Baby S is a…

I didn’t mean to leave everyone hanging! It’s been a busy couple of days :)

Anyway, I am excited and proud to announce that Sean and I are having a baby BOY!!!
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It’s nice to be able to say “him” instead of “it” or “baby.” He is healthy and right on track for growth! And now, I don’t have to return any of the cute baby boy clothes I bought before we knew. :) I’ve been feeling him move around for close to three weeks now, and it was so fun to be able to see him move and feel it at the same time on the ultra sound. Now we just have to wait another 20 weeks to meet him!

Bowties or Flowers?

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Today is a big day folks! I’m 20 weeks pregnant- half way through! Tomorrow we find out baby’s sex, which I have been dying to know since I found out I was pregnant. 20 weeks is a long wait! I have no idea how some mama’s can wait until birth. Patience isn’t really my thing. :)

Any guesses? I’ve been thinking boy for the most part, but I think that is mostly because right before I found out I was pregnant I had two dreams that I gave birth to a baby boy. All pregnancy symptoms (according to old wives tales) are pointing towards girl. I have no idea! I’ll be ecstatic either way :)

Pregnancy After Fostering

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A couple of months after we said goodbye to A, D, and M, it became clear that we would not be able to adopt them. We were heartbroken, but after months of DCF drama and feeling helpless and stuck, we had a definitive answer- just not the one we wanted. We were pretty upset with the foster care system and didn’t feel we could emotionally handle other placements for a little while. Our case worker told us we could keep our license on hold for up to a year without having to start the whole process over, which sounded good to us at the time.

November came around and Sean and I talked about the possibility of having a child biologically. To be honest, I never really wanted a biological child. I have always wanted to be a mom, and I guess I assumed I would eventually get pregnant and have a baby, but it’s not something I put a lot of thought into. Foster parenting was always my main goal since I was a teenager, and I hoped to adopt too. Being pregnant, having a biological connection to my children, or having children that look like me and Sean are not important to me. I just want to be a mom. I spent years researching and reading about foster and adoptive parenting, preserving connections with bio family, transracial family issues, and how to care for children with traumatic backgrounds, and never read a single baby or pregnancy book. When it looked like we would end up adopting A, D, and M, we knew we wouldn’t have children biologically for a while, if ever. But now, back to just the two of us, it was an option to consider. I know that many perfectly healthy couples can take up to a year to conceive, and I knew that within a year we would be ready for either a pregnancy or to foster again. So we decided during our break from foster care we would not prevent a pregnancy and see what happens.

Well, we were both shocked when I got a positive pregnancy test on December 3rd. I just remember thinking, “Is this real? How many people get pregnant that fast?” (It turned out about 30% of couples conceive the first month of trying- though the study I read didn’t define “trying”). I was so happy that I called Sean and at work and told him over the phone instead of waiting for him to come home for lunch. Yet, while I was happy, I also felt like there must be a catch. Nothing good happens that easily for me. It was also sort of anti-climatic. That’s it? Just have sex one month and become parents? No paperwork, no home inspections, no classes or reading necessary, no late night placement phone calls telling you a child or multiple children are going to be at your house any minute and staying for who knows how long. It seemed too easy.

I wasn’t prepared for the wide range of emotions I was feeling, and still feel, about this pregnancy. Between the excitement and happiness, I was also upset, confused, and hurt. I spent months praying that A, D, and M could stay with us, but never prayed to be pregnant. Why would something I didn’t care about happen so easily but the one thing I wanted was impossible?

When we announced to friends and family, everyone was SO happy for us. Most had a vague idea of what had happened when the kids left, but we really hadn’t talked a lot about it. It seemed like most people thought this pregnancy was our happy ending, our “real” baby after testing out the waters with someone else’s kids- our way to move on and get over them. “You’re going to be such great parents!” we have been told over and over again. I understand that people mean well, and I try my best to take compliments for what they are, compliments. But every time I think, “Thanks, because being a stay at home mom of three for 11 months definitely didn’t make me parent.” It’s surprising to me how many people just cannot understand unconditional love for a child that does not share your DNA, or that parenting is parenting, no matter how you become a parent. I just wish people would be a little more sensitive with their wording. Also, to be completely honest, I would still trade this pregnancy to have A, D, and M with us. Maybe that makes me a bad person. I love this growing baby, but I don’t have a relationship with him/her yet like I did with them. Sean and I did things a little backwards from the perceived norm. Bio kids were our plan b. And just like people who come to adoption after infertility or bio kids wonder how they could love an adopted child the same way, I have wondered if I will love and connect with this baby the same way I was able to love and connect with A, D, and M.

I don’t want to come across as ungrateful, because I am so excited for this baby! I have many dear friends who have struggled with infertility and multiple pregnancy losses. I know I am lucky to be pregnant, and to have become pregnant so easily. I am excited to meet this baby and be his or her mom. I have been as careful as possible during this pregnancy to keep Baby S happy and healthy. I know I will love him/her. However, my love for this baby will never replace the love I have for our first kids. All of my kids will always have a special place in my heart that no one else can fill.

