Managing Foster Care Trauma in Infants

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Grilling up some bubbles at beach during our staycation.

We met our daughter when she was eight months old (she was in foster care). We were told that she had one rather large medical problem (that could be worked through with years of physical therapy) and a few social emotional issues that caused her to scream in public and have to be carried all the time, yes even when in the house.

None of the information was accurate. Our pediatrician thinks she was manifesting her unhappiness with the family she lived with before (we are her third family).

In adoption class, a social worker told us that it would take twice as long as the trauma to be able to navigate the trauma and behave differently. Since she experienced 8 months of trauma (more if you throw on whatever may have happened during the nine to ten months while she was baking) it will take her around 16 months to be able to behave differently. My plans was give her until her second birthday before I really expected her behaviors to change.

She surprises me every day.

Right now, she’s 20 months old and she’s so different from how she was when we met her. She’s amazing! She’s never had any physical challenges (with us) and her behavior was different from the moment she got her out of that house. This week, we had a staycation and went around visiting touristy places in our city. She’s been smiling and waving to people and wandering around. Strangers in public have ever referred to her as a happy baby! Last night she slept in her own bed all night. She plays with her cousins (running around the house screaming and laughing) and is like any other little kid.

I look at her now and I can’t imagine our lives without her. I’m glad that her record didn’t scare us off. The paperwork does not tell the whole story. Both our kids had some challenges on paper. Both of our kids are perfect. They are absolutely perfect. I’m thrilled every day that I get to help raise such wonderful beings.

Most kids in foster care have experienced trauma but it happened to them, it doesn’t define them. With someone to love on them (we use attachment parenting and gentle parenting) and support them these kids will blossom. Managing foster care trauma in infants is easy: just love them.

Quick Black Widow DIY Baby CosPlay

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Our nephew wanted to be Captain America for his 8th birthday. Naturally, that turned into an Avengers  themed party. We decided to dress all the kids as Avengers characters and since we only have one girl in the family, you know who became Black Widow.

Originally, I planned to sew her a little jumpsuit, add the S.H.E.I.L.D. arm patches, throw on a belt, and color her hair red using temporary hair spray (I also heard about hair chalk but I wasn’t sure how to use it). Unfortunately, the week took over (I got busy) and fear gripped me (about chemicals on her hair). I woke up Saturday morning and realized that I had a few hours to turn my 9 month old into the badass Avenger team member, Black Widow. I was able to use items that I already had lying around the house so it cost me nothing to join in the cosplay fun.

Materials:

  • Long-sleeved baby bodysuit
  • Pair of black skinny leg jeans
  • Metallic silver pen
  • Black Sharpie
  • Long piece of Velcro
  • Elmer’s glue
  • Elmerps spray adhesive
  • One quarter sheet of white scrapbook paper
  • One tenth sheet of red scrapbook paper
  • One tenth sheet of black scrapbook paper

The baby already had a black, long-sleeved body suit (onsie) so I grabbed that and paired it with a pair of black Joe jeans that we picked up at a clothes swap. Black jumpsuit? Check!

I’m not an artist so I went to the internets to help me with the S.H.E.I.L.D. patches and belt. I found this great diy tutorial that gave me the specifics on what to make. Then I did an image search for the patches to print the patches so I could Sharpie them on to my scrapbook paper.

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Click image to go buy the patches.

 

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These looked great so I saved the image, printed it on regular paper, and then used them to trace the image into scrapbook paper. After coloring it in with a black Sharpie marker, I cut the circles out and attached them to her onsie using Elmer’s glue. I wanted the patched to stay on for photos but not stay on forever.

For the belt, I printed out a photo and used that to draw a silver hourglass on a sheet on white scrapbook paper with a sliver metallic pen leftover from our wedding eight years ago! I drew the hourglass and then cut out a smaller red hourglass from leftover scrapbook paper, and then an even smaller hourglass from leftover black scrapbook paper. Once I felt like the proportions were right, she IS a baby after all, I glued the red onto the metallic hourglass and the black onto the red hourglass. Making the belt buckle was the easy part. Deciding what to make the belt out of was a bit trickier.

I originally wanted to use elastic but all I had was white polyester elastic and I didn’t think it would look good if I dyed it. I also didn’t want to buy a black elastic. Luckily, I had some leftover black Velcro (my sewing stash always has Velcro! Lol) that worked perfectly. Black-Widow-CosPlay-Belt

I fitted the Velcro around her waist and made a cut. Then I cut about an inch off the rough side of the Velcro and an inch off of the  opposite end of the soft side of the Velcro. I used spray adhesive to attach the belt buckle to the end of one side of the Velcro and let it dry for about an hour.

