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Ways You Can Support a Family with a Premature Baby

Supporting friends caring for a premature baby can be such a Godsend during an already difficult time. Here are some great suggestions how you can help.

I wasn’t prepared for a premature baby when my daughter was born 6 weeks early. Since we were adopting, some of the normal concerns of pregnancy just weren’t on my radar.

And because we were matched so late into the pregnancy, we’d only had a few weeks to prepare at all before being thrust into parenthood with the emergency of premature birth.

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Today, November 17 is National Prematurity Day. According to WHO, each year more than 15 million babies are born prematurely, that’s more than one in ten. And these numbers are increasing! Chances are someone you know will have a premature baby.

They will need help & might not even know what they really need.

Looking back, I realize how difficult that time really was. It was kind of a whirlwind, so we weren’t able to process much in total survival mode. However, our friends did a few things that made life easier. And there were a few things that would have been extremely helpful.

Having a premature baby may mean an extended stay in a NICU far from home.

Our daughter was born three hours away. It was unlikely we could move her before we were able to bring her home. We were there for the duration, which potentially could have been until her due date.

Offer to house sit or pet sit or babysit.

In a matter of minutes, we had to pack for an indeterminate period of time three hours away without knowing what we would really need. We didn’t have time to think about preparing the house, setting lights on timers, pausing mail delivery, etc.

A dear friend and her husband volunteered to take our rescue pup while we were out of town, which was our largest concern about being away from home for an extended time. Also, our sweet neighbors watched over our home, brought in packages, and made us a welcome home banner and a sweet bundle of gifts.

Taking care of things at home meant we could focus on just being at the hospital, worrying about our new baby, and learning our new roles as her parents.

If your friends have other children, do what you can to help with the older siblings. If the parents have to be in one city with their premature baby while their other kids need to go to school back home, can you keep them overnight? pick them up after school? walk them to the bus stop? Offer to help grandparents navigate an unfamiliar area if they come to help? Whatever you can do to help will be one less worry for your friends.

Give or Send them Restaurant Gift Cards.

Without time to plan, we didn’t take any food or even know where grocery stores were. We were living on whatever restaurants were under 5-10 minutes away from the hospital. It was not economical at all. We had two hours between each NICU visit, so we would race out, grab something, and be standing at the hospital NICU door when we could next get in to see her.

If you’re tech savvy, you might be able to use Google maps and find out which restaurants are close and send them email gift cards.

Even if they are close to home, they will probably not have time to cook for weeks. Those gift cards will save time and money even after baby comes home.

Prior to my daughter’s birth, I had totally given up caffeine. After one day in the NICU, I was a Starbucks fanatic. Coffee gift cards are likely going to be welcome! Newborns are brutal on sleep as it is, but the NICU is just an additional trial with scrubbing, gowning, feeding schedules, and worry.

Financial support is often necessary

You can always start a GoFundMe or something similar to help offset hotel and living expenses as well. We never considered that we might stay more than overnight if she were full term, so we hadn’t budgeted for it. Needing to be close meant staying at the hotel nearest to the hospital which wasn’t the least expensive option.

While no one expects help with financial concerns, you can’t know the myriad of expenses that stack up quickly and help in this area can mean so much.

If you can, even call the hotel and pay for a night.

Depending on location, parking costs may be outlandish. Large cities can charge $25 a day to park at both the hotel and hospital. An extra $50 per day, plus meals can add up quickly.

We also didn’t bring enough clothes for ourselves or her. All our baby clothes were for a large full-term infant since she had been measuring very big. We had to run to buy the tiniest preemie things for her and a couple of things for us.

While we had zero medical expenses due to medicaid and our military insurance, it still cost over $2000 for the expenses of staying out of town during the NICU stay.

Sadly, raising money might also be helpful if the baby’s medical care is beyond insurance coverage or if the baby was just born too early to survive. No parent plans for a funeral. Over one million premature babies die each year. The grief of losing the baby is already going to be devastating. If you can help with expenses toward the arrangements, it can take an additional stress away from an already distraught family.

Be present however you can while they care for their premature baby.

Over the phone or in person, be willing to listen and pray with them. Sometimes, all the medical stuff can be daunting. Being able to fuss and worry and vent without judgment would be very meaningful.

If the baby is really struggling, they may not want to leave even to eat or sleep. Think of ways to be a help, volunteer to bring pillows and blankets or fresh clothes from home.

If you can come sit at the hospital or call, do it. Being far from home, scared and stressed, is isolating. I know hearing from my friends helped me talk through what we were facing and process my emotions.

