Tag Archives: motherhood

Heartache written on a piece of paper

1 May

Before I move on with my story, I have to write about Oli’s mandatory 3 year evaluation for school. They evaluate her to determine her progress and also to determine whether or not she still meets the eligibility qualifications for services. She’ll be 6 years old on May 10th.

O&M was the first evaluation scheduled to be completed. O&M stands for orientation and mobility and focuses on body awareness, spacial concepts, walking and navigating around the environment as a blind or visually impaired child. As a totally blind kiddo, Oli always qualifies for O&M. Her O&M instructor is absolutely fabulous. She is a wonderful woman and teacher and I really like and respect her. She has been with Oli since we moved to Texas when she only was 2 ½ years old.

I have to tell you that, before I get into the results of her evaluation. Before I tell you how little progress Oli seems to have made in the last 3 years. This is NOT, in any way, a reflection on her teacher.

This is just Oli. This has always been Oli.

You see, progress is slow with her. She does do new things and accomplishes goals every once in a while. It just doesn’t happen very quickly or very often.

It’s hard.

It’s so hard to watch your child work so hard and struggle. To try and to fail. To improve and do something new, only to have it slip away. Some of her new skills have diminished and then disappeared completely. At the beginning of the school year Oli was standing up from the middle of the floor all by herself. She would just stand up and every once in a while she would start walking. Just like any other kid. Then it stopped. It stopped completely and she hasn’t done it at all in 8 months.

Is that skill gone forever? Did she have a seizure that wiped it away? Did she forget how to do it? Did something scare her? Why does she lose these skills so easily?

I don’t know.

That is my universal answer when teachers and therapists ask me “Why doesn’t she do that anymore?”

I don’t know. I don’t have any idea.

I wish I did. I wish I could take a peek inside her brain and figure it out for her. I wish I could just look at her and say “Remember when you did that? Or said that? Can you do it again please?” I wish I had an answer. Something better than, “I don’t know?”

That’s not how it works though. What is the problem for her? Why does she struggle through learning simple things? Why can’t she be potty trained or pull up her pants? Why can’t she remember where her nose is consistently or say hi? Why doesn’t she tell me that she wants eggs for breakfast or tell me she wants to play with the bells? She used to do all of these things.

Why can’t she tell me that she loves me?

So many questions and so very few answers.

Is it her autism, her blindness, her developmental delay, her intellectual disability? What is it?

No one can tell me because they all overlap.

No one has any answers, but everyone asks me. Because I’m her mom. I should know. At least, I feel like I should know.

I’ve never known the most profound sense of helplessness since meeting my baby girl. I’ve never felt so out of control on all things that feel like they need to be controlled.

I’m her mom. I should know what’s going on with her.

But, I don’t. I never have.

I’ve read a few other blog posts written by moms of kids with disabilities and they talk about looking at other moms and being jealous of them and their children. I understand that. I try not to compare my daughter to anybody else’s children, mainly because I did that WAY too much in the beginning, but sometimes…I still do. Not in the uuuggghhh…I hate you because you don’t know how good you’ve got it…way. But…uuuggghhh…Look how easy it is for your kids. I just wish life wasn’t so hard for her…way. I’m jealous of other special needs kids who learn things easier than her or kids that don’t have multiple disabilities. But then I HATE myself for thinking that way because it’s ridiculous. I don’t know that life is any easier for them or any harder for my daughter. There are a lot of kids out there in way more difficult situations. These are things that just should not be compared.

I think sometimes I just want her to get better.

I look at my other two kids and it just all comes so naturally for them. They just learn. No big deal. For Oli everything is such a bigger deal. She can’t see so right there, it’s a whole new ball game trying to teach her. And then her body just doesn’t work all that well. It seems like she wants it to do things and it just doesn’t. She has low tone and poor balance. Her arms are weak. She needs a very long time mentally and in terms of motor planning just to figure out where she’s going and how she’s supposed to get there.

It just isn’t easy.

Reading these evaluations…isn’t easy.

It’s always hard to read the same evaluation year after year.

It’s hard to read “She used to do this…She used to say this…but now she doesn’t.”

It’s hard because I know she’s in there. I know what she’s capable of. I just don’t know why it comes and goes. I don’t know how to make it any better for her.

