Saturday, December 29, 2012

I awaken and realize I'm sitting on my ass in the middle of the road. I look to my left and see a tire. I try to look up and see what it's connected to....I see a old maroon coloured minivan. I try to see the driver but can't. The door closest to me is the drivers side door but it doesn't open. Why the hell isn't he getting out? I finally realize I must get off the road. I try to get up on my own and can't. I feel out of touch with my body. It all hurts. I sit and try to think of a way to get up. My brain doesn't work and I can't problem solve. I reach for the tire and get up to kneeling stance. The pain is immeasurable and my brain can't register where it's coming from. I fall back down again.

Finally the drivers door opens. A man emerges "oh my god I didn't see you!" Fuck you. I look around and see a group of Asian women staring. I beg in my head for them to come help me instead of this monster. They don't; eventually they start to walk.

The monster helps me up. I'm shaking but I don't think I'm crying. All I want to do is get to my car like I intended. I tell the monster "take me to my car...right there".

He's concerned about the broken bottle of wine I just bought "I will buy you new wine, what kind was it" he asks. Shut the fuck up; stop talking, stop talking, stop talking, I scream in my head. I think he can hear me, but he can't. I suddenly realize I'm limping. Pain isn't registering yet. I get to my car and sit in the front seat. The monster is still concerned about the wine so I tell him to just go buy whatever. I don't know what to do.

I find my phone and call my dad. I tell him I've been hit by a car and don't know what to do. He says to stay put he is coming. The firefighters show up, my dad is there. My dad is a source of comfort, I know he'll make sure what needs to be done is done. They say I need to go to the hospital especially for my knee. I look at my knee and its swollen and blue. I've never hurt my knee in my life but the pain still doesn't hurt like I expect it to.

 .... One month later...

I am afraid of driving, I have almost daily nightmares, I am constantly crying. The doctor has said I have a concussion...I have no idea what that is. Many years later I find out I have a mild traumatic brain injury. I'm irritable, say things without thinking them through, and can't remember things. I am in a fog.

I try to go back to work at the end of the month on modified duties. It was a disaster; thank god I knew enough not to have client contact. I'm in physiotherapy for my knee but do not understand the long term potential of harm for my knee. I feel useless especially after not being at work. I feel horrible for leaving my clients hanging without a social worker. Especially one youth who I swore I wouldn't leave without letting him know. I know that will always be on my soul - we had made quite a connection and I know he won't make a connection with a social worker after I left abruptly.

 .... 1 year later ....

I am now a mother to a 8 month old baby. She is my light; she is what keeps me going. I am still very depressed and isolated. My nightmares have stopped, I can drive again, I am anxious but not nearly as irritable. I focus all my attention on my daughter. I am a very caring attentive mother. It helps keep me busy. 

My knee hurts but I've done physio and can manage most times with day to day life activities.

 .... 5 years later ...

I am now a mother to two daughters, 3 & 4 years old. I am still on long term disability. I am depressed, but not as bad as I once was. I have services in place, homemakers to help clean and do laundry. I now have severe osteoarthritis in my knee and know I will have to have a total knee replacement in about 10 years.

I have a good lawyer who is handling my icbc case after my first lawyer fired me because he thought I tried to get hit by the car. However he keeps sending me for exams and tests with specialist - most of them in Vancouver. Thank god I have a supportive family who can watch the girls when I go to all those appointments. I have found out I have PTSD, anxiety, depression, mild traumatic brain injury, severe osteoarthritis, and a bunch of other stuff. Those are the ones that affect my lift the most. I've tried every treatment, had occupational therapy, had psychological therapy, done lots of spiritual work and done everything I know to do to conquer my barriers. Still I am a good mother and that makes me proud.

 ... 6 years later ...

 It's today, approaching 2013. Still off work but beginning to see hope. I've taken a certificate in family therapy despite being really scared to do so. I was afraid my memory would fail me or that I didn't have my basic skill set from my previous social work experience. But I do and it's increased my confidence and given me a ton of hope. I have been doing a bit of my own volunteer work, helping families involved with child protection. Helping them understand the system and their rights. I love this work and will continue doing it for free as long as I am able. I have some other plans for volunteer work so I can give back to the community in a really useful way. My icbc has settled and I feel free. I can move on from this trauma although I know it will always be there in some form.

