Holidays are always hard. Or at least they used to be harder. I think the issue is we often look at them the way we want to and forget that well what we enjoy may not be what is truly fun or enjoyable for everyone. I learned something…I will never know exactly what it is like to live in the head of a person with FASD. See I can’t know. I don’t know how sometimes lights are too loud or how going into a restaurant that is a bit busy (paint, music, people, etc.) can make it hard to eat. I was lucky my mom did not drink she may not have known about FASD but she had been told by people that drinking while pregnant wasn’t good. So while everyday in my household I see FASD and how it is extremely hard I cannot truly know.
I know that I dreamed of being a mom for so long. I wanted to be able to love someone and have them love me back. I looked forward to the good, the bad and the ugly but I truly never got what that would be. I never really understood that children who have had trauma in utero through alcohol and drug exposure and the trauma of being bounced around from place to place would never truly be able to give the love that we all imagine. I used to live under this magical tree where if you loved someone then everything got better. I was very sheltered there. I thought I was going to just fix everything. What a beautiful thought…so many have it.
Today on Valentine’s day I am enjoying so many hugs and joy. But well it is different than my imaginary life. In some ways it is harder but in some ways it is better. See love FASD style means that this person is giving me everything they can. Due to the damage that has been inflicted on this person they only have the ability to give what they have. For some people with FASD they struggle to connect. IS this because they don’t care? No it is because one of the areas of the brain that is often hit hard is the limbic system. This is where attachments are formed.
IF a man has one leg should he be punished for needing a prosthetic support? I look at this when expecting things from my children. I know that they love me with everything they have. I see it in the things they do. I see it in their hugs and their laughter. I also see the anger and the fear when they don’t understand what they are doing “wrong”. They know when others think they are not acting appropriately and this is so stressful for them.
The prenatal damage from alcohol exposure is hard for anyone to deal with but then you add in the trauma after birth of being shuffled around and you add to the inability to attach in a healthy matter. The anger present for these kids can be amazing. They fear loving someone as when they have opened themselves up they have been hurt over and over. I know my oldest son finally let those feelings out when he was 17. I said I love you. His reply was “I love you…I will keep you safe…you won’t have to leave. Why should I believe you? Everyone told me that.” Wow. He had a point though as when he came to us at 12 he had been in 16 placements since entering care at 9 months. I replied that he was right he had probably heard that a whole lot. But well see we were different as even though he worked hard at not letting us love him we still did and we showed it by adopting him. That he could continue to work hard at not letting us love him for the rest of his life but we would still be there and would still be loving him. He seemed surprised by this and said well geez I guess you did adopt me and no one else did. I do know thought that he didn’t believe me until he was arrested at 18.(that is a story for another day though).
For the FASD brain love is hard to truly understand. For usually with the disability of FASD abstract concepts are pretty hard to understand. The more concrete the better. Love is not really concrete…it is sometimes very surprising and in the world of FASD is pretty resilient.
In the words of one of my daughters this is what love means. “Dear Mom and Dad I know you love me because I can talk to you about in anything. You’re helpful. You take care of me. You also give me the things I need. You’re funny. Even when you are mad at me you still love me.” For valentine’s day I want to remind us all that while it is hard at times it is still Valentine’s day love sometimes…just FASD style.