She does therapy and therapy and more therapy. She gets PT, OT, speech, vision, and O&M at school. She gets PT, OT, speech, and hippotherapy at home. I just always feel like maybe there’s more. Maybe there is that one therapy out there that we’re not doing and that will be the key that unlocks the door.

In my brain I know that it probably doesn’t exist. In my brain I know that we are doing everything.

In my heart? I want to do more.

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Would Things Have Been Different?

24 Apr

Driving down to California that hot day in July, gave me a lot of time to reflect on what had happened during the previous 3 years. I started thinking about the year that I turned 27, 10 months before Oli was born.

Kekoa was only 7 months old. I have a picture of him and me on my birthday that year. He was sitting on my lap helping me to eat a piece of cake. What strikes me most in that photo is how young I look. How peaceful. The worry of doctor appointments, evaluation deadlines, and missed milestones had not yet been etched on my face. That deep penetrating sadness cannot yet be seen reflecting in my eyes. Grief cannot yet be seen shadowed over my shoulder. I had no idea what my life would look like just 3 short years later.

I can’t help but think about what my life would have looked like if I hadn’t had Oli.

Would I still be ignorant to things such as early intervention services, occupational and speech therapists, VI teachers and O & M specialists? Would I miss the looks that strangers give to those who are different than them? Those looks that say, “What is wrong with her? Oh! What is wrong with her?!” Those looks that break my heart. Would I be oblivious to the passing remarks containing the word “retard” or the jokes made about blind people? Would I miss spotting the looks of exhaustion and overwhelming sadness that I see painted all over the faces of other special needs moms? Would I appreciate every single day with my children as much as I do now because I fear that I don’t know what the future will hold? Would I cherish their kisses as sweetly or hold on as tightly when they wrap their arms around me? Would I have learned to walk through the grief and come out on the other side stronger and more secure than ever before?

These are all things that I thought about, but did not have the answers to yet, in July of 2009. That year my sole focus was still on changing it. I wanted to change my life however I could so that I would begin to feel better. I needed to feel like I was DOING something for Oli. Being her mother just wasn’t enough.

As I was lying on the beach or trying to sleep in a strange bed that weekend, I became consumed with what I could do for her.

What I was doing wasn’t enough.
It wasn’t enough.
I should be doing more.
Other mothers were doing more for their kids.
I needed more.
I needed to do more.
I have to get out.
I have to get out of Nevada.
They can’t help her.
They can’t give her the help that she needs.
There has to be more.
There has to be a place that can do more.

My mind was trapped on a hamster wheel, spinning, spinning, and spinning. Chasing an unseen assailant that was ruining my life. Chasing a dream that I would be able to change it all. A dream where I was able to fix this somehow.

Still…a dream that I would wake up to a daughter who was “normal”. A daughter who was not blind and developmentally delayed. That dream that I secretly lived in while the world moved on without me. The world moved on and left me alone with my self-doubt, self-pity, and self-hatred.

Because I didn’t want to feel this way.

I wanted to just love her and believe in her.

I DID love her and I DID believe in her.

I didn’t JUST do it though.

I thought that all of those feeling were abnormal. I thought that they were wrong. And I thought that they made me a bad person. A bad mother. Even though those thoughts were my truth. They were my reality and no matter how much I tried to ignore them, forget them, and deny them…they were always there.

They were there taunting me, shaming me, and making it difficult for me to breath.

They told me lies like, you are alone. You are a failure. No other mother in the world feels like you do. You don’t deserve to have these beautiful children. You are not good enough. You will never be able to do enough. You can’t help her. You will ALWAYS feel this way. You will always be terrified, sad, and miserable.

And I was. For a very long time I was.

I didn’t know what was making me feel that way though.

All I knew? I was unhappy and I needed more support. I needed more support for my daughter.

I waited until we began our drive back to Pahrump to broach the subject with my husband.

As the sun dipped silently beneath soft orange clouds I built up the courage to say, “I was thinking…maybe we need to look into moving to another state. Somewhere that has more vision services and can help us better.”

A million butterflies danced and turned somersaults in my stomach as I looked at my husband, waiting for his response. You could have cut the tension in the air with a knife, once those words were out of my mouth.

A few minutes past and then my husband spoke…

Don’t Put Me In The Room With The Big Comfy Couch!

5 Mar

When I approached the information desk and made eye contact with the woman behind it I must have looked a little “frazzled”. When I asked her if Oli was out of surgery yet she must have sensed my panic, noticed my tightly clenched fists, or saw me on the verge of crying because she immediately went to check for me. She even bypassed pretending to know how to work the phone or computer.

