Every Life Matters

We’re just a couple weeks past Mother’s Day and my stomach churns every time I scroll through my Facebook feed.

Just a short week ago, we proudly posted pictures of our children, our mothers and our grandmothers.

We applauded women of all ages and validated the sacrifices they make to bring life to the world.

On Mother’s Day moms enjoyed breakfast in bed, flowers from their partners and tender thank you notes scrawled in preschool print. Everywhere we looked we saw the message that mothers deserve to be seen, valued and encouraged in their role; that what we are investing in is beautiful, irreplaceable and important.

Mother’s day proposes to us that women deserve to be recognized for the courage, resilience, and sacrifice they live out daily in their quest to give themselves to the next generation.

Mother’s day told women that they are strong, capable, remarkable and seen in a world that would have us believe otherwise.

But today, my Facebook feed stands in stark contrast to the messages of Mother’s Day.

Today women are saying,

We demand control of our bodies and our lives.

We are victims of a war against femininity.

We want a voice.

We deserve respect.

No one else gets to trump our rights.

All I can think as I watch friend after friend share outrageous, passionate, angry memes, posts and videos is…

Where are the women who, two weeks ago, valued life and motherhood? Where are the women who said they would willingly lay down their lives for the little people they birthed?

When my son was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 18 months, I would have given anything to take his place and go into that operating room myself. Instead I placed him into the arms of a stranger wearing a gown and mask and stood sobbing in my husband’s arms as he was carried away from me.

I would give anything to go back in time for my four other children and take the betrayal, abandonment and hurt they experienced. I would give my right arm in a heart beat if it meant I could erase some of that pain or change some of their first mothers’ choices that have led to such difficulty in life for them.

Every mother I know would throw her life recklessly on the line for her child.

So what changes so dramatically when a baby travels down the birth canal and lets out that first feeble cry? At what point do they magically become human and worthy of protection when a mere few months earlier we say their existence is only optional?

If life does not begin at conception, when does it begin?

At 10 weeks?

20 weeks?

30 weeks?

40 weeks?

And who gets to decide at what point a new life is formed enough to have rights of its own?

We go to great lengths to get prenatal care and help women make healthy choices during pregnancy.

Why does it matter if my children’s birth mothers exposed them to harmful substances in the first two months of their lives if they weren’t really classified as a life at all?

And what determines our value?

Who gets to decide which lives are valuable and which ones are discarded?

Are we put on some type of scale to determine our level of significance to the world to decide whether or not we hold enough value to deserve an existence?

Maybe it’s our level of dependence on another human being, our physical or mental capabilities. Maybe it’s our IQ level or emotional intelligence that should dictate our worth.

Maybe it’s whether or not our birth was planned, if we developed fully in utero or if we were wanted.

Who gets to decide?!

I care about this because the ripples of abortion are deeply personal to me.

Four of my children deal with physical, emotional and neurological differences that set them apart from their peers. They learn differently, they process differently, they see the world through different eyes.

Would you put them on a scale and rank their worth next to their peers in accordance with their abilities?

If life before birth can be evaluated and discarded based on certain qualities, why not after birth as well?

What if someone could have seen the extent of my children’s struggles and abnormalities?

What if the years of neglect, trauma, turbulence in foster care, unusual chromosomes, neurological damage, physical weaknesses and difficult family circumstances they were entering into were deemed to be too difficult?

What if someone had decided they were not worth it, not wanted, not valuable enough?

“They’ll just spend years in foster care when their teenage parents cannot care for them.”

“They will struggle all their lives; it isn’t fair to them.”

“Their mother isn’t ready to have a baby. She’s so young.”

Who would have protected their right to the beautiful, rich lives they live today? Who would have imagined the unique, irreplaceable talents and skills they bring to the world, my world, today?

Where are those women?

Where are the women who will sit day and night beside the tiny plastic bassinet in the ICU while a vulnerable premature baby fights for life, surrounded by wires, tubes and monitors?

