It’s been a very long time since I published anything on here! Almost a year! I’ve been struggling a bit with what to write for so long because I don’t want to write anything but the truth. The good, the bad and the ugly! I feel that writing about our life story is the best way to help others understand that we are all in this together. If I can’t be honest, then what is the point? Social media is affecting so many people in wonderful ways but can also be so unrealistic! When I was dealing with health issues and feeling like crap, I could not even look at Reese Witherspoon’s IG posts! Her perfect outfits and perfect hair in her clean house with her happy kids and well behaved dogs! You know what I’m talking about right?? My house seemed to be in complete disarray and I didn’t have the strength to even do my hair for work let alone cook a delicious healthy meal for the family AFTER work! Are you kidding me?!? Seeing her posts plus the many others (even from real life people I know) was too depressing! The guilt I would feel for not being like that! It’s crazy, I know! Don’t get me wrong, I love Reese and I’m sure she’s had her fill of struggles too. But the perfect persona shown on social media was just too much for me to handle at the time! I also see many moms on social media who post videos of their toddlers and lives, and I LOVE their honesty! That’s what keeps me coming back to read their blogs or watch their videos. The problem for me is that my kids are teenagers and have a more “shy” personality. Mine get embarrassed if I show people their baby pictures let alone post it for the world to see! I’ve wanted to post about many things over the past year. Where Gracie was and where she is at today. The struggles that all 3 of my teenagers have faced over their high school years. The problem is, it’s not just my story to tell. It belongs to them too. I’ve talked to Gracie about how telling her story can help others, especially since she’s come so far. She shouldn’t be embarrassed by the things she’s done in her past, the choices she’s made or the struggles she’s faced because that has made her who she is today. And to us, she’s pretty incredible! She has agreed to share some things now and I will post them (with her permission of course) as often as I can. But for now, what are some things you would like to know? What are your biggest challenges and how can we help? Shoot me an email or comment below and we will do our best! I just wanted to let you know that we’re back. Hopefully with some inspiring info. that can help you and your family live a well balanced life!! Or at least somewhat balanced!
Waiting For the First Day of School
Every year our G goes through a bit of a rough time a week or two before school starts. This year we got her school supplies at the beginning of August and she thanked me because she had been worrying about that for a month (which would be the beginning of July) but she knew I would say that was way too soon to worry! lol I had know idea she was worrying for that long. And I guarantee you she has worried like this every year of her life! She just didn’t show it until a week or two before school. Or maybe she did show it. Looking back, our summers were a big struggle. She would have meltdowns ALL the time! I remember going camping in Ottawa over the July 1st weekend. I had to put her in the car and drive around while she screamed and kicked the windows so she wouldn’t disrupt the other campers trying to enjoy a relaxing time. We used to think it was the change in routine. And maybe it was. But now I think we can add in the unknown of the following school year for her. Not seeing her “people”, her teachers and peers everyday. For a child with adoption issues, this can be traumatizing in itself. People coming and going in her life.
This year has been one of huge success! Instead of crying and screaming and laughing, she has directed all of her anxieties into singing and playing her guitar. She makes up songs as she “plays” (she strums incredibly well so we’re going to start guitar lessons in the fall). Her songs are all about her starting school, who her EAs and teachers might be, and how she would like the year to go. Right now, she’s singing about how it will be ok. She had a good year last year and this year will be the same. She is singing whatever she needs to in order to feel better about it. The guitar is going non-stop, ALL DAY LONG. I wanted to take it away yesterday, but that is when I realized, she is directing her anxious fears in a healthy way. I can’t take that away from her. I would much prefer to hear her playing the guitar and singing, rather than screaming and laughing hysterically. And when I can’t take it anymore, I leave. I go for a walk or a drive. Some might think she should do something else in her day. Wonder how I can let her do this all day long. Well, for G, she needs to let all of this “out” before she gets to school, otherwise, it will all come out AT school. She told me she had her big cry yesterday too. She’s like a volcano ready to erupt and she will. I would just prefer she do it at home instead of at school where she would be embarrassed. A couple of days playing guitar in her room is the healthiest thing for her at this moment.
So whatever your child needs to do to prepare themselves for their new school year, especially if they are starting a new school such as high school, let them do it. In a safe and loving environment. Trust that they know what they need. If it’s still aggressive behaviour like it used to be for us, it will pass. You will get through it just like you did the last meltdown. And the one before that. And the one before that. You just need to do what you need to do to keep them safe.
You aren’t alone. Several families are going through similar situations as you are reading this.
So to you, I am sending a big hug, strength and love! You’ve got this!!
Fetal Alcohol Disorder
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is caused when a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy. It is a spectrum of disorders.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE), Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS), Alcohol Related Neurological Disorder (ARND), Static Encephalopathy Alcohol Exposed (SEAE), and Alcohol Related Birth Defects (ARBD). To go over each one would make this a very long blog post so check out the resources below.
The FASlink Fetal Alcohol Disorders Society is a busy looking site but has a lot of information if you would like to learn more.
My absolute favourite resource and the one workshop where I learned the most was from Jeff Noble. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, make sure you do!! You will not be disappointed! You can check out his website here. He has a Facebook page called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Forever w/ Jeff Noble. Jeff also has a couple of great books. They are the first things I would recommend you read. Check there out here!
