No One Prepared Me For This

No one prepared me for this.

I took ten weeks of training to become a mom and yet I feel so unprepared for what comes with this journey.

How do you comfort your ten year old when they’re sobbing for a mom they never knew?

How do you answer questions like “would she still be alive if she didn’t do drugs”?

How do you hold back the tears as the child you’ve raised since birth cries because they miss their mom. They miss their mom.

Not me, but the woman who carried them for nine months. Not the woman who changed countless diapers and fed more bottles than she can count, but the woman whose DNA runs through their veins.

Not me, but the woman who knew him from the very first moment of life. Not the woman who wiped away tears and banished monsters from under the bed, but the woman who will always hold the title of “first”.

No one prepared me for this.

No one prepared me for the array of emotions that tear through my heart. From sympathy to sadness, anger to hurt.

No one prepared me to have my heart broken into a million pieces time and again.

This journey is hard. Plain and simple. From the goodbyes to the what-ifs, the difficulty comes in waves and levels, some I’m utterly unprepared for.

Even having come to us from the hospital, our children suffer significant loss that we’ll never be able to fully erase. Even being the only parents they’ve ever physically known, our children have a longing for what’s missing.

No one prepared me for this.

Support a Foster/Adoptive Family in Your Life

May is Foster Care Awareness Month and as a foster and adoptive parent as well as someone who spends their days supporting and training foster and adoptive parents, I wanted to use the month to bring attention to the cause. 

Often, people aren’t sure how to approach foster or adoptive parents, or they approach them in completely inappropriate ways. During the month, it was my hope to dispel some misconceptions and offer ideas on positive ways to support a foster or adoptive family in your life. 

When I took a poll of foster and adoptive parents and asked them how they wish people would support them, the answers ranged from super simple to more complex, from completely free to some value. What I want to reiterate, however, is there is always an opportunity to support a foster or adoptive family in your life. You don’t necessarily need a lot of time or money to do it; you simply need to want to. 

I’ve compiled the list below, but please don’t allow this to limit you! If you have a heart for blessing a foster or adoptive family, be creative and do it! 

Feeling connected, cared for and appreciated goes a long way for anyone. Please allow this list to spark your imagination and share the love to foster and adoptive families, but also to all families. Being a blessing never gets old!

  1. Send a note of encouragement
  2. Pray with and for them
  3. Run errands for them
  4. Offer to babysit
  5. Listen without judgement
  6. Point them to a support group
  7. Pay for a camp or class for their child
  8. Take them a meal
  9. Do their laundry
  10. Clean their house
  11. Connect them with other foster and adoptive families
  12. Hang out at the house with their children so they can get chores done
  13. Grocery shop with or for them
  14. Invite all of the children – foster, adoptive, biological – to do things
  15. Shuttle children to appointments
  16. Don’t ask intrusive questions or say insensitive things
  17. Buy them gift cards
  18. Buy them essentials – toilet paper, diapers, hand soap, paper plates, etc.
  19. Offer a date night 
  20. Love don’t label
  21. Ask them what they need
  22. Share resources with them
  23. Help load / unload children in the car at events
  24. Cut grass or do yard work for them
  25. Go to their house just to talk
  26. Become trauma informed
  27. Don’t tell us you couldn’t do it
  28. Tell us we’re doing a good job even if we have children melting down
  29. Ask us how we’re doing
  30. Offer to do handyman work
  31. Come over and read to the children
  32. Offer to take their family photos
  33. Offer car maintenance
  34. Buy them passes to an experience – the zoo, the aquarium, theater, etc…
  35. Do a fundraiser for your local foster care or adoption agency

I’d love to hear your other ideas below! Please leave a comment with other ways you can support a foster or adoptive family in your life. 

Watch Your Mouth

We all have those foot-in-mouth moments where we say something and then instantly regret it. However, in my time as a foster and adoptive parent, I realize that there are many times where people say things and don’t think they need to put their foot in their mouth. They say things that are completely inappropriate or insensitive, but yet think nothing of it.

Part of it is just education – a lot of people don’t understand the dynamics of foster care and adoption. However, ignorance, is not an excuse to be rude. So, as we are in the midst of National Foster Care Month, I am imploring you to watch your mouth.

I did a survey of things that Foster parents wish other people would do for them to support them. One thing showed up several times – we wish you wouldn’t say stupid things. Again, we recognize that you likely don’t mean to be offensive, but … it is. I encourage you to think before you speak in all occasions, but especially to a foster and adoptive parent. Especially in front of a foster or adopted a child, or any child for that matter. Children are listening all of the time and they are soaking up every word. Even when we don’t think they are listening, they will repeat it later.

So with that in mind, here are a list of things that we wish you would stop saying.

We are not saints. We are just ordinary people stepping up to fill a need.

Do not ask us what their parents did wrong. If you don’t want us airing your dirty laundry, don’t assume we’ll air theirs.

Do not talk about the “drug babies” in my care. They’re just babies.

Do not ask if we’re going to keep them. It’s likely we have no idea what their future holds and even if we did, that wording makes the children sound like a household appliance.