Where are the women who will take in the child who has lost their first parents, been abandoned, neglected or abused, believing that the life they are taking into their care is worth the sacrifice of comfort, time and freedom?

Where are the women who will fight passionately for the rights of every human life to be preserved, protected and valued?

I Believe women should have rights…but not for women’s rights to be placed above every other human’s rights.

I don’t want my rights to trump the rights of my children, my husband or anyone else.

That is not equality and that is not the kind of world I want my daughters to grow up in.

I want to raise daughters who value their femininity and see the incredible ability for nurture, intelligence, beauty and life they bring to the world as women.

I want to raise daughters who are willing to lay down their comfort, sacrifice their freedom and discipline their minds and hearts to serve their communities, families and the world we live in.

Women who can both lead and follow.

Women who will travel across the globe to invest in developing careers for women living in poverty, to dedicate their lives to raising the next generation, to empower their husbands and sons with strength and integrity that only a woman can inspire in a man.

I am pro life because I believe life begins at conception and that God is the author and keeper of each new life.

I am pro life because I believe each new life is carefully crafted in the image of God, and therefore every life matters and that every life deserves to be protected.

I realize I have painted this picture very black and white. I know there is unimaginable pain, trauma and so many complicated layers to this issue. Probably some of you have been triggered very painfully by this post, and for that I am so sorry.

The pro choice movement would lead us to believe that a woman’s choice to abort brings freedom, healing and empowerment to women caught in impossible situations.

However, they leave out the reality that abortion accepts sacrificing the life of an unborn child is necessary and acceptable. The ramifications and ripple effects of that declaration are devastating.

The pro choice movement also fails to acknowledge the incredible physical, psychological and emotional trauma women experience post abortion. Abortion rarely improves a woman’s difficult situation, but instead adds another toxic layer of grief and loss. It emphasizes the results of trauma as a problem versus the trauma itself.

I don’t join protests, tout political jargon or support all the people, movements or bills that are passed under the name of pro life.

But I am pro life and I choose to stand firmly by the truth that life begins at conception and that every life has value.

~AF

“For You formed my inward parts; you covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.” -Psalm 139

Fearfully & Wonderfully Made

She calls on a Thursday.

He is less than a week old and still in the hospital NICU.

Will we take him?

He has some medical conditions that will take extra effort and pose a small risk to myself and our children.

Still,

I say yes and I can’t stop smiling all day.

I picture the soft baby hair and I can feel his baby skin against my cheek.

We purchase the car seat we’ve been putting off, new bottles, pacifiers and a package of newborn sized diapers.

All weekend I prepare for the probable.

I wake up in the night and think about his tiny body swaddled tight in a blanket; a nurse patting him with firm, reassuring pats to calm him.

I wish I am there;

to hold him,

to watch his every move protectively,

to soothe the withdrawal symptoms that make his little body tremble.

My heart cries for his pain and yet delights in his existence.

I pray for his mom, too.

I picture her leaving the hospital.

Alone.

I remember how tired, tender and overwhelmed I felt as a new mom.  As post birth hormones rushed over me and exhaustion seeped in, I had clung to my baby and my husband.

It is doubtful she has either of these to cling to and I wish I could hold her and tell her that it will be ok.

That I’ll be here to help.

That she can do this.

I pray for wisdom to love her well, no matter what I may think of her choices.

I dig out a notebook, ready and waiting to be a log book for us to pass back and forth so she won’t be out of the loop in his care.

By Tuesday morning I am all set.

My Mama Bear instincts have come rushing in and I am willing to rearrange my day at any cost to make sure I can accompany the social worker to the hospital.

I can picture the NICU I have spent time in before and I imagine him there.

He’s parked by the nursing station, waiting for someone to come and claim him to be theirs.

Mine.

I set the pile of baby items in the hall and try to figure out how I can move all the kids around so there’s plenty of space for everyone.

The phone rings and my heart jumps in anticipation.

It’s her.

Our social worker.

Baby is not doing well.

He’s struggling with the withdrawal symptoms and needed morphine over the weekend.

He’ll be in the hospital for at least another week.

