What Pharmacy Staff Should Know About Being a Mother to a Child With a Mental Illness

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I always try not to write from a place of raw emotion. It never serves me nor my reader well. Today, though, I made a trip to two pharmacies with a need for three refills, and came home with some thoughts to share. Yes, I’m a bit salty! There are five things I’d like any pharmacy professional to keep in mind when the parents of a minor come in for psychiatric meds.

1. We are good parents. We aren’t medicating a child who lacks discipline. We medicate to manage behaviors that all other forms of stellar parenting skills can’t touch. It’s because I have a child who can’t — not a child who won’t.

2. These meds, at this time, are as lifesaving as for any physical illness. If I stammer or cry when you say you need a couple of days to get these from your supplier, please be gentle with me. Explain how many days I need to give you next time. I’m listening; it’s just that I’m running the implications of possibly going without a lifeline for a day or two through my weary brain.

3. There’s this thing about the stigma surrounding medicating and mental health — it’s real. Please make sure we are in a very private space if you need to talk to me regarding the scripts.

4. We don’t want to do this. No one wants to medicate their child, especially with the high-powered stuff we order up every month. There is a measure of pain and disappointment every time I step up to your counter. Please forgive me if I’m a bit like a scared porcupine.

5. One small act of kindness, be it through the warmth of a smile, the sincerity of your eye contact, or the tone or your voice when you ask how you can help me, may be the catalyst I needed to get me through one more day of caring for a mentally ill child.

And that is all.

Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

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To the Friends Who Support Me as a Parent of a Child With a Disability

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The life of parenting and caring for a child with fetal alcohol syndrome (FASD) can feel lonely. Complicated. Sometimes it can feel distressing, the self-doubt is huge. You might feel scared, overwhelmed, sad, angry, determined, depressed, discouraged, uncertain, lost, guilty, out of control, small. I have felt every single one of those emotions in the last week — quite possibly each of them every single day.

Yesterday we had a local support group meeting (a group we started when none existed). It was a casual meeting, just talking with other families for two hours while our kids played together in their “FASD Club” as some of the children have started calling it –kids who normally don’t want to go out, but who look forward to this group. For us parents, it’s a kind of club, too, where we know others won’t judge, others will relate. Where a lunch with another parent of a child with FASD sitting in the rain can be natural, because our guy was having a blast in the mud and on the swings. It was rejuvenating. Even though I was bone-tired. Even though the topics can be grim. We found hope.

It’s been a long week. Last night my husband and I were so tired that normally we would have crashed at an early hour. But a friend heard about the week — she insisted (took no excuses) — and had our son with FASD over for a sleep over. It allowed us to chill out, spend time with our older neurotypical son. It was low-key — we stuffed ourselves with Thai take away and Hagen-Dazs, watching a newly released DVD.

Yes. I know how amazing that day may sound to those who have no support. I know we are fortunate. Too many parents are out there feeling alone.

Remembering where we once were, too, and how massively different yesterday was from those early days, it got me thinking how important it is to acknowledge just how amazing a role friends can play.

I take my hat off to those friends — old friends, new friends, family friends, work friends, social media friends, neighborhood friends, school gate friends, Facebook friends, dog walk friends, smile-in-the-shop friends. My heroes, they quite possibly have no idea how much they are appreciated.

Here’s to the friends — the ones with the kettles and the tissues. The ones who check in regularly. The friends who actually slow down and wait for you on the street rather than sneak around the corner as if they didn’t see you. The ones who look past the bags under your eyes and tell you the color of the crumpled t-shirt suits you. The ones who make you laugh. Who let you cry. The ones who hold a seat for you at the coffee shop, knowing you might not come that day but who are ready just in case.

Here’s to the friends who calmly step over the shoes as they enter your house and who look past the dog hair and the counters piled high. The ones who don’t ask what is behind the closed doors and the ones who just laugh at the laundry drying everywhere. The ones who ignore the unidentifiable smell. The ones who know where you keep the tea.

Here’s to the friends who didn’t run when things got complicated. The ones who googled rather than denied. The ones who asked questions rather than dismissed what you were saying. The ones who heard your concerns behind your frustration. The ones who were confused and overwhelmed themselves but who asked rather than assumed.

Here’s to the friends who open doors others slam shut. Friends who reassure rather than stress. The ones who don’t tally who is doing the talking and who is doing the listening.

