Tag Archives: fear

So I run

5 Aug

It’s been 6 months since I’ve written.

Probably even longer since I’ve written anything with 100% honesty in my heart and left it all out here on the page.

It’s been 8 months since I got divorced.

It’s been 1 hour since I decided to not let the fear of who might read what I’ve written stop me from being true to myself and writing what I need to, to cleanse my soul.

Running and writing do that for me.

I get a lot of flack from people for running and working out as much as I do. I run almost every day. Lift a couple of times a week and compete in triathlons.

“Why do you run? Why would you do triathlons? That’s so much work! You must like pain and suffering.”

Maybe I do.

I swim until the muscles in my shoulders and back ache. I ride my bike until my legs and butt burn so bad that I can’t crank the pedals one more turn. I run until the sweat drips from every inch of my skin.  I run until the pain in my heart becomes as numb as my legs.

I run because I don’t know what else to do with my feelings.

I run so that I can drown those feelings with sweat and let the unspoken words loop endlessly around in my brain until I’m too exhausted to speak them.

There are days when I feel like I’ve come so far in the past 8 years since Oli was born. I’ve come miles and miles from where I was 3 years ago.

But sometimes I just have a moment.

Or a day.

Or a week.

Or a month.

Sometimes it feels just like yesterday when I looked at the tiny baby sleeping in the cradle beside me and wondered if I could ever love her enough. If I would ever be enough for her.

I don’t have a problem looking at her now.

I don’t have an issue feeling for her. For accepting her and pushing her and dreaming for her and advocating for her and being her legs and her eyes and her voice and the interpreter between her and the rest of the world. I don’t mind teaching people about her and answering questions and embracing the differences and cherishing the moments.

I run into to trouble when I try to do all of these things while looking at me.

I run into to trouble when my mind merges with my heart and I’m left feeling less than and inadequately equipped to deal with all that comes with being a special needs mother.

So I run.

I run for her, with her, towards her.

And sometimes I run away from her.

I run away from the pain.

I run away from the fear of the future and the unknown.

I run away from the therapists and the doctors and the never-ending appointments.

I run away from the ARD meetings and IEP’s, missed goals, reports of plateaued progress, regression and missed milestones.

I run away from myself.

When I talk about her, when I talk about us, I still feel the need to justify everything. To throw my FINE’s at the world and scream from the top of my lungs WE ARE FINE! DON’T YOU KNOW HOW FINE WE ARE! NO! THOSE ARE NOT TEARS! I HAVE SOMETHING IN MY EYE!

Why do I do that?

What’s so wrong with being not fine?

I still haven’t figured that part out yet. I don’t know what’s wrong with talking about how I feel.

I still haven’t really figured out how to feel how I feel. If that makes any sense at all.

When Oli was born and the pain and despair simply became too much for me to bare, I turned all of my feelings off. It was so much easier to be numb than it was to face another day literally drowning in my fear.

Now 8 years later I’m trying to turn them back on.

It’s harder than you’d think.

So I run.

I run and I run and I run.

The tears melt into sweat and neither can be distinguished once they drip from my nose.

I’ve pounded miles and miles of trail with my little wet feelings littered behind me.

One day, I hope to be able to talk as much as I run.

Until that day…

I’ll run.

When the sun goes down and the rainbows disappear.

18 Jun

It’s almost time for Oli to start summer school. She goes for 4 hours a day, 4 days a week, for 5 weeks. She has gone to summer school every year since she began going to school at 3 years of age. ESY (extended school year) is for special needs kids who have shown regression over the Christmas break. If you regress, you go to summer school.

It’s a win, lose situation for us. It’s great that she gets to go because summer break is so long, I don’t want her losing any of her skills, and she really likes school. It gives her more of a structured day and a schedule, which she does well with. It’s bad because it means that she isn’t doing as well as some of the other kids. I guess it makes me a little sad because she NEEDS it. Although, her teachers have told me every year (the 3rd year now) that they are qualifying her based on the emergence of critical skills. Walking and talking. I’m not sure if these really were emerging at the time of her evaluation though.
When they qualified her for ESY this year she wasn’t talking again yet. She didn’t start that until a few weeks before school got out. They agreed on ESY sometime after Christmas. Her walking skills have improved over the last 3 years since she took her first steps. I wouldn’t classify this as emerging however. She’s stronger now, but her walking isn’t that much different than when she was 4 or 5. I think it’s mostly a balance problem. I’m hoping that one day her balance will get better. It has, little by little, year by year, but it’s a slow process.