Also, family has come forward and they will be taking him home upon his discharge.  We are not needed after all for Baby Boy, but thank you for being available.

I hold up my disappointment from crashing in by remembering why I believe in reunification and kinship care.

I practise gratitude as I pack away the baby things and break the news to my baby-loving daughters.

I wake in the night and turn my disappointment into prayers.

Safety.

Comfort.

Wisdom.

Love.

I think about the hours I spent loving this little person that I would probably never meet and wonder why it happened this way.

But then I think…

Why does it make any difference?

He is worthy of it all.

My love,

my time,

my grief,

my family,

and my money.

Not a single prayer, cent or minute was wasted because

this little person matters.

He matters to the One who made Him

and he matters to me.

And in that,

my heart settles.

“You are beautiful, for you are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Psalm 139:14

 

 

 

Grief

I woke up with a start and reached for my phone.

3:22 am.

Flopping back on the pillow I rolled over and tried to get comfortable but my chest felt tight and my mind was fully alert.

Memories I wanted to forget flooded in and I winced, closing my eyes tight to black out the image of my baby on a hospital bed.  Gritty, unsettling details played on the screen of my mind.  Black and white words on a page, our surgeon’s face smiling kindly at me and my son’s still body.

My ears strained for sounds through the halls as I got up to get a drink.  I wanted to go to their doors and peek inside like I do sometimes, just to listen to their breathing and make sure everyone was ok, but I shook it off, feeling silly.

We’d been home from the hospital with our son for three weeks.  The crisis was past and the prognosis was great.

But my heart was staggering to hold the weight of reality.

What had just happened?

For over a month we had lived under the shock of our son’s sudden diagnoses, surgery and recovery.  We had gone from one crisis and milestone to the next, pushing forward toward healing.

We kept going because we had to.

There was no time to sit back and process.

No time to take in the what ifs.

There was too much to do to allow the fear to creep in.

But now, with quietness all around me and the comfort of my own bed beneath me I felt my heart race.

All the fears and the what ifs came crashing in around me.

I had almost lost my son.

How had life made a turn so quickly?

How had I lost the innocence I lived with before?

I wanted so badly to just keep going.  To pick up where we had left off and continue on as if it had never happened.

But I couldn’t.

Because had changed.

As much as I wanted to be able to go on and forget, I couldn’t shake the brokenness that I felt inside.

My friend’s kind eyes and gentle words came back to me.  She had been sitting there on my couch, staring straight at me on just the right day.

“And how are you?” She had asked, after I gave my usual glowing report of Karter’s latest accomplishments and the goals he was meeting.

The laundry I was folding knotted in my hands and I felt the tears rush in.  It was just one of those days…and she knew this story oh so well.

It had only been a few short years since I’d been at her bedside as she fought against the unexpected.

It’s ok to take some time to grieve.

Grieve?

It felt strange.

We were all fine!

We were so grateful and humbled at the goodness we had experienced.

I felt like all I could rightly feel was gratitude and joy.

I had my baby here at home with me, sleeping peacefully in his crib.

The future looked bright.

I thought of 7 year old Jack and his mom; of tiny little Aden, both of whom were still where we had last seen them, and wouldn’t be going home anytime soon.  Their scenarios were so much worse than our own.

How could I grieve when I had so much to be thankful for?

And yet…

I felt let down.

I felt scared and hurt.

I felt like I had lost something precious to me.

Sometimes I had to avert my eyes from my son’s somber gaze, or from his teary cries.

I felt like I was going to break if I let myself take in the possibility that he might be remembering too.

I didn’t want to go out and see anyone.  I didn’t know how long I could continue to hold it together and paste on a smile that was fitting for the ‘God is so good’ conversation.  It wasn’t that I didn’t believe it.  It was just that there was so much more depth than just a bandaid smile to that statement.

I avoided the videos on my phone of the days and weeks before all this happened.  I didn’t want to see the subtle changes.

The lack of speech, the cautious movements, the melancholy depth in his gaze.