If you are a co-worker, do whatever you can to bring them work or email. If you can take care of some of their workload, it is a huge relief. I was teaching full-time and knowing I had friends coordinating with my substitute let me focus on my daughter.

Lastly, if you don’t know what they need, ask and offer some tangible suggestions.

Offer something, even mowing the lawn, watering plants, grocery shopping, doing laundry, cleaning house. When people say “If you need anything . . .” , it’s hard to know if they really mean it. But when you make a specific suggestion, they can reply with something similar they need or remember your offer in the future.

Having a premature baby takes the fear of parenting a newborn to a whole new level. Medical concerns and worry and sleepless nights can make new parents feel lost and helpless. But even seasoned parents need support.

The friends who stood by our side made a difficult time easier and we’ve never forgotten those who supported us in that emotional rollercoaster.

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Adoption Marketing – How to Attract Birth Parents to your Profile

Adoption marketing? You have to shrink your entire life to sell yourselves as parents to birth parents? DON'T PANIC! Learn how to attract birth parents.

Adoption marketing? It sounds scary. You have to shrink your entire life into a brief letter or booklet to sell yourselves as prospective parents to birth parents.

DON’T PANIC! Learn how to attract birth parents to your unique qualities as a family in ways that are as warm and genuine as you are.

Long ago, adoption agencies used a list. When a couple was approved as a waiting family, they went to the bottom of the list. Once at the top of the list, they were matched with the next baby surrendered to that agency.

(this site uses Affiliate links-purchases support our ministry through a small referral fee that never affects your cost.)

Not anymore. Once we got approved, we had to market ourselves to attract a birth family to select us. We were asked to create a booklet containing a letter to prospective birth families, background information about ourselves, our family, and our home.

Every agency has a different way of handling marketing. Some ask for just a letter and a few photos, ours asked for a booklet. But either way, it can be intimidating.

Adoption Marketing? I didn’t know how to start!

We were given a sample and visited the agency site online to get an idea of what other families had done. Mentally, I put myself into a birth parents place and wondered what I would want to know about a family before placing my baby with them.

Write for your audience-

Imagining the circumstances that lead someone to choose adoption for an unplanned pregnancy, reminded me that often birth families do so because of what they cannot provide for a child: a stable marriage, a safe and happy home, possibly extended family or a certain lifestyle.

I had to think about how we answered those needs for them.

Take some time to answer these questions about you and your family.

  • How would you describe your family, marriage, home?
  • What are your hobbies, individually and as a family?
  • How do your careers affect who you are and your family?
  • What is your plan for childcare following the adoption?
  • How will your values or faith inform your life and parenting choices?
  • What other relationships do you have: extended family, close friendships?

A genuine letter or booklet should carefully create an image of the life their child will have with your family.

Adoption marketing? It sounds scary. You have to shrink your entire life to sell yourselves as prospective parents to birth parents? DON'T PANIC! Learn how to attract birth parents to your profile.

The real trick is to keep it genuine while getting attention. Adopting a baby is a miracle – not salesmanship, but you can make your profile stand out in simple ways that don’t sell your soul.

Adoption is a miracle not marketing. Make your profile stand out without selling your soul. Click To Tweet

So I began choosing colorful pictures that clearly showed our unique story: our engagement, marriage, my stepsons, our extended family, activities and holidays.

Photography Tips –
  • Chose a mixture of posed & candid shots, formal & casual clothing.
  • Select flattering, colorful photographs of joyful moments.
  • Use a photo editor to touch up dull pictures or crop images. Picasa is a great FREE photo editor.

Our marriage began with a unique fairy tale proposal, so I created a fairy tale theme for our booklet. Once upon a time, there was a boy, and miles away on the other side of the kingdom was this girl, then they met, and the rest is history, but they are still writing their happily ever after.

Adoption Marketing - Sample - Our profile cover

Our profile began with a letter sharing our heart about our family and about the courageous choice of adoption.

Dear Birth Family, “We are humbled by your gracious,
loving decision to choose adoption for your baby, and we want to thank you for considering our family for your child  . . .”

Then we continued briefly describing our marriage and family. Having a booklet allowed us to add depth and personality to our profile. Add personal details without being too specific.

 A brief background on both my husband and myself – our childhoods, education, activities, extended family.

  1. Our family – home, pets, other children, and extended family
  2. Fun and Faith and Philosophy – we shared about our interests and hobbies, our faith, and our values.
  3. Closing statement thanking the birth parent for making a selfless decision for their child.