All that being said…she gets to participate in summer school. With all the other kids who NEED to be there. Who cannot afford to have a regular summer vacation like all of the other kids. This is the part that is hard to swallow. She isn’t like the rest of the kids. She never will be. This is both wonderfully special and woefully heartbreaking.

I try to be positive and upbeat. I focus on what she can do, how far she has come, and the progress she’s made. I try to focus on all of her abilities and not her disabilities. But I would be a terrible, fake, fraud if I told you that I never get sad or mourn her struggles. If I told you that I never get angry at the injustice and unfairness of her multiple disabilities.

Here’s part of the real, honest truth. I get sad. I get sad a lot. Not every day. Not even every couple of days, but it happens. When she’s having an especially hard day and the meltdowns become epic, and the tears become frequent and she refuses to walk and she doesn’t speak a word, and it feels like the day will last forever, I remember exactly how much she is NOT like other children. I am faced with how different she is. I am reminded of what makes me a different kind of mother. I’m not very fond of those days because I REALLY want to be like you. Most days I try to pretend that I am. Most days I treat Oli like she is just like your child. And then we have those days where I just can’t pretend and I can’t ignore the fact that she’s not.

It’s during those days that it becomes hard to chronicle our story and write about our journey through our unique life. I mostly wrote about the positive and people always love reading about the warm fuzzy encounters we have. The pink cloud moments where everyone is smiling and life is full of rainbows and roses. Everyone knows though, this is not always the reality of our situation.

No ones reality looks like that all of the time. So sometimes I’ll write about the hard times, the sad emotions, the tears, and the fear…in the hopes of portraying an accurate account of her life. Of my life. I’ll write it knowing that people will worry about me, they will worry about her, they will question my strength, they will be afraid to offer words of comfort, they will offer too many, they will feel sorry for us, and they will be glad that they don’t have a special needs child. I will write it knowing that some people will not want to hear about this part, they will refuse to read about the struggles because life is easier when you don’t know about the difficulties of it all. Life is easier when you ignore the pain and only celebrate the happiness. I know. I was like that too. Some days…I still am. People may choose not to read this part, but hopefully… they will come back. Hopefully, people will continue to be inspired and hopeful about my daughter even when I describe my hard days. Even when I talk about my pain and disappointment.

Because this is our life. We live life on life’s terms through the good, the bad, the smiles, and the tears.

And I really wouldn’t want it any other way.

Living within the isolation of myself.

14 May

We moved from Pahrump, NV to Round Rock, TX on October 1, 2009.

By the time we moved I was exhausted. Mentally exhausted.

Living in that desolate island of fear, tears, sand and mountains had completely depleted me. I felt so alone. Although my mom only lived a few minutes away and my husband was with me…I was alone.

I had submerged myself so deeply in self-pity and self-hatred, blame, guilt, remorse, and those constant day dreams of what might have been, I was beyond reach of anyone else. I was alone in a dark, sad, tear-filled cocoon of my own making.

I couldn’t wait to move. I had pushed everyone away. I would talk with my friends, listen to stories about their children, the whole time thinking to myself “You don’t understand. You just don’t understand how hard this is for me.” They didn’t understand. Because I never told anyone. Moving seemed like the best solution at that point. I thought that if I changed my outside, if I changed my zip code, that it would change the way that I felt.

I had convinced myself that it was all because Oli didn’t have enough support. That it was because I didn’t have enough support. It was. But, it wasn’t. Oli did need more help with people experienced in blindness, but I had some support. I just couldn’t see it then.

I had met and made friends with other moms who had visually impaired kids. I had become good friends and remain friends with some of them. None of them were totally blind though. I had led myself to believe that because their kids weren’t totally blind, that they didn’t really understand what it was like.

I had made it US vs. THEM.

I had isolated myself even against the people who knew what it was like. I was looking for all of the differences in our lives rather than the similarities. I think some part of me enjoyed that feeling of isolation. Some part of me liked feeling sorry for myself and enjoyed believing that I was the only one in the world who felt the way that I did. That no one could possibly understand my struggles.

It just simply wasn’t true though.

LOTS of people knew how I felt.