My Must Have Baby Gear: Newborn Edition

When we were in the licensing process of becoming foster parents, I did TONS of research on versatile, gender neutral baby and kid gear. I shared some of my favorites here (and I should note, after 11 months with three kids using these items, I still stand behind everything, especially the stroller! The only item we never ended up getting was the IKEA Kura bed). I also learned through trial and error which things were necessary for our lifestyle and which things really didn’t matter.

This time around, planning is MUCH easier. We have a pretty good idea of when the baby will be here, we (will) know the gender, we know we’ll have a newborn baby, and we know it’s just one baby. We also have the advantage of 9 months to mentally and physically prepare, verses the 3 hours notice we received to prepare for 3 children ages infant to 4 years. I really want to take a minimalist approach to baby gear to avoid ending up with tons of baby stuff we don’t need or use. Also, I am completely ok with, and actually prefer, gender neutral baby items and gear. That’s right, I’m not a fan of pink flower patterns, blue or green jungle patterns, etc. I prefer grays, whites/creams, blacks, and some occasional lime green for boy or girl.

So here is what my list of newborn essentials looks like:

1. Pack N Play with Bassinet and Changing Table Combo

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We LOVED our pack n play for little M, and definitely got our money’s worth of use out of it in the 11 months he was with us. I am planning to breastfeed this baby, and to make life easier we are going to set up our pack n play bassinet in our bedroom (which is on the first floor of our house) and will have him/her sleep in there as long as possible. I love that this one also has a changing table and lots of storage for diapers and wipes and burp cloths- all in one piece of furniture that will fit nicely tucked into a corner of our room. Bonus, the design is pretty (not obnoxiously patterned) and gender neutral! See all product information here.

2. Convertible 5-70 pound Car Seat
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I am a huge fan of convertible car seats. M and D both had the same one, and A could have been in the same one, but to make three fit in our backseat we got her a 5 point harness booster. My original reason for getting a convertible car seat was not knowing the age/weight of the children we would have in our home. This time, we know we are starting out with a newborn and could get an infant car seat, but I just don’t feel there are any benefits. First of all, the cost. Even with a tiny baby, an infant car seat at best lasts about a year. A convertible car seat will last from the time the baby comes home from the hospital to the time they outgrow it or it expires (usually 5 years), which saves money having to buy a convertible later on. Second, I am a tiny girl. I am not going to be able to lug around even a light weight infant car seat with a baby in it, plus a diaper bag, for any amount of time. It will be much easier for me to transfer the baby from car seat to infant carrier for our outings, with the added bonus of being able to hold my baby. Third, the main benefit I have heard from other parents of infant car seats is the ability to leave your baby in the car seat if they are sleeping, so they can stay asleep while running errands. The problem with this is that it’s dangerous. Car seats are meant to keep babies safe while in the car; they are not intended to be used for naps or for any extended period of time outside of the car as it can restrict their airways and cause suffocation (if you haven’t seen the recent articles about the dangers, please google it!). We sent our other car seats along with A, D, and M when they left our home, so this is the one we will be buying for Baby S.

3. Ergobaby Original Carrier with Infant Insert and Teething Pads
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A good baby carrier is definitely a must for me. Without an infant car seat, before the baby can sit up on his/her own in the stroller I will be using this for every outing. Since M was already 7 months when he was placed with us, I did not buy a baby carrier, and it is one of my biggest regrets! I borrowed a wrap and a carrier for a few months before he outgrew them, and it was great! He could be held and soothed while my hands were free to cook or play with the girls. I have gotten a lot of recommendations for the ergo carrier because of it’s durability and that it has hip support for babies (unlike some other popular carriers, such as the bjorn carriers). I am considering a Moby wrap too, but for now just the Ergo and teething pads are on my must have list. More product info here and here.

4. Miracle Blanket Baby Swaddler

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I am planning on purchasing two or three of these to start off with, and am hoping that is enough to last through our laundry rotation. I love the idea of swaddling wraps like this, because I do not trust myself to safely or effectively swaddle with a blanket in the early, tired weeks with a newborn. Maybe I’m just lazy, but this just seems so much easier, and is guaranteed not to come undone if baby wiggles around. These are some of the more expensive swaddlers, but I have found them to be the best reviewed for keeping baby snug and secure, unlike other similar swaddles with lots of extra room at the bottom. I’ll have to see how these work out for us and let you know. :) More product info here.

5. Jeep Single Jogging Stroller and Accessories
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I LOVED our jeep double stroller, and was probably a little too excited when I found the single, jogger stroller version of it! I love the colors and that it was light weight and durable. This one has the same features, and a few more, which is exactly what we need. We probably won’t use it for the first few months so this could technically wait and not be on this list, but since it is an eventual need I am including it here. I am also purchasing a few accessories made especially for jeep jogger strollers: stroller hooks for bags/extra storage, a weather/rain shield, and a bug net. More product info here.

