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Archive for November, 2013

Ok, so the last post was a little long-winded and preachy.  Let’s talk about a lighter topic…Shopping for baby stuff!

But before we discuss this, I just have to share my super cheesy movie moment last night.  Picture it: girl is driving home from a long day working two jobs (yes, I am now working a second job, more on that later).  She is sitting at a stoplight and having this internal monologue, thinking about all that needs to be accomplished between now and when that first child gets placed in her home.  And as she is sitting at that stoplight contemplating that long list, the song “Don’t Stop Believin'” starts to play on the radio.  Literally happened last night on my drive home, just as described.  Does that not sound like a scene from a cheesy chick flick?

But back to the topic at hand, baby stuff!  I mean, seriously, is there anything more enjoyable than browsing through adorable crib bedding, tiny clothing, fun toys, picking a nursery theme, etc?  I loved this type of shopping even before I decided to become a mom but it is even more fun when you can visualize that nursery in your own home.  When you can visualize that car seat in the back of your car.  It just makes the process that much more exciting.

Unlike a pregnancy, I truly don’t know when I will become a mom.  I know I won’t start classes until March.  I know there will be months of paperwork and home study visits after those 9 weeks of classes and I know that even once I become licensed I could wait for a long time before I receive my first placement.  So it is very likely I could be waiting more than a typical 9 months before there is a baby in my nursery.  So there isn’t much I can do while waiting but plan, plan, plan.  And we know I am all about planning WAY in advance.

So between my obsessive need to plan, my need to research and think about each item before I make a decision and just my eagerness to get the process started, I have been doing LOTS of shopping.  So, yes, I have already created a registry.  And yes, I did receive a call from Babies R’ Us congratulating me on my pregnancy after I created said registry.  Oops! 

But of course, there is no need to buy right now, just fun to shop and create a registry and dream.

As many of you know, I have developed a strange obsession with owls.  I love them!  So, when I saw an adorable print that said Owl Always Love You and another that said Love you with Owl My Heart, I knew that had to be my nursery theme.  Just a perfect sentiment for my situation. Whether they are in my home for a day or a lifetime, I will always love each of them.  So, while I don’t want the room to be covered in owls from wall to wall and floor to ceiling, you will see owls appearing in numerous items I’ve picked out.

As I said, there is no NEED to purchase anything quite yet…but that doesn’t mean I don’t WANT to purchase stuff now.  Yes, I should be saving money right now but I just can’t help myself!  So I’ve allowed myself to make one inexpensive purchase each month. 

My first purchase in September (Owls, of course!):
receiving blankets 

October’s choice:
books

And last weekend at a Relay fundraiser, I bought this handmade bib (and a burp cloth not shown because she is custom making one for me – with owls on it!):
bib

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I was absolutely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support I received after announcing that I was pursuing a dream of becoming a single mom as a foster parent.  I definitely never expected such an enormous positive response.  I was honestly shocked.  When I first made this decision, I shared it with just a few people, those whom I am closest with and who know me the best.  And when their response was nothing by excitement and support, it reaffirmed I was choosing the right path for my life.  Many of them responded with, “well, it’s about time you finally decided to become a mom.” 🙂  They saw this longing in my heart far before I was willing to admit it to myself.  And I am so grateful for their unconditional love and support.

But making the decision to share this news more publicly was scary!  I knew that not everyone would be accepting of this idea. I knew to expect opposition but I didn’t know how much opposition I would receive, what aspect of the decision they would oppose, and who it would come from.  Some don’t agree with becoming to single parent by choice regardless of the method you choose to become a parent.  To be honest, there are some methods of becoming a parent that married couples use that I don’t personally agree with.  Everyone has their opinions and that’s ok.  It’s not their journey to take.

Some oppose certain aspects of foster parenting.  For example, I’ve been told that it is inappropriate to have a baby shower as a new foster parent because you are celebrating the fact that parents are having their children taken from them.  I can understand why some may feel this way but I personally don’t see it that way at all and most of those close to me don’t seem to see it that way either.  It is extremely tragic when children are removed from their parents’ custody.  It makes me sad that we need so many foster parents in this country and I will never celebrate the circumstances that brought this child into my home. My job as a foster parent is to provide love and safety to these children and to do what I can in order to reunite them with their parents or another family member in a safe environment.  That is always the main goal of foster parenting. 

So, for me, a baby shower has nothing to do with how the children arrive in my home (and honestly has nothing to do with gifts either).  It has everything to do with me wanting to celebrate with my friends and family that I have worked hard and accomplished a dream.  It’s not celebrating why the children are in my home, it’s celebrating that I am able to be a mom for these children whether they are with me for a day, a year or a lifetime.  It’s celebrating the gift of foster parenting, not the situations that created the need. 

