5 Tips to Surviving Your First Month as a Foster Parent

by Candace

Considering our first month of being foster parents ends today, this has got to be the most newbie "advice" post ever written. Believe me, I still know so little. I still have so much to learn. That being said, the growth our family has experienced these past weeks has been remarkable, and I don't want to forget these early days. So, I'm writing for myself. I'm writing for those of you about to embark on your foster journey. I'm writing for those who are well into the adoption process. And, I'm writing for those who are just plain curious.

1. Cry. Cry a lot. Those first few days I cried over everything. It was not dissimilar to the crying I had postpartum. Worse in the evenings. Better by morning. Lots of anxiety followed by lots of tears. Most of the time, I had no clue why I was even crying. The day could have been relatively easy (all things considered) and guaranteed, once 5pm started to roll around, I would start getting all weepy. And I am the furthest thing from weepy. Anyway, cry away. Let it all hang out. All your ugly feelings. Get 'em all out in the open so you can start tackling them head on. It will make you feel better, trust me. Besides, holding it all in or pretending like you have your crap together will only make things worse, and it only prolongs the inevitable breakdown.

2. Change your perspective. This was so key to my coping with our huge life change, and the realization came from my mama. Of course it did. Mama Chap is a regular fountain of no-nonsense and wisdom. I believe I was crying to her about how hard it was and how I literally was never going to be able to do anything for myself ever again. (An exaggeration. And um, shall we say, a pity party?) Enter my Mama Chap in true Mama Chap form: "Candace. You have three small children now. Of course it's going to be hard. Everything has changed. It's not bad. It's just different. This is the way life is now. You're going to have to change your perspective and expectations, and if you can do that, you'll make it just fine."

3. Change your expectations. I've read/heard a lot of people who say "Don't have any expectations going into Foster care!" In a sense, they're right. In another sense, that is total garbage because expectations are inevitable. You've been dreaming of this for months. You've discussed and researched and prayed and hoped and wondered. You will have expectations. Some things may go exactly as you thought, while other things feel like a swift kick to the gut. I didn't anticipate how hard night time would be, or how much I would cry those first few days or how impossible it would seem to keep my house clean. I didn't anticipate how difficult it would be to stay compassionate to the biological family of our boys or how hard it would be even considering them leaving us forever. So I've changed a lot of my expectations of myself, my house, my boys, my husband, and others.... Lots of change. Lots of rolling with the punches. So have your expectations. Then, be prepared to change them.

4. Laugh. Laugh a lot. Laugh with your kids. Laugh at them. (You know, if they're toddlers and wouldn't mind). Laugh with your husband. Laugh at him. (You know, if he's the good-natured kinda guy who will take that well.) Laugh at the mess and at the three ringed circus that is now every family outing. Laugh at the people who stare and ask inappropriate/rude questions. When you get over the crying phase, laugh it all off. Once all the crying is over with, laughing feels so much better anyway.

5. Finally, be patient. Your kids may/will take time to warm up to you. You may/will take time to warm up to your kids. When our boys came, I felt an instant desire to love and protect, but I still didn't know them. I didn't know what they liked or disliked. I didn't know how to help them sleep at night or why our 7 month old was still waking (at least) every 5 hours at night or why our almost 2 year old wouldn't get in the bath tub and had nervous breakdowns when it came to food/snacks/etc. I didn't know why he panicked in the car if he decided he wanted something to eat and I didn't have anything to give him right that second. I didn't know why he was waking up every hour screaming. Was it just being in a new home? Was it past trauma? Was it all of the above? Would he be like this forever?! A lot of those things we have gotten answers to. And some of them are a work in progress. The point is, we are getting to know them and their stories and understanding/loving/liking each other more every single day. I can't believe how far we have come in a month. A month ago they were total strangers and all I could think was, "But what do I do with them?!?" Now? It's honestly like they've been here forever. After 31 days, our pre-foster life seems like a distant memory.

I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Mothering with Chronic Pain

by Erin

I type this as I sit with a heating pad on my abdomen, Tylenol within arms reach, a baby is in his walker and a toddler is fighting a nap in her crib. Days like this are some of the hardest days. Not because of DCS or court or toddler behavior. Days like this are hard because of me- my body.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to call the DCS office so my husband and I could start the foster parenting process. I had a whole long list of reasons not to but ultimately, there was really only one question that mattered in my mind. Will I be healthy enough?