Here’s to the friends who believe you when you say you wish you could do “something,” but not this week, sorry not today, you can’t because something came up/you’re unable/things went haywire/it’s just one step too far on a day when there is nothing else to give. They know you’d really like to.  They don’t make you feel bad. Even when you forgot their birthday because that week there were multiple appointments/illnesses/calls from the school.

Here’s to the friends who tell you when you need a break — the very remarkable few who force you to take the break, and the exceptional ones who make it possible for you to relax.

Here’s to the new friends — the ones you meet through the struggle. The ones who get it instinctively, who can laugh at a situation without mocking or deriding. The ones who can give a look or a nod that says more than a speech. The ones who have walked the walk and who can still help you find the joy on the days when it’s sometimes hard to find.  The ones who help you look forward.

Here’s to the friends who can carry you, prop you up, propel you forward or force you to sit — whether they’re in front of you, on the phone, or at the other end of the computer screen.

Here’s to the friends — the ones who see your child.

The ones who see you.

The ones who are there.

Here’s to you all — here’s one big, huge, poorly expressed, dreadfully tired but deeply felt “thanks.” You really have no idea how much your support means. It’s magic. It gives us what we need to gear up, buck up, stand tall and face this with hope. And by doing that, you are most importantly giving our child the best gift possible. You are helping us to help him. You are fueling our resilience. You are breaking past our sense of isolation. You are giving us hope that the community exists. It takes a village indeed; not just to raise a child, but to support a family.

And you are so very, very much appreciated. So here’s to you, for those times when I might forget to say it.

You’re awesome.

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Why I Worry About the New Stance on Alcohol Consumption During Pregnancy

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I have to confess I don’t follow a lot of what the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) does generally, but I know the latest report they released on alcohol consumption during pregnancy is generating discussions everywhere. I also know it directly disagrees with the Chief Medical Officer’s statement on alcohol in pregnancy.

I know I’m not the only one whose social media has been busy on this subject. I’m not the only parent who felt gutted that the messages we fight so hard to make consistent have been turned upside down with a flurry of media support.

I want to stay optimistic and believe the intentions around the report are in an effort to reduce the “blame culture” we live in. Maybe to reduce the parental guilt we all face when we don’t get it right every day. But all I’ve seen are the messages that state moderate drinking in pregnancy is OK and those many parents and professionals fighting to get the messages out about abstaining when pregnant or trying to conceive are just trying to ruin your social life.

I’m an adoptive parent to a child exposed to alcohol in utero. My views are very much skewed by my experiences. I’m no less a parent because I didn’t give birth to her, and I honestly can’t 100 percent say I wouldn’t have had the odd drink if I’d carried her myself. And I certainly don’t believe in blaming and accusing people for their decisions.

What I believe in is informed choice. In educating men (yes they have a role in it, too) and women about the risks of alcohol in pregnancy. My worry is that when we see media interviews and articles focused predominantly on the worst affected children, it fails to consider the whole spectrum of issues. It downplays the severity of the long term issues if you don’t have the physical symptoms. It undermines the stress it places on families raising kids with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

We talk about the many women who have the odd drink and their children are fine, and I’m genuinely happy for them. But what about those whose children aren’t fine? What about those of us who are raising our kids in a world that doesn’t work for them? Who are going to face challenges all their lives with little support and understanding?

I think it’s dangerous to encourage moderate drinking in pregnancy if there is no way to tell what a safe amount is. Some babies are affected by very little alcohol, others come out unscathed despite significant alcohol use and no one knows why. Until someone can categorically give a safe limit, how can any professional declare it’s OK to indulge in drinking?

Personally, I feel undermined as a parent today. I love my daughter and she is amazing, bright, beautiful and intelligent. She has FASD and it’s something that was completely preventable. She brings me so much joy, but I don’t want other parents to face out battles.

I want them to enjoy the everyday things without having to be hyper-vigilant for any sensory change in a room. I want parents to look to the future without having to worry if their child will ever live independently. I want them to sit in schools and children’s centers and meet with other parents without knowing what it feels like when other people think you’re exaggerating the extent of your issues or believe you are just delusional.

