Episode 20: Jamie Becker on Advocacy

you Jun 15, 2021
Jamie Becker Knows Advocacy

Jamie Becker has learned how to be the voice for those who can't speak for themselves -- her adopted daughters.  Jamie shares her journey from feeling helpless herself to being the firm advocate for the needs of her kids.

Connect with Jamie personally on Facebook or her Moms of Treasures group. 

Jamie's favorite gadget is a toy her daughter Katie loves, a wooden color sorting toy


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This is a transcript of the This Mom Knows Podcast - Episode - 20

Jennifer Uren
Jamie Becker is an adoptive mama, a bio mama, a foster mama, a special needs mama, a deaf kids mama, an autism kiddos mama, a deeply flawed and often weary parent, a pastor's wife, a sister of four women, a mama to four little women, a mentor, a teacher, a speaker, a writer. (Deep breathe) But before all of those things, She's just a girl. And she's just a girl that lives in New Jersey with her husband, Doug, and their daughters. So welcome, Jamie.

Jamie Becker
Thank you, Jenn.

Jennifer Uren
It is fun to have you here, and that's a lot in that bio. So...it's exhausting. But why don't you take a moment,

Jamie Becker
Hearing it, much less living it!

Jennifer Uren
That's right. Yes. Yes. So why don't you just take a minute, tell us just a little bit more, maybe, where you grew up, a little bit more about your family, why you're in New Jersey, things like that?

Jamie Becker
Sure. So I grew up in Texas, I don't have much of a Texas accent left that's gone. I'm so far removed. I'm pushing 40 now and I've been out of Texas since I was 18. So I think I said in that bio, I had four sisters growing up, I grew up with four sisters. And then I chose to have and I did, which is a story that we'll get into, I chose to have four daughters. So it's been quite the ride and and I did grow up in a Christian home and a wonderful, wonderful parents, so...And then I met my husband at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago on a blind date. And blind dates can be successful, because 16 years of marriage later, we are very happy and very much still in love. So it works out.

Jennifer Uren
That's wonderful. I'm so glad. Well, I'm excited to have you here today to talk about something that you do very well, which is being an advocate and advocacy. And the I have had the pleasure of knowing you for many years. And shortly after we met though, while you were in the Chicago area, you had a health crisis. Can you tell us a little bit about what was going on and what what caused you concern?

Jamie Becker
So we lived in Chicago, and we were able to get pregnant with our first daughter, our bio - our only biological daughter, Caraline. And she really was a miracle I say each one of my girls are miracles for different reasons. And we as we were expecting her we moved out to New Jersey. Got to New Jersey, Doug was an intern, a pastoral intern at a church and I just got so sick after I had her I I guess she she was about three months old two, two months old. I started where I couldn't keep anything down. I couldn't keep down any solid at all. And as soon as I had a solid it would come back up so that's not ideal when you're nursing.

Jennifer Uren
Ever! It's not ideal ever.

Jamie Becker
Yes, Jenn, it is never ideal. So and it's just very disconcerting as a as a person who's trying to be a brand new mom and have energy to take care of your children and and you can't keep any calories in your body so I basically lived on Ensure and Gatorade for a couple months and had to like emergency stop breastfeeding Cara. Doctor said you absolutely have to stop like literally, we're watching your baby get chubier and chubbier as baby should and you're just wasting away to nothing. So I mean, I think I lost something like I don't recommend it for anyone. I think I lost something like 35 pounds in like a month. So, um, and I was so weak, and no doctor good figure out what was wrong with me at the time - we went to doctor after doctor. Most of them said it was all in my head. Even if they took that seriously and said you have postpartum depression. And I initially said I don't feel depressed. I feel like I would be honest with myself if I was depressed. They said no, no, you're depressed and that's why you're you're throwing up I'm like, I don't feel like I am. So it was just kind of like this weird cycle and I said well now since no one believes me I am depressed.

Jennifer Uren
I know I was gonna say it leads to depression.