I didn’t end up coloring her hair, though that would have made the outfit perfect! In the end, I was able to use items I already had lying around the house and it only took about 30 minutes.

Next time, I would totally do the hair though.

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Baby Girl’s First Trip – Baltimore

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Baltimore harbor

We have a week of worked booked in Baltimore so we’ve extended on each end and are making it a family trip (we asked her social worker, hopefully the answer is yes)! Since this is our second time traveling with a baby in foster care, I feel a lot better. Last time I had a crapload of paperwork with me when all the airline cared about was a birth certificate. We had a very successful flight and I owe a lot of it to all the great advice I found on the internet.

This time, our oldest has his own seat and we’ll have a new lap child. We’re getting this airplane seatbelt since we travel a lot and our oldest is still a bit small. I know to pack lots of Ziplock bags, snacks, and a few toys. We’ll have two mei teis for this trip and we’ll have to ship two carseats under the plane.

I’m thrilled to be bringing her into our travel adventures but a little nervous about having TWO little ones on the flight. Our oldest flies like a champ (no ear issues at take off or landing, likes to look out of the window, and sits patiently and watches movies in the air) so I’m not too worried about him. I am worried about our youngest being up in the air on her first flight and I am worried about our oldest wanting more attention since our youngest might get tons of attention.

There’s really nothing to do but see how it goes so …  here’s hoping!

=)

 

Feeding Solids to Your Adopted Infant

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Getting baby girl to eat solids is turning out to be a bit of a struggle.

With our toddler, we had him since we picked him up in the hospital. The first food he ate was squash that I baked and mashed up myself. He loved churascarria (Brazilian steakhouse) by the time he was nine months old. He eventually did each those little Gerber foods to go, but by that time his love of actual food, both flavors and textures, was cemented. The Gerber foods were probably like a guilty treat (think Jell-O or pudding) to him.

Our current foster-adopt placement is already 8 months old but she hadn’t been given any food yet. She wants to eat two or three of those Gerber fruits and/or veggies at every meal because that’s what she’s used to. Since she’s been here (a week) we’ve been giving her the Gerber with meat (turkey and squash, chicken and veggies, etc.), Gerber with oatmeal (oatmeal with pears and cinnamon, yum!), and sliding in a few actual foods when we get a chance.

Babies have done a lot of living in 8 months. She came to us sleeping through the night, eating on a schedule, and clinging to her foster mother. We have a totally different parenting style. At our house she wakes two or three times a night for a bottle, she eats when she wants, as much as she wants, and she plays on the floor with her brother and her toys. It’s all a lot to take in over a week. I have to remember that she’s lived a completely different life until now. I have to be patient.

Introducing food to her seems like it might be a bit of a struggle (some textures turn her off) but eventually she will eat food. You don’t see 9 year olds eating Gerber foods anymore. Lol

We Survived Our First Diaper Blowout!

Ribbon-1stIt took us two babies, but we finally experienced a diaper blowout.

The night began with the toddler screaming, “All done” around 1:20am. My partner went in his room and tried to get him back to sleep for about an hour and a half. When it didn’t work, I went into the toddler’s room. Instead of trying to get him back to sleep, I just hung out with him. I turned on his tablet and discovered …  that he was been taking selfies! Lol He’s taken tons and tons of selfies. Lol

After hanging out with him, he fell asleep after about an hour. I woke up, scrunched up in the toddler bed and decided to return to my bed. Just as I laid down in the bed and felt my muscles relax ….  baby girl started fussing (she sleeps in a crib in our room). I thought she might be cool, so I got up and turned off the ceiling fan. On the way back to bed, I peeked at her  only to find …  poop!

Poop was everywhere! There was poop on her sheets. There was poop on her onsie. There was poop CAKED on her feet. Ugh! Around 4am, I was up putting baby girl in the bathtub and scraping poop off of her ….  eew. After a bath she was ready to start her day. Lol She watched some Baby Einstein, some Patty Shukla, and was still awake.

I grabbed a Gerber oatmeal with pears and cinnamon and she LOVED it. She loved it so much that she wanted to feed herself.

It’s daylight now and both babies are awake. The toddler is downstairs doing …. something he shouldn’t be doing probably. Lol The baby is next to me burping happily and playing her rattle.

Life is good.

 

Babywearing an Adopted Infant

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I am a huge fan of babywearing and we’re currently working our second adoption from foster care.