Gradually, we could see him coming back to us…but I missed my little boy.

I missed the little boy who waved a hockey stick in his right arm with confidence and strength.

I missed the babbling chatter that he had just begun, pointing at the world around him with eager curiosity.

I missed the clear baby gaze that used to be so innocent and pure, looking at me with absolute trust.

I missed being enough; feeling brave and strong.

This one child, I had grown inside of me and tried so hard to protect the way I could never protect my daughters.

I was going to keep him safe.

He wasn’t going to know what it was like to feel scared, hurt and alone.

Yet here we were.

Slowly over the next weeks I tried to take it in and to take time to feel.

I still am.

To feel the pain, the fear, the loss.

To let myself adjust to the unexpected life has brought us.

I feel like my mind has room for very little these days, but I’m realizing that’s ok.

We have had little people in and out of our home again the past few weekends as relief foster care placements and I am so grateful to be able to offer love to them despite the inadequacy I feel.

It feels good to feel that heart-tug when their little hands reach for my neck.

It feels good to remind myself of who I am and to know that even when I am not enough, God promises to fill in the gaps.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”                                      2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Strong?

Delight?

It feels so foreign and yet I can see it shimmering through.  When I fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day, yet I close my eyes and see her sweet little face tucked into my daughter’s bed.  Safe for one more night.

I feel it in the little boy arms that sling around my neck as he somersaults over the couch back into my lap, shy in his request for some affection.

I feel I have so little to offer these little people God has set in my home for a few days, yet somehow it’s obvious they can feel His love, His acceptance, His grace shining through the chaos and busyness of so many little people in one house.

Karter continues to make progress, though it comes more slowly now.

His happiness and slowly returning confidence is like a healing balm to my soul.

I cannot get enough of his smile,

his laughter,

the little shrieks and sounds he’s just started making again.

We went camping last weekend and he absolutely loved it.

To watch him toddle around taking it all in was so fortifying to my limping heart.  Swimming, exploring, boating, stomping on bugs, eating beside the campfire and falling asleep exhausted at the end of the day curled up in his sleeping bag next to me.

I needed it too.

The fresh air, chilled lake water, smoky campfire flavour and dirty faces of the ones I love most around me were so far away from the fear and pain.

It felt good to take one more step forward, away from the darkness.

Bouncing over the lake with my girls as we tubed beneath the bright, hot sun I felt more free and happy than I have in months.  We laughed and shrieked over the waves, again and again and again.

Just now my eyes land on a piece of mail.

“Never Give Up Hope!”

Hope.

It can feel so elusive but it’s always right there within grasp when we believe in a God who is so much bigger than this broken, faded world.

If this is you right now,

limping along grasping for threads or feeling disillusioned with the world,

take these words as my prayer for you and hide them deep within your heart.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

-Romans 15:13

 

 

 

 

Adoption vs. Birth

I went into adoption absolutely certain that I could and would love children born to another woman.

I was right.

I knew long before I met my girls that my love could run as deep, steady and strong for a child I chose through adoption as a child I gave birth to.

But there was also a lot I didn’t understand until I gave birth to my son.

Before we adopted I naively thought that love for my daughters would come instantly and feel deeply maternal.

I was wrong.

While I did fall instantly in love with my daughters, it was a very different kind of love than the love I felt when I gave birth to my son a  year and a half later.

It took day in, day out, month after month after long month of choosing to love my daughters before those feelings of natural, instinctive, maternal love came to me.

In theory I loved them fully and intimately, but realistically

we were strangers

and we needed to get to know each other.

I hadn’t spent nine months feeling the stirrings under my heart.  I hadn’t held them for those first breaths and watched each tiny movement.  I hadn’t witnessed the steady growth and development and learned what experiences formed in them their character and who they had become.

I have missed so much and I grieve that deeply.

When my son was born his innocence and purity took my breath away.  He was…and still is…so unscarred by this world.

My daughters never had that experience.  Even prenatally they struggled against circumstances beyond their control.

They fought for survival even before their first breaths.

