So, first off, congratulations on finding the time to read this snip-it of our life, and an even bigger congratulations to myself for finding the time to actually write it! Anyone who has FASD in their life in any shape or form knows how hard finding time can be.
Liam our adopted son, came to live with us in May 2015. We spent 6 days with him, loaded up the car and set off for home. We entered a fantastic and wonderful two-week honeymoon period, then my husband returned to work and we finally started to see the layers of FASD unravel right before us. He had clearly been in fight or flight mode for almost three weeks, and boy did it hit me! Mentally and physically, being the ‘main’ parent (and I hate that term) I received it all – the hitting, spitting, punching, kicking, human target practise amongst much more. My husband on the other hand was superman – he could do no wrong. He could soothe every ouchie on his fingers, clean every dirty nappy perfectly, he could even perform miracles and get Liam to sleep just like that. Me on the other hand did the very thing I always swore I never would, and found myself at the bottom of a bottle of wine most nights – if not two.
After a few months, I asked for help. I said to my husband we needed to tackle all of this head on or he will divide us, and the last thing he needs is another broken home; but because he thrives off of negative attention this is actually most likely the very thing he is striving toward. So, I got help. I pulled every resource I could find. I referred myself for counselling, sorted through my feelings – if you’re not healthy how can you expect your kids to be? I cried to local health visitors and banged down the doors at my local children’s centre. Every professional that “awwww” or cooed at him I stopped them in their tracks and asked them to remain professional. I found my voice and more importantly Liam found his. I refused to be discharged from services such as OT & Paeds because although he has a diagnosis, who knows what the future holds and how long the next waiting list will be?
We started to turn corners. Our marriage was stronger than ever and we were a united front towards Liam. Some of you might have read this far and gone so what? He’s a normal kid, most people struggle when they have a child right? Wrong. Most people struggle with sleepless nights, breastfeeding and the classic argument of who’s changing the nappy this time. We had to discuss how to hold him when he hit us, how to calm him down and how to help him understand why he was different.
Liam started school last September, ran in like a charging bull, couldn’t wait. Or could he? After a week of being there he said to me, “Mum why is my head foggy and my brain fizzy? Why can’t I sit still and why can’t I understand my numbers like my friends? Dad why do I fall over all the time? Why do I have to be locked in the nursery playground? Why are my knees covered in black bits? Why won’t my head work?” Most of these questions reduced me to tears on a daily basis before I banged down the teacher’s door and asked for help. Our school is fabulous and are on the ball, so roll on our EHCP for year 1. However, without this support we would fail him.
FASD controls, I would say, at least 90% of Liam’s life, and at least 110% of ours! He struggles with waking up, remembering to go the toilet, getting dressed, getting out of the house, going to school, walking with restrictions, walking or running safely, emotions, affection, eating, sharing, being kind, being in a crowd, being alone, being wet, being messy, being dirty, routine and change. We do our best to keep a routine – one small change could literally bring our house down. We know in adult life changes are inevitable and we have over the last 34 months sneakily changed different bits. Some were received well like toothpaste because he loves mints, where as others were a tad more challenging, like falling pregnant and introducing him to a baby brother (although, I might add he is a fab big brother).
Sometimes parenting FASD seems like an uphill battle and one that on some days you want to give up… but I tell you what, my calf muscles have never been so strong from walking up this hill. I’m almost a semi-pro athlete and I know at the end rather than a medal there will be our 5 year-old Liam, either smiling or having a humongous meltdown (most likely behind closed doors because very rarely does FASD show the public how vulnerable our son actually is, that pleasure is normally saved for home where he is 100% comfortable to show us his true colours) – I wouldn’t change it for the world!