Do not ask why their parents gave them away. Especially for children who are old enough to understand, this verbiage is hurtful! Most of the time, their parents didn’t “give them away”, they were simply unable to parent.

Do not tell us you could not do it because you’d get too attached. Are you implying that we don’t get attached? Or are you implying that your feelings are more important than the feelings of a child who did nothing to be in the situation they’re in?

Do not ask about our “real” children. Any child in my home is a “real” child. I clean real poop off of real bottoms and wipe real snot off of real noses. I wipe real blood off of real booboos and wipe real tears falling from real eyes.

Do not ask if we’re done yet or if we’re going to take in more children. The amount of children in my home, unless I’m asking you to live there and parent them with me, is none of your business.

I probably could go on… I’ve heard a lot of stupid things in my 11 years as a foster and adoptive parent, but my intention is not to make you feel bad. My intention is simply to make you aware that the things you say don’t come out as you mean. I like to believe the best of people and I believe that you truly, likely, mean well, but it doesn’t always come across that way.

Just watch your mouth! 

40 Days of Affirmations for Foster and Adoptive Parents

Several years ago, I decided to do Lent a bit differently. Instead of giving something up like I had done all through my childhood, I was going to purposefully work on something specific for 40 days. For instance, one year I worked on 40 Days of Decreasing Mom Guilt and I spent time each day really diving into the areas of my life where I found myself crumbling under the pressures. What I learned that year is the pressure most often comes from myself, not others. When Lent was over, I found I had a new outlook on some areas of my life and I was genuinely a happier person. 

So this year I decided to continue on the tradition and chose to focus on 40 Days of Affirmations for Foster and Adoptive Parents. I narrowed my thoughts to foster and adoptive parents, but many of my affirmations could be embraced by any parent. The reality is we live in a world that constantly brings us down and we need to latch on to the positive truths of our life. 

As Easter nears and my 40 Days of Affirmations for Foster and Adoptive Parents comes to a close, it is my deepest hope that you save this list and read it often. As foster and adoptive parents, we face challenges that are different from families who have only biological children. Our networks look different, our discipline strategies look different and our mind is always in a different place. We need to fill our buckets on a regular basis because we are constantly giving to others. If we don’t take the time to fill ourselves and one another, no one else will do it for us. 

1 You are exactly what these children need right now

2 You are enough

3 Your title does not define you

4 You deserve you time

5 Your house isn’t clean? So what!

6 You’re doing a good job

7 It’s ok to ask for help

8 No one knows your heart, but you

9 Your opinions matter

10 You don’t have to be perfect to be great

11 You are valuable / valued

12 You’re making a difference

13 You are a blessing to your children

14 You are brave

15 Not everyone will like you and that’s ok

16 It’s ok to be vulnerable

17 Your child is perfect just as they are

18 You know what is good for your child

19 It’s ok to say no

20 The time you are investing matters

21 You can be confident

22 You can be supportive

23 You can find joy in every day

24 Your needs matter

25 You are capable

26 Perfection is impossible

27 It’s ok to not love every moment

28 You are appreciated

29 Your best is always enough

30 You do not need to hold on to the guilt

31 One bad day does not make you a bad parent

32 Your boundaries are important

33 It’s ok to struggle

34 Life is good today

35 You can be in calm in the chaos

36 You know your child best

37 You are raising a legacy

38 You are a blessing

39 You are still learning and that’s ok!
40 Embrace the present

I wrote these 40 affirmations as much for myself as I did for those of you reading. We need to remind ourselves often of our worth and what an opportunity we have to remind others as well.

If you’d like to read these affirmations in more detail, hop on over to Instagram and follow me @AngJam731. It is my hope to encourage and uplift on a daily basis. 

The Dreaded Question

When we opened our home again for foster care, our intent was foster only. It was a very different feeling from our original opening when our hearts were set on adoption. Although we both agreed we were not closed to another adoption, it was not our goal. 

Since the arrival of our precious baby girl in October, this has plagued the back of our minds. Being the only home, the only people, this beautiful baby has known in her life, will we really be able to say no if the time came? Celebrating her return back to family is one thing, but are we really able to send her to strangers? 

We have wept over the wondering, prayed over the possibilities. We’ve had countless conversations and the reality is … we still have no idea what our stance is. 

We don’t know if baby girl is our forever or our for now. 

Every day we spend time in contemplation and we feel no closer to an answer than we did the day before. We thought we had time on our side – she’s only four months old after all – but recently, the dreaded question was asked. 

Would you be willing to be her permanent home? 

Would we? We had to ask for time to think on it and that alone makes me feel guilty. We’re instantly asked, “don’t you love her” or “don’t you want to keep her”. Of course the answer to both of those is a resounding yes, but it’s not as simple as that. 

We love her so tremendously and that’s exactly why we have to put serious thought into our answer. Is our home her forever or are we just the in between? 

We need prayers as we navigate this new uncharted territory. We’ve never been in this situation before. We’re not sure what to do here. 

God called us to foster again, but did he call us to adopt again? Why do I feel so guilty with the thought of following God’s specific call? 

My heart is aching and mind reeling. This is real. This is raw. This is foster care. 

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