Jamie Becker
Like I remember just the look in my husband's eyes, the look in my relatives eyes where I could realize they no longer believe to me when No, I really I'm trying like I just can't keep my lunch down. So I'm finally I went to I went to the ER multiple times to read the rehydrated the IV when when Cara was little and, and again, I remember I remember that feeling me and my heart, you know what, Jenn, everything I go through, I feel like it. God can use that to like, give you compassion, empathy for someone else who's going through it. I really believe that. And I really have a lot of empathy for people going through postpartum depression. Because I got to the ER, and I remember, people surrounding me saying she's not doing well. I was having a panic attack. And I had never had a panic attack. I didn't know what it was. And this woman came in who was a patient advocate, might I say, that's kind of funny for this broadcast. And she came in and she immediately was like, "Is your husband hurting you?" And I was like, "No, I love him. No." And she's like, "are you hurting anyone else?" And I'm like, "No." It was just like, weird, weird. Invasive and like, odd questioning, and then, and then I remember her saying, and it scared me to death. She said, "Do you want to hurt your child?" And I said, "No, like, why are you going there from I'm sick and I can't keep food down." So it's so weird. The things that you run into that scare you and you go, Wait a second, you're the advocate here? I didn't even know what to make of it. I was so scared they were gonna take my baby from me. They said we're gonna get you an emergency appointment with a gastroenterologist the next day. I go, and he's supposedly this great gastroenterologist. And he did he was right. He was right about the diagnosis, he was wrong about the prognosis. So I get there and he like said, we won't we started our day early, we had a meeting about you about your case, and we're gravely concerned about you. And he said, You're the worst case we've ever seen in our practice of something called gastroparesis. Basically, your stomach has become paralyzed. And he said, he, I just remember this horrible sinking feeling. And he goes, you're, I'm so sorry, but you're incompatible with existence. That was the sentence you are incompatible with exists.

Jennifer Uren
So he was the definition of 'doctors have no bedside manner.' I mean.

Jamie Becker
Yeah. Oh, yeah. I

Jennifer Uren
Wow.

Jamie Becker
I we and, and that's definitely what we felt from him and we left the office when it's the hallway, we had late Cara in a carrier. And he came up to even came up to her got right in her face this tiny little baby. And he goes, I'm so sorry about your mama. And then he walked away. And Doug and I were hysterical, because he basically just said, You're dying. There's nothing we can do. We found out he was wrong. There was a lot they could do.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, yeah. So you're at this point, nobody is believing you. They're trying to push you down this path. And you know, people are praying and people are supportive, in general, but what was it that had you finally go "Alright, enough! I am going to fight for this."

Jamie Becker
Right. I think I was coming to terms with and he said, Whatever you do, don't go home and look this up, which lasted a couple hours of hysteria. And then we finally went wait a second. Like why? So he

Jennifer Uren
The more you know

Jamie Becker
Yeah, the more you now and it said, Oh, you can have a pacemaker put on your stomach and all these experimental surgeries. And then also I could literally just have a J tube which would have stunk not fun, not a G tube, but a J tube inserted directly to circumvent my entire stomach. So luckily, and by the grace of God, we went in for a procedure that very day. Endoscopy, you know, confirmed that he was correct about the diagnosis. And then he said, Okay, let's try you on this medicine. We have no idea if it'll work on you. I had to go on a big amount of it, but it basically pumped to my stomach. So I survived, but it was it was a rough and then I get flares of it. So every couple years. In fact, years ago, I got a flare and it caused a miscarriage two years ago when I was pregnant and and that caused a miscarriage and it was devastating and it took it was a full month of me being extremely weak. So it's just it's in those times and Jenn, those are the times in my life that I Like I can look at and say, I'm so much stronger of a person than back then when I like listen to a doctor say that like now today I know how to advocate for myself better and for my children. And I feel like I would have said, What do you mean by that? And yeah, like, I was so young and so just naive and you

Jennifer Uren
And well trusting. Yhey're the professionals, they went to school, they know. So why, I mean, why would you question what they're telling you? That's what you're paying them for.

Jamie Becker
And I feel like it was in a sense, it's so interesting. I'm such a verbal learner, I learned by verbalizing it all. I feel like it was a path in which I then was able to now add to, take that experience, take another experience, another and add to - if I thought that was an offensive thing for a medical professional to say to me, just Jamie, you wait, because then I had special needs children, multiple special need children, where I would get these huge sentences said to me that were just that if I had, worst thing said to me at different times, I wouldn't have learned to say, What do you mean by that?