I would give anything to give them the innocence my son got to experience, but I can’t and that is hard.

It is hard to look into my daughter’s eyes and see longing there as she says, “Mommy, I wish I grew in your tummy.”

Or to hold her shuddering little body as she cries tears of grief and loss for her birth mother…tears that she can’t even understand they are so complex and raw.

When my daughters came to me at 7 and 5 years old, they had personalities, character traits and a whole life that I knew very little about.

Sometimes that still gets in the way.

Sometimes I see fear, and I don’t know why it’s there.

Sometimes I see pain, and I don’t know what it’s about.

Sometimes there are vivid memories of people and places that I don’t know and I have no way of knowing if these memories are accurate and true or distorted by a child’s memory.

They’re looking to me for answers and I don’t know what to say.

Sometimes I see anger and resentment and I have no words to unravel the pain behind it all.

Sometimes I am the one battling the deep feelings of loss, of insecurity, of resentment and of exhaustion.

It is so tiring to constantly battle the layers upon layers of grief, fear, loss and trauma written on the hearts of children who have seen and heard and felt the unimaginable.

There is always always an unknown factor to consider.

Just because I chose this doesn’t mean it’s easy.

It’s not always fun.

Hurt makes people hurt.

Fear makes people push away.

Betrayal makes hearts break and the healing is slow and painful.

Sometimes I just want a normal family.

Yes, it’s true and I said that out loud.

Sometimes the guilt of that tears me apart.

But so many other times I see love, and I feel honoured to be their mother.

I see happiness and it overwhelms me with joy.

I see healing and it makes me fall to my knees in worship to the One who can bring redemption out of so much pain.

So many people see all the hurt and pain that often goes along with adoption and they decide they could never do it.

Too many risks.

And it’s true…after having experienced both adoption and natural birth, I will atest to the fact that giving birth is probably easier.

It’s the natural way to receive a child, the way our Creator first designed for families to be born.

It’s beautiful.

But what about when the original design falls apart?

What about when pain and destruction and sin enter in?

Ripping, tearing, breaking;

leaving wounds upon both the innocent and the guilty?

Then what?

Is there any hope of redemption?

Yes!

A thousand times yes!

I cannot begin to pour enough passion into these words.

To let you see,

to let you feel

the incredible grace

that our Father pours upon those who choose to engage the pain.

How he takes the ashes and creates beauty from them.

How he takes the broken and uses the scars to proclaim His glory.

How he bathes us in grace upon grace.

How he heals and transforms and gifts.

How we see the gospel through this thing we call adoption.

It is probably true that nothing quite prepares you to face the pain of this.

But it is absolutely true that nothing will prepare you for the rewards you will experience and the victories you will be a part of.

Nothing will prepare you for the small things that will bring you joy,

the grace you will receive

and maybe most of all the love that will grow strong in your heart for these children you’ve chosen as yours.

Yes, yours.

It will become their identity.

Your children.

It’s my favourite thing to say.

My daughters.

One of my favourite narratives in scripture is the account told in Hosea of God lavishly loving upon the people who had turned their backs on him.

Hosea 2:23 says,

“I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, And I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they will say, ‘You are my God!'”

When I read these words, there is something that resounds within my heart.

I will say to those who were once not my own

“You are mine!”

I will choose, despite all odds, to

lavishly love

upon these people who were once strangers to me.

And in it all, the unthinkable will occur…

we will become one.

A family.

A home.

A testimony of grace and redemption.

So even though adoption can be hard and messy and complicated

it is so worth it and in it’s own way

it is so beautiful.

I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

AF

Cry It Out?

 

IMG_9407-1I remember the first time I cared for an infant.

As a “new mom” to our first foster child, a baby, I was reporting in detail every little quirk in his sleeping habits to our social worker.  What sticks out in my mind is her kind eyes looking at me with a hint of amusement as she said gently, “You know you may eventually just need to let him cry it out!”

Fast forward four years and I’m dragging myself out of bed to go comfort my five month old for the fourth time in one night.

Not hungry.

