by Caitlin Frost
Newly married with no job, no kids, and nothing to do all day, I obsessed over birth stories. It was 2010 and pretty much every person on the planet was blogging about the minute details of their lives and I relished in reading them--all the blood and guts included.
I couldn’t wait to write my own.
Fast forward four years and I was ready to write that story. I was ready to spill my own blood and guts--literally--and blog about it for other bored new housewives to read about. But there was no baby. Instead, there were two littles waiting for me somewhere in the state of Massachusetts and I could not wait to finally meet them.
And I met them. I learned their names and their faces and heard their voices for the first time. I got to run my hands through their hair and look into their beautiful eyes. I was lucky enough to hear a laugh and to learn about who these people were.
I finally had a birth story to write. It wouldn’t really be like those stories I stayed up until midnight reading, but it would be just as special. I was going to write all about the day I first met my kids and how amazing it was.
But for two and a half years, every time I try to write about that first day, there are no words. I can’t do it. It was just as amazing as I had anticipated, but there’s nothing I can really put into words, no matter how hard I try.
So I can’t tell you what that day was like and what we did and how I felt, although I certainly remember every single detail. But I can tell you this.
When we first met, my breath was taken away. I stopped breathing when I saw their faces for the first time.
When we first met, I couldn’t speak. What do you say to a little person when you meet them the first time? Everything felt so unimportant and cliche.
When we first met, I changed. Looking back that was the moment I became a mother, though it wouldn’t be until months later that I broke down crying in my car in a parking lot at the therapist’s office because the idea of motherhood and the weight of what that meant had finally set in.
When we first met, I had no idea two little strangers could look and act and talk just like me. It was if God had created a mini-me and destined us to find each other.
When we first met, I had no idea how I was going to mother another woman’s child. I was so excited that my dream was coming true at the expense of my own daughters’ life. That was when I first felt the tragedy enveloped in the beauty of adoption.
When we first met, I couldn’t leave. I overstayed my welcome at the foster parents’ house (much to our social worker’s chagrin) and my husband had to drag me out to the car. I met my kids and the idea of leaving them with someone else was so upsetting to me I cried the whole way home.
The days are long and the years are short but the memory of meeting my two forever daughters is as vivid today as it was when we first met, and I don’t think it will ever fade away. I don’t need to write the details because we all feel them. Every time I rock one of them to sleep or bandaged a hurt knee memories of that day surface and I feel so grateful that I get to mother these daughters of mine. I’m so grateful for this birth story, even if I can’t write about it.
Happy Friday! Fall is in full swing and Halloween is right around the corner! Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, here are some fun links from around the web.
Here's a great read about making Halloween fun for birth families and foster families...
...and another with some helpful tips about Halloween as a foster family.
Have some great barely used Halloween costumes? Or are you just looking for a way to give back to the foster community? How about donating costumes for foster families to use?
Littles will LOVE these free Halloween color pages.
We do a hand print craft every season, and I love hanging them up for each year and comparing the growth! Here's this year's fall hand print craft.
An absolutely beautiful photo of a pumpkin patch. Let's all go visit Erin!
Do you follow us on Pinterest? You should. This board is full of crafty autumn inspiration.
I've Got This.
The closest thing to a daily mantra I've had.
I say it when I stand in front of the sink to hand wash our dishes for the umpteenth time. I say it when I walk down the stairs, carrying another load of laundry I have every intention of finishing but never do. I said it when I found strawberries and bubble solution smashed all over my white comforter. When I uncovered 50 fruit snack wrappers and a half eaten rotten apple under the couch cushions- again.
I've said it after my husband calls at 6:32 PM to tell me that he's still working. That and a couple of expletives.
I've Got This.
I've been saying it all morning as I try desperately to type this, wanting nothing more than to word vomit all over my computer. But I can't. Because of all the kids. Particularly the baby. The one, the one who is by far the sweetest, quietest, happiest baby we've ever had. But is also the one who refuses to be put down- anywhere. Not in the swing. Not in the crib. The car seat or the carrier. But who just wants to be held, like he's eating, even when he's not. I paced around the kitchen for a while. He's wrapped snuggly now. Content. Safe.