Jennifer Uren
Right. So let's go back a little bit before you had Cara, you were working as a nanny. And I think you might have even continued after she was born, if I'm remembering right, but and one thing I observed was you, you seemed to have infinite patience, and a really, this special ability to focus on the kids and what they needed. And so I always knew that you were going to be an amazing mom. And, you know, we still talk about a lot of things that you you influenced with our kids, Jamie and Doug, watch them every once in a while, and were their Sunday school teachers, but but when you started when you dreamed of starting your family, having grown up with four sisters, you know, what was your picture of what you thought your family would look like?

Jamie Becker
So I always back when I was 16, I used to watch a show. I don't know if you remember it. But on TLC before TLC was really weird. And it was called Adoption Story. And it showed couples that were all it was all international adoption. So they would go to the airport and for Korean adoption, literally go the airport and meet their child at the airport. First time they met. And then they adopted them. And I would just watch this show like six inches from the screen and just like, be so enthralled with it and cry and just say, this is what I want, like I want to adopt one day, this is so interesting to me. And so, like why only make babies? why not take care of babies that already exist? And I had no idea how hard it would be even the process itself. And Jenn, you can attest to that. But that was just my dream. And when Doug and I were dating in Chicago at Moody, I remember exactly what street we were on. I turned to him while we were just dating, but we were very serious, you know, looking forward to marriage and, and I turned to him and said, I want to know if you're okay with the fact that I don't just want biological children. In my mind my dream is to also adopt. Are you okay with that? And he said yes. And I held them to it!

Jennifer Uren
You sure did.

Jamie Becker
You know, and it went beyond what we thought we thought maybe we'd have one adopted child and here we are with three adopted.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah.

Jamie Becker
Oh, and we go

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, well sorry I was goin to tell you when I worked at O'Hare during college, I worked the international inbound flight from Tokyo and a lot of times I was accompanied through customs, the grandmas that traveled to get the babies from Korea and I would bring them through to meet their families. That was my very favorite thing when I worked there. So it was cool. I was always sobbing you know?

Jamie Becker
Yeah. Oh people are so nice to us. Every different time where we've been around adoption day with one of our kids or out and about with them in their adoption dresses. I always dressed them the same. People are just like, "oh, we're so happy for you!" like it is something that people tend to - their amazed by it because it is a different way to go about growing your family. A beautiful way. It's not for everybody. I've started to say as I advocate for adoption advocate for different children. I do say it's not for everyone. But it's for more people than the people that give it a chance. So

Jennifer Uren
Yes, absolutely. So you have Cara and you decide and you know you want to adopt so you decide that you're going to pursue International Adoption for your next child. And you've kind of told us that it was something you always wanted to do but what made you decide that now is the time to to do it?

Jamie Becker
Oh, there were a lot of like little things that happened. But for us, it was more that we said, It's now or never, like, let's just go for it. Why not? Now, even though we were cleared after that medical disaster for me, I was on a medicine that I wasn't supposed to get pregnant, and then I weaned myself off. And then the doctor said, ok, you can add to your family. Cara was about two, not quite two at that time and, and it just Doug and I said, why not. And we started looking through a special needs adoption through China. And as I start looking at these children on what's called the shared list, I would look at this list of 2000 children, their videos, their their files, and it's like an abbreviated file about them with their special need their their name, their age, where they were found, what not. I, my heart was just broken open. This was for months, every single night for hours, I would pour over these children, I probably knew all 2000 of them by name or face. And one of the verses that one of the adoption advocates. It just really spoke to me. Brooke is an adoption advocate and she posted this verse, and I just took it and printed it straight from her Facebook I had to go all the way back to 2013 2013. It says, once our eyes are opened, we cannot pretend we don't know what to do. God who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls knows what we know and holds us responsible to act. Proverbs 24:12. Isn't that good?

Jennifer Uren
Yes

Jamie Becker
I just went Oh, I'm like, you know, and that was me. That was I just had this passion of like, okay, these are these children that are waiting. They don't have a mom and dad. And here I am and I want to be their mom, like, let me do what it takes. So I got another job. As a nanny, I got a job as a personal cook, and just saved and saved. We raised it was not easy, I would say but we raised $36,000 in 10 weeks to adopt for the process to adopt Katie. Now Katie, I saw her. I knew that is our daughter with it's a cool story but with each one of our kids, I just knew this is our daughter. And just like I knew with Cara on the ultrasound, it was a little different then. So Katie was deaf. And she was born without holes to her ear. She has no actual opening to her ears on either side. And we knew that she would be deaf, or at least moderately deaf, where if you speak really loudly, she can hear you. So we said let's learn sign language. I had my degree in linguistic linguistics. We started learning sign language I picked up on it really quickly.

