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Archive for January, 2014

Being a Mom is difficult, even in the BEST of situations!

I see my friends struggle with motherhood all the time.

Sometimes I can laugh and agree with them. Sometimes I empathize and feel their pain. Sometimes I bite my tongue and don’t let my opinion or disagreement be know, and sometimes I actually learn something.

Sometimes I learn from myself.

I became a mom at the tender age of 20.  Still merely a baby myself, I had so much to learn.  I tried my hardest to be a good mom, I never neglected her or abused her. I actually OVER doted on her and spoiled her in my effort to have her love me more than her (mostly absent) father.  I do look back and see glaring mistakes I made with her along the way…. mistakes that I wish I could undo or make right, but that’s all part of growing up, right?

My daughter was showing signs of mental illness and gender identity problems even at age 6 and 7, long before it was “cool” to be gay or “accepted” to be Bipolar.  I worked hard to get her help and counseling, but there was little know then about these issues.  Abandonment by her dad at age 12 did little to help the state of her mind.

I myself struggled with panic disorder and depression, anxiety and PTSD, making it difficult to function normally when I even did function.

Add to this already simmering pot of potential disaster, a screaming, broken, sick all the time,  baby boy… and you have a house full of exploding emotions.

I remember one night when Owen was about 2 months old, he had been crying for hours (again), nothing could calm him, he was in a terrible state.  I finally put him in his bouncy seat, in his crib and went to the bathroom to weep.  Marissa came in the bathroom and placed her hand on my shoulder, tears in her big brown eyes, and with all the courage a 10 year-old can muster, she simply said “Mom, I think it’s time to send him back… I think he’s broken”.  It is funny now, but at the time… I wondered if she was right?!?! What had I done to our little family?  I had no business being a single mom, AGAIN.  I saw the future, and it terrified me!

Of course, you can see I didn’t return him to the hospital, abandon him or give up… no, I actually started working harder to “fix” him.  Only to run into wall after wall of phoo phooing doctors, old fashioned parents, strange advice from anyone on the street that was brave enough to approach us, and more simply… isolation.

It’s funny how fast friends will run away from a screaming baby.  They run even faster from a screaming, violent, still breastfeeding 3 year old!  Nobody would babysit, nobody offered to play with him so I could sleep, or study, or even take a shower.  Owen was kicked out of 8, EIGHT, Amarillo daycares by the time he was 4 because of his behavior.  He cried spontaneously, was very anti-social, smart but bored, couldn’t talk, had daily meltdowns, and was sick all the time.   I became very dependent on Marissa, even at her only being 12,  so I could do some things alone.  She learned how to pacify him, she put aside her own problems and tried her best to be a grown up, poor baby, she did a wonderful job.  But Owen was still broken.

I almost got kicked out of school due to Owen being ill all the time, I don’t know how many times I was written up at work for missing due to my sick child, or my being late because of his morning rages.  I was falling apart in every area of life, so was Marissa… we were a complete and total mess.

I never saw the seizures.  I never knew what to look for,  I hate so bad to admit that now, but I was unaware, untrained.  I want to blame the many doctors I took him to, I feel that they should have seen these gelastic seizures, his missed milestones, something that surly pointed to his seizures. However, they didn’t… and neither did I.  I just continued doing all the things I knew to do… hide us all away like a dirty little secret.  He would become raging and violent in the grocery store, people would stare, so I would spank him… proving to these strangers that I was NOT going to let this spoiled little boy get his way! At home when he would rage I would spank him, shut him into his room, hold him down, throw him in a cold shower… all done in hopes he would stop screaming.  He was violent towards me at these times, coming at me with toys, hitting, biting.. such rage in those eyes! I felt surly he was possessed or mentally deranged, I knew I was raising the next mall shooter…I knew I was the worlds worst mom!  I just knew he hated me!  He never hated me, though, for any of these things, it was like he never remembered… now I see that he really didn’t.  He was seizing, not tantruming, Thank God he doesn’t remember… cause I sure do.. and my heart cracks in two every time I remember how I treated him.

One day, Owen was about 3 1/2, he had just gotten kicked out of his 8th daycare… I was at a complete loss, crying and screaming at him, completely frustrated… so I drove straight to Dr. Habersangs office, plopped Owen right on the counter and started screaming a the receptionist “Please!!! Help us!! I don’t know what to do with him! Something is WRONG with him and I want you to FIX HIM!! PLEASE!!!”  This was the day Pia Habersang diagnosed him with Aspergers High Spectrum and a complete over growth of yeast in his digestive tract, ears, throat and urinary tract.