I realize the gifts the accident has given me - my daughters, the ability to move closer to my family, spirituality I didn't have before, gratitude, and the chance to focus on what is really important to me. December 31 is beginning to turn into a day of thanksgiving for me instead a day of bad memories.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Totem animals

I thought I would write this post to explain my understanding or belief about totem animals.  The belief that all animals have wisdom or lessons to teach us, is very prominent in Aboriginal cultures. There is also the belief that we are inter-connected with the animal world and animals can communicate with us symbolically or even by their behaviors sometimes. Animals can help guide us in our most confusing times in this life.

To believe in totem animals, you need to have a belief that our world is one; meaning we are all energetically and spiritually connected. Plants, insects, fish, water, fire, animals, birds, air, soil - everything is one. We cannot live in this world without understanding we are all connected. 

That being said, you also must have the understanding that you are energetically tied to everything you interact with, be it a person, plant, body of water, or the spider in your house. Sounds flaky, I know. You need to understand that you have the ability to possess certain qualities these totems are showing you in order to better your life or your self.  That is the key.

I find that when I am struggling with an issue in life, animals or birds will appear that I suddenly start to notice more.  At the time of this writing, the peacock has fascinated me for the past month or so.  I have always thought the bird was pretty, but never really paid much attention to it.  However, at the beginning of the month, I went shopping in Pier 1 imports and saw an absolutely beautiful peacock statue. Since then I have been obsessed.  I have a peacock theme Christmas tree, complete with real peacock feathers.  I have been wearing a peacock necklace, I have been reading about the peacock. It suddenly resonated with me this must be a new totem for me.

When you realize your totem, and you can have several over your lifetime, you need to realize the qualities of the bird/animal in general.  Is it a timid animal or strong and brave?  Do they have any physical features that help them in their day to day lives? What is the general nature or personality of this animal?

Ok peacock.  All I know is that the male gets all arrogant and shows his feathers to the girls.  Maybe this means I need to be less arrogant, or does that mean I need to be more 'out there'?  In my current situation, being more out there is probably more appropriate.  I also thought about the feathers; how they look like they have eyes.  I thought this was telling me to be very aware, to use my eyes, both physically and intuitively.  Not necessarily looking for danger, but I am at a crossroads and I have the sense that there is a major opportunity coming for me soon that I need to be aware of.

I then read a little about the peacock. I had no clue peacocks ate snakes, including giant cobras! Also, in nature, they have a loud (rather annoying) call to alert the others of Tigers being in the area (remember peacocks are from India). So peacocks can be viewed of as protectors, in terms of eating those snakes and alerting everyone when a Tiger is around.  Strong, caring, and protecting qualities. I can see how I could use those qualities in my life at the moment.

So now that I have the knowledge that the peacock is my current totem, and what message I need to understand from it I need to honor the animal.  You do this by saying a short prayer each time you see one, going to feed the ones you see in captivity, or adorning your home with statues or pictures of them. Some people do this unintentionally- you look around their home and can tell the duck is a totem for them because the entire house has ducks everywhere!

Totems come and go, and some stay for life.  You will know when your totem is no longer effective to you, and that's ok.  Totems also sometimes come in ways you would never really think of.  I've had totems appear very often in dreams, where I often have amazing physical encounters with them, and then I wake up and very vividly remember the dream.  They can also appear in meditation, or just in your thoughts.  The point is that if an animal/bird/insect is making you think about them a lot, then likely you can learn something from how they interact in the world and  they wish to make this to connection with you.

What a wonderful gift!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

falling through the glass floor

I wake up with a horde of firemen and paramedics surrounding me.  I am on the floor of my parent's living room.  I feel puzzled, ambushed, and irritable.  I can't think straight, but I know I must have had a seizure.  The words "i've had a seizure' have not actually run through my mind at this point in time, however, the inexplicable memories associated with a seizure are all too present.

I am sitting up and someone tells me I've had a seizure.  That thought actually goes through my mind.  OK - so why are all these paramedics and firemen here?  Usually when I have had a seizure in the past, I'm just left to go through the process myself, with the comfort of family.  Luckily, I have not had a seizure in about 10 years, so this is not a common occurrence.

I look around and there's like 6 very good looking, young firemen staring at me, an older male paramedic and a woman paramedic. I hear my mom say something from behind me.  Something like "you have had a seizure Cassandra.  It was from all the stress from Dove last night".


My mom goes on to explain to the paramedics that I was at the hospital all night with Dove the previous night.

Sheer shock runs through my body and I turn around.  "What happened to Dove?  Is she ok? Where is she now?"