Jennifer Uren
And you taught the people around you that were going to be in her life that impressed me so much.

Jamie Becker
Well, thank you, I had like a community children's class for sign language and a and an adult class for sign language because I wanted people to communicate with her again and bring her into a hearing town and and wouldn't be able to communicate. We lived four miles from the best deaf school in New Jersey. So the way I describe it is like we were going to visit the country of deafness. So we learned the language we packed for deafness. We prepared we heard stories about the culture of deafness. And then we landed abruptly in the country of autism. Yes, so she was deaf and she is deaf. That part was accurate. And I don't think China was trying to pull the wool over our eyes so to speak, I believe they just didn't know. She was four and a half years old. And when we arrived she was the size of like an 18 month old. Just teeny tiny and just developmentally the best way to put it and I say this delicately, is she was animalistic, every. Food, punishment, food punishment. Sleep. That's it. And the way that she responded to everybody within 90 seconds and you can see it in the video. There's a video of me meeting her and you can see it and I made. I was so happy to meet this this baby that was my baby. I prayed for her for nine months from the time we said yes to time she was in our arms was nine months. And she comes in our arms and I immediately know oh, this is autism. There's autism here and I don't, I didn't know what to think. I didn't know how to process that. And the Lord never left me. And I used to say, oh, it'll get better from here or she'll only get better. And it's hard, Jenn, because as I've spoken in different places, and I used to say, you know, I said, Okay, God, like, um, I felt like I was standing up the base of Mount Everest and looking up and saying, you are going to have to help me every step of this way. Like, don't leave me now. God, I need you. You brought me this far, I need you. There's no way I'm going to make it without you. But I know that it will get better. It did get better. But it also got harder in different ways. And it just changed and she had a secondary condition called pandas or pans, that neurological condition where she gets flares. And during those flares, it is incredibly hard. She's our everything. We just adore this little girl like this. Katie is Katie Grace is like she is the little there's something about her where when the rest of the world is going crazy, Doug and I will argue over who gets Katie, like, they hold her. He's like, Can I hold her and we just like, hold her and go, Katie, because she just she's in her own world, but her world makes sense. Her world is safe. In her world there's no drama, there's no lies, there's no pretense. It's just real. And I think that's one of the things that having Katie did a lot of stuff for me that were that was positive, but it stripped away anything in me. That was pretense. There's nothing left. Because when you're at a restaurant, and your kid is grabbing food off other people's table and writhing around on the floor, people have no idea what's going on, and they're staring at you. There's something that gets taken away from you. That is a good thing. The part of you that wants to impress other people or wants people to think oh, she's a good mom. No, I actively had people saying, I had people that were very negative in my life that were saying, Jamie doesn't know how to be a mom and Jamie should just Hey, maybe she should one person even said you should try to spank the autism right out of her. And I'm like,

Jennifer Uren
Welp

Jamie Becker
Yeah. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I had a group of very bitter people who would call Katie. I found out years later. Thank God. I did not know. I found out years later, they would call her Jamie's mistake. Oh, yeah. And it took everything. There's an advocacy moment I finally met person who was saying that one day, in our two hour meeting, he cried no fewer than seven times because I finally was like, I'm done, like, yeah, it take it say, Oh, okay. And then finally, I had too much insecurity. And once I got out of that mindset, I I said to him, I said, Who do you think you are? I said, this is not from God. This idea that you have that she's my mistake, or that I somehow am not adequate as her mom. You've not walked a mile in my shoes. You don't know what a gift this child does. And even though her behavior doesn't fit into what you are picturing a child's behavior. They should be seen and not heard it doesn't matter. My God loves Katie Grace, and he made her and he finds her to be beautiful, worthy of love worthy of being adopted. And he's made me to be adequate and he equips me. So it was like I just learned to go no more of that. Yeah.

Jennifer Uren
So that's a good point. So we think a lot of times advocacy, and we hear the mama bear comes out and there is a little bit of this, hey, I'm going to protect Yeah, but advocacy is not brash and advocacy is not plowing through. It's, it's advocating it's it's working towards a common good. Is that a correct assessment?