If I just would have stopped for a second and looked outside myself, I would have seen that. I would have seen that I had people surrounding me that wanted to help me. They wanted to understand what I was going through. If I would have made myself available to them…if I would have made myself a little vulnerable…I would have seen that.

I didn’t.

I didn’t when we lived in Nevada and I didn’t when we first got to Texas.

My life as mom.

12 May

When my son Kekoa was born in 2005, I became a mother for the first time. When my daughter Oli was born in 2007, I became a completely different kind of mother. I became a special needs mother. When my last daughter Ginger was born in 2010, I became a different mother again. Each child has changed me, made me grow, and taught me new things. Each child has made me the mother that I am today, but not the mother that I will be tomorrow. As each year passes, as each child gets a little older, as I in turn get a little older (boo), I learn. I learn and become a little more comfortable with this messy, unpredictable, smelly, funny, weird, magical thing we call motherhood.

When my son was first born, I was a wreck. Seriously. I panicked over everything. I was terrified that someone was going to breathe on him the wrong way and give him the plague. I was scared that someone would hold him the wrong way and his neck would snap off or they would drop him on his head. I was afraid that formula would make him less smart or that the wrong baby food would give him some kind of weird disease or give him explosive diarrhea.

When he was 2 months old I seriously thought that he might have some kind of syndrome. I studied him too long one night and my lack of sleep and new mother brain absolutely convinced me that something was wrong with his face. Didn’t his nose look a little too flat on top? Weren’t his eyes set too close together? Was his head supposed to be that big? My husband laughed at me and certified me exhausted. I was sent to bed and he looked normal to me again in the morning.

I worried that he slept too much or didn’t sleep enough. I worried about his clothes. I wanted him to have the most adorable new clothes and I worried that while I worked, my husband would dress him in mismatching outfits and wrong colored socks. I worried about him sleeping on his back. I worried about him sleeping on his tummy. Could I cover him up at night or would he smother to death? Was this the right kind of bottle or would it give him gas? Was this swing certifiably safe or would it be recalled in a month? Was I doing it right? Was I doing it wrong? And his manual was…where? Where was his manual? I would think, “This kid should’ve come with directions.” Then I would remember that I’m not so good with directions and then I would worry about THAT! I worried about everything. I was ridiculous. I was NEW!

And then I had Oli. Oh my god. THEN I had Oli!

I still worried about everything, but those worries changed. I worried about all of those other things and more! I worried that she wouldn’t live to see her first birthday and that I wouldn’t get to watch her grow up. I worried that she wouldn’t grow or eat well enough to thrive. I worried that blindness would handicap her in such a way that she would never enjoy her life fully. I worried that she would never walk or talk. I worried that she would never have any friends. I worried that she would never have a boyfriend, go to the prom, or get married. I worried that she would never get to know the joys of raising her own children. I worried that if she did have children, they would be affected by the same eye condition and also be blind. I worried that blindness would not be her only disability. I worried that there would be more.

And then I had Ginger. For the love of all the crying in the world…and then I had Ginger. She cried so much and I was so stressed out about having three children ages 4 and under that the only things I ever worried about with her was whether or not she had been fed and if her diaper was clean. I didn’t have time to worry about anything else. I didn’t have the energy either. She rarely got new clothes and often times, she wore the same clothes that she had slept in the night before. If she wasn’t crying, we were good. She cried all the time. Sooooo…we were not good very often. I still didn’t really worry much with Ginger. Maybe I had worried myself out?

Many of the worries that I had with Kekoa and Oli were valid as a new mother and as a new special needs mother. Many of them were classified as ABSURD, but many of them still stalk my brain at night. It seems that when the darkness falls, some of those old fears silently creep back into my mind. They try to keep me awake, pretending that I can predict the future and the outcome of what life holds for us. Then I wake up in the morning. When I wake up I remember again that life is a journey and an adventure and I don’t always need to know the destination. I only need to be present for the ride.

Motherhood is about changing, adapting, and growing. Old dreams may be lost, but new dreams are acquired. Old thoughts and ideas are discarded and new ones are developed and perfected. Things we worried about before are acknowledged as silly. Other things we worried about before still linger.

The point is…every mother worries. Regardless if you have a child with special needs or not. It’s a requirement for getting your motherhood license. You must worry about the most insane, ridiculous, irrelevant, nonsense matters. And you must worry about the reality and the responsibility of raising good people. We are all just trying to raise good little people and make sure that they grow up into respectable, responsible, productive members of society.