With the first baby, we picked the baby up from the hospital. He had already suffered his first trauma: the loss of his biological/first family. I wanted to help him acclimate to our family (we’re a bit scrunchy) so we started babywearing with a no-sew rebozo wrap when he was about three months old. He took right to it and we changed to a mei tei when he was about six months old. He’s 2.5 years old and we’ve worn him all over the world and are still  going strong.

With the second baby, we picked her up when she was eight months old. Coming to live with us would be her second trauma (loss of biological/first parents, loss of foster family) and I was expecting that there might be some hesitance on her part. The first day of our visit, we just looked at her. The second day, we spent almost seven hours together and spent most of that time playing with her, but letting her lead. The third day, we had an overnight visit and picked her up early. We wanted to head to a store or two so I babywore her on my chest in the mei tei. She seemed okay for the first (her foster parents didn’t babywear) trip but I intentionally kept it short. The fourth day, we went to the store again and I did a brief babywear in the mei tei. The fifth day, we picked her up for her last overnight visit before placement. I wanted to go grocery shopping (babies eat a lot!) so I tried a back carry in the mei tei and ….  she loved it! I think babywearing is good for all babies, but especially important for adopted infants and toddlers because:

They can smell you.

Regardless of how old the baby/child is when they come to live with you, they’ll have to adjust to your smell. Smell is one of those animal things. It’s hard to define but you know when you’ve been around a smell that’s familiar. You want your smell to become the familiar, comforting smell for your child.

They can feel your gait.

Babies like car rides, washing machines, etc. Being carried by you should be one of those good feelings. When you babywear, it puts the baby right on your body and helps lull the baby. Many babies will fall asleep while being worn. Bonus!

They can explore you.

You’ll find that babywearing provides a child the perfect vantage point for looking at you and touching you. They will touch, pinch, stroke, lick, and anything else while being worn. I think this is really important for children that are being adopted because they have to get to know you. What a non-confrontational way for them to explore!

Benefits of babywearing from Dr. Sears

Benefits of babywearing for the family

 

Since I’m into gentle parenting, I’ll also just leave this article about Why African Babies Don’t Cry right here.

 

 

 

 

Tips to Help Toddlers Be Polite at the Pool

Pool-TipsWe are in Las Vegas this week. We rented a room at a resort with a great pool. We put on our swim outfits. We headed down to the pool with our blow up thingee for the baby. We staked out a quiet place in main pool. We were ready to have a relaxing time playing with our little one when … a kid we didn’t know climbed OVER us to try and get in our baby’s blow up watercraft. Huh?

We didn’t see him coming because we were focused on our baby and making sure that he was safe in the water … that and getting cute photos. This kid just comes out of nowhere and literally touches my shoulder and puts his leg over mine until he is almost in my lap and reaches for the watercraft as my baby is floating in it. Thankfully, we had two parents present and were able to move the baby out of harm’s way while restraining the other child. The mother comes up after the event and apologizes while explaining that he really likes the toy. This would be a funny story if it didn’t happen at least three MORE times until we finally just left. Is this normal? Kids just do what they want while parents apologize after the fact and we’re just supposed to be okay with it?

Perhaps some parents are unaware of how to guide children during their encounters with other children. No worries. Here are my tips to help toddlers be polite at the pool:

#1 Anticipate. If you know that your child likes to run off, keep an eye on them. Head ’em off at the pass. We all know that toddlers and tweens are a handful, but that doesn’t mean that strangers are responsible for parenting your children.

#2 Be prepared. Bring toys, watercraft, etc. for your child to the pool area (and this really goes for planes, doctor’s offices, waiting rooms, etc.). It might not stop them from wanting to the play with other things, but it is nice to have something to help refocus their attention.

#3 Apologize. I don’t mean saying, “I’m sorry” and then offering an excuse and then allowing your child to continue the same behavior. I mean taking the time to acknowledge what happened AND make a plan to do something differently. For example,

I’m sorry for…
This is wrong because…
In the future, I will…
Will you forgive me?

#4 Change plans. If your child won’t behave appropriately at the pool, then perhaps they need to return to their room for a bit. Please don’t subject the whole pool area to a child what wants to crawl over strangers and endanger the lives of other children (he was reaching for my child’s watercraft as said child was sitting in it. The baby definitely could have fallen out). It’s hard to get up and change plans in the middle of on activity but our job as parents is to teach our children how to interact with other people. It’s tough work, but lessons must be learned.

Have fun and be safe at your local pool.