You see, there are days where I lay in the bathtub for hours just to try and find some relief. There are days when I can barely stand upright because the pain won’t allow. There are days where I simply cry because I know next month I’ll just have to do this all over again. I’ve tried herbs and homeopathic medicine and yoga and massages. I’ve tried all of the oils and the anti-inflammatories. I’ve tried less caffeine, more caffeine, no dairy and no gluten.

I have endometriosis. And this disease is trying to steal my motherhood.

I don’t really talk a lot about it anymore, the endometriosis. And now that I’m a momma, everyone seems to think it has gone away. But the truth of the matter is- it’s never been more real. You see, now the pain days aren’t just a reminder of my infertility. The pain days now also prevent me from being a momma. But I won’t allow them to steal my motherhood.

I used to always think that endometriosis would make me an inadequate parent but I’m learning that’s not true. Does it add certain challenges? Certainly. The truth is, I am an inadequate mother- not because of chronic pain, but because I’m human. And I can be ever thankful that His grace and mercy covers my motherhood.

So I’ll say to you, momma with chronic pain, you’re not alone. You don’t have to pretend to feel better than you are. And you certainly don’t have to allow your pain to steal your motherhood.

Erin is a foster momma in small-town Indiana where she spends her days doing life with her husband of 5 years, chasing her two littles and styling hair in a local salon. She loves Jesus and enjoys all things beer, coffee, wine and kombucha. You can find her at www.thebelovedbabe.com.

 

The Hardest Stuff

photo by Shelby

photo by Shelby

by Anonymous

Today is the day that I am supposed to write an article for the Dandelion Magazine.  I put it on my calendar and everything.  I live by my calendar and I write everything down. So written on today’s calendar: fix a plumbing issue at one of our rentals, go to a baby shower for one the young unwed mothers that I help at a local ministry that I’m involved in.....and a number of other errands that fill up my day and I’m fairly certain I won’t get done, but I will try.  Oh yeah, and write that article that I also had on yesterday’s “to do” list.  While under the sink fixing a garbage disposal, I write this article in me head, “What you need to know to survive an investigation....”. 

I start thinking about our precious Khy, he was the little boy that we had that lead to our investigation. His mom blamed something ridiculous on us after she got him back.  It was so ridiculous and everyone knew it.  The mom had done it to other foster families, but regardless they still had to go through with the investigation.  I’m writing this article in my head and half laughing about it and the absurdity of all the allegations the mom made against other foster families as well as ours. Recalling that her newborn was near death the first time the kids were removed and that the kids were removed a second time this past winter and how we fought to get them without success.

And then my phone rings.  It’s my best friend and she wants to know why I didn’t call her about Khy.  I don’t know what she was talking about and it’s very odd since I was just thinking about him and his siblings.  She said she was coming over and I told her that wasn’t at home. “Just tell me, what is it?  I’ll be fine.”  Oh Dear God, how many times have I said, “I’ll be fine.”  Just let me grieve, I’ll be fine.  I can say good-bye, I’ll be fine.  I can handle ridiculous accusations, I’ll be fine.  I can take on hard stuff and hard kids, I’ll be fine.

Today, I am not fine.  I am messed up.  I want to scream, I want to cuss, I want to punch something.  I have spent the last four and a half years “being fine”, carrying other people’s burdens, fixing things for others, doing crazy hard stuff and knowing some downright terrible and disgusting things about some of our kids that would make you vomit.  Today I am feeling every single hard thing, everything I’ve tried to be fine about.  My stomach is churning and I want to quit!

Today I can’t be fine.  Tomorrow I will go to the funeral of a boy that we would have made our own in a heartbeat if given the chance.  A little boy who out of over 25+ kids that have come into our home, we still talk about him on a weekly basis. Today I have to tell my kids.  We haven’t seen him in over a year, and we may have never seen him again, but now we grieve his life.  The life we couldn’t save.

I’ll still write my article, probably tomorrow, but for this moment I will say to you, Foster Mama or Future Foster Mama:  God has called us to do hard stuff.  You are going to learn to deal with it.  You are going to feel rejected by those around you that don’t get what you are doing and why.  You are going to feel used, abused, neglected, and accused.  But know that while you will be fine, and I will be fine...it’s okay to not be fine for a moment.