I don’t want to argue with people about how their kids are OK when they’ve had a glass of wine a week. I don’t want to accuse people of being neglectful by having a drink. I just want people to think about the risks and make a decision based on the right information. I want people to encourage having a social life without alcohol as the only medium for fun.

And I want professionals to really think about the messages they give out when they decide to publish a report that says you can drink a little bit but we can’t tell you how much. And when it comes down to it, is a bit less socializing worth the risk of raising a child with developmental issues and health problems?

So to all those out there who felt as gutted as me with the news, those who felt like we are taking a step backwards — you aren’t alone. And the consistency we fight for in changing the narrative around FASD is making a difference. My daughter gets the fruit of your battles with an early diagnosis and intervention.

I’m fortunate to have a strong FASD network around me (both in person and online). They keep me going. They keep me sane. And when it all goes wrong, they walk the journey with me.

It takes a village to raise a child and I’ve found a city.

Check out fasd-uk.net and fasdnetwork.org to see where the city began.

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The Conversations We're Avoiding About Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

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Here we are again. Another study shows that the U.K. is among the top countries for drinking alcohol during pregnancy. A new Norwegian study shows that 28.5 percent of women in the U.K. drink when they know they are pregnant – placing the UK ahead of Russia (26.5 percent) and Switzerland (20.9 percent). This follows on from an earlier predictive study by the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) that showed more than 40 percent of pregnant women in the U.K. drink alcohol. The difference between these numbers can and will be debated by the experts. But let’s not miss the point.

The implication is staggering.

These figures show that entirely too many pregnancies risk damage to the brain and bones of the developing embryo or fetus. Most people are shocked to learn that fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is considered to be more prevalent than autism. In fact, many kids with FASD are misdiagnosed as having autism. Our son was, originally.

We have to reframe how we think about this issue, beyond the stigma. The Norwegian study shows that women who are older and more highly educated are more likely to drink during pregnancy. Another recent study showed that “75 percent of women who do drink during pregnancy are consuming alcohol together with a partner. Of these women, 40 percent of drinking episodes are initiated by male partners.”

In a country like the U.K. where the pub culture run deep, this lack of awareness and such widespread drinking during pregnancy means that several thousand kids each year are unknowingly born with a hidden disability. They may face lifelong challenges with executive functioning – compromising their ability to think abstractly, to link cause and effect, and to process multi-step instructions. They may require additional cognitive support and find it difficult to control their impulses. Their brains may easily become overloaded by stimuli they cannot process quickly enough, causing meltdowns and in some cases violent outbursts. These kids will grow into adults whose lives can be successful, but who will require an underpinning of consistent support and understanding to help them achieve their potential.

The U.K.’s response to FASD lags dangerously behind other countries, at great cost to individuals, their families and society at large.

Funding for diagnosis and support can be a post-code lottery. Despite the fact that the government recently stated it is the responsibility of local Clinical Commissioning Groups to commission relevant services, far too often this responsibility is ignored, under-addressed, and/or under-funded by straining bureaucracies. This bureaucratic nightmare can be compounded by misinformation or prejudice. Families can find the process of seeking a diagnosis bewildering. They are often turned away or denied access to professionals adequately informed on FASD.

Even professionals misunderstand the fact that for every child with the facial features of the more widely known fetal alcohol syndrome, experts say there may be as many as nine or 10 others out there on the spectrum with no visible sign of the disability. Parents, including courageous birth mothers who confirm drinking during pregnancy, are often discouraged from seeking a diagnosis by professionals who tell them not to “label” their child. This can deny the child and those around him or her the lens that allows a proper understanding of the whole child to unfold.

Many schools remain unaware, uninformed and/or unwilling to address the needs of those with FASD. There are kids in classrooms across the U.K. who are undiagnosed, unsupported and drowning in an increasingly inflexible educational system. Recently we have seen reports that schools are cutting TA positions, that most basic of support for kids with disabilities.

Denial, refusing to work with concerned families, and spouting on about inclusion while denying kids access to education to which they are entitled is quite frankly, shameful, and totally unworthy of a supposedly caring society. Families, foster care and adoption services are being strained beyond their limits.

Worst of all, as a result of society’s inaction on so many levels, kids are hurting. Unsupported and misunderstood, they often encounter challenges that compound as they grow older, when the school’s curriculum becomes more abstract, social relations become even more confusing, and pressures increase all around. With depressing predictability, they are labeled behavioral problems. They too often end up self-medicating, getting into trouble, or worse. This societal head-in-the-sand approach to the figures about drinking in pregnancy leads to a very dark place for too many. These negative outcomes can often be avoided with proper awareness, diagnosis, understanding and support.