No fever or signs of pain.

No diaper change needed.

Just wanting to be snuggled and preferably offered a breast for extra comfort!

As much as I absolutely adore
my baby, and have learned sometimes it’s not worth the battle, sleep is something I know I need and this particular night I knew I needed to put on my big girl pants and get him back to sleep without my help.  This was becoming a pattern.

So…

After attempts to rock him, cuddle him and sing him back to sleep I tucked him back in his crib, turned on the singing seahorse and stood beside his crib watching him cry in the warm glow of the night light.  I thought of leaving, but couldn’t bear to leave the room and instead propped my head on the rail inches from him and tried to calm him with my whispered words of comfort.

His poor little eyes filled with big tears and he cried his little heart out.  He’d never experienced anything like this before!  Being such a content little guy, at the slightest whimper he is used to being scooped up.  I thought to myself that this was probably one of the first big moments of stress in his life!

He cried and cried, big shuddering sobs.

Just when I’d think he was almost calm again, he’d start all over again.

At these moments it is really unfortunate to be an adoptive parent who has spent the last three years focusing on attachment, brain development and healing kids from trauma.  As I stroked his cheeks and listened to his mournful cries my heart broke and I felt my chest tighten with anxiety.

All the stories I’d read of babies left screaming for hours on end and the resulting brain trauma flew through my mind.  I was sure he was going to think I was abandoning him and all I could picture was the diagram of the brain in attachment classes with the prefontal cortex all lit up in bright red!

What kind of mother just stands there and lets her child cry?!

At the same time the logical side of me knew this was an age old, tried-and-true method that most mothers use at some point with most babies.  I also knew that tomorrow would not be forgiving of me after a night of fitful, interrupted sleep.  Thirty minutes, an hour, forty-five minutes, or two hours at a time is not a way to feel rested and energetic the next morning!  I would still have to get up and take care of my baby.  I would still need to home school my daughter.  I would still need to get to the grocery store with my two children and do the shopping.  I would still need to get to the appointments and make dinner for my family.  I would still need to do the laundry so my girls had clean clothes for the weekend.  Life would still be there, and I would be a much better mother with a little more sleep.

Sigh.

This pattern needed to stop.

I realize there are all kinds of ideas surrounding babies and sleep.

Sleep schedules.

Sleep training.

Sleep cycles.

But every baby is different, and every mother is different.

At the end of the day you have to find whatever works for you.

After almost 45 minutes of on and off, broken-hearted crying my baby gripped the finger I offered and drifted off to sleep, still sniffling as his tears dried on his pink cheeks.

The funny thing is, as I felt his body relax and go off to blissful dreamland,

instead of heading back to my bed,

I stayed.

I stayed and stroked his soft head.

I whispered to him all my dreams for him,

My prayers for him,

And my apologies for being only mortal when I wish to be so much more.

My arms ached to hold him,

now still and quiet in sleep.

I desperately wanted to cuddle him close and let him feel my skin against his.

I wanted him to know just how very much he is adored.

But of course I couldn’t.

I told my husband later that the worst part was not watching him cry and have his eyes beg mine pleadingly, though that was torturous.

No.

The worst part was that eventually he was okay.

Without me.

Eventually he gave up.

And that broke me.

I don’t know if I’ll do it again.

I probably should, and probably will.

It really does work most times from what I hear.

But I hate it.

I’m designed to be his everything, and that is what I thrive on.

Interrupted nights,

frustrated minutes pacing the floor,

those are really just par for the course.

I’m a mother, after all.

 

AF

 

5 Rules to Enjoying the First 6 Weeks With Baby

So, now that Karter is 6 weeks old, I have a few little tips for new moms to make the first 6 weeks with baby as smooth as possible.  Some of these were given to me by other people, some I learned the hard way and some on retrospect would have been a good idea 🙂  For those loving a little one with colic, sleep issues or feeding issues these will be doubly important!

1. Say no to extras.

This is not the time to commit to another committee at church, throw a Christmas party for your coworkers or invite friends over for a five course dinner.  For 6 weeks, say no.  Just do it.  NO.  You and your baby will be happier, healthier and more rested.