She came back a very long 5 minutes later and said “No. She is still back there, but they will be done soon. She’s doing just fine.”

“Oh okay. Thank you. I knew everything was fine, but you know…..well, I had to check because you see, she’s blind and autistic and has this rare gene deletion, so we don’t really know a whole lot about it and this gene caused her eyes not to develop so she wears prosthetic ones and she started having seizures in 2011 and…..”

Crap. I lost her.

She’s “working on the computer” now and trying to politely get me to go sit down.

What?

You don’t want to hear Oli’s life story?

Are you sure?

I can tell it 2.5 minutes if I talk really fast and run all my sentences together.

No?

Whatever. You’re missing out on a really good moment of mommy-gone-mad. Especially since I didn’t sleep last night. It’s an even better show when I don’t sleep. I’m much more likely to cry and then burst into fits of uncontrolled laughter.

Oh well. Your loss. That’s some quality entertainment your missing out on.

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You better believe that I sat my butt down in the nearest chair and did not move until that pager lit up and vibrated.

I finished my much needed cup of coffee, checked my Facebook (thanks for the prayers guys!) and waited.

6 hours later…..no, it wasn’t really that long. It just felt like it. They called my name and walked me back to another little waiting room.

This one was WAY better. It had a nice big squishy couch, a table and chairs, a little TV….

Wait!

No!

I don’t want to be in this nice room!

This looks like a “bad news room”!

You never give parents bad news in uncomfortable chairs. That’s just plain mean. You give them bad news in rooms with big comfy couches and little TV’s. Rooms with a circular table and chairs for having “discussions”.

I want to go back to that other room! I want to go sit in those crappy vinyl covered chairs with the fish again! NEMO! HELP!
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“Make yourself comfortable. The audiologist will be with you soon.” The volunteer tells me.

Make myself comfortable? I am going to get the worse news of my life, well….the second worse, behind “Your baby is blind, do you have any questions?” It will be the same. “Your daughter is deaf, do you have any questions?” I should call the School for the Deaf right now and just get this ball rolling. No need to waste time…Good thing I have my Tab, I’ll just Google it.

I mean…the news cannot possibly be good. This couch is just way too comfortable.

Maybe I’ll hold off just a minute. Google will be there in 5 minutes. Maybe I’ll take a nap.

I’m feeling a little over-tired and the craziness has begun to set in quite rapidly.

Luckily I did not have to wait long enough to be able take a nap. (Well I guess it wasn’t so lucky for everyone else that had to deal with me the rest or the day.) The audiologist walked in and sat down.

Uh-oh. She’s sitting. Number one rule of doctors and nurses: always sit and be at eye level when delivering bad news to parents.

Stand up lady! Stand up!

“The results of Oli’s hearing screen were 100% normal. She has perfect, beautiful hearing. No problem.” She doesn’t give me the chance to spin out of control with panic.

“Really?” I exhale for the first time all morning.

“She’s fine. But her eardrum on the right is still not moving well. I think that it’s probably just scarred and thickened from having so many infections in it and then rupturing. It DOES NOT affect her hearing. She can hear you just fine.” She explains.

SHE CAN HEAR! OLI CAN HEAR!

To say that I was ecstatically, fantastically, wonderfully, overjoyed…would be an understatement.

I now knew, 100% without a doubt, that my sweet girl can hear me.

imagesCATLF7OC
(I know how to carry on. I just do not know how to keep calm while doing it.)

Is She Afraid?

4 Mar

I can only imagine that preparing a typical child for surgery is difficult for any mother. Trying to explain something about hospitals, doctors, sleepy medicine, discomfort, and recovery time to a 5 year old must be like trying to explain Japanese to someone who has never heard of Japan.

I have never had to do it. Oli is the only one of my children, so far, (I have a sneaky suspicion that Ginger will one day break something doing her karate, dance, acrobats off the furniture) that has spent any significant amount of time in the hospital.

This last October, Kekoa fell off of his bike and required a few stitches. However minor it seemed to everyone else, it was traumatic for him. He was really scared on the drive there. He wanted to know exactly what they would do, exactly how much it would hurt, and exactly who would be fixing him. He wanted to know what would happen if they couldn’t fix his cut? What would happen if it hurt too bad? (Worst case scenarios. I wonder where he gets this?) He needed all of the information and was not so thrilled about trusting someone he didn’t know to make him better. Up to that point, I had always done that.