My mom is shocked I can't remember the events of the previous night. She asks if I remember taking Dove to the hospital for her medication.  No I do not. I remember Dove, I know who she is and what she is like, but I don't for the life of me know what happened in the previous 24 hours.  This is different for me - I've never had any sort of amnesia following a seizure in the past, and my mom looks at me shocked. My world has slowed down to a crawl, panicking, wondering if Dove was in a car accident, or worse.  I cannot imagine anything that would cause such great stress for me.

The fact is, I've never had a seizure while being a parent, and since it's been so long since I've had a seizure, I think it was worse.  It was like I had all this pent up energy that needed to be released, and finally it erupted.

The firemen and paramedics load me into the ambulance.  My dad comes with me, and I feel like a child.  I feel humiliated and inferior; for god's sake I can't even control my body. For two minutes (according to my dad) my body was completely out of my control, and I had no conscious awareness of what was going on. To make matters worse, I did not remember things immediately after.  It was not until we were almost at the hospital (at least 10 minutes later) that I began to remember the previous nights incidents.

It is scary not to know what is going on and not to have a memory. My body feels like it weighs 1000llbs, and I can barely move any muscle.  I have bitten my tongue so bad the pain is immeasurable.   To have to rely on other people for your well being is a lesson in trust to say the least. My head is in incredible pain.

Thank god the seizure happened while I was at my parents house.  Thank you to my guardian angel Catherine, for looking out for me.  A lot worse could have happened and I won't go into the 'what ifs' either.

The memories of the previous night come back; of which I will not get into too many details.  Basically Dove was given a much higher dose of her usual prescription, as the result of a pharmacist mistake. Dove & I spent all night in the ER because she needed to be under observation.  I didn't get much sleep.  Guess what is the number one trigger for my seizures?  Lack of sleep and stress.

It's been a few days since the seizure, and I feel incredible sadness.  It's a big loss for me - I am no longer 'seizure free'.  I have had a major grand mal, good ol fashioned, stereotypical seizure within the past week.  I used to be proud of my seizure free status because it showed that I not only was compliant with my medications, but I also avoided situations that triggered seizures for me.   It's like 'falling off the wagon' when you are an alcoholic.  You have got to start building up from ground zero.

Looking back over the years, there were many times I could have or should have had a seizure.  Times when I was not so careful maybe.  But this time, even though I had my medication with me at the hospital, and tried to sleep when I could, I still could not prevent myself from having a seizure.  This is something that scares me quite a bit.  My parents say it was unavoidable - that I shouldn't feel bad.  I do though.  It is no longer "cassandra vs epilepsy".  It is now "cassandra+2 daughters vs epilepsy".

I wonder what will happen in the future - what if one of my daughters requires hospitalization again?  Will I be able to physically stay with them in the hospital as I want?  My goal with Dove was to never leave her alone for a minute, and I managed to do so while we were in the hospital. I am proud of that.

For now I just feel very depressed.  It's as though a part of me has died. I expect to have good days and bad days, but this aspect of my "self" is gone, and it was one that I felt pretty good about.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

finding my needle...

Dating in 2012 is hard. it's even harder when you are a single mom who rarely gets the opportunity to socialize outside of the home.  There are days when i have enough energy to think i could possibly manage a romantic relationship. Those are the days I get lonely.  Yet there are other days when I just want a 'husband' to take out the garbage, pick up the girls from daycare, supplement my income, and fix my car. Those are my desperation days.

To determine whether it is a 'lonely' day or a 'desperate' day all depends on my mood and energy level.  Most times, I have to admit, it's a desperate day.  I just want to skip over the romance crap and get straight to it.  I need a man around here to boss around. 

Seeing as I don't work, and don't attend school, I am left with little options for man hunting.  My man hunting would have to be at kids' activities (very few single men there) or online.

Everyone tells me to 'go online' to find a partner. I've been 'online' for a long time. I dated one guy for a year 'from online'.  It certainly can work - there's lots of great stories of wonderful relationships being created as the result of an online dating site.

However, it's a very difficult process to endure.

I've been around a lot. I've actually been on a lot of dates and a lot of unsuccessful dates.  I'd like to categorize them for your reading pleasure, so you all know what I am up against. 

1.  the pedophile/just out of jail shark:  I've had men message me with photos of themselves standing in front of the local halfway house.  I went on a date with a guy who, as it turns out, is not allowed to see his children unsupervised due to "alleged" sexual abuse of his children.  Thanks for wasting my time.

2.  the scrub:  just like salt n pepa rapped about in the 90's, you don't want a scrub.  i've been successful in avoiding these, however, i've had to set some limits in what I will accept before any date. You MUST have a job, and preferably make the same amount of $ as I do.  You also must have a vehicle.