All of us just want to love our children and sometimes we just want to survive the day.

Because some days…mother’s just need to survive the day.

But she might…

8 May
As soon as my tires hit the gravel and I pull into R.O.C.K where Oli rides her horse, she gets THIS look on her face. She knows exactly where we are and what is about to happen. Then I say, "Oli we're HERE!!! It's time to ride your horse!" And she starts frantically clapping and yelling. She knows. No one can tell me that she doesn't understand. Just look at her face. I KNOW she knows.

As soon as my tires hit the gravel and I pull into R.O.C.K where Oli rides her horse, she gets THIS look on her face. She knows exactly where we are and what is about to happen. Then I say, “Oli we’re HERE!!! It’s time to ride your horse!” And she starts frantically clapping and yelling. She knows. No one can tell me that she doesn’t understand. Just look at her face. I KNOW she knows.

I posted this picture on my facebook page today. I posted it to show an example of what one of Oli’s expressions look like. This is an expression of “I know what is happening and I’m going to sit really quietly for a second and then I’m going to get really excited because I love what we’re about to do”. She has LOTS of these looks.

Some people have told me throughout her life that because she has an intellectual disability, is delayed and has autism, she doesn’t understand. That she couldn’t possibly understand because she doesn’t speak and because her cognitive development is delayed. We know that she is missing some of her genes off of her 14th chromosome. We know that this has affected her development and her learning. We know because she has done everything later than everyone else. We know that. I know that.

I know that despite being told that she may never walk independently, eat independently, have anticipation of events, be aware of her surroundings, have a sense of humor, the ability to laugh and to love, be funny, be brave, show strength and determination, cry, be sad, be mad, get frustrated… she has. I know that she has proved those people wrong every single time. And I know that she DOES understand. She does. I know because I KNOW her. Sometimes I feel like I know her better than I know myself. For whatever reason, she just can’t tell me what she understands with words.

I know that I may NOT know exactly what she is capable of in the future, but that I will ALWAYS give her a chance.

I know that I will ALWAYS believe in her.

ALWAYS.

That’s my job as her mother.

To believe in her despite all the odds, the challenges, the setbacks, the regression, the frustration and tears. Despite text books that tell me what she will or won’t do. Despite well educated doctor’s opinions and the opinions of the rest of the world. I will believe in her. I will never expect her to do less than her very best and I will never accept the words “She will never…”.

Because she might.

Because she probably will.

And even if she doesn’t do something or say something, I will go to my grave believing that it is still possible.

Some may call that naïve or say that I’m in denial. I’m not. I know that there is always the possibility that she will never move out, go to college, or get married.

But she might…

I will never ever be able to look into her sweet face and not see the sky as the limit. I will never take anyone else’s opinion on what she will or won’t do as fact. Oli will have to prove it to me. And even then, I will still push her. I will push her to have confidence and believe in herself. To set goals and achieve them. I will push her to develop her own sense of identity and to be kind. To love other people and to be respectful. To be understanding and to be grateful for what she has. To live and to laugh and to never look back. To view past mistakes as learning opportunities and chances to grow. To greet each day with optimism, and with a smile on her face, and to act better than she feels. To know that every day will not be perfect, but that’s okay. I want to push her to do her best with what she has and to be proud of who she is. I want her to be prideful instead of pitiful. I never want the world to take pity on her and I never want her to feel like she deserves it when they do.
Because they will.

She may never be able to do these things.

But she might…

IN MY DREAMS, SHE FALLS OFF THE CLIFF

29 Apr

Have you ever had a dream that you wake from completely devastated, but so happy that you’ve awoken from your worst nightmare? A dream that sits way too close to reality for comfort?

I’ve had a few of them, but three of those dreams stand out profoundly. These are three that I will probably never forget. All of them involve my Oli.

The first one was the recurring dream that I told you about in the very first blog that I wrote for my story. The dream that I was going blind. You can read it HERE. I’ve never had that dream again since Oli was born.

The second dream/nightmare happened after Oli had her first big seizure and we almost lost her. I must have had some kind of post-traumatic stress. I dreamed that she died that afternoon.

