selflessness.
To the boy who hates to be taught anything… thank you. You sometimes frustrate me with your know-it-all approach to your home education, but my goodness if you don’t send me to my knees before God to trust in His strength and not my own. And you shatter my pridefulness when you end up learning on your own anyways after my failed attempts to figure out how your brain works.
To the boy who loves Jesus… thank you. Your little voice in the back of the van on visit days saying “mama, can we listen to Dr. Sproul sermons?” is the accountability I need to stay spiritually fed. Your prayers, sometimes long and lofty, sometimes simple, always touch my heart. Your sensitivity to the things of the Lord make my heart leap with joy. I pray you will know and walk with Jesus your whole life.
To the boy who snuggles the best, can quote every line of all 3 Cars movies, loves to ride his bike, stands on a chair to reach the mail every day, puts pigtails in his sisters’ hair, sings lullabies to his foster brother, wants to be just like his daddy, adores his nana, and is a sensitive soul… thank you for making me a mother. I can’t imagine life without you. I’m so proud of you, little man. Happy 6th birthday, my darling boy. I love you. Right up to the moon… and back.