3. the sex addict:  they want 'friends' or 'nsa sex'.  More times than not, they are married or in a committed relationship already but are somehow 'unsatisfied'. sometimes they even tell you this in hopes you will feel sorry for them.

4. the aspie:  i hate to do this, but i must give these serious neurological disorder it's own date category.  Typically, they are intelligent, have funny quirks, appear very honest and loyal.  Usually have obsessions, collections (weird things that serve no use), and try to avoid physical contact.  I have heard of Aspies being sex fiends, but have yet to meet one. I've been in a short relationship with an undiagnosed Aspie, who he himself thought he might be Aspie. After providing him with entertainment, he drops you like a hot stone. There's a lot of Aspies online, and there's a reason for that.  They need to start or something. 

5. The momma lover:  these guys want either an older woman or someone very nurturing. danger.  danger especially for people like me.  that's all i will say.

6.  the borderline personality disorder whale: this guy eats you up whole.  Initially you are scared, your gut reaction knows to avoid such an inflated ego.  The BPD whale however, charms you with not only beauty (if he has any) but his loving caring nature.  Somehow his intelligence appeals to you, and he puts you up on a pedestal.  He claims you are 'unlike any woman he has ever met before'. Before long you are enmeshed.  Swallowed inside his huge empty pit, that is unable to love or to trust love.  BPD apparently originates from attachment disorder, so oftentimes they have had attachment injuries in childhood, or have been abused/neglected.   You feel sorry for them.  They do little things to make you like them.  You accept his shortcomings, being the caring person YOU are.  Then, all of a sudden, he realizes the chase is over. It's no longer fun.  Then it's time for you to go up the blow hole!

7. The fruitcake:  He tells you he is a chef, and it turns out he works at Chevron.  He also tells you he drives a 2010 model car, and it turns out its a $2500 2000 model car.  More short comings include the fact his mother will not let him travel alone, and he get very defensive if you ask if he lives alone (obviously that's something he's had to overcome).  When you go to the local restaurant for dinner, the waitresses all roll their eyes, yet he thinks he is quite welcomed.

I seriously could go on and on.  As of late, I've taken my mom's advice and joined some sites where you have to pay a monthly fee.  My mom said it 'might be more serious'.  Yes. So far, it means i'm basically paying $35/month to get laid if I really want to.  I  don't have a problem finding men to sleep with, men are easy that way. It's finding the needle in the haystack that is the problem. 

What I am finding, is that these men are on these sites for a reason.  You've got to be able to find out what their reason for being on the site is.  Most of the time, it's not congruent with the reasons I am on the site (single mom with no social life).  I need to find a magic genie and then I think I'd wish for NO desire to have a man around. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

a new chapter...

It's been awhile since I posted last, and lots has happened.  My (our) life is in a state of big changes now and it's a little mindblowing.

For one, my ICBC case settled in May.  It is a really strange feeling, and is not what I expected.  My claim has been opened for 6 years, and for the past 3 years, I have been aching for it to settle/close.  I just wanted to be done with it.  All those years were consumed with medical appointments, assessments, independant medical exams and feeling like I didn't have any personal privacy.  Well, I DIDN'T have any personal privacy.  I had no control over most of my life for fear of how it would affect my 'case'.  Not that I did anything wrong; I was hit by a car for crying out loud, but everyone knows how ICBC is.

So I get this settlement, and initially feel relief.  It wasn't what I expected it would be (money wise) and I don't believe any amount of money can equate to what I have been through for the past 6 years or what I will continue to endure as the result of this accident. However, now I can start thinking about what I want to do to change my future and actually work towards a goal again.

Someone said to me "you have this lump sum of money, you should be happy now".  That was really hurtful to me. I felt very misunderstood and felt that my experiences had not been heard.  It is meant to be there for the rest of my life, mainly because I cannot return to the job I used to do.  It has a lot of 'memories' attached to it.  It is just money and certainly does not take away the pain, sadness, grief, or anxiety I have or have overcome. 

In the course of two weeks, a whole whirlwind of crazy stuff happens. I even get dumped by my boyfriend, which did not come without it''s fair share of hurtful insults hurled at me. 

Yet I'm starting to understand what is happening.  I have the chance to grab the reins of my life once again and be the strong, independent person I used to be.  I have no excuses now, nothing can hold me back.  I may have been presented with brief oppourtunities before, but now I feel ready to take things on.