2. Stay home.

Right alongside rule #1 is stay at home.  Send someone else to get the groceries, pick up the kids or run errands.  Clear your calendar of any ‘going away’ activities.  Unless you really feel like you need a breath of fresh air, just stay at home in your p.j.’s and enjoy it!  You’ll be surprised how exhausting it will be for you mentally and physically just to go to the store for a few minutes.  So don’t.  Just stay home.  Though I would say, if you’re feeling up to it a walk outside is a wonderful way to get some air and feel like a human again!  But no pressure 🙂

3. Accept help.

There will be people at every turn offering to bring you meals, run some errands, babysit your other children or clean your house for you.  Say yes!  Even though you know you haven’t done well in the past offering help to others, or you feel like that person deserves help more than you do…say yes!  People don’t offer unless they genuinely want to help, so just accept it.  Before you know it the tables will be turned and you will get a chance to return the favor.  This is part of the beauty of being a part of a community.  It takes a village to raise a child…starting in the first 6 weeks!

4. Hold your baby.

Whenever you get the chance, every time you want to…hold your baby.  Just sit and stare down at that little face, the perfect little fingers and toes and the tiny turned up nose.  Stroke that soft head and kiss those sweet cheeks.  Before you know it your baby will be kicking and giggling, but right now all she wants in the world is to be close to you.  The world feels big and strange to her and your arms are her safe place.  So don’t be afraid to just sit and hold your baby.  It’s satisfying, peaceful and bonding.

5. Take naps.

Schedules will come later.  Right now both you and baby are just figuring out the new world you live in so don’t expect to have a predictable sleep schedule yet.  Throw the clock out the window and just follow your baby’s lead.  If 3 am is his awake time, then unfortunately there is very little you can do to change that!  So sleep when he sleeps and be ready to chat when he’s awake.  If it’s almost dinner time but baby is falling asleep and you’re exhausted…grab a quick bite and then head for your bed or the couch.  Soon enough baby will get onto some type of schedule but for now just sleep whenever you can 🙂

So that’s what I learned…any thing to add all you moms out there?

I’d love to hear what things helped you get through those first 6 weeks or what things you wish you would’ve done!

AF

Family of 5

So…in the space of a week my husband and I officially, legally became the parents of 3 children!

First, our 2 gorgeous daughters, whose adoption was finalized on October 16, 2015.

Second, the birth of our son on October 22, 2015.

And then we were a family of 5.

And they lived happily ever after!

Right?

Oh, except for…

crazy hormones,

sleepless nights…which turn into harried mornings where we miss the bus,

attachment issues revisited,

the barrage of colds and flus on stressed out bodies,

the physical recovery after being stretched to 10 cm (have you looked at that on a ruler!?  10 cm!!)

The impossible balance of learning how to divide your time between 3 little people and realizing that means you’re never, ever alone!

The never ending “Can I hold Karter?”…which turns into a competition of

“Is it my turn yet?”

“I think he wants me.”

“Mommy, she won’t give me a turn!”

“Don’t pull his arms!”

“Stop!”

and the inevitable cry of a baby.

Lest you all jump to the conclusion after my last two posts that we are living in some sort of sparkle land filled with rainbows and unicorns I thought I better fill you in on the realities of life around here.

Let me clarify.

We are incredibly blessed and over the moon in love with our little man, but the arrival of a new little person in a home invariably means adjustments for all involved and we are no different.

Throw adoption in the mix and some of you will understand very well what I mean when I say that a new baby triggers all kinds of emotions, memories and insecurities that make their appearance in all kinds of erratic behaviour!  (Aka: a little bird chirping in its nest…really?!?!  Sigh.  Don’t even ask.)  Despite one’s deepest determination to be sensitive and kind and gentle and patient…the notes home, phone calls from school, jealousy, defiance…it all gets old really fast even when you know your child is struggling with feelings of insecurity.  It’s so much easier to say that you’re going to pick your battles and leave the ones that don’t matter.  So much easier.  I’d like to say I’ve responded perfectly every time in the last month, but that would be lying.  I’m never a perfect parent and lack of sleep apparently doesn’t make it easier!