I finally had something to work with, to research… and ultimately blame.  Aspergers.

It all seemed to fit, mostly.  The allergies, the tantrums, the cognitive development delays, his being so smart, but yet so different form the other children around his same age.  This HAD to be the answer!

The rages became fewer and further between with the addition of the new Gluten Free diet.  He still had trouble in school and with large groups of children, but he was starting to become a little boy, rather than the monster he was for his first 3 years.  Ages 4-7 he did fairly well, only raging about once a week, usually right before he started getting sick, or if he had an over stimulating day at school.  One of the things I started to notice by this time was that weather and time of day affected him.  Like an Alzheimer’s patient, he experienced “Sun Downers” almost daily.  I would research this, and it always said this was a characteristic of Neurological problems, not mental disorders like Autism or Aspergers.  So I dismissed that idea, Yup, never dreamed I saw a sign as far back as then, until last week.  (Kick, Kick, Kick)

Meanwhile, as Owen seemed to improve… Marissa started her decline.  Moody, violent, down right MEAN at times…. I suffered through the verbal abuse, hurtful glares and violent attacks just as I had with Owen all those years.. by hiding them away from everyone.  I would nonchalantly roll my eyes when asked about Marissa… usually playing it off as “you know teenage girls”… but I was screaming out for help in my head.  She would make up stories about me and tell people at school that I was abusing her or Owen. She accused me of playing favorites with Owen, she would get jealous of Owen and my time together. Owen and I started taking weekend road trips to just “get away” from the drama and the seething anger.  This only made matters worse. She became suicidal and regressed daily, crawling into herself… abandoned once again.

During her second trip to the Pavillion, I was crying to my mom on the telephone, I remember saying “I should never have been a mother! My son is broken, my daughter is a mess… I should just leave them now, before anymore damage can be done!”  I remember those words like they were yesterday.  The moment I said those words I realized I was at a precipice.  I had the power to change things, to change things for the better… or for the worse and just run away.  I was exhausted, frustrated, depressed and broken.  I could either start standing up for my children and get busy fixing them, or I might as well leave, because life could not go on like this any longer.  I could no longer be selfish and lazy and expect them to get well all on their own.

The very moment I decided to accept my silly little daughter for what she is, a mixed up, deep, beautiful introvert… I feel back in love with her.  The medicine helped, but she was my baby again, warts and all.  I may not agree with everything she says, does or believes… but I love her, and I will ALWAYS accept her for who she is.

As for my little son, I was prepared to live a life of mental problems with him.  I was prepared to be battered and broken at an old age, in hopes that he takes his rages out on me rather than a girlfriend, wife or friend.  I was prepared to not work outside the home for a very long time, live off of welfare in order to keep my son safe and hide him away from the cruel world outside.  I would joke that he would be a 40 year-old United grocery store sacker living in Momma’s basement.  But it hurt to think that was all we had for a future.

Now the future is here.  A possible new diagnosis, a possible new way of living.  I am terrified but also excited for this future.  I see both the good and the bad side of this possible new diagnosis.  I worry that me concentrating so much on Owen again, will cause my daughter to slide back into old fears and feelings.  I worry that if Owen does ultimately have to have brain surgery to fix him, there might be complications.. he could be permanently blinded, a quadriplegic, suffer severe memory loss….

Yes, I still suffer from my own mental illnesses, anxiety and depression being the main ones at this time.  The loss of my mom weighs on me daily.  She had become my biggest advocate, my biggest supporter, my favorite cheerleader in the crusade to “fix Owen”… and even though I believe 100% that she is the one making all this happen.. I still would give my left leg and right arm for her to be here holding my hand and stroking my hair as I worry and wait.

I have made many, many mistakes as a mother over the past 19 years.  I have also done some very unusual, amazing and beautiful things for my children.  I admit.. I am jealous of my friends and their “normal” children, and their normal, everyday, problems…  but God chose to give me Marissa and Owen… and I cant  imagine a life with anyone else.  I will continue to work hard, to learn, grow and become a better mother.  I will advocate for their health and I will champion for their happiness.  Who knows, maybe someday I WILL be a real Mother of the Year!

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Shared from Facebook and from the blog Mommastry

10 Questions That May Save Your Relationship.

When I was a mama of three very tiny, very messy, very beautiful rug rats, we had DAYS THAT WENT ON FOR LIFETIMES. Craig left at 6:00 a.m. every morning and as I watched his showered, ironed self leave the house I felt incredibly blessed and thrilled to have so much time alone with my babies and incredibly terrified and bitter to have so much time alone with my babies. If you don’t believe that all of those feelings can exist at once — well, you’ve never been a parent to many tiny, messy, beautiful rug rats.