Regardless of the dreams you choose to pursue in your life, there will be people who disagree.  I know that, and I’m ok with that, especially when the opposition is from strangers.  They don’t know me.  They don’t know my skills or personality.  They don’t know my life and why I have chosen this dream.  So, if they don’t agree, that’s ok.  I know this is my life calling and that opposition doesn’t change that.

But opposition from those in my life is a little harder.  Some of it is simply out of genuine concern.  “Won’t it be hard when these children leave your home?”  Yes, it will be hard every single time.  Ask any foster parent and they will tell that.  It is painful.  But that’s not a reason to decide not to be a foster parent.  These children have led hard and painful lives and they need caring adults willing to endure some pain and sacrifice to give them a life they deserve.  My job is to do whatever I can to support this child and their biological family to try to reunite them.  So, while saying goodbye to a child will always be extremely difficult, I know that I (and the rest of the team working with this child), have done our jobs well when we are able to safely and confidently reunite a family. 

Some opposition is simply from a lack of knowledge.  “You are accepting infants?  Doesn’t that mean you are going to get drug babies?”  First of all, I hate when people use the term ‘drug babies’.  It just sounds so negative and derogatory to me.  These babies are no different from any other child.  They are no less special or less deserving of love because their parent made a very bad decision and exposed them to drugs before they were born. 

So, do I realize that many children placed with me may have been exposed to drugs in utero?  Yes, I know that.  Do I understand that they may be going through withdrawal?  Yes, I know that.  Do I know what withdrawal can look like?  After years volunteering at Chara, yes, I absolutely know what it looks like.  They can be extremely challenging babies to care for at times.  Yes, I will probably be extremely sleep deprived and I may have days when I question why I ever agreed to do this or doubt that the hard times will ever end.  But I do know it won’t last forever and I know it is not this child’s fault that they are in this situation.  They aren’t trying to be a challenging baby.  They are miserable and they are reacting in the only way a newborn knows how.

The bottom line is I will love every single child that enters my home regardless of their behavior, the color of their skin or the situation they came from.  That’s my job and I feel extremely blessed to be able to do it.  So, does this all mean that when I am faced with this opposition, I am always 100% confident that I am following the right dream?  Well, of course not.  But does anyone embark on a significant journey without ever  having fears and moments of doubt along the way?  I think not.  But I do have faith that I am making the right choice for my life and I have wonderful people in my life to remind me that I can do this when those doubts arise.  And that is a blessing in and of itself.

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I can’t contain my excitement any longer!  I have to make this news public.  After much contemplation, research and prayer, I have come to the conclusion that God is calling me to be a mom, specifically a foster mom.  I am overjoyed to have come to this conclusion and truly feel I have found my life’s calling.

Years ago, I volunteered at a community foster home run by Catholic Charities for medically fragile and developmentally delayed infants and toddlers in Baltimore City called Chara House.  It was the most amazing experience of my life.  I learned so much over my many years there and felt so blessed to be a part of these children’s lives.  I loved them as if they were my own.  And to this day, I still remember all of their names and can share what made each of them special.  When Chara had to close their doors, I grieved the loss.  I was never able to find another volunteer opportunity that touched my heart as deeply as Chara House did.

For quite a while now, I’ve been trying to search for a dream.  I knew there was more to my life.  I knew there was something else I was meant to do.  And I can’t explain the happiness I felt when I discovered what that dream would be.  I wanted to be Mama Jen (Many foster parents use this type of name convention so as to not confuse the child.  He or she has their biological mom and then they have Mama Jen.  And if, God willing, I am ever able to offer a forever home to one of these children, then I can simply drop Jen and it is a very easy transition for the child).

Because of my experiences at Chara, I know I am meant to foster newborns, infants and toddlers and Carroll County has a high need for foster homes that will take in a newborn.  So far, I have completed the orientation and I’m just waiting for the next round of classes to start in March to begin the next stage of the process.  After 9 weeks of classes, there are many rounds of paperwork and a lengthy home study.  So, I don’t anticipate being licensed until late summer/early fall.  I can’t wait for that day to come!

I am incredibly grateful to the many friends and family who have been so supportive of this decision and are eager to walk with me on this journey.  It will truly be a dream come true to become a mom.  I know it will not be an easy journey but I absolutely believe it will be worth all of the difficult moments.  There is no greater gift I can think to give to this world than to provide a safe home and LOTS of love for some little ones who desperately need that.

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