I've got this.
I've been a Foster Mom for 3 years. Baby D is the 7th in our care, our 9th human we've parented. It's been a whirlwind and I'm never really sure how to explain our family. For the past six months we had five kids. A season I'm still trying to process. Then, just like that, we didn't. As of this writing, we have four kids. Two Biological, One Adopted, and the littlest on the track towards adoption. Our life is a crazy whirlwind of everything and anything.
If you are reading this, you probably already know. This life isn't easy. This parenting of other people's children. It doesn't take a whole lot to feel like you're going to go over the edge. One day a few weeks ago I was super close to that line. I've been “done” a million times before. But this time, this time I was past the line. Exhausted. Wanting to quit. I was trying to find time to see the boys birth mom. Trying to homeschool. Trying to stay married. Trying to do just one- just one- load of laundry all the way through. Trying to wash the bowls before the next gourmet dinner of boxed dry cereal and milk. Trying to do it all at once. And it hit like a giant crushing wave.
The problem with my mantra.
I don't have this.
I never have.
He does though.
I still forget. Like today. When I was working through my thoughts. “I've got this” running through my head. Never really getting anywhere until I stopped to breathe, to remember: He's got this.
It will get easier. The boys will get older. We'll find a rhythm, a beautiful one that fits us. We'll eventually get a dishwasher and I'll figure out how to get my kids to do their own laundry and I'll remember that I can always call the take out place down the street for dinner.
But what really changes our day to day, now, what really changes it, is perspective. It's letting myself off the mat. It's not relying on myself to do anything. But on Him. The one who can, for real, do everything.
You see, when your mantra is, “I've Got This,” it sucks when you clearly don't. But when it shifts to “He's Got This,” well, yeah. He just does. And then you can breathe again. And you can let all the small stuff slide and you can play a board game with your big kids. You can read a book to your toddler. You can sit on the couch with the baby. For hours. Because He's got this. He's got you and your kids and your dishes and your laundry and your meals. He's got your marriage. He's got you so tight and so well and you don't have to do a single thing- except take it freely- and remember every once in a while.
I'm with you in the trenches, mama. So, say it with me, as your fumble through your day drinking cold coffee and crying for no reason.
He's Got This.
I’ll never forget the day I posted an Instagram photo of my faceless children with a caption about how hard that particular day was going. I had been a mom for about two full weeks and was in deep, deep over my head. I was drowning. Adoption was harder than I thought. Motherhood was overwhelming. I wasn’t sure what we had gotten into and I was cussing way more than usual.
Then a real life friend told me that I shouldn’t be complaining because I knew what I was getting myself into and that I was being ungrateful and they (other friends, I guess?) were all really tired of seeing my constant complaints on social media and I needed to just get over it because my kids deserved a better mom than what I was being. Another real life friend said that they had a congratulations card they wanted to give me but because I was sucking it up big time (her words) she decided to not send it to me. Another real life friend said that it was great I was a mom now and all, but since I stopped hanging out with her and the rest of the women in my small group, I was being a terrible friend and small group leader and I really needed to shape up or they might need to talk to our pastor.
I can hear you all simultaneously gasp from here. Horrific, right? What absolutely terrible things to say to any first time mom who finds themselves drowning in a new life change.
I’m the founder and creator of community designed to give you all the practical tools and encouragement to know how to rise above comments like these to be the best mom you can be. So what amazingly awesome thing did I do?
I cried all my tears out, yelled at my children who wouldn’t stop bickering, yelled at God that he did a crummy job making these people and maybe He should go back to the drawing board, and pleaded with my husband to give these children back because surely they were better off somewhere else than with me.
Yeah, it was not my finest moment. I’m cringing just writing these words and reliving this moment. Cringing and crying again. Because while I’ve fully processed these events the feelings when I relive these moments are still very real.