A van pulled up to my childhood home with my daughter’s body lying inside it. I met the driver of the van at the end of the driveway. I already knew that she was gone. The driver dipped his head in the sun, casting a dark shadow across his sorrow filled eyes. Then he walked around to the back and opened the hatch. When he turned around again he had a little bundle wrapped in a brown blanket in his arms. I couldn’t see any part of her. Except for her feet. They were lying across his forearm. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from her feet. She was holding them in a certain sweet way, so delicate and petite, crossed at the ankles. He handed her to me and I carried her wrapped in the blanket over to the shade of a tree and laid her quiet body beneath it. And then I just sat there. I sat there staring at her beautiful little feet. My heart broke into a million little pieces. How could she be gone?

I woke up from that dream gasping for breath, feeling the happiness and life being squeezed right out of me. I ran to the other room and sat on Oli’s bed. I sat there and stared at her chest, rising and falling with life. I rubbed her feet beneath the blankets until they wiggled and pulled away from my hand. I sat with her until that image of her lifeless form left my mind. But, it hasn’t left it completely. I still see those little feet lying motionless in the grass. I still vividly remember that dream.

It terrifies me.

The third dream I had last night.

I had a dream that I wasn’t her mother. I was her nanny and I was moving. I was moving very very far away from her and I wasn’t going to be able to see her again. It was so strange because in my dream I was looking at Oli through someone else’s eyes. Not my own. I saw her as other people must see her. She wasn’t my child, but I felt fiercely protective of her and completely torn apart at the thought of not watching her grow up.

She was sitting in a chair as I was saying good bye. Her curly hair was blowing in a breeze coming in through an open window. Her lips quivered in sadness. Her little eyes were filled with tears. She knew I was leaving.

I said, “Oh Oli. How am I ever going to live without you? I don’t want to go away. I want to stay with you forever. How am I going to survive?”

She wrapped her arms around my neck and nuzzled her face into the crook of my collarbone. Just like always. And then we said good bye. I cried and sobbed and screamed her name.

“Oli! Oli! No! Please! I can’t leave her! Don’t make me leave her!” The anguish washed a red tide over my heart and wiped all happiness away.

And then I woke up.

I woke up and my Oli was still sleeping safely in her bed. I hadn’t been taken from her. I was still her mother.

I don’t know what these dreams mean? I don’t know if other moms have these types of nightmares? Are other special needs moms terrified of losing their children? Do we all notice a visible line between life and death and are distinctly aware of keeping our children walking on this side? Do we all hover and protect, trying to keep them from falling off the edge only to have them flail beyond our control off of the cliff in our dreams?
I’ve never had dreams like these that involved my other children. They’ve never died or been taken away from me.

With Oli… I have. I still do.

I’m probably just terrified of losing her. Sometimes her life seems so fragile compared to everyone else’s. She seems so much more breakable. I imagine a lifetime of loving her and laughing with her, but I know that there is no guarantee. There is no guarantee with anyone, but with her it just seems so much more real.

Sometimes I just can’t seem to help being petrified that I’m going to lose her. I don’t want to lose her.

Something That I Don’t Talk About

28 Mar

Aggghhh….Okay. This is the post that I didn’t really want to write. I didn’t want to write it because it makes me really sad. Which actually says a lot.

People have asked me to talk about what I felt like once I became pregnant again. What happened to make me decide to have another baby once I knew all that I knew about Oli.

I’ll start by telling you that it wasn’t an easy decision. Especially after we learned that Oli had a genetic deletion. It was something that could affect subsequent babies, although the likelihood was only 5%. 5% feels pretty huge once you already have an affected child. Any percentage above 0 feels like an enormously stupid roll of the genetic dice.

You want to know how I felt when I looked down at that little white stick and saw 2 pink lines appear?

I felt terrified. I felt scared and selfish and happy and overwhelmed.

I felt like I had probably just sentenced this tiny little miracle to a life of blindness. A life of doctors, therapies, and disabilities.

I didn’t have a whole lot of time to process learning that Oli’s condition was genetic. I found out about her OTX2 deletion and then found out I was pregnant just a few weeks later.

Many scenarios ran through my head once I knew that I was going to have another baby. One thought, which I really really HATE to talk about, was maybe I shouldn’t have her. Maybe I shouldn’t go through with this pregnancy.

I don’t like to talk about that thought because the idea of my Ginger not being a part of my life literally brings me to my knees with pain. It sends a stabbing knife of sorrow straight through my heart and makes it hard to breathe.

My baby girl. My little Ginger. I had seriously thought about not having her.

