Oh yes....it's been awhile....in conversation with a niece last night she said that she read my blog every now and then, and I said that I hadn't written in it for awhile.....and in this festive season, as we so often call it ...that is not so festive for a lot of people....there is something that has been reoccurring in our household for a few months that is causing me to do a slow burn right now.
As many of you well know, we have our last three children still living with us at home. They will be here forever...or until Don and I die....and that's the reality.....because they are intellectually/developmentally delayed.
They are in this position because their birth mom's drank alcohol while she was pregnant. Now, in all fairness.....their birth mom was/is also developmentally delayed....I'm not sure what caused her global delay....but she is.
Not all intellectual/developmental delays are caused by alcohol.
BUT.... in the case of our three kids, it was definitely the cause of their brain damage.....yes brain damage....something that they are sentenced to the rest of their lives....because their mother chose to drink.
I call them kids because their comprehension levels are that of a five year old, a ten year old and a fifteen year old....although sometimes the fifteen year old acts her age....her actual age is 24....and the age of the ten year old is actually 25.... and the age of the five year old is actually 21.
Ben is 25, Maya is 24 and Megan is 21.
I grew up in a home where we didn't drink alcohol. I guess it was because of our religious beliefs....our church made it part of becoming a senior church member ....you made the decision not to drink alcohol. It's funny that I didn't ever question it growing up...it was just there, it was just accepted.....
As a teenager, I attended my share of the class parties....I remember one in particular....in someone's home...no parents present...but alcohol was....I was an observer....the guys especially had to 'prove their manhood' by overindulging.....it wasn't long before one of them was vomiting....the student that lived there was having a fit....his parents were going to have an even bigger fit....and to this day, I cant believe that I actually helped clean up the mess, so the parents wouldn't find out....but they probably did..parents usually do.
As I became an adult, I was faced with that choice...I remember it well...I was at a wedding, my good friend Linda Damiani was getting married....her family was Italian.....when it came time for the 'toasts' her dad, came around and poured wine into everyone's glasses....and there it was...sitting in front of me...I was faced with a dilemma....I didn't want to appear rude.....what should I do? When everybody lifted their glasses , I did too.....then everyone took a drink....I took a tiny sip....I couldn't believe the taste! It tasted like juice gone bad...I thought to myself..why would anyone willingly drink this stuff...I didn't have anymore....I just pretended to toast after that.
Since Don and I grew up in the same church denomination, we were both used to not having alcohol in our home....so, when we married.....we automatically followed suit.
Along came the children...some birthed, some adopted,...but all ours.
As they grew, and became older teens and adults...they made their own choices of whether to partake in alcohol...at first I wasn't happy when they decided to...in fact, I was terribly hurt...taking it personally....but also because it became clear that some of our children were suffering from the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.....FAS.....one of our sons, when he was quite young 7 or 8, cried out to me one day that there was something wrong with his brain,...that it was broken.....it wasn't until he was 17-18 years of age that we realized that his problems weren't ADHD as the paediatrician diagnosed, when he was five....but FAS.
Two of our children, half siblings came to us, one as a two year old and the other as a ten year old....both terribly globally delayed but once again we didn't find out about FAS until much later..when they were older.
FAS has a fairly recent history of being recognized...with our son who is now 33 years old, the information wasn't out there....people were just putting a name to this a little more then twenty years ago....it's plain and simple ...it's brain damage.....it's permanent...it can not be fixed. Studies have even shown that an FAS brain is much smaller than a non FAS brain....some show the physical changes in their facial features when they are born....others don't...some show obvious intellectual delays from the time they're little..like two of mine did....we knew all along that they had global delays ....but one of ours DIDN'T show those delays. Our daughter came to live with us when she was three days old....she was beautiful...but we quickly discovered that she showed the signs of narcotic withdrawal....it was a tough first year of going through her rigid body, her feeding difficulties, her sudden jerky movements....her laughing one second and going into a rage the next ...but after the first year when her flashbacks stopped...she seemed better.
She attended school, yes she struggled academically but was able to pass all her subjects. She was also extremely talented....musically and athletically.....she was able to play several musical instruments, and play many sports...she was on a basketball team by the time she was nine and played til she was 18. When she graduated high school, she joined an intern program at a Christian camp and worked at an outdoor program teaching young kids outdoor education...she spent a month in Costa Rica helping at a camp there....she was outgoing and extremely social. She came home and got a job at the local coffee shop.....fourteen months later she was living a solitary life, no friends...her time spent sleeping and working....all her teenage friends had moved on to college and with her work schedule she hadn't made any new friends. That was when she had her first of six emotional breakdowns.....no one knew what the Pete was going on with her...they tried different medications until they final settled on an antidepressant. This past fall, she thought she was 'getting sick' again....her dad refused to believe it...I wasn't sure so I started observing her....the confusion that she was experiencing was very familiar...the more I watched, the more I was convinced that what we were seeing, wasn't her illness....it was FAS....you see....FAS can come out , at its worst in the early twenties....the confusion becomes worse, the actions are done without thot...because that's what FAS is....from the moment that the action thot comes into their mind , it skips right to the result...there isn't any thot process to review consequences of the actions...nothing like that....and quite often the result is disastrous because they haven't thot it through.....their impulsivity is to the max!
We always thot when this daughter was growing up that eventually she'd be able to get her own place and get out on her own...sadly, we realize that this is not the case...she is 24 years old but sometimes she acts 14... and sometimes 24... you can never predict which age you'll be dealing with when you're working with her.
The trouble is....SHE KNOWS SHE'S DIFFERENT! ...and it sad. It's sad because she didn't have to be this way...it was totally preventable....she didn't have to live with a damaged brain all her life...but she has to....all because her mother drank alcohol when she was pregnant.
Sometimes I go and speak to perspective adoptive parents at Children's Aid....a social worker told me that all children that come into care have been affected by alcohol in some way and to some degree...some worse than others. How unfair is that? That all these children are forced to live with brain damage through no fault of their own.....the parent goes on their merry way, and the child is stuck with their damaged brain....
So, my view on alcohol? Yes, like I stated...I grew up without it in my life....yes, I realize that some people feel that they can't be social without it...that they need it....that they enjoy it...and that would be their choice...as long as it didn't negatively affect other people...when it destroys people's lives then I think that it's a very dangerous drug.
So , for me this has gone from being a religious conviction to a strong belief that it's harmful to others and needs to be severely monitored.
Just look at my beautiful Maya....she deserved so much more.....they all do.