Jamie Becker
I would say it's a great point. So and I have to say, it's funny, because he brought that up in this meeting this man he said, I don't like I saw you posted something about being a mama bear. I don't like that because that seems aggressive. And I go, hmmm, I said, Well, that's very interesting that you feel that way. I said, let me tell you what that means to me. To me, it means that those are my cubs and I will lay down my life for them. And I don't want to be aggressive. I don't want To be brash, I certainly want to respect my Lord, with how I interact with people. But if somebody actively is trying to harm my cub, I will do what it takes to stop them and protect my cub. And that's, that's the way creation, that's the span of creation that you know, and, and I can do it in a respectful way. And you will get more bees with honey than vinegar, as they say in the south. So I have learned when I'm in an IEP meeting, which I believe and Chicago do, they call it IEP meeting.

Jennifer Uren
I think so.

Jamie Becker
And so, two of my kids possibly three will have an IEP. And when I'm in a meeting, I say to them, I start with all the therapists, I have a I have a team of like 12 people for Katie, and I sit with them. And I say I want to thank you, I want to start by saying, I'm not here to complain about anything, I'm here to thank you for everything that you do for my child. I tell them if I could at Christmas time, I would give every single one of you a cruise, and they're like oh, like that doesn't mean you're getting one

Jennifer Uren
It's the thought that counts.

Jamie Becker
It's the thought that counts. But I would I mean, I especially this year, Jenn, I'm working so closely with her teacher of the deaf, with her speech therapist, with her occupational therapist. I love them, I know them, we interact very often. And they mean the world to me. But then there's times that the system fails her. So maybe the education system fails her and that's when my mama bear even if I'm respectful, I'm firm. I'm organized, I pray through it first, but I say hey, this is inappropriate. And that happened once I brought it up recently, that they were trying to get her to just use a device so that they could save money. This was one of the districts was doing this, trying to save money by not giving her access to her language, which is sign language. And I said, in the meeting I said, quite frankly, this is very inappropriate for a child that this is her language and I'm sorry, I will not sign anything that takes away my child's access to her language. And somebody who just didn't understand sign language, it's just a ignorant said, well, it's the same as Spanish, you know, we expect a Spanish student to learn English. And I said, No. I mean, I was come back and I said, You know, I see where you might think that to sit. But you know, you know better you do better. That is not accurate for a deaf child. They don't have access to learning English, spoken English and hearing English, they need access to their language, they deserve it. And that reminds me of the quote that I've used many times when I speak to special need parents. It's by Rita Pearson. There was a TED talk by her she's an amazing educator. She says "every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be." I just I believe that so much for Katie, I believe that so much for Jacqueline, my oldest daughter is adopted through foster care.

Jennifer Uren
I was just gonna say you got involved with foster care. And that's where your other two came in. So tell us a little about that.