See no one really talks about this.

I was raised Catholic and abortion is something that you are never allowed to even mention let alone talk about. I never thought it would be something that I would ever consider. Because I never thought that I could do it. I always thought that if I got pregnant then I got pregnant and it was my responsibility to take care of that baby. Abortion was never an option.

Well…right at that moment…it became an option.

My views on abortion have always been more pro choice. Mostly because I don’t believe that I ever have a right to tell YOU how to live your life. That goes for my beliefs on everything. Religion, marriage, abortion… You name it. I don’t feel like I have a right to tell you what’s right for you. I’ve never lived your life, had your experiences, dealt with what you have. I never would feel comfortable telling you what to do. I don’t believe that anyone really should. Just because something may or may not be right for me does not mean that it may or may not be right for you.

So anyway…I struggled with what the right thing to do for me, my family, and my unborn baby might be. I did a lot of crying and a lot of praying and pleading that nothing was wrong with this baby. Eventually one night I was lying on the couch late at night. I remember lying there thinking, I have to make a decision before it’s too late. I tried to picture myself going into a doctor’s office and having the procedure. I tried to feel what it would be like to not know that anything was wrong, but choose to play it safe and not have the baby. How did it make me feel? Could I live with myself terminating a baby if I didn’t know that she was blind? What if she was blind? Was it really that bad? Even if she had other disabilities or something else happened, was it really better to never have been?

The answer I came up with that night was…no. No. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t end a life based on the fact that it might be hard for her. I couldn’t not have her because it might be hard on me. It was going to be scary, but I just couldn’t terminate the pregnancy. I decided that it would be way worse to NOT give this child a chance at life, then to just have the baby born blind. I chose blindness as a possibility for this child over death.

I’ve never made a more significant decision in my life.

I went to the doctor and then called the Albert Einstein Medical Center to see if they could do genetic testing on the baby before she was born to find out if she was missing her OTX2 gene.

It was scary. I was scared the entire 9 months that I was pregnant. Even after the amniocentesis came back and said that she was fine…I was scared. Because what if something else was wrong? What if they missed something? They missed noticing that Oli’s eyes were small before she was born, what if they missed noticing something with this baby?

It was scary because I continued to wonder if I had made the right decision.

Another baby was going to take time away from Oli. She needed so much more time because of therapy and doctor appointments and she just needed more help with everything. It was going to take time away from Kekoa. He had already had so much of his time stolen away by Oli’s disability. Another baby was going to take more. And the baby. What about the baby? Would I have enough time and energy or even enough emotion left for this baby? Would this baby get enough of what she needed?

Was this the right thing to do?

Could I do it?

I had all of those questions throughout my pregnancy.

And then Ginger was born.

I laid my eyes on the most beautiful baby girl. This little baby looked at me with eyes that said “Just love me. I don’t need anything else. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just love me.”

And I knew that I had made the right decision.

It was the right decision for me. I look back and think about what if things had been different? What if something had been wrong? Now I know that it wouldn’t have mattered.

It would have been a different road, but it wouldn’t have mattered. She would have been perfect anyway.

Because Oli is too.

Oli has taught me that life doesn’t always lead me down the nice, friendly, easy path. It’s not always sunny and clear. And that in my life I have received gifts that I never would have looked at as gifts. But that’s exactly what they are. If my last child had been born with a disability then she would have had a disability. She would have been different. And that’s okay. Different is just different. No more, no less.

I would have gotten through it.

Just like we all do when life hands us something that we are not expecting. We hate it, are angry with it and scream at it. We deny it and argue with it. And then we get through it.

And we move on.

Because really?

What else can you do?

One Mother’s Expectations

14 Mar

“I thought that one day I would just wake up and have all of the answers. What I have found is that the answers I get, rarely have anything to do with the questions I ask.”

It was a warm day in June 2009 and I was sitting on our cream colored leather couch in the living room. I’m sure there was a cartoon on the TV that I had forgotten to turn off when my kids laid down for a nap. I was alone, which for some reason, I usually am when I get bad news. My husband was at work.

The phone rang and I glanced down at the caller ID.

Unknown.

I normally don’t answer calls labeled unknown and let them go to voicemail, but on that particular afternoon I answered it.

Unknown.

That is where I was sitting in the moments before I took that call. I didn’t know what Oli “had”. I didn’t know why. I didn’t have any answers. Why had her eyes not developed in utero? What was wrong with her? Why was she so different from other children her age? Why was she 2 years old and not walking or talking yet?