People with FASD deserve the dignity of a diagnosis and access to education and services to which they are entitled due to their disability.

The guidance from the leading medical authorities in the U.K. is clear: “If you are pregnant or think you could become pregnant, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all.”

Why aren’t we listening? We’re willing to give up soft cheese during pregnancy but not alcohol, despite the risk of brain damage? I just don’t get it.

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When I Realized I Could Have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

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I knew my birth mom drank. I knew she may have been drunk when she gave birth to me. I always assumed she did not drink that much, and she didn’t drink enough throughout her pregnancy to affect me. I also thought maybe she did drink a lot, and it was only by the grace of a higher power that I turned out so well.

Fast forward to May and June of 2013, when I discovered that my birth mom not only drank daily, but drank all day, every day. She was a chronic alcoholic, according to her friends and co-workers who worked with her every single day, in a bar. She would drink as she worked as a bartender, then finish her shift and become a customer, continuing to drink as she sat on a bar stool, drinking away her pain and sadness. Her coworker verified that my birth mom was indeed intoxicated when she gave birth to me.

Take another leap into the year 2014, when my adoptive mom and dad received a pamphlet on fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, and my mom called me up, choking back tears. She read the symptoms to me over the phone. I possess about 90 percent of them if not more.

  • As an infant, I had a thin upper lip and still have that trait today.
  • I was diagnosed as “failure to thrive” by my pediatrician at 18 months of age.
  • I have vision difficulties, which can be due to an alcoholic mother.
  • I struggled from my elementary school years through graduate school with understanding how to write an outline for a paper, and then writing a cohesive paper. My papers were long and drawn-out, and the main points were hard to decipher at times.
  • I did not pass graduate school due to my lack of professional writing skills. I went to graduate school for Speech Pathology, and I did well in the classroom setting and taking tests where memorization was key. I fell apart when I was asked to student teach a group of five children, all at different levels of learning. I could not figure out how to teach them and keep it simple.
  • Solving word problems in math was a weakness of mine. I could solve one word problem, but if any of the names or places changed, even if the way to solve it was the same as before, I would be at a loss.
  • I can’t follow a map, and if I follow verbal directions to a destination, I have to follow them multiple times before I know the way.
  • I am considered by my parents to be immature in some ways. I am extremely impulsive and do not always recognize or think about consequences before making a decision. This has caused problems for me in my marriage and prior relationships.

Each of these can be characteristics of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Once my mom read me the characteristics, she was not the only one with tears on her cheeks. It all makes sense. My mom, dad and I feel such a sense of relief now, knowing my issues may have a reason behind them.

The week before Thanksgiving 2014, my mom and dad arrived at my house. Their trip was two-fold. They came for the Thanksgiving holiday, but also so my mom could attend an important doctor’s appointment with me. We arrived 30 minutes early and walked through a maze of hospital hallways until we arrived at a pediatric genetic clinic. It was as if I had entered Disney World. A huge Theodore Chipmunk stood at the entrance, and I mean huge. It went from floor to ceiling. I had to follow little colored footsteps to the reception desk.

My mom and I were then taken into a back alcove where my vitals were taken. Next was a patient room where I waited for about five minutes, at which time a young woman pregnant with her first child walked in and introduced herself as Katie, a genetic counselor. She took down my family history, and said Dr. Shur would be in shortly. We waited… and waited… and waited some more. About 45 minutes to an hour later, a young, vibrant lady walked in. “I am Dr. Shur, and it is a pleasure to meet you! I am so excited to get to meet with a 34-year-old who wants to discuss the possibility of having effects from fetal alcohol. I have never had a patient your age. I am so pleased to meet you!”

Dr. Shur then began to study my face, and my hands, and my now bare feet. She made notes on a piece of paper, and took out a book which had diagnoses in it. She would jot down some facial characteristics I had, and then refer to her book, explaining what she was writing and researching. “You definitely have a long, thin philtrum (the area between your nose and upper lip). You have slight palpebral fissures for both eyes, the left more so than the right (the distance between the corners of your eyes). You also have hockey stick formations on both palms (lines on my palms). Oh, and your pinky toes are characteristic as well (hypoplasia of the pinky toes, no toenails ever formed).”