I cried, and I cried, and I stopped posting on Instagram. When my mother-in-law asked how we were doing, I said fine. When my mom asked how we were doing, I said fine. When other friends asked how I was doing I told them fine.
But I was far, far from fine. I had definitely developed some post-partum/post-adoption depression and while I cannot give these women the credit of putting me in the dark place I would be lying if I said I didn’t walk in the lies they spoke over me and allowed myself to dive deeper in depression than I should have.
It was when an authority figure at our church had said that I was being childish and needed to step up my act that I got so ticked off I stopped hanging out with everyone and anyone. We stopped hosting our small group. I stopped going to church altogether. I said it was because I didn’t want my children’s first experience with Jesus to be with these people, but truth be told I had no idea how to keep tiny humans alive, much less give myself to my husband, my small group, my friends, my extended family. I didn’t know how to survive the day as a mother, much less thrive as one. I needed to stop multi-tasking and start single-tasking.
A year later and we had moved cross country and had no friends. While I was so grateful to be out of that negative environment, I wasn’t really in any environment. I was relieved to be away from people who told me I was a terrible mom, but no one was telling me that I was doing a good job mothering because, well, I had no one. I hadn’t been in the state long enough to make friends.
I had two choices.
Would I continue believing the lies of the enemy that my children didn’t deserve a mom who yells or throw things or loses her temper? Would I believe the enemy who said that my children deserved a mom who made homemade applesauce and took them on nature hikes and played with them outside and read them a book every single night?
Or would I believe that I was the woman God created me to be? Would I believe the truth that God created me to be my children’s’ mother; that He uniquely equipped me to understand their emotions and deal with their trauma? Would I believe that God created me in the image of Him, the same way He created my children in the image of Him, and that being a good mom had nothing to do with building the best playdoh creations or possessing the ability to keep all the dishes clean or feeding them only organic, non-GMO foods?
So I stopped walking in lies and began speaking truth over myself. I am the mom my kids need today. I began to read scripture daily, in between yelling at my children for their constant bickering, and baking sugar cookies with them. I told myself I was uniquely equipped for these two children when I couldn’t get them to take a nap or when they had nightmares at night. I told myself I was a good mom because God had given me all the tools I needed to be a good mom when my kid locked me out of my car (on purpose) and when I took them to the beach and waded out in the water with each one on my hip.
The truth is, I am really the most amazingest mother there ever was.
The truth is, you are, too.
Women of God, I tell you this story because you’re wallowing. Just like I allowed people in my life to speak lies over myself, you’re doing the same to yourself. Just like I wallowed in self-pity, so you are, too. I see your Instagram comments about the terrible things that you do when you’re angry with your children. You slam doors and break dishes. I see your social media posts about the worst words people ever said to you. That you don’t deserve these kids and you’re being a terrible friend.
I see them and I commiserate with them and I empathize with you because that was my life. I went from wife to mom overnight. I didn’t have nine months of carrying my child in my belly to get used to the idea of being a mom. I didn’t have an outward appearance of motherhood that allowed friends and family to have months getting used to the idea that I was having children. I daydreamed about how wonderful motherhood was going to be when I finally held my not-so-baby babies in my arms that I forgot to brace myself for the whirlwind impact of what motherhood actually is. I didn’t know I would never pee alone. I didn’t know that I would have to serve grilled cheeses every single night just so my kid would eat something. I didn’t know I would never sleep. I didn’t know people could be so cruel.
I also didn’t know I would wallow in loneliness and self-pity. But I did. And that was worse than anything anyone ever said to me.
I don’t want to sit here and tell you to WOMAN UP! Get over yourself! Because that is the last thing you need to hear. But can I tell you what I wish someone had told me?