I have enrolled in a 2 yr Family systems therapy course, which will be a starting point for furthering my education. I hope to be able to do some little courses like this one (ie play therapy, art therapy) and then return to university for my Master of Social Work. I want to support children, youth, parents in a different aspect of 'child welfare', especially adoption. I also want to work with people which chronic illness/medical trauma using a holistic approach.  Now I have a plan, and have already taken steps to complete the plan. This is getting back to my old self. Determined, focused, striving to achieve goals. 

We are now on our first family vacation as a little family unit. It is exciting, and scary.  At first I didn't think I could do it alone, but now I've changed my mindset and have made it a challenge for myself.  If I can make it through this week, alone with my girls, no support, I think I can do anything :)

Wish me luck!

Friday, June 22, 2012

She goes from wanting to build a fort to a full blown rage within a minute.  All kids have tantrums, but not like this; this is like the incredible hulk.

All I can do is zone out and not get emotionally involved. I pray for her to be kept safe, and think quickly as to where the laptop is, where the ipad is, and if there's anything within her reach that is breakable. Dove looks at me and returns to her book quietly.

45 minutes later I start to go upstairs to go to the washroom. At this point Sedona has calmed and is now just tired.  I glance in the kitchen to see a bowl of cheerios thrown on the ground, milk and all.  During one brief calm period of her rage, I offered the cheerios as a distraction and in hopes that maybe she's just out of it due to hunger.  Obviously that didn't work.

Up the stairs, over the shoes she has thrown everywhere.  In her bedroom, her mattress is off her bed and standing up against her dresser.  She has thrown the little toys left in her room all over.  I haven't checked the other rooms.

How do you discipline that?  She comes to me crying telling me "i feel so bad, i am sorry mom".  I believe it. I believe it was 100% uncontrollable for her.  Her eyes glaze over, she begins to hit her head with her fists, she screams, yells, swears.  It is like a seizure; you look in her eyes and you can't see 'her'.  Sedona is long gone and this monster has taken over.  When I have a seizure, I can see/hear my surroundings but cannot control my body.  In a way this must be what Sedona experiences.  Her 'animal brain" aka limbic system takes over and she's out of control.

My little girl is never 'happy'.  She is is sad,scared, tired, mad, or GIDDY.  There is never a time when she is just a happy little girl.  I think I provide a good life for her, one that a lot of little girls never get to experience. Her home life is safe, stable, kid centered, and is full of people who love her.  I don't remember ever feeling so bad so often as a little girl.  I remember being happy, content, a few periods when I might have been upset or mad, but that's it.  I lived a pretty stable life as well, that's how I know how to provide a stable life for my girls.

The child psychiatrist, who apparently has 11 years experience, told me "there is no pill to parent".  ARE YOU SERIOUS?  Does he really think I want to have my child on ANY medication if she did not need it?  I've been on medication for my epilepsy for 30 years, it's caused long term side effects.  I needed it though.  Does this man seriously think I haven't tried everything in my power to try to avoid going to see him?  Are these rages normal?  No they are not.  Do I want a child who has emotional outbursts? No thanks. I'd prefer an easygoing child, thank you very much!

My daughter has a serious mental health illness amongst other special needs.  So many parents are struggling to navigate this system of professionals trying to get help, and instead of accepting that the child has problems, they blame the parent.  Kids can have mental illness, they need early interventions to succeed in life.  They don't need professionals to deny the parent the fact that the child has issues, so the cycle of low self esteem continues, so that when they are 15 years old, they are suicidal.  Stop blaming kids' behaviours on bad parenting, and look at the reality of what is physically going on for the child.  Especially if you are a doctor!

On baby bear turning 4 years old

My baby just turned four years old.   Just like I did for her older sister, I am going to list some little known facts about her.

1.  She still sleeps in a crib. I won't let her out quite yet as I am afraid of her wandering at night.
2. Dove is terrfied of cats.
3. Dove LOVES horses.
4. Dove is afraid of bears because one time we saw two bears in the field behind grandmas house.
5.  Dove is terrified of real bees, but has a bumblebee pillow she refuses to sleep without and she will not let it get washed.  It's quite stinky.
6. Dove loves to pretend to be a waitress.  She loves when I buy her a waitress pad from the dollar store so she can 'take orders' from everyone in the family.
7. Dove's number one person - "big man" aka grandpa.  I don't know where she came up with the name big man for grandpa, but she sure adores him.
8. Dove sleeps with at least 5 blankets on top of her at night.  And a stinky stuffed bumblebee
9. Doves faveourite food at dinner is salad.  She also really likes green peppers.
10. Dove is an 'old people' kid. She prefers to hang around old people.
11.  Dove loves electronics - i pads, phones, computers etc.
12. Dove LOVES looking out the windows when we are in the car - she is by far the best behaved child I have ever seen in a car.
13.  Dove loves motorcycles.
14.  Dove adores her big sister and does everything like her.
15.  Dove won't usually sing in public, but sings herself to sleep every night.
16. Dove loves national geographic magazines (anyone have any to give me).

