Thursday, October 10, 2013
My Daughter And I Are Similar........
Five (and almost a half) years ago I never thought I would utter that sentence. My daughter and I are similar.
But the few of you who are reading this blog know that I posted about my mother having consumed alcohol while pg with me. A fact I learned when she was in the hospital right before she died last year. I was born in the 1960's (yes, I am going to hit that 'milestone' birthday this month) and in the 1960's pregnant mothers did not know they should not drink or smoke while pg. I wonder how many adults are out there now whose mothers consumed alcohol while pg.
I didn't know when we brought LGA home that I was similar to her in any way. Her issues became apparent when she hit 5. Most of her behaviors prior to 5 (between 3 and 4) were mostly toddlerish behavior because she was about 2 yrs behind as most foster children are. So I didn't really notice her FASD behaviors till she hit 5. Once she hit 5 it was like a switch had been turned on and she became this whole other child. Meltdowns happened, swift and fast. Anything could and did set her off. It was and continues to be challenging to parent her. LGA turned 9 this year and parenting her became harder. But as I really took a look at my life, knowing I was on the spectrum for FASD, I realized we are similar.
But first I had to take a look at myself and my growing up years. I don't remember many fits or tantrums. If I had a fit I remember I was ignored. I did have a couple, usually because I wanted something my parents had said no to, or I remember a fit at my grandmother's house, not sure why but it sticks in my mind as I sat in her huge Morris chair that had these huge arms on it that you could put your fingers through. I don't remember what caused the fit, I just remember sitting in that chair and knowing I had a fit. But I was ignored and I think I got over it quickly. Math was always hard for me, for some reason it makes more sense now than it did when I was younger. I was good at spelling, reading, history, etc. but not good with math and hated science completely. I never wanted to go on to college and couldn't wait to get out of school. I started when I was 4 because I had a fall birthday and have read my report cards where I couldn't focus (had eye issues) and stared out the window in dream land (my words, not the teacher's). So I repeated kinder when I was 5 and it seems to have worked out. But I have had a hard time at times focusing in my adult life, and while I held admin jobs and a hotel job in reservations and sales admin, I really had no career path in mind. I wanted to travel to the UK where my cousins were (and I did, I lived there for 6 glorious months) and work. After my mother realized I was not going to fulfill her dream of going to college (I have some Jr college under my belt, as well as a travel agent's course and nanny training) she concentrated on getting me a job. She got me one, my job at a hotel (she knew the HR person) and I stayed there for 13 yrs before I moved to N CA from S CA. That was a leap of faith. It was the right step as I met Dave and we married and each had our share of job layoffs during the years that have followed.
SO imagine my surprise when I learn I have been alcohol exposed. After adopting my daughter who is also alcohol exposed (during which time my mother never uttered a word to let me know that she drank while pg with me). It was only when talking about LGA's special ed day class and her issues that my mother mentioned it. I wish I had thought to ask her when she consumed alcohol and how much. I never did because I saw she was making some connections to my brother who had passed away the year before. He had a lot of issues and I suspect also was exposed to alcohol. So I didn't bring it up and now I will never know. My aunt and uncle never want to talk about it and my cousins who are all at least 10+ years older than me do not remember.
I have done some deep reflection. I have wondered what it would have been like had I known years earlier that I have FASD. But I didn't. I didn't know when we adopted LGA. I didn't know when we started seeing her behaviors when she turned 5. Would I have changed anything? I don't think so. I started remembering my childhood. It doesn't compare to hers, I know she has more brain damage than I do. I might have mild brain damage, but the realization that I have it (after thinking I was not like her nor could I relate to what she's going through. I was wrong. I can relate to some of it) really took me for surprise. People didn't know what to say to me. They sort of skirted the issue. Even my own husband had no clue what to say to me. It was hard. I thought people put it off and didn't want to talk about it. It made me resentful. I needed to talk to someone about it. I still haven't done that and I guess I need to.
I did talk to LGA about it. I think it changed our relationship, because I could tell her that I am like her, that Grandma didn't know about drinking while she was pg with me, so I share something with her. I think she liked it. As posted previously, I wondered if I was meant to parent her, even the frustration of her behaviors. As I have worked through my mother's death, the grief, the realization that I too, am a FASD, I have been able to have a bit more compassion for my daughter, while also trying hard to understand her behaviors, and what it means for her, in her future. Because my life has been so different than hers will be. All I can do is be there for her and help her wherever I can. But we share a bond we didn't know we shared. And that has changed her relationship with me. She is in a phase where she only wants me. She is very vocal about it too. It's hard when I need a break, but we are coping. Daddy is the fun daddy, which is how it should be sometimes. But he can also calm her down whereas I have a hard time when she's in meltdown mode. I have finally learned how to try to help her and learned her triggers but it took awhile for me. I think I have some sensory issues because yelling and screaming voices are hard for me and make me really have a hard time during that. So I am recognizing it and I am trying hard to not buy into it. It just hurts my ears. Movie theaters speakers hurt my ears. Wool bothers me. I never thought about what it would mean to have some sensory issues. Now because of LGA's issues, I am aware of mine.
It's hard to put this out there. I don't know what made me feel the need to put it out there but I felt sort of pushed to write this post. I am not a super spiritual person, but I felt a bit of a spiritual push to write this post. I thought of it, put it out of my mind (great procrastinator, used to get told that by my mom all the time) and then decided again to write this post. Maybe some adult FASD might find it useful. Maybe someone will connect the dots. I never did, I had no reason to believe my mother consumed any alcohol while pg. I was quite surprised. I keep examining my baby pics and toddler pics to see if I have any FASD facial features. I think I do. But I know that I have made it this far in life, and that I will continue. I will support my daughter, knowing her future may be more limited, but that she can have a good life and we will make sure it happens.
If you got this far, thanks for reading. Please read up about alcohol consumption if you are a woman who may be pg or want to be. Please know that no amount of alcohol is safe during pgcy. None. I know this to be true, whether I knew it for the first 40something years of my life or not. The puzzle pieces came together and I am a different person as I approach this milestone birthday, that is for sure.
I have found some people in 'real' life don't get the challenges there are in raising LGA. Some tell me I dwell on them too much and make it about my kids. Some people have told me to 'find my tribe' for support. I am sorry, but I have realized that I cannot change this. LGA is who she is and she has issues. She is special needs, brain damaged, whatever you want to categorize it as. It's there, and it means my time is spent raising her. Dave and I have not had a break on our own in awhile. Dave took vacation for 2 days before the girls have a fall week break next week so we could just hang out and talk, watch a movie (at home, the movie times don't work for school pick up/drop off) and have breakfast together (he cooked for me this am) and go to lunch. It's nice. We need it.
And.........just to give a little bit of fluff from this heavy duty post. Check out the pic of LGA and I at cousin G's wedding. I will post a few more pics for you in the next post. I like LGA's smile in this one. Some of the other pics she has more of a forced smile. This is the smile I see every day and love.