6. Burts Bees Fragrance Free Baby Bath Products
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I am a big fan of Burts Bees in general, so I was SO excited when I discovered they had a whole line of baby products, including surprisingly hard to find fragrance free baby bath and diaper items! I used all of these on M and D, who both had very sensitive skin and never had any problems with dryness, diaper rash, or weird smells. I will definitely be using these for Baby S. The whole line is available at Target and Amazon.com.

So, that’s my list for now. Of course we will need diapers, burp cloths, and some other things, but these are the big essentials we will have around before August. Feel free to share your must have newborn items as well!

A Long Overdue Foster Care Update: Saying Goodbye

I have to admit, the way our foster care placement ended, and the circumstances under which the kids left completely blindsided us. They had been with us for about 11 months, A had started kindergarten, and though their case was still technically heading for reintegration, we had been asked to consider adopting them last July since, in reality, that’s where the case was heading. We always wanted to be in a position to adopt our foster care placements should that become the need for the kids, or an option for us. We could not have loved these kids any more and the thought of them not being with us if their mother was unable to take care of them was just insane to us. So, with the possibility of adoption sometime in the “near” future (which in the foster care world can mean anything from one to three years, and maybe never), we began preparing for what would at least be a much longer stay for the kids.

Since we were originally only licensed for two, when we accepted the placement of three, we had to get several court approved exceptions to have M with us. First he was in our room, and then he shared a room with a girls, even though the age difference between him and A being different genders is usually not allowed. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to find homes who are willing or able to take sibling groups of three or more, so we are grateful for the exceptions and that we were able to keep them together. However, going forward for much longer we needed more room. So in August, we moved to a much bigger townhome with extra bedrooms. We planned the kids’ rooms with them and got A ready for kindergarten. They continued to have (almost) weekly visits with their mother, and as rough as our relationship was, their mother seemed to be much more pleasant towards me at visits. All the while, we were completely prepared for the fact that the kids may still end up back with their mother. We were ok with that, as that is the point of foster care, and would have loved to see their mother get to a place where she could take care of her kids so they could be a family together. I am a huge advocate of reintegration whenever possible, and support for birth parents.

Very abruptly, I received a call from DCF (which is unusual since KVC is the agency that handles foster care cases, and DCCCA is the agency we are licensed through- we had never had direct contact with DCF) stating that the kids were being moved to another foster home. I was confused and panicked. I called our family case worker and they hadn’t heard anything from DCF and were sure it was a mistake. Our local DCCCA office spent all day trying to contact someone at DCF who could tell them what was going on and trying to stop the move from happening. We contacted the kids’ case worker who didn’t hear anything from DCF until later that evening, and also advocated for keeping the kids with us. The decision had not been approved by a judge, and we were fairly confident that if we could keep them in our home until the next court hearing (which was scheduled for later in the month), she would not allow the transfer to happen. After several exhausting days, we met and had a respite placement with the family that would potentially take in A, D, and M, though they too hoped an unnecessary move wouldn’t happen. With all of the progress the kids were making, especially A, who took the longest to show signs of progress, we knew uprooting everything they had known for the last few months was not what was best for them. Unfortunately, the foster care world doesn’t always do what is best for the kids, and the transfer went through prior to the court hearing. We tried to explain to the kids what was happening, and make it clear that we loved them and did not want to say goodbye to them. We packed up their clothes, and favorite toys, and dropped them off at their new home. It was clear that the kids didn’t understand this was a permanent stay. They trusted us so much, they just assumed we would be back to get them soon, which made everything so much harder. I was a mess. I tried not to cry as I hugged them each for the last time. That was the hardest day of my life. We kept our home open and ready for them, because we knew they would likely need an adoptive home soon and still wanted to be considered. Their new foster parents sent us periodic updates, and it hurt so much to hear of their behavior regressions and that they often asked when they could come home. We put our license on hold for new placements and were pretty devastated for a while. A case worker we spoke with told us that unfortunately it is not uncommon for things like this to happen. Mistakes, paperwork, politics and power struggles between various agencies often get in the way of what is best for the kids. It didn’t make me feel better.

Once it became clear that yes, the kids would need to adopted, but another family had been chosen, we decided to take a break from foster care. I know we will foster again, but after the hard year we had had with my miscarriage and the unexpected circumstances in which we said goodbye to A, D, and M, we needed some time to heal emotionally before opening up our home to new placements. During the hardest days, the song All of Me by Matt Hammitt was so relatable and a comfort to me, and I’m sure any other foster parent would feel the same.

I don’t regret anything, and am grateful for the time we had with A, D, and M. I know I did everything I could to love them and care for them and advocate for their needs the whole time they were with us. I hope that it was enough, and I hope that they are able to look back at what they can remember of their time with us as being good. Saying goodbye to them was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but I would not hesitate to do it all over again, even knowing the outcome. They are more than worth it, and I hope that wherever they end up, they will be safe and know that they are loved every day no matter what.