Happy 4th Birthday baby bear. Mommy loves you so much!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Nature vs Nurture?

I had been so nervous, yet excited to meet my second daughter.  I had known that her birthmom was pregnant for a long time and had been asked to parent her as I was already parenting her birth sister Sedona and her birth mother could not.  I was not sure I could do it, but I made the commitment to Dove that I would at least try, and I made that commitment before she was even born.

I wondering what she looked like, and if she looked like Sedona. I was entering the same hospital, same nursery that I had spent so many hours in 16 months prior with Sedona. It was under much different circumstances however, because due to a lot of 'red tape', Dove was four weeks old when Sedona & I first got to meet her.

I sat in a chair directly across from a 'foster mom', who was not DOVE'S foster mom, but the birth mother's old foster mom.  She was an old witch, and it made me furious and uncomfortable at the same time.  It took a lot for me not to kick that old bat in the ass to be honest.  There was a bit of a history there though, one not intended for this post.

The nurse finally brought Dove in.  I was allowed to hold her finally (there were several rules about the visit) and all I can remember is seeing her HUGE cheeks. That's all you could see. Just cheeks.  Not the usual native baby pancake face cheeks.  They were monster cheeks.  And she didn't look a damn thing like Sedona.

Dove had very little hair, again, unlike Sedona.  She was also chubby and I remember being surprised because I expected a 'newborn' but in reality she was already 4 weeks old and big enough to wear 0-3 month old clothes already instead of 'newborn'.

The anticipation I had for Dove was unbelievable.  I had to wait much longer than I did with Sedona, praying that her birth mother would 'take it easy' for Dove's sake.  It was agonizing, and period from when Dove was actually born until the time I got to meet her was even worse.  Every day for months I looked at the newborn neutral coloured outfit I bought for her, feeling so much fear for what was going on for this little baby.  With Sedona, I only knew about her 3 weeks prior to her birth, and I met her at 2 hours old. That was a bit easier I think. Also having an emotional tie to the birth mother, and not being able to do ANYTHING to help her was difficult.  If you know anything about our family, you know that we are very loyal to each other, although a few of us have problems accepting that love and commitment.

Back to dear Dove.

The nurse puts her in my arms while saying "she is such a good baby, one of the best babies we have".

It was all such a wonderful moment.

Then Dove figured out she was in my arms, and within about five seconds started screaming.  Not whimpering, not a little cry.  She just looked up at me from beyond the big cheeks, and started screaming.

Remember, I've got the old witch of a foster mom staring right at me. And the nurse who just said she was so wonderful.

I try doing all the usual stuff - changing positions, patting her back, patting her bum, rocking a bit, talking to her, hushing her. Nothing works. I had to give her back to the nurse, because way back then, I refused to let any baby cry for longer than about 45 seconds I think.  I didn't want to hurt their attachment.

As soon as little Dove got back to the nurse, she was quiet.  I felt like crap.  And the visit was pretty much over after a few pictures.
Four years later:

Putting Sedona and Dove to bed and they are both melting down from exhaustion.  Dove starts to have a temper tantrum which is actually unusual for her.  Sedona, being my 'explosive child' is beginning to really meltdown, so I decide to deal with her first, as I can only soothe one at a time.

Then Sedona says: "mom why do you love me more than Dove?"

I ask her to repeat, and she says it again.  I almost break into tears.

I didn't expect to have this conversation so early on, but ok, I guess life isn't planned.

I explain to Sedona that I love both my girls the same amount.  I explain what love looks like, for example, my girls eating good food and having nice clothes is one way I show I love them (apart from the usual hugs, kisses etc).  Sedona claims to understand this.

Then I explain that everyone is different and both my girls are different.  My Sedona needs more hugs than Dove.  My Sedona cries a little more than my Dove.

All this time, I am trying to keep my own issues at bay.  I know that it appears I love Sedona more than Dove, but I don't.  Flashbacks of our first meeting came flooding back because I always felt like she 'hated' me from the moment she met me.  I used to worry that Dove and I had a disorganized attachment, meaning, we really didn't bond that well when she was an infant.  To be honest, having two babies 16 months apart as a single mom was very difficult.  I don't know how we all survived to be brutally honest.