Use wording that demonstrates the ongoing nature of the birth parent’s relationship to the child. This is especially important if you’re choosing an open adoption. The birth parents will be a part of your child’s life and that needs to be respected.

Keep specifics limited.

The birth parent needs to know enough to trust you and to know you, but the more details you offer, the larger opportunity for rejection.

#AdoptionMarketing Think 1st date, not autobiography. Personal & genuine, not too specific. Click To Tweet

Think first date for your letter. If you have to write a more formal booklet, think second date.

Keep your information focused on generalities but with personality. We live in a cozy home on a cul-de-sac with lots of children. Interests – We enjoy being outdoors and learning about nature.

Don’t get too specific about hot topics – like politics or vaccines, guns, etc.

Will a child be safe in your home? Will you love that child and provide a stable home? Those are the topics that really matter to birth family. People have strong opinions and you want to be open to an infant from as many different backgrounds as possible.

But also be honest. Choosing what to share is important, but the things that make you unique as a couple and as potential parents are important too. Our birthmother told us she chose us, in part, because we were just everyday people who would be hands on parents, active and present in her baby’s life.

Whatever drew her attention, we only waited a couple of weeks before being matched. Conversely, a couple can wait for years because they are not chosen by birth families. I hope my suggestions can help someone make their profile unique and special.

While the adoption marketing process can seem shallow, all about appearances, you can make it about your heart and home with what you decide to share.

Make it about the warmth of your love, the strength of your family, the unique culture or community in which you live.

Most of all, I know that God will bring the right child to your family. I know God plan was for this timing, for this child, for us. We couldn’t be more blessed.

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Adoption Made Us Family: Adoption Day

I tried to write a piece reflecting how amazing adoption is, but I've yet to find the words. All I can say is adoption made us a family. Happy Adoption Day!

Today is our sweet girl’s seventh Adoption Day. I keep hoping to write a piece that reflects how amazing adoption has been in my life, but I have yet to find words that do this journey justice.

(this site uses Affiliate links-purchases support our ministry through a small referral fee that never affects your cost.)

While this was originally written on National Adoption Day, it rings true for today and every day since the day we first saw her in the NICU in Texas.

All I can say is adoption made us a family.

Last fall, I was watching the new Michael Weatherly drama Bull. The episode featured a woman who went into surgery expecting to come out with her ability to carry a child restored, but had to have an emergency hysterectomy instead.

I almost couldn’t watch the episode.

My first reproductive surgery was supposed to make it possible for me to carry a child, but instead I learned that I would most likely never get pregnant and should have had a hysterectomy during that initial procedure. Less than a year later, I ended up having a total hysterectomy when I no longer could ignore how drastically it was affecting my health.

While the health benefits of the hysterectomy finally allowed me to lead a more normal life, losing my ability to ever experience pregnancy and have children was devastating. Sometimes, those emotions are still very raw.

The vision of the family I dreamed of as a young woman would never come to be.

I will never know how it feels to look at a miniature version of my husband and myself, created in our love.

Adoption doesn't erase the hurts of infertility. But is its own rainbow miracle too. Click To Tweet

Adopting doesn’t heal that specific grief.

Adopting after infertility might be similar to the experience of having a rainbow baby (a child born after a miscarriage or still birth). This new life is precious and celebrated, but doesn’t replace what was lost.

I never lost a specific child, but had my heart broken over all the images of my children I had carried in my head and heart.

But the Bull episode ended with one of the main characters walking up to the woman saying, “There is more than one way to make a family. I’m adopted and I can’t thank my parents enough for giving me a family and this life. Adoption is just another way.”

And I was crying ugly tears for no reason at all.

I tried to write a piece reflecting how amazing adoption is, but I've yet to find the words. All I can say is adoption made us a family. Happy Adoption Day!

Because adoption did make us a family.

I’ve written about how God has used adoption in my life several times.

But this year, I’m really struck by how God used adoption to make us a family. He took two people who had both had their hopes and ideas of family shattered by divorce and health issues, and God created a new family through this adoption.

It is a beautiful picture of second chances and redemption for all of us.

 

Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Despite all we did to make a mess of our lives, God’s mercies are new EVERY morning. He brought us through the adoption process so perfectly, moment by moment was orchestrated by Him.

Each of our lives were changed through adding this little girl to our family.

My husband’s boys from his first marriage have their only little sister. My husband got to have another chance to be present for the very young years that he mostly missed with his boys due to military deployments.