And then there’s the hormones.

They’re actually real!

I really never thought I’d be that Mom that was flooded with all kinds of thoughts and emotions that to anyone else seem completely irrational!

Leaving the hospital I totally had “that” moment.  The one where I froze inside and went, “They’re actually letting me take him home?!”  Which was followed by the intense desire to run back the other way and keep my newborn safe inside the hospital walls.

I had to force myself to let other people hold him the first few days and I could hardly bear to watch him lying somewhere not being held even if he was perfectly peaceful and content.

I didn’t turn off the lamp in the nursery at night for at least a week…just because it felt so dark!

Karter slept in his crib instead of his bassinet for the very first time last night.  One month old.  The difference being only that the bassinet is small and cozy and the crib is just so, so big!

I’ve cried.  A lot.

I’ve been irritable and easily overwhelmed.

I’ve called my sister at 5 o’clock in the afternoon in tears with the words, “I’m a terrible Mom!” and “I am so tired!”

And the crazy thing?

I’ve had such an easy baby!   All this with the sweetest little angel on the planet.  He is so chill and just such a happy, content little guy.

But you know what?

It’s still an adjustment.  It’s still a huge life change.  You’re still inevitably going to go through that moment where you panic mentally and go, “What have I done?!  Can I handle this?!”

But I knew that was coming.  I’ve experienced that moment of panic every single time a new child has entered our home.  And it’s perfectly ok.

What’s made a huge difference is something a friend of mine told me…no, showed me.

With her third child she made a conscious decision while she was pregnant that no matter what, she was going to enjoy this baby!  She was going to hold him as much as possible.  She was not going to complain about the sleepless nights and the aching breasts and the dirty diapers.  She was going to choose to see this tiny human being as God sees him…a wonderfully, beautifully crafted gift meant to be treasured.

I watched her love her little boy so beautifully over the next year, and I saw Jesus in her.

That made a huge impression on me, and I knew I wanted to do that…to feel that.

I wanted to be the Mommy who sees my children as blessings.

To see every moment as one of a kind; a gift I get to enjoy.

So I’ve been trying really hard.

When it’s 2:15 am and I’m bleary eyed in the rocking chair, I’m trying to remember to look down at that little boy and trace the lines of his face.

When I hear his cry while I’m busy I am trying to remember that he is so much more important than anything else I could be doing.

When he poops all over the clean diaper I am just about to put on, the change table, the floor, the door, my hands…I am trying to grin and just shake my head that he got me…again!

When I can hardly see over the car seat perched on my shopping cart I am trying to take the time to notice the joy in the eyes of the old woman who stops to peek at my precious cargo.

I am trying.

To see my children as Jesus saw the ones He scooped up in His arms and loved.

To love my children and offer them grace even when they don’t comply with my schedule or my plans.

To remember that my daughters are still healing, still growing, still learning my love is limitless.

To face the realities of children damaged by trauma and prenatal alcohol exposure with courage and unwavering optimism even when the trenches feel dark.

I am trying to say yes more than no; to ask “Does it really matter?”

To draw her body close for a cuddle even though my personal bubble is screaming not to be touched!

To cheerfully repeat instructions the third, fourth, fifth, tenth time.

And most of all I am trying to count my blessings every day.

I am so incredibly blessed.

That is the one thing I want to sing to the world.  I want everyone that sees me to see in my eyes that these little people are valued.  That their lives are cherished and nurtured.  That I believe they were created in the image of God.

Yes, God.

He has been so good to me.

So are we blissfully revelling in a happily ever after wonderland?

No.

But we are very blessed and honestly…

I wouldn’t trade any of it.

It’s mine, and I’m blessed to own each and every little flaw of our life’s canvas.

We’re real, we’re scarred and we’re a little cranky some days.

Still a masterpiece in the making!

AF