When Craig returned each day at 6:00 p.m. (he actually returned at 5:50 but took a STUNNINGLY LONG TIME TO GET THE MAIL) he’d walk through the door, smile and say — “So! How was your day?”

This question was like a spotlight pointed directly at the  chasm between his experience of a “DAY” and my experience of a “DAY.”  How was my day?

The question would linger in the air for a moment while I stared at Craig and the baby shoved her hand in my mouth like they do — while the oldest screamed MOMMY I NEED HELP POOING from the bathroom and the middle one cried in the corner because I NEVER EVER EVER let her drink the dishwasher detergent. NOT EVER EVEN ONCE, MOMMY!!! And I’d look down at my spaghetti-stained pajama top, unwashed hair, and gorgeous baby on my hip — and my eyes would wander around the room, pausing to notice the toys peppering the floor and the kids’ stunning new art on the fridge…

And I’d want to say:

How was my day? Today has been a lifetime. It was the best of times and the worst of times. There were moments when my heart was so full I thought I might explode, and there were other moments when my senses were under such intense assault that I was CERTAIN I’d explode. I was both lonely and absolutely desperate to be alone. I was saturated — just BOMBARDED with touch and then the second I put down this baby I yearned to smell her sweet skin again. I was simultaneously bored out of my skull and completely overwhelmed with so much to do. Today was too much and not enough. It was loud and silent. It was brutal and beautiful. I was at my very best today and then, just a moment later, at my very worst. At 3:30 today I decided that we should adopt four more children, and then at 3:35 I decided that we should give up the kids we already have for adoption. Husband — when your day is completely and totally dependent upon the moods and needs and schedules of tiny, messy, beautiful rug rats your day is ALL OF THE THINGS and NONE OF THE THINGS, sometimes within the same three minute period. But I’m not complaining. This is not a complaint, so don’t try to FIX IT. I wouldn’t have my day Any.Other.Way. I’m just saying — it’s a hell of a hard thing to explain — an entire day with lots of babies.

But I’d be too tired to say all of that. So I’d just cry, or yell, or smile and say “fine,” and then hand the baby over and run to Target to wander aisles aimlessly, because that’s all I ever really wanted. But I’d be a little sad because love is about really being seen and known and I wasn’t being seen or known then. Everything was really hard to explain. It made me lonely.

So we went went to therapy, like we do.

Through therapy, we learned to ask each other better questions. We learned that if we really want to know our people, if we really care to know them — we need to ask them better questions and then really listen to their answers. We need to ask questions that carry along with them this message: “I’m not just checking the box here. I really care what you have to say and how you feel. I really want to know you.” If we don’t want throwaway answers, we can’t ask throwaway questions. A caring question is a key that will unlock a room inside the person you love.

So Craig and I don’t ask “How was your day?” anymore.  After a few years of practicing increasingly intimate question asking, now we find ourselves asking each other questions like these:

When did you feel loved today?

When did you feel lonely?

What did I do today that made you feel appreciated?

What did I say that made you feel unnoticed?

What can I do to help you right now?

 

I know. WEEEEEIRRD at first. But not after a while. Not any weirder than asking the same damn empty questions you’ve always asked that elicit the same damn empty answers you’ve always gotten.

And so now when our kids get home from school, we don’t say: “How was your day?” Because they don’t know. Their day was lots of things.

Instead we ask:

How did you feel during your spelling test?

What did you say to the new girl when you all went out to recess?

Did you feel lonely at all today?

Were there any times you felt proud of yourself today?

 

And I never ask my friends: “How are you?” Because they don’t know either.

Instead I ask:

How is your mom’s chemo going?

How’d that conference with Ben’s teacher turn out?

What’s going really well with work right now?

 

Questions are like gifts — it’s the thought behind them that the receiver really FEELS. We have to know the receiver to give the right gift and to ask the right question. Generic gifts and questions are all right, but personal gifts and questions feel better. Love is specific, I think. It’s an art. The more attention and time you give to your questions, the more beautiful the answers become.

Life is a conversation. Make it a good one.

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There is, it turns out, a danger in falling in love with your previous chapter.  The subsequent chapter, not yet written, is jealous and resists creation.

Food for thought my friends… Happy New Year!

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