Saturday, December 31, 2016

A New Year and God's Story for Baby S

Resolutions for the new year don't really go very far for me. I've learned that, if it's not something I'm already working on, then I'm probably not going to change simply because it's a new year.

I've been doing something else the last few years instead. I've chosen a word for the year. It's either something I need to work on or a theme for the year. My word for 2015 was hope. We were in a constant state of maybe-Baby-S-is-leaving. We knew leaving wouldn't be the best thing for him. Sometimes it was hard to trust that God had the best in mind for our little guy. So I fought for hope that year. My word for 2016 was joy. We knew Baby S was definitely leaving and it was hard to feel gladness or joy in our circumstances. I struggled for joy even when very good things happened, like finding out Baby Gigi was coming or moving into our first house together. I didn't want to just SAY that God works things for his glory and our good; I wanted to FEEL it deep down. Joy.

A new year starts tomorrow, but my new word started 43 days ago. My word for this year is redemption.

My prayers for Baby S shifted around two months ago. We knew his circumstances would create long-term challenges for him, but the things I was hearing from Birth Parent were becoming more and more dire. They were weighing heavily on me. I realized that my prayer for Baby S needed to change. It needed to get deeper. God hasn't chosen to spare Baby S of hard things in his life, so I need to realize that he has a plan in this. My prayers for Baby S shifted to pleading with God to use these very hard things in Baby S's life to shine his love for our little guy. I started praying that God would speak his love and power so loudly in our lives by walking Baby S out of this incredibly tough place and into healing and wholeness, and that his wholeness would be all the more beautiful because of the journey.

I started praying that for Baby S just a couple of weeks before we saw God move in a way that was an unmistakeable answer to that prayer. It's a start to a very long road, but we've seen such incredible growth in our little man already.


God allowed some things in Baby S's life that looked truly awful from where I'm standing. But I believe and I can SEE that he is going to use those things to make Baby S's life story even more beautiful. I believe someday Baby S will talk, and the wonderful things he says will be even more incredible because once he didn't have a voice. I believe his beautiful smile and joyful spirit will be an encouragement to many people, and his amazing positivity will be all the more impactful because of the negative circumstances he's walked through. God is going to take those very hard things and redeem them for something so beautiful that an easy life couldn't have had the same impact.

Such a beautiful gift to have all three of our little ones safe and sound this Christmas!

There are still no guarantees for Baby S's long term future with us. There is a strong possibility of him being here forever, but if we've learned one thing from foster care, it's how quickly things can change. (Remember how we finally accepted two and a half months ago that Baby S wasn't coming back? Remember that we were all ready to re-open for a new foster care placement only TEN DAYS after Baby S came back?? Things change SO fast!) I'm not walking into this year more naive than I was last time we had Baby S in foster care. But I can see that God is already starting to redeem these rough couple of years, and I am so ready to watch his work this year. We're not even in 2017 yet, but his redemptive work has already taken my breath away and I am incredibly excited to see God continuing to move.

Our non-verbal child who wouldn't make eye contact is looking, and laughing, and starting to say words. He's joyful. He wrestles and teases and loves to play chase! He trusts that we'll come back for him. He sleeps in his big boy bed all night long, gets up too early, and then snuggles every morning. He finds me to kiss his boo-boos and then runs away all better. He's working so hard and making so much progress. That's after six weeks, guys. God is so good, and his work in Baby S is so beautiful. This year is going to be incredible.

I can't wait to soak in God's redemptive work in Baby S's life - and mine - in 2017.

Friday, December 16, 2016

A Month With Baby S

We're two days away from a month of Baby S back in our home.

I'm not sure exactly how to describe this situation that we're in right now. It's very complicated and confusing for everyone involved! Imagine what the service providers and daycare provider must be thinking... having a strange person suddenly bringing in the child every day, and oh yeah, also calling herself "Mommy". So many levels of weird! We are doing all of the parent things but he's not legally in our care in any form. We are waiting day to day, hoping for some certainty of what our future together will be, but there's been very little communication on this front lately and the wait feels very long.

We have been saying for a long while that if Baby S came back, we'd need a lot of help. We weren't wrong! When he first came, the best description I can come up with is "wild." He felt like he needed to do dangerous or naughty things to get attention. He didn't like it when I nursed Baby Gigi and went through his list of things-that-make-Mommy-get-up each time. He vaulted over baby gates like they were nothing. He climbed out of his crib up to 18 times each night before falling asleep. He threw his food from the table. He barely communicated.

It has been a long month, but oh so rewarding. I was in awe this morning as I got myself ready for the day while the two boys played upstairs. Baby S is already a different child than he was a month ago. He is laughing, adventurous and so very goofy and sweet. He is starting to trust that we'll come back for him. He loves his routine. He's sleeping almost 12 hours a night. He's eating like a champ, except the things he won't touch, because he is, of course, a 2-year-old. He's still so busy, but it's so different than when he came. He's active, not lost. He's exploring, not disconnected. He makes eye contact and communicates with a variety of noises and signs and sometimes even words. He snuggles and he SITS AND PLAYS. I can't even tell you how huge that is.

The first few weeks of Baby S here were beyond tiring. He's worth it, but I'm just taking a moment to honestly reflect. We were "on" every moment of every day. There were so many safety concerns because of his strength combined with his lack of boundaries. There was a struggling 5-year-old trying to figure out where all of our attention for him went and feeling frustrated that all of his games were getting plowed over and ruined. There was a confused 4-month-old who was used to being held all the time and wondering (usually with a smile) where that small person came from who seems to speak her language! There was a frightened evil cat, constantly ready to attack ME because she was always getting chased by Baby S but refused to take it out on him. There was no refuge in nighttime, because again, Baby S could climb out of the crib and escape out of the room within seconds. That meant my husband sleeping on the floor in front of his door while Big Bro A slept in our room with me and the baby monitor. We felt like we had things barely wrestled into some form of order only when both of us were in the room. We could barely give each other breaks to use the bathroom!

But we had so much help in those crazy times. We had family who all chipped in together and made such a drastic difference for Baby S while we visited them Thanksgiving week. We had friends bring over meals, help with Baby S so I could feed Baby Gigi, offer to help shop, come over to wrap gifts, stop by with extra clothes for Baby S (who came with literally ONE shirt that fit him)... I could go on. We even got some anonymous encouragement in the mail.

Sometimes things are really too hard for us. Sometimes things are really more than we can handle. I'm so glad we have the amazing community that we have. I'm so glad it was already in place when the hard, crazy stuff hit. We are not exaggerating when we say that we could not do this without our support network. You guys are all so awesome. Thank you! Not everyone is meant to do foster care, but everyone has a role, and we are so very grateful for those who have taken that role and helped us to do what we've done with Baby S.

The future with our big guy is as uncertain as ever, but at the same time, I'm more convinced every day that it's totally in God's hands. This boy has such a bright future ahead of him still. His delays don't have to stick. I don't believe they will, if he's given the right opportunities.

And oh yeah, we have an adorable, thriving, chunky-thighed four-month-old. Have I mentioned adorable? God super blessed us with this mild, sweet, happy baby. He knew we'd need all of our energy for Baby S and he gave us the most amazing new baby. We are so blessed!