The Only Baby Advice You Really Need

I found the only baby advice you really need. The advice I wish I'd known before my daughter was born, and still true if your baby is 2, 10, 25, or 45.

I’ve found the only baby advice you really need. It’s the advice I wish I had known before my daughter was born, something I have to remember daily, and still true if your baby is 2, 10, 25, or 45.

So last year, I traveled across the country for my sister’s baby shower. She was expecting a much prayed over, long-hoped for baby, who is now a super adorable 1 year old!

Part of her baby shower was that we were asked to share our best baby advice on these cute onesie-shaped cards that my mom placed into an album for her.

Talk about pressure – how do you summarize baby advice onto a small card?

I found the only baby advice you really need. The advice I wish I'd known before my daughter was born, and still true if your baby is 2, 10, 25, or 45.

However, the longer I do this parenting thing, the less qualified I feel to give advice.

I can give you baby advice on how I got my kiddo to sleep through the night or eat peas or quit whining or how I dealt with colic, and hope you find success in that technique as well, but giving general baby advice is so challenging because so little of parenting has turned out the way I expected.

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My precious, precocious lovable child spent most of the shower being rambunctious and generally difficult. I was saddened that instead of seeing my sweet, loving girl our friends and family saw an overly emotional meltdown. Dealing with a difficult child was painful when I wanted to visit and enjoy the shower festivities. I struggled against tears with no way to remove her from the situation and tried to do my best to give her limits and discipline (and less sugar).

But that is the reality of parenting. Sometimes, it is a disaster.

Sometimes, even when we know what to do, it doesn’t work. And sometimes, you just have to roll with the punches, even when they are embarrassingly public. (And your victories are mostly when no one is around to see.)

I found the only baby advice you really need. The advice I wish I'd known before my daughter was born, and still true if your baby is 2, 10, 25, or 45.

Her behavior was a good dose of humility for me,

And prompted me to share the best baby advice I have to give.

Parenting is a journey. You know you’re getting a child at the end of your pregnancy (even if adopting). Other than food, sleep, and basic necessities, you really have little idea what to expect. Even if you have done your research, you’ll constantly be surprised.

Learning your child is a lifetime of discovery. You will have to learn YOUR baby and all the wonderful and terrible ways your child is completely unique. Every new stage will be terrifying and joyful with new accomplishments and challenges.

Parenting is perpetual and always evolving. I’m 45 and still need my parents. My daughter is seven and just about when I feel like I’ve successfully navigated her current stage, she changes.

You will have to learn your new identity as a parent and partner. Being a parent changed me completely. I never knew I could love so much or be this tired for so long! Our marriage has had to adapt and overcome adding another person as well. Our little universe had shifted focus for a few years. We have to be spouses and parents and people all at the same time.

I found the only baby advice you really need. The advice I wish I'd known before my daughter was born, and still true if your baby is 2, 10, 25, or 45.

Parenting is a challenging journey of discovery, learning yourself, your child, & family. Click To Tweet

So, listen to everyone’s baby advice and their best tips because you never know what gem will work during a 3 a.m. scream session, but carefully and prayerfully choose what works for your child and your family.

And don’t feel badly about ignoring well-meant advice that doesn’t suit your baby or your home.

. . . but keep listening.

There is no better gift than a humble, loving parent in a family who is willing to discover the world anew.

So my advice is embrace the journey! Take all the parenting tips you can, just don’t take them to heart!

(that being said) My three best tips for expectant parents:

  1. Swaddle and put baby down drowsy with music from the beginning. Sleep is not overrated. Alone or together, teach your baby to sleep in a way that works for your future five year old, too.
  2. Gas drops – Better to have them and never need them, than need them and not have them. Because invariably colic happens at midnight.
  3. Take time to enjoy this child: the midnight feedings, the rocking chair reading, even the colicky bouncing. It goes too fast.
  4. I know I said 3, but seek God in all of it. The rest will be your adventure.

