A Whiney Self Indulgent Puke Post

It’s been a suckass week beginning with six hours of violent vomiting Sunday, rising to a mid-week farewell to my Sailor Boy, and culminating with Little Guy’s fist in my stomach Friday afternoon.

My illness triggered the avalanche, my slow recovery and Sailor Boy and his precious Love’s departure AGAIN, kept the boulders tumbling. My adopted kids do not cope well with me being anything short of vivacious. For them, any show of weakness is a warning that I may just disappear completely. The slide into their primal brains where they know only flight or fight is quick and easy and I wasn’t able to throw out any rescue lines from my nauseated puddle on the bathroom floor.

Little Guy has been aggressive and uncooperative at school and Little Sister has been honing her thievery and demolition skills while not sleeping EVER and resultingly becoming increasingly irritable. Throw in lingering nausea, malaise, and a teething baby and welcome to my week. Did I mention that it sucked ass?

I thought things peaked the morning Little Sister decided to chew up her fish oil capsule and spit it all over me–nothing like the smell of fish oil mixed with someone else’s saliva  in your hair to soothe an upset stomach–herself, and the kitchen then throw a fit in an effort to avoid going to school and facing the music for getting caught stealing the day before.

I was wrong.

Earlier this week, Little Guy had his Nintendo DS privileges revoked for being aggressive at school. He was told he could earn it back with three days of good behavior. The third day came and he reported all was well. In fact, his teacher had taken the time to write “Great Day” on his behavior log. I returned the DS, went to check the log and the festivities began.

Turns out he had failed to mention a physical altercation with a classmate the day before. I confiscated the DS and he attacked. He came at me with closed fists and seething rage. He screamed for half an hour. I haven’t seen him act like this in almost two years. It shook me. It hurt my feelings and left me wallowing in self pity.

It’s dark in this place at times, but I’m not supposed to talk about that. At a recent training with our Foster care agency, I was asked to comment on working with children diagnosed under the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, but was quickly shut down when I mentioned the static nature of these kids’ issues and the need to change the environment rather than trying to change the child (because in most cases of FASD it is not possible.) That doesn’t fit into the sugary sweet rescue model and heaven knows we wouldn’t want to frighten the new families with, well, the truth.

I’ve attended trainings focused on the need for respite and assistance to prevent secondary trauma and compassion fatigue to caregivers of special needs children.

Lovely sentiment, but these services do not exist.

I can’t even find an occasional babysitter for my infant foster daughter and in 2.5 years, I have never been able to find respite for my 8-year-old with FAS. My attempts always yield responses, but said responders slink back into the night when I begin to talk about the issues.

The neurologist is sympathetic and validates my woes as I let down my guard and weep in his office, sharing that his other parents of children with an FASD describe all the same behaviors, he pats my shoulder tells me that I’m doing a good job, and writes out prescriptions that we both know will likely do no good.

I subscribe to a Facebook support group for families parenting children with an FASD. Our stories are all the same. We are in chronic crises. We are exhausted. Our other children are suffering. Some of us are being physically abused by our children. There is no solution and outsiders often undermine our efforts. Just this week, my daughter had a teacher lie to cover for her after she stole school supplies from another teacher. The second teacher claimed to have given them to my daughter even though my daughter confessed to having stolen them. The teacher who was the victim of her theft failed to require my daughter to make amends with a service or chore, as I directed, for reasons I cannot explain. She hasn’t responded to my requests for a team meeting so that we can all revisit her IEP and make sure it’s being followed–as required by law.

It is a never ending battle on every front. Usually I’m a mighty warrior, often even enjoying the quest for victory, but this week when my internal forces came under attack, as well, I was defenseless and threw up the flag along with my guts.

I’ve cried. A. Lot. I’ve been unforgiving. I’ve been angry. I’ve confronted my family about their failings. I’ve asked “why me?” I’ve cursed every aspect of this process that has often left me lonely, afraid, powerless, and at the receiving end of blows from a child who I would give my eyes to save. I’ve been pissed off at their birth parents, their workers, a system that runs on deception, a lack of services, a lack of understanding, uneducated educators, inept practitioners, and the fucking rain. I allowed myself a long overdue meltdown.

I’m done now. My appetite returned on Friday relieving the weakness I had felt all week. By Saturday I was able to resume exercising. After a meltdown of his own, Little Guy was overcome with remorse and eager to regain my favor. I’ve never been able to resist his charms long and we are good again. We forgot to set the bedroom alarm last night, and Little Sister raided my purse in the night to which I responded unemotionally accepting this is a product of her disability and not a personal attack.