“Why can’t you just fix it mommy?” He asked me that multiple times on the drive there. I told him that the cut was just a little too deep for mommy to fix. I talked to him about the nurses and the hospital room where it would happen. I told him that they would put some numbing medicine on it and that it probably wouldn’t hurt too badly. I told him that I would be right there with him the whole time.

Despite all of these conversations and words of comfort, he was really scared and nervous. Until we met a boy a little bit older than him in the ER waiting room that had gotten stitches a few months before. He told Kekoa all about it and assured him that it was no big deal and that it didn’t hurt. He immediately looked at me with relief in his eyes and said “See mom. It’s no big deal. I’ll be fine.”

I could only smile and thank that little boy for providing the comfort for my child that I just couldn’t seem to give him.

As I walked Oli into that same hospital on Friday morning I wished that someone could provide Oli with that. Despite talking to her in the waiting room, telling her we were there to see a doctor, and explaining what we were doing step by step, I still wondered if she felt afraid. It’s hard to explain a concept like surgery to Oli. I don’t know any other way besides just talking about it like I talked about stitches to Kekoa. When the nurse took her temperature, her blood pressure, listened to her heart and then had her change into a hospital gown, I just talked her through it.

But does she understand what is happening? Does she think we are at her pediatrician’s office, her neurologist, or another specialist? Does she notice that a hospital smells different than a physician’s office? Does she think that someone is going to hurt her eyes? The last time she had surgery she had an implant put in her eye. This was a painful surgery. Does she think that I am doing this to her? She’s always pretty mad afterwards. What does she think when I hand her off to a stranger and don’t go with her? Is she scared? Does she think that I’m not there for her?

I don’t know. It worries me more and more as she gets older. I think that she understands a lot and I talk to her like she does. The nurse did give her a sedative before they took her back. I’m sure it helps because I assume that she is scared just like any other child would be.

A child life specialist came into her room before the procedure and asked what would help her not to be afraid. I just said “Talk to her. Talk. Talk. Talk. Tell her everything. Tell her your name. Tell her before you touch her and tell her exactly what you are doing before she goes to sleep.” I told this to everyone who walked into her room that morning. Both the doctors, 4 different nurses, the audiologist, the student audiologist, and the child life specialist.

When it was time to take her back to the operating room she was fairly sedated and had a glazed look on her face. I gave her a kiss, told her that I loved her and that I would be there when she woke up. I handed my precious girl to the OR nurse who carried her away and prayed that God would go with her. I prayed that she understood what was happening and that she wasn’t scared. I prayed that they would quickly get her off to sleep so that if she was scared, she wasn’t for very long.

This not knowing…not knowing what she is feeling…is the absolute hardest part of being Oli’s mom. It’s so hard not knowing just what she understands.

Fine-Garbage, Happy-Lie Vomit

3 Mar

When I reread my old blog sometimes it strikes me as funny and sometimes it just strikes me as sad. I think I honestly believed all of the things I wrote back then. I believed that Oli was learning to walk and talk. I believed that it was still possible for her to just one day catch up to other children her age. Even though by the time she was 2 it was clear that she would not.

I was probably moving into denial at that point. I bounced around the first 3 stages of grief frequently in the beginning of Oli’s life. One moment I would be in denial and isolation and the next I would be angry. And then I would move into bargaining only to be swung back into denial. Most frequently I found myself in depression. Only recently have I moved on to acceptance and haven’t looked back since.

I didn’t know any of this then though. I didn’t consciously realize that I was grieving and nobody told me.

I thought maybe I just had bad coping skills (which I did) or that I was a bad person and a bad mother.

To combat my inner feelings of inadequacy, I told the world that everything was amazing. I tried to convince them that this was my lot in life and I whole heartily embraced it and was moving forward. I tried to convince you so maybe I would begin to convince myself. I thought that the more I tried to sell everyone on my fineness, the more fine I would eventually become.

It didn’t work out that way at all. The more I lied and faked happiness the more alone and miserable I became. By not letting anyone in, I isolated myself so deeply that I became entrenched in the quicksand of grief. Every move I made and word I spoke sucked me down and eventually had me suffocating on my own fine-garbage, happy-lie vomit.