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Adoption – The Cost

Adoption costs are part of the journey many avoid discussing. Families come to adoption in various ways. This is only our story and experience.

Adoption costs are part of the journey many avoid discussing. However, few people are truly aware of or prepared for the adoption costs.

Families come to adoption in various ways, after long infertility battles or even as the way to grow their family by choice, or desire to give a family to a child in foster care. This is only our story and experience.

Seven years ago today, we officially started our adoption journey with our first conversation with an adoption facilitator and our first sticker shock.

I went from excited to defeated in one call, but we had a plan.

We don’t want to think about the costs. It seems vulgar to assign a monetary value to a person.

Discussing #adoptioncosts is hard, but being prepared is priceless if you're planning to adopt. Click To Tweet

But the expenses don’t pay for a baby, they pay for all the necessary parts of funding an agency or court fees, etc. and understanding these expenses can mean having the option to adopt or not having the resources when your heart is ready.

Adoption costs are part of the journey many avoid discussing. Families come to adoption in various ways. This is only our story and experience.

Adoption costs vary depending on the adoption route.

Some are nearly free or just legal fees, which generally run a couple thousand dollars (foster to adopt or private adoption of a family member’s or friend’s child).

Some are less expensive, through state or public agencies or the adoption of a minority or impaired child (mentally, physically, health impairments, etc.) in which the state assists with the costs.

The (potentially) quickest (but costliest) method of adoption is the one we pursued, private agency.

We chose a non-profit agency, but the agency still has employees and maintains several offices across the country with overhead expenses.

Our adoption costs from 2010

Rates change yearly, and some agencies have a sliding scale depending on salary.

Home study – $1500 for the first visit and subsequent two visits post placement. About $250 baby-proofing for the home study.

$ 500 – application fee (one agency had a $150 fee just to get the application)

$6000 – retainer due when accepted as clients

$10,000 – Agency fee due prior to placement. We paid this AT the hospital.

$4,610 – Birth mother living expenses for end of pregnancy (6-9 months)

$1830 – birth mother expenses postpartum (one month to recover)

$1000 – travel expenses for agency (we lived in same state as agency and birth mother, these could have been much higher)

$6320 – anticipated legal costs (ours turned out to be $1850 higher)

Total – $31,760 plus all the little fees and costs here and there.

Attaining certain documents and fingerprinting cost several hundred dollars.  We spent a  $110 on our profile booklet.

We spent another $250 for website advertising of us as a “Waiting Family” plus various hotel/travel living expenses while the baby was in the NICU.

Total adoption costs for us ended up at around $36,000.

Depending on your family’s financial situation, this may not be an overwhelming expense, but as a teacher and soldier, our budget definitely needed some adjusting.

It took years of discipline, of living below our means to save the money. We lived very frugally, eliminated all unnecessary debt and still had to borrow $6000 from my mom.

Saving for an adoption took sacrifice, but so does parenting #AdoptionCosts #PricelessBlessings Click To Tweet

I didn’t buy new underwear for a really long time, much less new shoes.

Sacrifice is definitely part of the parenting equation anyhow!

For my first birthday as a mom, I gave myself a high chair for our daughter. For Christmas I got a vacuum and was SUPER excited.

That’s how you know you’re a grown up.

Saving up on a modest income can be challenging.

My best recommendation is to pay off your cars, even if you have to trade down to eliminate payments. Cut as many unnecessary expenses as possible.

If you are able to wait, then it’s a good to be debt free, have a savings account, before you start saving toward an adoption. Being financially secure when the baby comes is priceless. We used Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover.

If necessary, adoption loans exist, and you could pay back a loan using the adoption tax credit from your taxes, which was $13,170 in 2010.

Saving money has never been easier than when I knew the goal was a beautiful baby. Yet, it took quite a bit of dedication and combined commitment as a couple to save the money.

But we can’t put a price tag on our wonderfully precious daughter because somethings are just priceless.