Jamie Becker
So then we decided to do foster care. And there's so many different aspects I could share but I'll focus in on we were given the amazing gift of our oldest daughter, Jacqueline, and she walked into my foyer and once again, I shared the story the other day with someone they said How did you foster Jackie? She walked into my foyer I didn't even know that she needed to be fostered. I wasn't privvy to that kind of information. When she came to me I just was supposed to babysit her for the day and I was the only foster mom who knew sign language. And this is so God this is so God, Jenn. Because when I prepared remember I said all that stuff I prepared for the country of deafness. I prepared for Jackie. God had me preparing for Jackie because when I prepared I was at like 2000 signs. Katie had no signs. When she came to us. It took six months for her to really start signing it all right now she's at about 400 signs. But I prepare God was preparing me years before for Jacqueline and I had no clue. So I was preparing for a child that had trauma, deafness, but was otherwise typical. That's Jackie, not Katie. And God equipped me to be Katie's Mama, but he really you know, all that time all these different things to prepare me it was for Jackie too. And so Jackie walked into my foyer and I'm telling you, Jenn, it was the same feeling I got with Katie, it was this over whelming feeling that this child was my daughter. And it didn't even make sense, because she had two brothers with her that I couldn't have had, or I would have had six kids at that time with other kids we were fostering and I just said to God, "What do I do with that feeling like this is such an odd feeling that I feel this incredible maternal care for her?" And I didn't tell anyone because I was so freaked out by the feeling. I'm like, where is it coming from? It's like such. And I just got this feeling like you need to pray for her, pray for her, pray for her. This maternal this daughter figure. So I'm praying for her and weeks later, I get a phone call. And the woman says, Jamie it was a woman from the division for foster care. And she said Jamie, I know this is coming out of left field. And it was so weird because I like I knew I just knew, and she goes, would you be open to adopting Jackie? And I went, I literally hit my knees. I hit my knees on the ground. I was like, You have no idea. I said to her, I said, No idea. You have no idea. I was waiting for this call. And I said, Yes. Let me talk to my husband. And I asked him, he said, Yes. We're supposed to be her parents. Yeah. So we adopted Jackie. And then we got Lacey. And Lacey was a similar kind of thing where we get a call, we had just gone through a heartbreak of saying goodbye to our foster son. And we get this call and they say we have this beautiful 11 day old baby that's in the hospital and nobody is open to taking her. And I said "Me, me, me, me!" So I ran over to Doug's office, his church office and I, I said Doug, and he knows that look on my face. I said, I have a question for you. And he's like, and he goes, let me sit down. This question, I said, there's this baby. And like, as soon as I said it, I just said, there's this baby honey, and she's 11 days old, and she's still in the hospital as no one will take her. And he said, Go get her exact words. Go get her. She's our daughter. So we got our Lacey. Two years later, we were finally able to finalize it and adopt her. We just had her adoption day anniversary yesterday. Right around that time we were able to adopt Jacqueline, we finalized like all our adoptions. And then my husband said, He's so funny. On on adoption day, he says to the judge, he goes, I'm sorry, can I ask a question? I would like to get my adoption vasectomy today.

Jennifer Uren
That's hilarious.

Jamie Becker
Fair enough. Fair enough. We're three kids deep of adoptions. We've got four daughters, our quiver is full. So

Jennifer Uren
That is so funny.

Jamie Becker
We and man have I learned to advocate for Jackie, ah, yeah, advocate for Jackie of how to advocate for Lacey, Jackie, oh, she's places and she's deaf and she's so smart. But people will just misunderstand her or take advantage of the situation. And I'll have to say, Excuse me, like, My daughter has been through a lot in her life. And she, this is not appropriate this plan you're having so either in the medical setting, or I have to advocate a lot for her in the medical setting, or an education setting. But we have amazing teams, because I advocate for it. And I teach other people to advocate.

Jennifer Uren
Yes, I was just saying you you've done a lot with other families with other moms. And you started a group called moms of treasures I know tell us just a little bit about that.

Jamie Becker
Um, so basically, we're a group of moms. And what happened was people say, oh, a lot of times people say, um, so you have like a support group. And you like, teach them? And I say, Oh, no, no, they teach me! It's mutual support group. So when I came home from China with Katie, I mean, man Jenn, I had maybe one or two people, and that's it. They had children, and we're kind of walking with me through it. I felt so alone, I would go to the playground. And my kid would be literally like eating dirt. And their kids are like, playing and laughing. And I just felt this like sense of just isolation worse than this year of pandemic it was way worse, you know, because I had nobody and I and I would try to talk to people that did love me, my mom, my friends, and they just you could see it in their face. They cared. It's not that they didn't care. They cared but they were like, Oh, they they just didn't get it. Yeah, and and I appreciate that and I still need those relationships. But I badly was yearning for just to sit in a room and say something about my daughter and it not like take like it sounded like a pin was gonna drop and people say right oh like awkward. So I started brainstorming what could I do I already led so many like Bible studies and mom's connection groups and I said let's start one that's just special need moms moms of children with special needs disabilities. Some people prefer that term disability Some people prefer special needs. So we called it Moms of Treasures because there are treasures and that came from so much negativity towards my Katie, I went, well, you know what, you may find her to be a disappointment. But she's my treasure, and really having that mindset. So we meet when it's not pandemic, we meet twice a month, and we go out once a quarter for a moms night out Right, our biggest, our group is about it's a lot. Our group is about 30 women, though not all of them will be there at one time. And this span of special needs, it's all different special needs huge umbrella special needs. Most of them at least have like an IEP. So to the degree in which they're not necessarily kids who will be with their parents forever. Like Katie will live with us forever. But, man, the stuff I've learned from them, Jenn, there's no words, there's no words, how much they have to know.