It stopped raining.

A Dark Day

All I want to do is slump over head in hands and weep–deep mournful heaving sobs from the depths of my soul. A cold front rolled in last night, the sky is grey, and my heart is hurting.

Last night as I tucked her in, Little Sister informed me that she wanted to leave our family and go back to the last family because they gave her candy filled Easter eggs. It’s that simple for her. To pick up and go to another home for the purpose of acquiring meaningless objects–never mind the fact that said family asked for her removal after four months because they recognized early what took me longer to see. I felt like I’d been kicked in the teeth. I just got up and walked out.

It had already been a bad day. She announced proudly at school pick-up, that she “only” got two behavior marks today. She’s made zero progress behaviorally at school and is in no way bothered by this. She has even informed me that she likes upsetting her teacher. We had some errands to run which gave her opportunity to flirt with strangers, wiggling her fingers in a little wave under her chin, tilting her head to the side while grinning doe-eyed and everyone who passed by. It’s a behavior that makes my blood boil and sickens her siblings.

She’s ever ready for departure. She packs emergency bags. She lines up her belongings for quick access in a sudden move. She shops for caregivers everywhere she goes. She purposely annoys others for the thrill of seeing their distress. She fancies herself the center of the universe and is disruptive or sullen when others don’t share this view. She demonstrates no attachment to our family. Most of the time, I cope without taking it personally. I’m not doing that so well lately.

I’m up to my chin in academic and behavioral assessments as we work to find a system that will help her reach her full potential. We waited six weeks to get in with a specialist for FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) evaluation only to have her wake with a fever on the morning of the appointment and have to reschedule. We now wait another six weeks. I’ve filled out a mountain of paperwork for school assessments and go in for a third round of meetings this week.

I recently attended a webinar on Attachment Disorder where I explained her history and asked the lecturer–an expert in the field whose name is escaping me at the moment–if it were realistic to expect my child to heal. His answer:

“No.”

At every turn I am informed there isn’t much hope for this child. We’ve already been “fired” by one therapist who said she wasn’t making any progress. We have another who is supportive of me, but offers a dismal prognosis. Add FASD to RAD and we’re looking a lifetime of management of a disconnected being whose behavior is often downright hurtful, and whose judgement, and moral compass are so skewed that they will certainly lead down dangerous paths. All the markers of a more successful outcome were missed. Early diagnosis and intervention are the key and even then the future is not bright. I am afraid. I am lost. I am hopeless. I am angry.

I’m angry at her birth mother who drank during pregnancy and failed to take parental responsibility. I am angry at the system that took her from her birth family only to toss her around from placement to placement for years systematically destroying her ability to form a normal human attachment. I am angry that despite the fact that an estimated 70 percent of kids who come into foster care are affected by Fetal Alcohol Exposure, there is no system for serving them–simply finding a knowledgeable practitioner is a battle and add the need to find one who accepts medicaid and you’ve got a full on war. I’m angry that it has been a never ending uphill climb. I’m angry that I can’t get any help. Although Post Adoption Services will help fund respite care, it is up to the family to find a caregiver and then ask said caregiver to submit to FBI criminal background checks. As you can imagine, people aren’t exactly lining up to help you when you treat them like criminals. I am angry that this effort to do good has done my family so much harm. I am angry with myself for not being stronger, kinder, better. I’m angry that I’m angry.

So I asked Little Sister this morning on the way to school as she chatted cheerfully with no awareness or concern that she had hurt me, “Since you don’t want to live with us, perhaps I should find a sitter for you when we go on vacation?” “I wouldn’t want you to be stuck in the car all that time with people you don’t want to be around.”

Her eyes grew wide, suddenly aware that she may have misplayed her hand and risked acquiring some “thing,” and she quickly responded, “Now I do want to live with you.”

Resilient Human Heart

I warned you early on that I would disappoint you….sorry for the long silence.

Life is at once full and fantastic tragic and terrifying and there is so much I want to talk about but I’m focusing tonight on my thoughts over the past 24 hours. But first let me back up a week or so.

Busy at work sewing one afternoon last week, Big Sister brought me the phone to tell me someone from the paper was calling. I assumed it was a sales call and was a little annoyed that she answered it and interrupted my work. Turns out it was a reporter who had been following my blog and wanted to interview me.