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Adoption – Getting Started

If you’re considering adoption, getting started doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here are a few tips based on our family’s journey.

Adoption – Getting Started

  1. Decide your time frame for really starting the adoption process.
    • We spent 2-3 months researching before taking the first step.
  2. During the research process, decide on a budget and financing.
    • Start saving money at first glimmer of choosing adoption to build your family.
    • Most agency adoptions cost between $20,000-40,000, you may be able to find the agency’s basic costs outlined online which will help you formulate a budget and choose an agency.
    • You can raise funds, get a loan, and expect a tax rebate.
  3. Research agencies
    • I googled ‘adoption agency’, researching every agency’s Better Business Bureau reviews, grades, and resolved/pending cases.
    • I googled ‘experiences with ____’ agencies. We eliminated any agency with negative experiences by verified customers.
    • Then I talked with an agency representative from promising agencies, read their literature and websites, eventually narrowing down the field and learning a lot.
    • If you have a local agency, make an appointment to talk to them. You may eventually go a different route, but we met with a few local agencies and learned a lot about the process and what type of adoption we wanted to pursue.

We got some information from a legal adoption network, more of a facilitator than traditional agency. Their basic costs, not including any potential birth mother living or health expenses were going to start at $48,000. We didn’t have that much saved, and we were determined not to start our family life in debt. Kids cost enough once they’re born! We told her we would get back to her.

In the meantime, she did give us the name of a social worker to complete our home study.

Adoption Getting Started A home study is the first real step in any adoption process.

We started gathering the massive amounts of paperwork required. A basic list to get you started:

  • birth certificates
  • marriage certificates,
  • bank statements
  • check stubs
  • social security cards
  • passports
  • driver’s licenses
  • divorce decrees if applicable
  • medical evaluations (for every family member, including pets)
  • letters of recommendation for each parent
  • drawing to scale of our home
  • pictures of the house

We finished gathering paperwork and preparing the house while we waited for our social worker to do our home visit.

Home Visit –

Each state has different mandatory standards adoptive parents must meet. Most are just good baby proofing. Then each agency can add requirements, and different social workers can interpret rules differently.

Basic Baby Proofing Steps:

  • Every outlet must be covered in those pesky plastic covers.
  • We had to have a fire extinguisher.
  • We had to install cabinet baby latches, and secure medications.
  • Outwards doors needed baby proof handles (yes, before we even applied to adopt), including the entry to the garage
  • Keyed deadbolts on front and back doors
  • Additional security for any pools or spas
  • A carbon monoxide detector

The home study seemed terrifying. Someone comes into your house and judges how you live and what type of people you are. He had to ask really personal questions about everything, like everything. Luckily, our social worker was friendly and really put us at ease.

Following the home study, we applied to an agency our social worker recommended. They were less expensive than the legal network and seemed friendly, had great testimonials, and lots of success stories.

Unfortunately, the FBI fingerprinting process was really lengthy as it was paper and ink, which prolonged the completion of our home study. Hopefully, the FBI process is faster and all digital by now.

Adoption can seem overwhelming, but try to keep it in perspective. Building a family isn’t about getting a baby, it’s about trusting God is bringing you the right child for your family.

Be patient, pray a lot, and take one step at a time. Don’t let the huge mountain seem scary, just do what’s on the to-do list for each day and let tomorrow take care of itself.

Matthew 6:34 ESV  “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

The patience you’ll learn now will be a good resource once you’re a parent, trust me, 😉

Seriously Harvard?

Seriously Harvard? was my first reaction to a friend's post about her super smart 6 yo. I had to get a grip. Was I really parenting for Harvard or Heaven?

A mom friend posted on Facebook. “My 6 yo daughter is so smart! Harvard should get ready.”

She was being quippy,

But my mommy radar sounded an alarm, seeking some measuring stick by which to gauge if my daughter might also be in this very elite kindergarten predestined for Harvard group.

I began to type a long comment, but paused. She was being funny. Her daughter is super intelligent. I didn’t need to compare mine or have my parenting validated. I ‘Liked‘ and moved on with my day.