I wish someone had told me to WOMAN UP! You are a daughter of the most high King; you think He doesn’t know what He’s gotten you into? You think He is going to let you flounder all alone? You think He doesn’t hear your cries? You think He doesn’t know the thoughts that go through your mind? OF COURSE HE DOES! He created you! And just like He created you He created the little people living in your home right now and you have a duty to them. Your job is to help them believe in the same truth that they are the daughters and sons that God created them to be. Your job is to love them, to keep them healthy and to keep them safe, not to feel sorry for yourself.
I wish someone had told me that this is hard and in some ways motherhood will be the worst thing to ever happen to you. Motherhood will show you your weaknesses, your true selfishness. Your children will mimic your worst qualities and pick up on your worst habits, some that you never knew you had. But in most ways, motherhood will be the best thing to ever happen to you. It will make you work hard and you will be all the better for it. Your level of patience will expand, your selfishness will begin to disappear, your habits will begin to change. Motherhood will show you that you can love someone besides yourself.
Over two years into this motherhood gig and I’m often told I’m doing a terrible job--sometimes by someone on social media, sometimes by my children, and sometimes by myself. What’s different now than two years ago is that I also tell myself I’m an amazing mother who is specially designed by God for my children. I also have surrounded myself with people who tell me the same thing and who allow me to speak truth over them. I face a choice every time I yell at my child or become exasperated by their antics--no matter how I respond I’m still an amazing mother. And no matter how you respond to your children you’re still an amazing mother. Believe it.
Whether you believe in God or not, whether you believe that God created you and your children, whether you believe that He has equipped you in such a time as this doesn’t matter. What does matter is that there are lies and there are truths and you have to decide which one you’re going to allow to define you.
Moms, stop wallowing in lies. Believe in your strengths and learn from your weaknesses. Smash a bowl because you’re angry and then ask your kids for forgiveness. Yell at God demanding all the crappy people be smited and then go in and bake brownies and let your kids lick the spoons. Tell yourself that you’re the most amazingest mom there ever was and then BELIEVE IT. Because it is the truth.
You really really are the mother your kids need today. And you’re killing it.
Caitlin is the founder and creator of Respite Redefined. She is a wife and mother of two daughters through adoption from foster care. Caitlin loves to read, to write, and to dream of the places she'll go and the sights she'll see and the new kids she'll one day meet.
by Guest Writer Alyssa
We were a Family of 7. We were enjoying life with our two biological and three adopted kiddos. We were in a really good groove with life, school, sports, and family time. We had given up our foster care license the year prior; helping more kids was never really off the radar but we thought things were just so good, why upset the apple cart? Then we got the call that forever changed our family.
Our sweet friend Stephanie had helped with our previous three adoptions and was now with a private therapeutic placing agency. We kept in touch over the years and she called one afternoon to ask if foster care was still on our hearts. I told her it always would be, but we were in a good place. She asked if we would be open to hearing about a little boy. I told her this was not good timing for us but she continued to press over the weeks ahead saying she just wanted us to be open to hearing about him, his story, and why he needed us.
I truly thought she had lost her mind when she told us he had very high medical needs and that he was currently living in a hospital over an hour from our home. We already had adopted one child with an intellectual disability and a very rare syndrome so we already had a peek into what the special needs world looked like. To say we were scared to even think about opening this door was an understatement. Stephanie came over one night after weeks of back and forth on the phone about this tiny little boy. She brought my husband Jamie and I a picture, and a tote full of information on him. She looked at both of us and said, “I just want you to meet him. I need you to meet him. I’ve got a lot of people to get on board with this idea of having him come to you and Jamie, but this is where he needs to be.”
We ate dinner and chatted for a good few hours and after we decided we would reinstate our foster care licenses so we could at least meet this little boy. We did not tell a soul, not any friends, family, or our 5 kids. We needed to see if we could truly do this. Over the coming weeks, we learned the little boy's name was Kahmari, he had been born with Gastroschisis (his bowels on the outside of his body). He now had short gut syndrome, was being tube fed around the clock, did not eat by mouth, and had a central line going into his chest. We were told he may be in organ failure, he may never be able to go to school, and he may not survive long term. He had been abandoned by his birth parents at a hospital after they realized they could not care for him, so I thought to myself, How the heck are we are going to do this??? How can we meet this little boy, and then maybe have to walk away? How can we bring him home to our five other kids??? How where we going to tell our extended family who already thought we where insane for having 5 kids?
