Why I Won’t Share My Due Date— or Baby’s Name!

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?

Our EDD

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?

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Leaving

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.

But, no.

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:

Hello All,

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.

As Much— but Different

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 Made Me a Mama

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.

SPD Update and a Bit About Harness Gravidarum!

Howdy Y’all!

As promised, I wanted to share a bit more about the harness I have been wearing to get me through my 5th pregnancy with SPD! I am solidly in my second trimester, and by this point in my last pregnancy, I was needing a walker to get around, and spend most days laid up on the couch. I am happy to say that this time around, though I still deal with pain from overdoing it or in the evenings after a long day, I am thriving! I attribute this to two main things:

1. I took the longest break between my last pregnancy and this one and gave my body some time to recover! I have always gotten pregnant within a year of delivering my last baby. I was 7 months postpartum when I became pregnant with Mamitas, 11 months postpartum when I became pregnant with Ezra, and 4 months pregnant when I became pregnant with Peachy. This time, I took 23 months! My body had more time to recover. HOWEVER, due to my history, I could likely have waited 10 years, and would still suffer from SPD. Which is why, I was proactive and that leads us to our second change!

2. Before I became pregnant, Milkman and I had done our research on the Harness Gravidarum Maternity Support Belt, and I had it show up on my porch around the 10th week of my pregnancy. Right when those old clicky, loosey-goosey, shooting pain feelings came back! The harness literally holds my pelvis in place. There have been times where I have thought “Oh! I don’t need to bother with putting on the harness!” and an hour later of washing dishes, and I am a limping mess. I throw that harness on, and it buys me some times another few hours of on my feet time! I audibly sigh with relief each time I velcro the last belt tight!

I could go into more about the harness here, and I may later (Though likely, I’ll keep more of a running progress journal on my Instagram and Facebook accounts!), but today, I want to tell you about the people behind the brace. Why? Because they are a huge part of what makes this product not just work, but when you hear a bit about them, you’re probably going to feel all the better about giving them your business.

The product was developed and created by a married couple, Dafydd and Ruth Roberts. Ruth was the reason behind its production and is the heart behind the concept, and Dafydd is the problem solver and practical side of the harness’ conception. Unfortunately, I couldn’t sit down face to face with Ruth and Dafydd, because I am on the West Coast of the United States, and they are all the way over in Wales! But thanks to the wonders of modern technology, during naptime for me, and bed time for them, we got a chance to video call, and it was a pleasure– not just because of their amazing accents!

How the Idea Was Sprung:

Ruth had two pregnancies without SPD, and when she was pregnant with her 3rd, she began to experience pain her SP joint. This was several years back, the NHS supplied her with crutches and a little belt that helped very little. She delivered early, and that was that. Nearly a decade later, Ruth and Dafydd were expecting their first child together. Ruth felt that old pain, much earlier this time, knew exactly what it was, and was and got her crutches and semi-useless belt again. Dafydd admits, that he was skeptical about SPD. Coming from a farming background, he said he told his wife “I’ve never seen a sheep or a chicken limp in pain from pregnancy… and don’t all pregnant women complain?” Ruth was quick to set him straight, and he was quick to learn to keep those opinions to himself! Wise man…

As the pain worsened, they drove hours and paid out of pocket to try something called Spinal Touch Therapy. While it helped some, the pain relief did not last long, and after they attempted to do it at home, the relief became non-existent. Ruth became more debilitated, needing a wheelchair, and emotionally? Depressed. As is the case with so many suffering from SPD, she got to a point in pregnancy where she no longer was excited about the baby coming. She was depressed, she was overwhelmed, and she just wanted this baby out of her. She had to be hospitalized for rest, and felt detached from her baby. When she was home, she said it was hard, because not only did she have to rely on other adults in the family for support– she had to have her children assist her with the simplest of tasks.

Where Ruth felt helpless and hopeless, Dafydd was determined to find a solution, and he got to work. He grabbed a back scrubber and a pair of socks, slung in between her legs, placed the ball of socks up against her SP joint and hoisted her up. She felt relief. But, it wasn’t practical for Dafydd to follow her around with a back scrubber all day, holding her together. Luckily, Dafydd and Ruth own a clothing manufacturing business, so while Ruth was in the hospital, Dafydd was busy coming up with prototypes in the factory. By the end of the pregnancy, Dafydd had come up with a working model– but before they could perfect it with better material for the task, Ruth had to deliver by Caesarian Section, four weeks early. Her pelvis was such a mess, the doctors didn’t even bother risking a vaginal birth. Their sweet new baby, Harry, ended up in NICU, and Ruth had to do intensive therapy in the hospital to get mobile again. During this time, more developments of the harness took a back seat, though she was able to use the harness postpartum to get a little more support with becoming mobile.