I needed to get a grip. AGAIN. Why was I so concerned with external success for my daughter? What am I raising her for? Seriously Harvard? was my first reaction to a friend's post about her super smart 6 yo. I had to get a grip. Was I really parenting for Harvard or Heaven?

Seriously Harvard?

Man, that sneaky pride and mother’s love (fear/worry) is a daily battle. I was reminded of a children’s bible video I had stopped to watch with my precious girl, the story of Samuel.

But really, it’s the story of Hannah who desperately wanted to be a mother. She prayed and wept, promising if God were to give her a child, she would dedicate his life to God.

Even in the children’s version, the story resonated with me. I remembered hearing it before in my own Sunday school days, but it never touched my heart the way it did on this particular day, which is the anniversary of the most important phone call I ever got.

But my story started way back in 2004, when for medical reasons, I had to undergo a hysterectomy. It was a heartbreaking decision, but the right one for my health.

A few years later, and I’m newly married, settled in Texas and ready to be a mom, but the finances to pursue adoption weren’t available. Prayers started then for God to make a way if adoption was His plan for us,  so we weren’t going into debt or jumping through hoops for our own desires over His.

When waiting on answers to prayer, it is always better to wait on God than force our own way. Click To Tweet

Two more years passed, and we had saved the money, thanks to frugal living and God’s provisions. But we couldn’t find an agency. It just seemed like it wasn’t going to happen.

I remember laying on our bed, sobbing, asking God if I wasn’t fit to be a mother or if it just wasn’t His plan for me, but to let me know so I could quit waiting, quit aching for a baby.

That was the moment I really surrendered my desire for a child to God and prayed for Him to make a way or give me strength to walk away.

Then a talk with a social worker led us to the right agency that we just clicked with. It took months of paperwork, fingerprints, background checks, home study visits, then more paperwork, but we were finally approved by as a waiting family March 1, 2010.

The sweetest moments in my life are when I surrendered my desires in exchange for God's gifts. Click To Tweet

Then it really was about waiting. A birth mother selects a couple to raise her child. You could wait a day or forever. After a few days of nervous excitement that we were finally approved, the newness wore off. The real waiting began.

Everyday could be the day, or we could be waiting years. With a traditional pregnancy, you have some sense of when it will be over (even if it starts to feel like the never-ending hallway nightmare around month 7), but emotionally, I just had no way to prepare my heart for this.

A friendly colleague asked me fairly regularly if we had heard anything in the first two weeks. I finally told her, when we got the call, no one would have to wonder. I’d be shouting from the rafters. But while I tried to be patient, I was watching one of my closest friends get closer and closer to her due date, being surrounded by all things baby.

Again, I finally brought it to God’s feet.

Lord, let me be patient and wait for your timing. Let me enjoy the time we have left as a couple.

Let me accept if the answer is no.

The last one, really giving it up to God felt like pouring my heart out onto the floor, but I remember the morning I prayed it and truly meant it. I let go. God, I’ll wait until your time is right, if ever. Until then, I will enjoy spending time with my husband and being a couple.

That was 7:30 a.m. My cell phone rang at 9.

“We have a match for you. We have a baby for you.”I could scarcely breathe.

The next two days was a blur of squeals and phone calls and officially accepting the placement for a baby girl due in June. That moment is one of the deepest moments in my life of feeling God’s presence and love, less than two hours after I surrendered my heart’s desires.

Hannah’s story in Samuel resonates with me because when I chose to put God’s will over what I wanted, deciding to be the mother God wanted for a baby, then God gave me this most precious gift, when I was ready to raise her for Him and not myself.

I was reminded again this week that I can worry if she attends Harvard, or just make sure I’m teaching her to love God. The rest really will go according to plan, His plan for her life, of which I am a handpicked part. He didn’t just pick her for me, he picked us for her, and why parenting for Heaven, not Harvard, is so much more important.