However, I love Dove with all my heart.  I can identify with Dove more than I can identify with Sedona sometimes.  Dove is the 'easier' child to parent.  She has her issues, but it's nothing compared to Sedona.

Dove has always been one to not need a lot of cuddling, or hugs and that is how she is the extreme opposite of Sedona.  Dove is content to walk around the house writing on her 'waitress pad', taking pretend restaurant orders from everyone, meanwhile, Sedona needs to climb all over me and twist my hair for comfort. This used to worry me to no end; I used to feel a lot of guilt because it actually looked to me, and everyone else that I did show more signs of affection to Sedona than I do to Dove.

Dove needs me to show her love in a different way, and this is what has inspired me to write such a long post.  As a mother to two little girls who are not biologically related to me in any way, this is a unique struggle.  I can't say my girls are like me, or like their father, and I don't have the natural instinct that is there with most moms/babies.  As an adoptive parent, you have to figure out not only what parenting style works best for your child, but what AFFECTION style works best too.

Dove needs me to put her to bed in the same way every night so that she feels loved.  She needs me to take note of her special interests, such as wildlife documentaries, horses, keys, little items, and buy her them so she knows I'm taking an interest in her.  For Dove to feel loved, she needs me only give her a 5 second hug instead of a 10 second hug, and allow her to do most of the initiating of the physical contact.

Four years later, I finally understand what was going on the very first time I met Dove.  She just needed to be loved differently than my first, and I feel confident I did that without even being conscious of it.  Instincts?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Mean moms

I have been fortunate enough to be able to afford to put my daughters in many extracurricular activities since they were both infants.  Not many single moms can do this, nor a single mom to two.  They have done infant music, swimming lessons, ballet, yoga, and of course gymnastics.

Today, while watching Sedona in her 'competitive' gymnastics class (they are the youngest girls in the competitive stream of gymnastics, averaging in age at about 5 years old) I had to deal with 'sport moms'.  Wow. Let's give a history of my experience with the gymnastics mom's associated with Sedona's class.

Firstly, Sedona attends gymnastics for 2 hrs once per week.  That means it's not enough time to leave and go do something, so we moms have to sit and watch.  There is a nice viewing area that is outside the gym so as not to distract the gymnasts too much.

So, the group of us always go up and sit in a loosely formed group.  We've done this since September and there is about five of us.  It's been mainly nice 'hellos' and 'oh your kid looks so cute', then politely going back to the iphone distraction we all have.  In the past two months or so this dynamic has slowly changed.

Three of the moms have become 'friends'.  I found out today their kids all attend the same school, same dance school, and do soccer.  They have been having a few playdates etc.   I'm not like these moms.  I don't have a fancy house on the hill, I don't have a husband who works really hard so I can stay home, I don't have the energy to pack my kids a snack everywhere we go (much less a gluten/dye/meat free one).  I'm not skinny, blonde or have a blonde kid either.  And I don't care to.

However, one of these moms is genuinely quite nice and I like her quite a bit.  We talk as long as we can without the louder moms interrupting and going off one of their mom 'must talk' topics (usually running, lululemon etc). She forces the other moms to include me, kinda like highschool.

I try to be social, but this type of social is not my style.  I hate to say this, but I am an educated woman, and these woman tend to make my feminist fur stand on end.  I can't stand how dependent they are on their husbands, or how unhappy they are in their marriages and think the only thing they can do is be a mom.  They are like the mean girls of high school all over again, but reality has hit them hard in the ass and they don't quite get it yet.  It's not so nice to have the 'perfect' life sometimes, is it?

Anyways, they know very little about me, as I am a person that takes awhile to get to know.  Today, while watching our girls, one mom says to me "how come your little girl can't seem to do her flip on the vault - is she just fooling around?".  I was shocked to hear this.  It didn't seem like I knew this woman long enough for her to say ANYTHING but nice things about my daughter.

Maybe I'm a bit defensive, but it certainly didn't sit right with me. I've never said anything but good things about ALL of their kids (even when I didn't feel like it).  The 'nice' mom got instantly uncomfortable.  Time slowed down for me as I debated how to respond.  Do I ignore it? Do I get pissed and tell her off? Do I educate her on how ignorant her words are? Or do I just find a way to put her foot in her mouth?

Needless to say, I chose the last option.