Adoption made us a family. It gave our dreams a second chance. #NationalAdoptionDay Click To Tweet

And I get to be a mom.

Being a mom is like the old Peace Corps slogan: The toughest job you’ll ever love.

I couldn't meet all the world's demands. I had to parent for Heaven not Harvard

There are moments I feel completely wrung out, ready to dissolve into a puddle of frustrated tears, but I can’t imagine my life without her in it. Becoming a mother fundamentally changed my perception of my place in this world, my relationship with God, and the concept of what my legacy might be.

Mom: Toughest job you'll ever LOVE! Are you up for it? #NationalAdoptionDay Click To Tweet
Last Year’s National Adoption Day wasn’t picture perfect.

We scrambled to fit in an extra school day in preparation for a trip next week. We struggled through how many dimes can you trade for 18 nickels until we were both ready to quit, cry, and just carry credit cards.

Then we raced out the door to see the Budweiser Clydesdale team. Because HORSES and 6 year old girls. Running to buy a toy for the Salvation Army toy drive, I accidentally stole a soda and had to go back to pay for it on the way home after driving 30 minutes in the dark on a low tire. My husband shot one deer in the woods today but executed another via his truck on the way home, damaging his truck and doubling the butchering this evening.

Such is life.

But this is family, doing ups and downs, working hard to challenge the chaos in this world.

It’s learning how to best love this family we chose to commit to.

And there is a reason God says we’re adopted into His kingdom as co-heirs with Jesus Christ. He sets the precedent for chosen, adopted, brotherhood.

There is something special about being chosen, being loved by daily decision, being adopted . . . because it makes us family.

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World Adoption Day – My Starfish

I didn't rescue her, she helped rescue me. She is my starfish & I am hers. This World Adoption Day we soak up our time together, knowing it's just a season.

I always hope that I’m going to have something inspirational ready to post on World or National Adoption Day, but here it is, and I don’t know what to say this year except being an adoptive mom makes me .  .  .

a mom, maybe not the same kind of mom as someone else, but the one I was meant to be.

Having a biological child was never possible for me, and I’ve grieved that loss. Yet, I realize now, that if I had given birth, I wouldn’t have the daughter I do today. I might not have pursued adoption the way I did.

And my daughter is perfect, sometimes perfectly rotten, perfectly loud, a perfect disaster, but my perfect starfish child. The best of my husband and myself are mixed in her through God’s incredible plan.

(this site uses Affiliate links-purchases support our ministry through a small referral fee that never affects your cost.)

Sometimes, raising just this one child feels like a drop in the bucket compared to the millions hurting in this world.

But God didn’t ask me to save the world, He asked me to raise this child, and I’m reminded of the starfish story, the one about the little girl throwing stranded starfish back into the ocean. She couldn’t save them all, but she didn’t stop trying because her efforts mattered to ‘this one’.

Sometimes, I hear my daughter say “Mommy” and it sounds false, too good to be true, too fragile with all the extra dynamics of adoption and biology and legality.

But it is true. For today, I am her mom, her only mom. I guess that is what I wanted to say. She is mine. We are really family. Sometimes though, I think we forget our real place in the equation, when we talk about our kids being ours.

I didn't rescue her, she helped rescue me. She is my starfish & I am hers. This World Adoption Day we soak up our time together, knowing it's just a season.

We don’t own our children. We share them.

I have had to share all my children. My three children from my previous marriage called me mom, but we shared custody. We share my two current stepsons with their mother and stepdad. Now, we share this child with a biological family that may someday be in her life, and with God who adopted her before we did.

Sharing children is difficult and challenging for all sorts of reasons, but entirely beautiful because I’ve learned that these children are mine only in the sense that I’ve been put into their lives for a time, and what I do with that time is mine to claim responsibility over.

For me, the fact that she is only mine through God’s plan has made a huge difference in my parenting.

I’m only borrowing her.

God plucked her off the beach into my hand for a season. I’ve been given this window to reach into her life and be her mom. That’s it. Temporary.

When people tell me how lucky she is to have me as her mom I feel like a fraud. Don’t they know how selfishly I wanted to be a mom? She didn’t just fall into my lap.

It was hours of copying paperwork, weeks of gathering documents, months of preparing our home for a study and a baby we might never get, years of saving money, and decades waiting to be a mom.

Even the starfish allusion, implies that I’m somehow saving her, but I like to think we’re part of saving each other. I like it because it reminds me how powerfully one life can matter to another and how much responsibility I’ve been graciously given. She changed me. Watching her relate to me made me see myself in relation to God so clearly.