As I move forward and continue my story I have to read the old blog to A.) remember what the hell happened 3 years ago because so much has happened since and B.) because it reminds me of that grieving process and I can clearly see it now in my writing. I can read a post from back then and see: lies, hope, sadness, fear, optimism, bargaining, pain, denial, anger, and a sense of being lost.

The one thing I don’t see in any of the old posts are real, genuine feelings. I see a bunch of words on a computer screen attempting to fool the world into believing that I was okay.

In the history of humanity, there was probably no bigger untruth.

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

Was The Sandman Hiding In A Bottle Of Melatonin?

27 Feb

Taking ‘naps’ sounds so childish…I prefer to call them ‘horizontal life pauses.’- Unknown quotes

When Oli was 18 months old I crumbled under her terrorist acts of sleep deprivation and gave her a magical pill called melatonin. I had been hearing about this over-the-counter medication for months, but had been previously reluctant to try it. The only medicine I had given her before was Tylenol, Prevacid for her reflux and a low dose antibiotic to prevent kidney infections caused by her kidney reflux. I was scared to give my baby anything not approved by the FDA. Which like most supplements, it isn’t.

I was also apprehensive because I had read and heard mixed opinions about the use of it in children. Although no one came right out and said “If you give your child this medicine it will harm her.” I had read that its use was too new for studies on its possible long term implications to be available. So essentially I heard “If you give your child this it may harm her.” That was an enormous and terrifying maybe.

That was why it took me an entire year before agreeing to try it.

Eventually I came across articles like this:

“Studies of melatonin use in children have shown it could reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and increase the duration of sleep in children with mental retardation, autism, psychiatric disorders, visual impairment, or epilepsy.”—-from cbsnews.com

At this point I didn’t know that she was autistic. She was too young for psychiatric disorders and did not have epilepsy yet. She was blind and could possibly have MR. That was enough for me to start looking more closely at reasons to try it.

(Did I mention that it had been a whole year since the elusive Sand Man had made regular house calls to Pahrump?)

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And I began to realize the very big importance of a very tiny gland that Oli just happened to be missing.

So I began researching articles like these: taken from Wikipedia

“Circadian rhythm

In humans, melatonin is produced by the pineal gland, a small endocrine gland[26] located in the center of the brain but outside the blood–brain barrier. The melatonin signal forms part of the system that regulates the sleep-wake cycle by chemically causing drowsiness and lowering the body temperature, but it is the central nervous system (specifically the suprachiasmatic nuclei, or SCN)[26] that controls the daily cycle in most components of the paracrine and endocrine systems[27][28] rather than the melatonin signal (as was once postulated).”

That was clincher for me. If she doesn’t have the gland that produces melatonin and she doesn’t have any light perception to help create a sleep-wake-cycle then how in the hell was she ever going to sleep without some kind of help?

Once that realization finally sunk in I jumped into my car and raced my stressed, sleep deprived, pajama clad butt to Walgreens. Like a woman on a mission I shoved aside little old ladies and received snooty stares from well rested patrons. Oblivious to the rest of the customers in the store I made me way to the supplement section and grabbed two bottles. My savior came in a little green bottle with a yellow lid.

I immediately encountered an unforeseen problem. There were two doses available at Walgreens. One that was 3mg and one that was 5mg. How much do you give an 18 month old? I had discussed trying Melatonin with her doctors, but we had never finalized the decision so we never talked about dosage. I took them both to the register feeling severely deflated. I wasn’t going to be able to try it tonight.

I paid for my purchase and climbed reluctantly back into my car.

Another long night was waiting for me…

I Didn’t Sleep In 2008

26 Feb

Everyone should have kids. They are the greatest joy in the world. But they are also terrorists. You’ll realize this as soon as they are born and they start using sleep deprivation to break you.
-Ray Romano quotes

By the time my mom moved in with me in April of 2008 I think I had been slowly losing my mind.

True, it was partly because of my complete submersion into Oli-land and lack of full emotional participation in anything other than blind baby support. It was also due to a familiar term recognized world wide by new parents. And talked about, dreaded, cursed, and feared by the blind community.

Sleep deprivation.

When my girl was 6 months old she just simply stopped sleeping.

She was on her own little planet where there was no 24 hour day. Sometimes her day was 20 hours, sometimes it was 27 hours. There was absolutely no sleep schedule. She would go to bed at 7pm get up at 1am, be up until 9am, go back to sleep until 2pm, get up and stay up until 12am, sleep until 4am. . .every single day was different.