Jennifer Uren
Well, that's and obviously there was a need. And I was, I wanted to ask you. So I'm guessing there's moms listening that have special needs kids who are feeling alone just exactly the way you did. And I know at times when I have felt alone in my parenting, I've longed for someone to reach out to me, but usually it takes me reaching out to someone else. So how does you know this mom who's feeling lonely and overwhelmed begin to build a community of support with other moms just like her? What, what could she do? What's her first step?

Jamie Becker
Fabulous question, Jenn. And that's what I say a lot on like boards of like, like autism groups, and people say I'm so alone, where's your group, and I've had people drive an hour and a half to be at our group, it's not a surprise at all, because there is nothing. So so what I say to people that are too far, I say, okay, to have a friend, you be a friend. If you're alone, someone else's alone. So it's this idea of connection versus isolation. So one of my things where I speak places, one of the big themes I use everywhere is this idea that isolation, breeds hopelessness, and connection breeds hope. And that's just the Jamie-ism. But like connection, this idea of, it doesn't have to be you don't have to be me, I'm a social person, you don't have to say I'm gonna have a tea party at my house, and all of you can join me and that may not be your thing. That's okay. Saying, saying putting in a, Facebook has made it really easy for us. Um putting in a like a New Jersey, like, for instance, I'm in a New Jersey autism moms group or, but some people are in like, I'm in my towns group. So I've also put in there, hey, just throwing it out there, my kids and I are going to be at the playground. If anyone else has children with special needs or disabilities and would like to join us, I'll be there for two hours on a given Saturday. And people will come that way. So it doesn't, it can be one on one and hey, like, if you have a heart to connect with people, I truly believe God will help you connect with people. So if anyone needs more ideas, you can reach out to me and I'll have resources.

Jennifer Uren
Absolutely. So let's flip that. So if you're, if the mom listening, doesn't have special needs kids herself, but has friends who do, how can she be a support and an encouragement? And in a way that doesn't require like that mom to over educate or explain but you know, how can how can we support a mom in your situation?

Jamie Becker
I can tell you because the easiest way to do it is tell you about the people that support me who don't have children. So what means a lot to me, is when people invite us over for dinner. If they ask, they just simply ask me, you know, what would make Jackie feel the most comfortable? What do you need for Katie? What can I do to help you feel comfortable and make it easier on you? And to me that's not an embarrassing question. That's it's a helpful question and, and, you know, just acknowledging that it's hard to go places for me, Katie is actually pretty easy at home. It's when we're in public that it's everything I can do to keep her safe. And now Lacey has become behavior has become quite difficult with Lacey. Just to keep her and Lacey safe is my main goal. So safety. So it helps me at church if somebody comes up and says, you know, do you need an extra hand? Say Yes, please. And they'll just sit on the other end of the Pew so that Katie or Lacey can't escape?

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, they just block

Jamie Becker
It's so hard during these COVID times and people saying, can I carry that for you? Can I just that's not degrading to me. But I've also come to a place in my life, that I've learned to advocate for myself and say, I need help. I need help with this, or I'm not going to, I'm not able to make it at this event, if I don't have an extra set of hands. So like, you know, your friend might get offended if they haven't gotten to that place. But I think most special need moms were special in the sense that we've gotten to the place that we're like, okay, yeah, I do need help.

Jennifer Uren
So just normalize the question like saying, you know, like, we would ask, do you have any food allergies or anything restrictions? We'll just ask that same question around your kids. You know, what, what do you need me to know? Or do or help?

Jamie Becker
To make it easy on them. And also, just to not act like their child is. And if somebody has the heart to do that, I doubt they're going to project a feeling of your kid isn't welcome here. A couple that I was friends with before we had Katie, who I no longer, I went like one time to their house, they offended me so greatly. And I never went back like one person they compared. They had just gotten a dog. And they compared Katie's behavior to their dog. And like, Oh, yeah, my dogs like that. And look, oh, let's see if she wants this dog toy. I never went back. It was like, you know, when you take away the dignity of that child. Remember, this is a child and and this is their child that they love, like, so I think anyone that would have a heart for that they're probably not going to make a faux paux like that that's so it's big, just the empathy.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, yeah. And dignity, that is a really good, good word to put in there. So moms who are listening that you know, who needs to advocate for her child, but is just like, I would dread that I hate conflict, you know, so. So like you said, I know you went through a journey where where certain layers were stripped away, but what is your advice to give her on how she can do it effectively? What is there one, I mean, you kind of alluded to being organized and you know, clear but what is something that will make advocating, more effective and easier to lean into?