It wasn’t until a while later that they got to work on the harness again. This time they decided to try out a better and more flexible fabric. They also got to work finding medical personnel to test the harness for safety and efficacy. With Dafydd’s business savvy and knowledge of manufacturing, along with Ruth’s heart, experience, and desire to help fellow mothers, it was a perfect balance for a great business model– and the rest, as they say, is history!

Dafydd and Ruth are currently working on finding ways to make the harness more affordable, as they understand what a real need there is to make this product available to more women. I find this so commendable. Many of us with SPD would pay nearly any price we could for relief, but for them to be sensitive to the monetary stress it would put on customers? That’s all heart.

Want to learn more about the Harness Gravidarum? Check them out on Facebook and head to their shop to check out the harness. Have questions? Dafydd is super responsive to messaging via their Facebook Page, and I would also be more than happy to answer any questions I can based on my own experience!

A Cancelled Birthday

It was my birthday today.

I gotta tell ya, it’s been a rough couple of weeks. Some of you may have noticed that I have posted less lately. Between pregnancy, fostering obligations, homeschooling, therapy, medical appointments, documenting, family events, and being a (lousy) home maker, I’ve just been zapped.

I put a stop to birthday dinner plans with my family. I deleted my birthday on Facebook the night before, so people wouldn’t feel obligated to wish me half-hearted, internet mandated birthday greetings. I told Milkman to just forget about it. I wanted to cancel my birthday.

This has nothing to do with fear of growing old. I admired new wrinkles this morning, rejoiced over a few more gray hairs, and remembered how much I can’t wait to be an old lady. I have no issue with aging.

It just felt like… I dunno. Too overwhelming. Since becoming a mother, my birthday is often overshadowed with just that— being a mother. Perhaps it was petty to cancel my birthday. Perhaps selfish. Perhaps a pity party. Actually, probably all of the above.

Milkman still did his best to make me feel special. Home made enchiladas (my annual birthday meal since elementary school), gluten free cinnamon rolls with birthday sprinkles, and telling me to go do whatever I wanted to. My kids missed the be nice to mama on her birthday (even if she did cancel it!) memo. They fought extra today, were particularly hurtful a few times, and no one napped.

So here I am. It’s 6:26pm on my self- cancelled, 30-something birthday. I’m sitting in the van parked outside of our old house, listening to Buffalo Springfield, eating a giant bag of Cheetos (my birthday gift to myself. Nothing says self care like dyeing my insides with yellow and red dyes), tapping away on my phone, and feeling pretty pathetic.

But the truth is, I’m not JUST pathetic. I texted Milkman yesterday that I felt fragile. I typed the word, back spaced, typed it again. Stared at it, and sent it. I do not think I have ever used that word to describe myself. I am his strong woman. I am a strong mother. I am a strong advocate for my foster children. I am a strong sister. I am a strong friend. I keep my softer emotions in check 99% of the time. I don’t like people to see when I’m feeling weak. But lately? I’m fragile.

Maybe it’s the insanely low lows, the really high highs emotionally we’ve experienced lately with fostering. Maybe it’s this baby who is currently kicking away at my bladder throwing my hormones out of whack. Maybe it’s the lack of quality sleep. Maybe it’s my kids going through their own feelings and testing me. Maybe it’s all in my head.

But today, on this, my forgotten birthday, I’m telling myself it’s just gonna have to be okay to be fragile. Perhaps my gift to myself is letting myself cry buckets of tears that I’ve held in for too long. Letting myself realize that even the strongest of people have weak days and weeks. Putting aside my pride that says I’m better than those who show their delicate side. Maybe this is the year that I can take down another layer of stone from my many walls that I’ve built throughout the years to insulate myself from my feminine side. Maybe my fragile birthday will be forgotten by myself in a few years, but I’m holding out hope that it’ll be remembered as the year I said it was okay to not be strong all the time. Because guess what? It’s okay to be fragile sometimes. For me. For you. For us all.

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.