We cried for this little boy before we even met him; we prayed, we stayed up all hours of the night talking about him. After months of waiting on our licenses and background check re-approvals came back, we got word on July 9th, 2013, that we could go see Kahmari at the hospital. It took us almost two hours to make the trip to see him.
Once we arrived at the hospital I thought I would be sick in the lobby. Were we really going to do this??? Had we lost our minds??? As we made our way to the floor he was on, we were greeted by multiple nurses asking if we were their to meet “Their boy Kahmari.” I very nervously told them yes.
We walked into his little hospital room, escorted by Stephanie, fully gowned up in hospital gear, and masks, and then tears just started rolling down my cheeks the moment I laid eyes on him. All I could do was hope he did not see them behind my mask.
He looked right up at us with his pudgy little face while watching Dora the Explorer and exclaimed, “Hi, guys I’ve been waiting all day for you to get here!”
It was if he knew, and in that moment I even forgot that we where standing in a hospital room and that he had multiple apparatuses hanging off his tiny, round body. I remember looking over at my husband Jamie and saying, "You have to go home and get my bags, I’m not leaving him here one more night alone.”
And that was it. We had know idea what we were getting ourselves into, how much sleep in the coming weeks that would be lost, how we where going to tell our other kids, family, or friends, or how chaotic it was about to get. We went home after spending a few hours with him watching TV, playing games, and chatting: we needed to pack bags and talk to our kids. As soon as we got back home and told them, their first words were, “How soon can we meet him?” The very next morning we headed back to the hospital for the kids to meet him (they hit it off immediately), and for me to start training on all his care.
After a solid 8 days of being trained on G-tube feedings, central line trainings, and on the over all care of Kahmari, we were discharged for home with 16 hours a day of nursing care. As it was summer time, mid-July, I thought this would be the perfect season to get us all adjusted before school starts. Kahmari had over 30 types of meds to be administered four times a day, a formula mixture to make and he was going to need feeding therapy and PT.
Kahmari had spent so much time in bed he did not know how to do normal things like other kids. After a month at home with nursing care, I seriously thought I was going to lose my mind. We had nurses coming and going at all hours of the day and night: they would fall asleep on the job and one told me she had to pump breast milk for her child at home and stood in our kitchen in front of the other kids without warning to do so. We had another new nurse show up for her night shift, see our tiny toy poodle at the front door, and went running down the side walk. When my husband finally caught up to her to ask her what was wrong she exclaimed, “I don’t do homes with beasts!”
That was the icing on the cake. We asked a friend (who was also a school nurse in our town) to come help out on weekends, but I finally decided we needed to take over ALL his care. I had to figure out how Jamie and I could conquer and divide all his stuff, so Jamie took on his feeds, feeding pump, and making his formula. I took on all his medications--making them, giving them--potty training, dealing with all the doctors, and trying to figure our how to get him into preschool.
After about 2 weeks of us doing all of his care, it just worked. We found a new groove, and we could leave the house with him to go out in public. Things where starting to fall into place. I was know longer in constant tears and panic that we where going to kill him and now had to find a preschool for him to go to. Of course, in the middle of all this we decided to build a house because we are totally insane. (We needed more land for the kids and on all our pets.) On a whim I decided to give the school in our new school zone a call in the middle of August to see if there was any way they would be able to take Kahmari into their four year old preschool program. When I made the call they said to bring him for a meet and greet.
The school opened their hearts to Kahmari and our entire family. Multiple doctors had said he would never be able to attend a regular school. Of course, off to school he went! He's now in 2nd grade in a general education classroom setting and he's doing it. He's doing school! He still needs multiple bathroom breaks and bolus feedings at school, but our boy is doing something he was told may never happen!