When I went to work with bags under my eyes, mismatched socks, and had forgotten to run a brush through my hair, the new moms in the unit would spot me across the room like a bug drawn to a light. They knew what I was suffering from and they were always ready to inundate me with solutions to Oli’s sleep problem.

“Put her to bed at the same time every night. Make sure she’s had enough to eat. Bath her with this soap and then apply this lotion. Play this song before bedtime…” The list goes on and on.

I listened and I tried anything anyone ever suggested to me. Nothing worked. The only thing I refused to try was putting a dab of alcohol in her bottle at night. But that may have simply been because I didn’t want to share and needed every last drop.

I read books on sleep, googled sleep solutions for blind babies, talked with other parents of blind children, asked her pediatrician, doctors who worked in my unit, and random strangers at the grocery store who looked just like me. A soundly sleeping infant in a car seat and a mother looking like she had just returned from war, hadn’t eaten in a week, showered in 2, or slept for 3. We would bond in the frozen foods section describing last nights battle in which our child always defeated us. Granted, their baby was only a month old and mine was turning one year.

Eventually by the time my mom arrived I had just given up.

I was totally convinced that Oli was never going to sleep again.

Can You See Me? I’m Here In The Darkness. (Part 4)

24 Feb

I spent the last two days attending the Blind Cafe and then the 2013 TX Deaf-Blind Symposium. Because of these two events my perception of Oli and some preconceived notions of her abilities/disabilities have completely been swung around and turned on their heads.

Where I have focused a lot of my time on what she cannot do because of or what she will not do because of .I am now seeing exactly what she is capable of and what is possible if I give her the chance. Although I really felt like I had given her lots of opportunities to explore the world and chances to communicate, after talking with blind adults and listening to experts in the field, now I feel like. . . Holy shit! I still have been regarding her learning opportunities in terms of what I see as limitations because of her disabilities.

While I was sitting in the darkness at the cafe a striking realization came to me when the wait staff started answering questions. I hate to say that when I first see a person with a disability, I see a disability. I’m not supposed to see that right? Because my daughter has a disability? But I still do. I don’t like that about me and I really try not to. I realized that one of the things that was so wonderful about listening to the blind adults speak in the cafe was. . . I didn’t see a disability. I couldn’t! And it was great. All I heard were intelligent, funny, nice people speaking. And then I started thinking about what an advantage they have over all of the rest of us. They honestly get to know people in a fast, genuine, real way bypassing all of the visual judgemental nonsense that sighted people have.

Always aspiring to be one of those “good” people who doesn’t judge people by what they look like, what they’re wearing, or how clean they are (although I’ll bet blind people notice that one even quicker than me) I suddenly started thinking of Oli as. . .lucky. I stopped viewing blindness as something I would never want for her and although I still wish she wasn’t, I started looking at all of the good things about blindness. Like seeing people by way of her heart and judging them by the truth in their words and the honesty in their voices.

I had a moment when I was sitting in the dark, listening to the band play, that I was overcome by sadness. Silent tears poured down my face as I sat there thinking about how hard it was. Walking around not knowing where I was going, trying to find my food and not knowing what I was eating because nobody told me. Tasting food that I HATE and not knowing if I had a drink. Wanting to wipe off my hands and not being able to find my napkin. I felt helpless. I felt alone.

But as I sat there crying quietly so no one would know, I started to recognize that feeling. I remember spending a lot of my time feeling that exact same way in the first years of Oli’s life. Lost and alone, crying silently in the dark. I welcomed that feeling like an old friend and greeted her with open arms without even realizing who she is. Who she really is… is my own self pity. My own fear, ignorance, and judgement.

I opened my eyes, dried my tears and sat up straight in my chair.

NO! No more!

I will not allow this twisted friendship to continue! I will not welcome you into my heart! I will not pretend anymore that you will stay for a short visit and then let you live on my couch for years!

You Miss. . . are no longer allowed in my front door.

I am not helpless, weak, alone, unheard, unloved, or in this by myself. More importantly, this is not about me.

This is about Oli and she is none of those things either.

(Thank you for reading about my experience at the Blind Café! If you want to know more about it or want to know if it will be coming to a city near you go to www.theblindcafe.com The End.)

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