At that point in her life, I needed to know why.

I thought that if I knew why, I could help her better. I thought that if I knew why, then I wouldn’t be so angry with the world. If I finally got an explanation as to what had happened, then I could come to terms with the whole mess that had become my emotional prison.

I found out why, on a warm day in June when my phone rang and I answered a call from the Albert Einstein Medical Center. They were calling to tell me the results of Oli’s genetic testing.

I found out why it happened, but I did not find out why it happened to her. Which is really what I wanted to know all along.

Why did it happen to my family? Why us? Why did fate choose my sweet, innocent, beautiful little girl to bestow such a big obstacle on. A big difference. A hardship.

Why?

You see, for a long time I thought that this was some kind of punishment. I couldn’t understand why this happened to me. To my baby. I was a good person. I never hurt anyone intentionally. I had a good life. A happy life. I grew up with a great family. I had friends, went to college, had a job. I was grateful for my life and was just going along trying to be the best person that I could be.

And then…the ground fell out from beneath my feet.

I thought it was all happening to me and my family. It was my son and my husband who were affected by this.


I
took on ALL of the responsibility of the health and happiness of my little family because I was the wife. I was the mother. I was supposed to protect them, keep them safe and ensure their happiness.

And then Oli was born.

She was born and I wasn’t sure that I could do any of it anymore.

If I could not stop, prevent, change, or fix what had happened to this little person that I had brought into the world, then I could not stop, prevent, change, or fix what happened to any of them. That realization hit me like a 2 ton steel truck, right smack dab in the middle of my forehead.

When I realized that…I began to react and operate by my fear.

Fear of this big, scary world that had walked into my hospital room on another warm day in May, 2 years previously. That unknown world walked right in, handed me a big pile of crap called unmet expectations and promptly walked right back out of that room.

Oli wasn’t what I had expected. She didn’t fit into my box. The box that was supposed to hold my perfect little life. No matter how hard I tried to cram that square peg into that round hole, she would. not. fit.

When I answered that unknown phone call, I still had expectations. I expected to hear that she had SOX2. Something that lots of other kids had. This particular gene deletion is responsible for the majority of microphthalmia and anophthalmia.

You know what I heard instead?

I heard that she did NOT have SOX2. I heard that she had something else. Something that was not very well known or very common.

She had OTX2.

A gene called OTX2 was deleted from her 14th chromosome and caused her eyes not to develop.

They didn’t know a whole lot about OTX2. When they diagnosed Oli she was one of only 15 kids in the world known to have this deletion.

I expected to finally have an answer, a plan. I expected to find out her diagnosis and then hear, “She will do this at this time. Talk at this age. Walk at this age. Have this ailment, but never suffer from this one. She will go to college. She will get married. She will wear a pink dress to the prom.”

These are the things I wanted to hear when I got that phone call. I thought that I would finally have answers. Real answers. A plan. When I got the diagnosis, I expected a map for the rest of her life to be laid out during that phone call.

What I got instead was….we don’t know?

We don’t know what her future will look like. We don’t know when she will walk or talk. Or if she will at all. We don’t know if she will go to college, ever have a boyfriend or get married. We don’t know if she will ever even be able to live on her own. We just don’t know.

My expectations, the ones that I had been relying on this whole time, were shattered like a mirror when I got that diagnosis. Her future, reflected in that piece of glass that I had been focusing on for 2 years, came crashing down around my feet.

Now I had a diagnosis, but I was no closer to any answers. No one could tell me how to fix it for her or what I needed to do as her mother, to make her fit into this life. Because no one knew what this life would look like for Oli.

I hung up the phone and gazed out of the window towards the mountains in the distance. Tears freely rolled down my cheeks and I made no attempt to wipe them away.

Now I knew what had happened, but I realized right at that moment, that I would never know why.

The Night Was My Enemy

1 Mar

“Sometimes the hardest part isn’t letting go but rather learning to start over.”

― Nicole Sobon, Program 13

I called Oli’s doctor and told her our decision to try Melatonin. She suggested that we start at 3mg and see if it helps. The first night I gave it to her I was so hopeful that she would begin a normal sleep pattern. I crushed up the pill and mixed it in some applesauce at bedtime. As Oli closed her eyes I whispered a little made up song in her ear.