Jamie Becker
So it just depends what aspect so if we're talking about advocating within I should say, what environment? So are we talking about the medical setting, or an education setting or in a social setting? For me what I've tried to do in all those settings, in a sense, I'm trying to think what would go in all the settings is staying calm. There's a quote that I don't have in front of me, but basically says when little people have big emotions, we want to share our calm, not share their chaos, we don't want to take on their chaos, we want to share our calm. So just stay calm in the situation and just say, hi. So like, if I'm at a restaurant and something's off, I might say to somebody, hey, you know, just letting you know. You know, I'm really sorry, if something is or, you know, good example would be like, if we're seated too close to a buffet or too close to a food cart that will not work for Katy. So things like that, I would say, you know, thank you for seating us here. So try to give people the benefit of the doubt, give people the benefit of the doubt that they're not trying to be rude that they're probably just ignorant to a certain situation. Or how would they know that Katie can't sit by food.

Jennifer Uren
They're oblivious. Yeah.

Jamie Becker
Just give them the benefit of the doubt, your life will go better if you do that, and then saying, Hey, you know, just so you know, I really want to make things easier for you by not her not grabbing this and easier for her because then she won't have anxiety and compulsion to grab this. So if you could can we sit overhere? So that's just like a quick example. I mean, I advocate for them everywhere we go.

Jennifer Uren
But yes, that's really helpful. Well, this has been this has been fascinating and enjoyable. And I have learned a lot and I know the moms listening have too. So as our time wraps up. And this is always a weird segue. But it's a fun question that I ask everyone as a What is your favorite gadget?

Jamie Becker
You're so cute. I love it. I should have brought it up here. It's so cool. So a friend of mine from growing up, sent me the link and said, I think Katie would love this. And it's funny because people come over and they play with it. It's on Amazon. It's like,

Jennifer Uren
and I'll put a link I'll put a link for people.

Jamie Becker
But it's called basically like, I think the the brand is like T, T o w o. But it's basically like this little almost looks like an abacus which she loves Abacus. And you just get these wooden which is nice, because with durable, she tears out cardboard stuff. But it's a durable wooden, little color cards and it shows what pattern they're supposed to do. And then they make the pattern on that. But it takes a lot of motor planning and planning ahead because you can only fit so many things per So okay, in front of me, but shall have the link. It's great for kids developmental age, I'd say about six through 10. So okay.

Jennifer Uren
Wonderful. That's Yeah, that'll that's fun. It's interesting. It is hard to describe when I saw the picture that you sent me, so it's great. So Jamie, if there is a mom who would love to connect with you for advice or guidance on how to start a support group around her an encouragement group, we'll call it um, how can people connect with you?

Jamie Becker
Um, so a lot of people because I also train foster parents and whatnot, I just send them to my Facebook and they can connect with me via private message if they want to. So it's Jamie Dawn Becker. And that's a good way to to get a hold of me. And I put a lot of content on there that's hopefully helpful resources. So. And of course, I also have moms of treasures. So you if you were to look up moms of treasures on Facebook, that's also me. And that's a good way to get ahold of me either of those.

Jennifer Uren
Excellent. Well, thank you so much for sharing your time today. And it's always a joy to talk to you.

Jamie Becker
Thank you, john, I appreciate you. And I'm so proud of you. It was so exciting to me when you when you adopted I was like aww!

Jennifer Uren
Thank you! Yes, I want it to be like Jamie.

Jamie Becker
We knew, oh, please., like it was so funny. Like we knew each other before this. And now it's so full circle that we both add to our family in this very unique and special way and it's such a blessing my kids, my kids are my treasures as hard as it can be. And I'm the first one to say this. Jesus doesn't let leave us and he does love us. And he's gonna help us every step of the way. And and I'm very, very thankful for that. And thank you, Jenn for just having the heart to do this.

Jennifer Uren
My pleasure. Well, thanks, Jamie.

 

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