In a calm, friendly voice I reply : "I adopted Sedona.  She has some learning disabilities which sometimes makes it hard for her to learn things.  It could be that she doesn't understand how to do the flip, or it could be like any other child and she is just afraid.  I don't think Sedona is fooling around, she is trying really hard to do it".


And I turn to wave to Sedona.

She smiles, tries to say something to me even though there is a glass window between us, and runs to get in line to do the vault again.  I must also note that she was 1 out of 5 girls NOT fooling around - she really wanted to learn the vault.

Then the mom says: "Oh, so how long have you had her?"

I reply "Since she was 2 hours old".

Then she asks "where is she from?".  This confused me a bit at the time, but now I realize she thought Sedona must be an internationally adopted child, probably from Haiti or Africa or something.  I reply simply "Vancouver".  End of conversation. I should have said the full reality - "the downtown eastside of Vancouver".

Being asked this question today resonated with me today.  I guess I've always struggled with when to (and if I need to) tell people my girls are adopted.  I mean, we go uptown and get stared at, and I get a bit defensive. I always assume people are thinking "look at that mother, she obviously had two kids by two different men in a very short period of time". So today, I decided to pony up, and admit my girls were adopted, and not in the same position as the other kids.  My girls come from disadvantage.  Their children come from advantage.

So what?  I've done a lot to try to change the outcome for these girls, and in many ways, it's good that no one could tell my daughters were adopted.  It means I've done a damn good job of caring and bonding with them. I used to think this was all that was needed, to help break the cycle that these girls come from.  Lately I'm not so sure.

I'm not sure my girls will grow up and graduate high school, no matter what I do.  I think it's more likely they won't.

I'm not sure my girls won't be teenage moms.  I think it's likely they will.

I'm not sure my girls will not fall into addiction.  Again, I think its likely they will.  

Most parents put their kids into extracurricular activities because they want to raise these 'well rounded' kids.  For me, I just want a kid that is going to be able to live life as 'normally' as possible. I am just hoping my daughters will find something that will boost their self esteem enough to help them get through life in this cold, self centered society.  And for that reason alone, I put up with the mean moms.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Missing piece

As a social worker I am always looking at the 'bigger picture'. I notice what services various non profit agencies offer, observe how clients interact with the service, and think about the outcome of the service.  I don't know why, it's kind of a hobby.  Like my geek boyfriend is really interested in music and the radio industry....

Anyways, the past 5 years have been a serious eye opener for me.  I left the 'field' of social work for medical reasons, but also during that time was able to become a parent at the same time.  We all know the girls are special needs.

I've been a very good advocate for my girls. My goal has always been to give them a great headstart in order to counter affect some of the effects of the prenatal exposure they had.  I've had them followed by professionals since birth, I've taken workshops, I've joined online communities for parent support, I've attended parent support groups in town.

What is missing for our kids?  Yes, special needs kids, whatever their disability is, need help. They might need physio,  OT, counselling, medications, 1:1 workers, etc.  Yes, our kids might have labels of autism, FASD, ADHD, ODD, Conduct, depression, or anxiety.

But what does that mean for the parent?

For me, it means I am always having to supervise my girls when they are home.  150%.  Never can I say "go play in your bedroom" and be relaxed.  I have to always be alert.  If something is too quiet, something bad is up.  Yes, normal kids do this, but 'our' kids do it 20 times worse.

For me it means humiliation when  my daughter cries, screams, kicks and yells at me when I pick her up from daycare.  And the daycare workers stare and state 'well she had a wonderful day HERE", as though you have such a bad home life.

For me it means keeping the child locks turned to on in the car because you never know when she is going to explode and possibly open the door as you drive.

For me it is feeling helpless when my daughter is raging, throwing things around, with glazed eyes.  How can I stop it?  I can I keep my OWN emotions under control?  What about the little sister and her needs when there's a 45 minute rage going on?

No professional talks about that.  No professional gives you practical help.  They might say "ok make sure your kid has dark curtains in her room so she can sleep better".  Do they come help put those curtains up because you are exhausted from your day to day life with your kids?  No. They want you to do visual they offer to make them up for you?  No.

Instead, as I was told last week, they say things like "well this is what it takes to parent a high needs child''.  Or as my key worker said "you seemed to exhausted and depressed for me to be able to work with you and the girls".

And when I hear of parents being told of the diagnosis' of their children, I always think of the grief for the PARENT involved in the diagnosis process.  There should be counselling offered for the PARENT when your child is diagnosed with a disability condition.  There never is and the 'supports' involved focus on helping the child only.

Just a rant. Maybe time for me to explore a new career path.