And just like that, I’m like every other mother, nothing about being a mother was what I expected.

I didn’t expect to love this much. But, I also didn’t expect it would change me this much.

I didn’t expect being a mom would break my heart into a million pieces daily and yet be what my heart beats for. I really didn’t expect how mothering would bring me to the feet of the Father.

This World Adoption Day, I’m so thankful I’m His adopted starfish, as she is mine.

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Just Another Day – Waiting with Hope

Waiting with hope for answers to prayer can be the toughest challenge of our lives. But what does the day before your miracle look like? Just another day.

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Waiting with hope for answers to prayer can be the toughest challenge of our lives. We wait not knowing what the answer will be or when it will come. We try to have faith in the waiting. But what does the day before your miracle look like? Just another day.

After a long cold winter, maybe I’m just ready for some sunshine, but I have found that I’m usually seeking HOPE when I come to this special day on the calendar. My verse of the day was this sweet promise in my devotional this morning.

Waiting with Hope - Surely there is a future, and your HOPE will not be cut off. Proverbs 23:18 What does the day before a miracle look like? Just Another Day/Heaven Not Harvard

This verse was so encouraging in my present circumstances, praying for my own healing and the salvation of several people especially precious to me.

I’m trying to live faithfully, knowing I can’t fast forward to see how my prayers are answered. Only God knows if He is moving in their hearts or using my present weakness in some way.

Psalm 119:30 ESV “I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me.”

Living my witness despite challenges is just part of the Christian mission on this side of heaven.

I’m trying to embrace the maturity and strength being built in me through obedience, but I’ll confess I struggle with hope some days, without seeing any visible results.

I pray alone. I read my bible alone. And I wait alone, sometimes wondering if God knows how desperately I long to share these moments. Is He really listening?

And then I get a gentle reminder of the hope He has planned for us.

I opened my Time Hop app to see what was happening in my life on today’s date over the past several years. As I scrolled through the images, I realized today’s date: March 23.

I looked at back at this day from 2010 and thought, Wow, I didn’t know that my entire life was going to change in just 24 hours.

It was just another day.

Waiting with hope for answers to prayer can be the toughest challenge of our lives. But what does the day before your miracle look like? Just another day.

I didn’t know it was the last day before an answer to prayer.

What does the day before a miracle look like? Just Another Day - Waiting with Hope. Click To Tweet

I had been praying since my teens to someday become a mother. After years struggling with infertility, a necessary hysterectomy had ended my hopes of ever giving birth, but we were pursuing adoption.

After years of saving money, months of searching for the right agency, more months of gathering paperwork, on March 23, 2010, we were on the adoption agency waiting list, praying to be chosen by a birth family, wondering if it would ever happen.

It was just another day.

But the next morning, my miracle happened! We had been matched with our birth mother and a baby girl was on the way.

Hope is having joy while waiting for answers, for miracles. But what does the day before your miracle look like? No sneak preview! It's Just Another Day!

I will treasure the joy of that moment forever. My heart raced and time seemed to freeze when the agency representative said, “We have a match for you!”

But this isn’t really about our adoption, it is about the day before an answer comes.

I went to work, read the newspaper and longingly watched a friend prepare for her baby’s imminent arrival. It was just another day.

I had no sneak preview that this was the last day of waiting.

God answered my prayers when He was ready and beyond all our hopes. Our daughter is a cherished blessing: beautiful and sassy and precocious and rotten and wonderful. I’m blessed more than I deserve.

But on today’s date in 2010, I didn’t know she existed or that I would be celebrating Mother’s Day just a few weeks later with a brand new baby.

An answer felt 100 years away.

In some ways, it was a day of tremendous sadness. I had been asked by several people if we had heard anything from the agency yet. We had no idea if any end was in sight.

Hope is faith in things unseen, trusting while waiting not knowing when our waiting will end. Click To Tweet

I came home from work and cried. Praying passionately, I gave it over to God, asking Him to bless our waiting, to bless our lives with the right child or no child if that was His plan.

I surrendered to obedience. Like I must continue to do today with these new hopes and prayers.

2 Chronicles 31:21 ESV “And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered.”

God will prosper (maybe in unexpected ways) the obedient service of my life, seeking God with all my heart. He will be my hope while I wait for His answers.

Because I’ve learned waiting for God’s answers is really trusting Him.

And I can look back and know He had a perfect plan every step of the way, all for my good, and He knows how this story ends.

Today is just another day, but tomorrow .  .  .

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