“Sleep sweet Oli. Sleep tonight. Sleep sweet Oli until it’s light.”

It worked!! For the first time in months she slept through the night. I would like to credit my little song and the mystical powers of my voice, but there was a reason I was whispering it to her and not singing it.

Melatonin was now my best friend.

It was wonderful seeing what regular sleep did for her. She had more energy, ate better, and put on some weight. She finally weighed 20lbs at 20 months old.

It helped me tremendously too.

Before we tried Melatonin I would occasionally have anxiety attacks when darkness fell. I worried every night about how many hours of sleep I would get. Was I going to be able to function at work the next day? If I was staying at home the following day I worried that my temper would be short and that I would be too exhausted to do anything productive with the kids.

The night was my enemy. It held all of my fears, inadequacies, demons, unfulfilled dreams and unanswered questions. It made me feel weak and useless. I would hold my playful baby in my arms at 2am and silently cry so she couldn’t hear my anguish. I would turn my head so my tears wouldn’t fall on her face. And I would pray in the dark. I prayed and prayed for peace. I prayed for comfort and then I would wrap her up in her blanket and hold her tightly to my heart. Oli’s link to my heart and the complete love I felt for her was the only tether I had binding me to this life. This place and my role as a mother. I held onto her and gave this tiny person the power to hold me down and keep me from floating away.

Once she started sleeping it lifted some of those anxieties from my shoulders and allowed me to take a much needed deep breath. I actually took deep breath.

I hadn’t done that in a very long time.

My Old Lady, Gertrude

28 Feb

Tomorrow Oli has surgery…again. Every time she has to go through this I think, “For sure this is the last time. Surely she won’t need anything else done.” I think it Every. Single. Time. And then we have to do something else. Something comes up that only can be done under anesthesia.

Tomorrow’s surgery is no big deal. I know that it’s no big deal. They will not be cutting into her. Many, many people have gone through MUCH worse with their children. I know that too. Oli will only be having an ABR (hearing screen) done and possibly tubes put back in her ears.

But…I am terrified.

I have this wicked old lady, Gertrude that lives in my mind. (Wait….stay with me here.) She likes to whisper nasty, horrifying things in my ear. Remember worst-case-scenario-girl from previous blog posts? The one who is sure the power will fail during Oli’s surgery and her arm will end up falling off? Gertrude tells me these things. “Yoo-Hoo! Shaaannoooon! What if the anesthesiologist is a drug addict and gives her WAY too much medication and she never wakes up?” This is not all that far-fetched. When I had my tonsils out as a child my doctor was an addict and really did give me too much anti-nausea medication. Fortunately it was just that and not too much sedation. (A few years after my surgery he ended up giving a pregnant mommy too much sedation and sadly, she died.) I just couldn’t control my tongue for hours after surgery.

What?

Yes it was very, very bizarre. It would pull back towards my throat and then hang out like a dog. On the drive home my mom kept saying “Shannon. Stop that! It’s not funny.” I told her I couldn’t help it. After I finally convinced her that I wasn’t doing it on purpose she got kind of freaked out. (Hello! Her child had lost all voluntary control of her tongue!) She called the hospital and after looking at my chart the nurse realized that during surgery, I had been given WAY too much medication. The sticking out tongue thing eventually went away after a few hours. Thank God!! What if I had to live the rest of my life like that? What if I still had no control of my tongue? Has that ever happened before? I should Google ‘permanent loss of voluntary tongue control’.

Then I start thinking, what if that happens to Oli?

No. I probably shouldn’t Google it. I don’t want to know.

I’m just nervous. Nervous, nervous, nervous.

I’m scared because they will be putting her to sleep (obviously that alone provides a whole crap load of things for that old lady to work with), but I’m also scared of the hearing screen results. What if it’s NOT just fluid in her ears? What if that doesn’t explain why her eardrum isn’t moving? What if it’s something congenital? What if she’s NEVER been able to hear well out of that ear? I’ve spent her whole life providing a lot of information auditorily. What if I’ve been doing it all wrong? It would definitely explain a lot if it turns out that she really isn’t hearing well.

No matter what, I have to try and ignore the millions of bad scenarios that are racing through my head. (Shut up Gertrude!) I have to put aside my own fear and step up for Oli. And I have to just keep moving forward whatever the results of that test show.

“Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.” -Denis Waitley

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