If you are a birth mother, one thing to always remember is that you did not intentionally hurt your baby. Jeff Noble makes it very clear in the beginning of his workshops that no mother ever intentionally hurts their child. Don’t be afraid to seek help and speak to him. He is non-judgemental and very understanding.
G got a diagnosis of ARND. She will always need an external brain (support people) to help her throughout life. It’s not easy. She is so very aware of her surroundings and how a “typical” 14 year old behaves. What they are able to do and what she struggles with. It’s heartbreaking. But as she gets older we are coming to a common understanding of what she can do on her own and what she needs help with. She is appreciating the help more often than she used to. She doesn’t like it, but when she thinks of how life would be without our help, it frightens her.
Fetal Alcohol Syndromes are extremely hard. Hard for the child/adult diagnosed and hard for the family and those assisting them. There are success stories for those who have the support. Don’t give up and don’t be afraid to ask for help! You don’t have to do this on your own.
Here are a few other resources you can check out.
FASDCHILDWELFARE.CA Caregiver Curriculum has 6 Modules from the effects of the brain, living with FASD, caregiver self-care to symptoms and working with professionals.
The Government of Canada has many links to other supports in our country. Check them out here.
*For all of you caregivers out there, you will need some respite. That break that allows you to recharge your batteries.
Here is a list of Respite Services in Simcoe County.
Click here for the link of respite services located throughout Canada.
Our Ontario Government website explains how you can qualify and apply for respite services and who to call.
If you need anything else, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember you aren’t alone!!
The Importance of Acknowledging Adoption
We adopted our GG when she was a year and a half. We didn’t know if she would walk or talk. Fortunately she doesn’t stop doing either one! For years, we learned all we could about autism and immersed her and ourselves into that world. She had so many physical, emotional and medical needs when she was younger, I have to admit, adoption stuff got put on the back burner. We had read all we could before she came to us but once she was here…nada. The year she turned 8 years old we were at our wits end. My husband and I didn’t get any sleep for about 8 months. In the past, if one of us were too exhausted, the other one was full of energy ready to take over. Not the summer she turned 8! We were both sleep deprived, frustrated and had lost our patience. Gracie was screaming every night and would give us one look and turn around and go back to sleep once we went to her room to check on her. She was our alarm clock every morning once we did finally fall asleep. She was waking up her brother and sister most nights too because she was so loud! We couldn’t figure out what was going on. She also had to be with us All. The. Time. One day I was going to get something out of our van. I ran out without announcing it to anyone because I was just going to be a few seconds. As soon as I ran out the door, I heard GG yelling out her window! “Don’t leave me! Come back! Don’t leave!” All of a sudden, it all made sense! She was worried we were going to leave her. That is when the adoption stuff came more in to play. I came inside, held her and we talked about how we were never going to leave her. We spoke about our forever family. We also realized that every night when she would scream until we went in her room, she was just making sure we were still there.
So, we role played. If she wanted to make sure mom and dad were still there, she could get out of bed, tiptoe to our room and peek inside, then go right back to sleep. She’s done it every night since! That lasted a few years and now she doesn’t need to check on us anymore. Most of the time.
If your child is adopted AND has special needs, don’t forget the trauma they have gone through. Even if your child was in a loving foster home or came directly to you from birth. Losing the sounds and feeling of their birth mom’s heartbeat that they’ve only known for 10 months is traumatic.
For some tips and resources on adoption, please click here.
Adoption Tips & Resources
Here are a few tips and resources:
When you first meet your baby/child give them some pictures and a blanket that smells like your family to take home with her. (We had visits first before she was permanently with us).
Keep his/her schedule the same for at least a year. For example, snack, bath, brush teeth, story & snuggles, bed. The same order every time! And only you and your husband/wife take care of all of her needs for that time. I know grandparents, aunts and uncles may want to help out, but this is the critical year for you to bond with her.
Make a Lifebook together! This photo book starts from the day he/she was born. Not when they first came to be a part of your family! Their story starts from birth. Check out this website & book written by Beth O’Malley.
Visit her foster family a few weeks after she’s settled in. That way she can see that it was a decision that everyone made together, and that the foster family is still alive and well.
If she is a little older but still drinking a bottle, let her have it a little while longer. You want to keep things as consistent as possible.
Be open about it. We tell GG all the time that she must have gotten her beautiful eyes from her birth mom or dad. Or we talk about her birth (the things we do know about it) and what it must have been like. We talk about how she is blessed with 3 moms – a birth mom, a foster mom and a forever mom. (And dad’s too). That’s a lot of people who love her. We write letters to her birth mom when she wants to. There are no secrets. (We do however keep any details she isn’t old enough to understand yet).We talk a lot about how blessed we are to have her in our lives.
Here are some good books to read:
These are a few of the books that I still remember. It has been a while since I’ve read anything on Adoption and I’m sure there are many more that I’ve forgotten and have never read. A search in amazon will give you a lot of options to choose from but also check out Parent Books! They have every book on every topic of parenting. They are a store based out of Toronto but you can purchase their books online.
If you have any other questions or concerns, feel free to send me an email!