I can’t tell you that there have not been days where I banged my head against the wall, days that I still cry, or I go out on our deck and scream at the sky. But we are now coming up on Kahmari’s 3 year adoption anniversary in November, and I am here to say that its been worth it to take that leap, and have a bit of faith: its all been totally worth it.
If you’re on the fence about a medical or special needs child via adoption, I am here to tell you it will be hard, it will turn your world upside down, but the love, the crazy, is all worth it. It does get easier--we have found our village, our people, our tribe--and at the end of the day, I can’t imagine him not being a part of our family.
I’m so glad we disrupted our groove to bring him into our family, that we said “YES” to a medical kiddo. He was truly a missing puzzle piece I had know idea that we where missing.
No doubt about it, moms are the thermostat of the house, we set the temperature, the mood. When I am sick, tired, or crabby, my family feels it, and everyone suffers for it. My friend Glenda says it’s our job to set the temperature on the thermostat instead of being the thermometer that just reads what the temperature is. One is a conscious choice and takes effort, the other is a response to what is already happening. One is proactive, one is reactive.
When my kids behaviors are acting up, systems are being disregarded, and attitude is flying, I can 100% say that the result of those circumstances is based entirely on how I handle it. Whether I respond well, or poorly.
My kids can be wrecks, they bring in the chaos, no doubt, but I am the thermostat. I am the one they are begging inwardly for stability. I am the one they are already convinced will, “not be able to handle them either," I am the one they are trying to push away. Their RAD targets me. Every time.
One of my kids confessed once that when things are out of his control, he does the one thing he can control, and he makes me angry. For a long time it worked. I reacted in anger, and as a result, he “won." Though I know for certainty when our RAD kids “win”, they’re losing, we’re losing, and the relationship is losing. When they fight for control in an unhealthy way, and “win” it, there is loss. The stable ground we have worked hard to build under them, shakes every so slightly, or maybe even trembles rapidly. Either way, there is a threat in their hearts and minds to undo all that we have so diligently poured in.
When my perspective shifted, after learning this truth about my son, everything changed. I stopped letting him “win”. Just like I don’t let my kids manipulate me, or lie and get away with it, just like I don’t let them disrespect without correction, or treat another rudely, I refuse to let him “win” in this area. It simply leads to more loss in his life, and our relationship.
A long time ago I decided I would not lie to my kids. It is cut and dry in my mind: they don’t trust parents, so if I give them even ONE legitimate reason to not trust me, I can damage all that I have built up with them. That is a similar logic that I have latched onto with my kids trying to heat up the thermometer. If I refuse to let them “win”, if I kick in like a thermostat, set the temp, maintain it, work overtime for it, and beg God for the strength, there is true winning for my kids. Keeping the situation calm and cool, at least from my end, is true winning. It is loving them well.
This has been a game changer for me. In the past I could always point to their behaviors, seeing the hundred ways they made things go poorly, because let’s be honest, without their chaos, we would probably be outstanding moms all the time! However, in the end, when I went to God and asked him to search my heart, and see any offensive way in me (Psalm 139:23-24), this is what He showed me. When things escalate and get way out of hand, it’s me. I commit the final offense, the final blow that sends them running, that doesn't cool things down.
I cannot change their behaviors, I cannot control them, but I am in charge of me, and THAT is what I can work on. Daily I am praying, “more of you Lord, less of me." In my flesh, in my reactions, I can do a lot of damage to an already broken situation. I don’t want to play the damaging role in my kids’ lives! I want to be involved in the healing and redemption; the beauty on the other side! So it is imperative that I keep myself under control, and it is only through the power of Christ I can do that. By His sweet graces, he is teaching me how! One day at a time.
Rachel is a 32 year old mom with 6 kids married to the best man she knows, Joey. Her kids are 2,4,7,16,20, and 21. God keeps bringing them teens and asking them to adopt them. Like crazy people, they keep saying yes. What could seem like the worst possible age to adopt in the world, has become God's beautiful redemption story playing out right before their very eyes. And it is good.