My first reaction was negative. I like to be in control of how my words are presented–accepting an interview would mean surrendering control. That scared me. Not because I feared malice on the part of the reporter but because the truth spills out whether I like it or not when I open my mouth. Without the benefit of a self edit, I would be raw and exposed. I’m still not completely comfortable with that vulnerability.

Despite my fears and desire to cancel the interview every minute before it happened David and I took the interview yesterday with a lovely young reporter who I liked instantly–she was warm and tactful and reminded me of another young lady who I adore. I am sure she will be more gracious in her story than I deserve and I am glad for having done it. You know that bravery bit I keep harping about. But a couple of her questions have been haunting me ever since.

Don’t remember the precise words, but in essence she asked about our worst experience.

In an instant every repressed horror of the past 9 years bubbled to the surface. I believe I sat silently for a long time. Maybe it wasn’t so long. I was sorting through the traumas trying to pick the worst one. Not exactly the perspective I have ever chosen to take or care to linger with too long.

There was the 4-year-old who was horrifically violent and physically harmed my daughter many times. She could rage for hours in a way that looked like what I can only imagine demonic possession must look like. We lived on constant guard against her attacks that came unexpectedly without provocation.It was unbearable.

It was the worst aggression that I’ve ever seen.

There was the baby boy who I held all night, night after night as he writhed and screamed and seemed to sweat out his own body weight as he withdrew from the meth his mother used while nursing him. I wore him in a sling around the clock for months, smelling his hair, feeling his heartbeat next to mine, falling in love. We were assured he would be ours to adopt.  From nowhere came the call that he would be going to a fictive kin placement–a family not related to him, but named by his mother.

It was the worst loss that I’ve ever known.

Perhaps the worst part of it was that it went unrecognized. No one I knew spoke a single word of condolence. Our family’s grief seemed invalid and I felt so very alone.

It was the worst sadness that I’ve ever felt.

To this day, my body won’t allow me to speak about it closing off my throat with a stinging pain when I try.

There was the 9-year-old boy who was part of a sibling group of 3 placed with us. He worked hard to improve his behavior, had a kind and gentle heart, and wanted so badly to stay with us. When his brother began acting out sexually, he had to be removed because they would not separate them. I still see his face and hear his pained words when we told him the news.

It was the worst guilt that I’ve ever experienced.

There was the little boy who within days of arrival experienced a psychic break and spent hours physically attacking me as I placed my body between him and the other children to protect them from his blows. I needed the assistance of my 6-foot sons to keep him from striking us with gardening toolS and a fire poker, and throwing everything he could get his hands on at the windows. When I frantically called my worker for help, I was told, “Just let him go.”

I called repeatedly as the raging continued and received no assistance or guidance. I finally resolved to call 911 and informed my agency. I was then told to take him to the nearest psychiatric hospital where he was admitted. I was left bruised and cut. When we refused to accept him back into our home upon discharge, my agency of many years grew cold and I was told I was having a “knee-jerk reaction.”

It was the worst insult that I’ve ever received.

And then there’s Little Sister. We are facing the cold reality that Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is likely a large part of the equation. It makes for a combination of diagnoses that has a bleak outlook. It calls for a change in expectations and acceptance of limitations. It strips away many of our hopes.

It is the worst disappointment I have ever experienced.

I’ll have to read the final story to find out how I answered this question because I had drifted off to ta dark place and was focused on climbing back into the light when I spoke– Climbing back to another answer to another question.

Why?

Why do you keep doing it? She asked. A legitimate question in the face of so much sorrow. Another question, I’m not sure whether I answered coherently or not because there is no easy answer.

But rather a half million really complicated ones–many of which I don’t know how to put into words. But because I really want to end on a positive note, I’ll try.

There is a call–an urge that doesn’t go away even when you will it to do so. Even when you run full speed in the opposite direction it catches you and assures you that it’s going to be okay. It pulls you back in in a way that makes perfect sense.

There are  small moments of connection. A quiet understanding that an impression has been made. A shift in direction. A change for good that you feel even if you never get to see.

There is faith that there is goodness in me and it needs to be shared. I believe it is an obligation to use our gifts for good, not a choice.

There is the belief that this is bigger than me, than my husband, than my family, than any of us in isolation and it only makes us better–even when we mess up royally.

There is the love of motherhood and smiling eyes, and belly laughs, and small hands, and first steps, and overcoming fears.

There is the desire to live fully, to try to be all that I might. To plow forward. To never surrender. To make my presence matter.

There is the resiliency of the human heart and its desire to know love.