She took out a tape measure and measured my head. “Your head size is in the third to 10th percentile. This is so hard to diagnose, especially because I don’t know what your head size should’ve been at birth. I did not have the opportunity to hear it from your birth mom’s lips that she was a drinker throughout your pregnancy. (She passed away in 1999 due to alcoholism and falling down the stairs and breaking her neck). You say friends of hers said she drank every day. You say they told you she was drinking when she went into labor. Your mom was told she may have been drunk during the delivery. You definitely have fetal alcohol effects. I would say fetal alcohol syndrome, but without getting to talk to your birth mom, I can’t put that down as a diagnosis.”

At that moment, she stopped and looked at me and my mom. She told me I was a beautiful, successful woman, and told my mom that she had done an amazing job raising me. My mom’s answer was, “We just treated her like a child, and gave her lots of love.”

Dr. Shur’s diagnosis was what I wanted to hear. That may sound odd, but it is the answer I needed for all the “whys” of the many impulsive choices I have made in life. It explained why I have always struggled with understanding abstract concepts and never remembered how to get to the mall. It explained so many things. Why I went from zero to sixty with my children when milk spills, or act like the sky is falling if I trip over a toy.

Before Dr. Shur left the room, she told my mom and I a story about one of the families she saw, and how the mother sobbed when she diagnosed her adopted child with fetal alcohol syndrome. She told us she was so happy to have met me, because she can now say she met a 34 year old who has lived with fetal alcohol effects for 34 years. She was encouraged that I am a successful employee, daughter, wife and mother. Those words touched my core. If I can help those parents who feel there is no hope for their children diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome, then I have made a positive impact on a small part of society. I don’t know what the future holds for me but I am more than ready to walk through those doors that await me.

I have a video I hope helps parents, educators, doctors, and others like me who are affected by FASD:

From Darkness to Light
Impulsivity
Immaturity
Egotistical, like a child
Naïve at times
Forget reading a road map
Ut Oh when it comes to math problems
Physical and mental exhaustion can transpire when setting priorities
I went through 34 years; I had become the fun-loving “little sister” to everyone
I laughed with my peers and friends when I made the wrong turn going to the mall, or gave the wrong answer to a teacher
I was comfortable with who I was
I have been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Now tears fall
As I realize the Reason for me being fun-loving and young spirited is somewhat because of the disorder
I thought I was laughing with people
Now… I think I was being laughed at
A new start
Through 34 years of darkness
There is now light
Shadows are dancing and changing from uncertainty to hope
Through awareness, hope is born
Through hope, success begins and continues
Here’s to HOPE.
-Rebecca T.

This story originally appeared on Adoption.com.

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12 Christmas Wishes for My Daughter With Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

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My daughter and I celebrate our 11th Christmas together this year. We try to keep to a three-gift limit: something you need, something you want, and something just for fun. I would love to give her a new brain, because hers has been damaged by fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) – the result of her birth mom drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Since that isn’t possible, here are 12 things I wish for her, to make life for her, and others, better.

1. A long-term friend.

The maturity and development of individuals with FASD can be uneven. Although she is 18 years of age, some of her skill sets are those of an older person, and some are younger. Social skills are sometimes an issue because she does not understand nuances of spoken and body language.

She has no problem finding friends; she is very sociable and outgoing. The issue is keeping them, because social skills can be a challenge for her. She recently reconnected with a boy she went to elementary school with. He gave her a Christmas Card and called her his “best friend.”

I hope this gift of friendship continues.

2. Recognition that not all disabilities are visible.

FASD is a physical disability; however, the part of the body affected, the brain, is not visible. Most people with FASD have no visible or facial characteristics. When people can’t see a disability, they can be quick to judge.

Most people find my daughter friendly, polite, engaging, funny and helpful. When you spend more time with her you will notice certain quirks and challenges she has in navigating the everyday world. She can be impulsive, a black and white thinker, disorganized, struggles to connect actions with consequences and has trouble remembering things, even if she has done it a hundred times. She can’t control these things, because her brain was damaged before she was born.

I wish people recognized that not all disabilities are visible.

3. Understanding and acceptance.

One of the keys to helping someone with FASD is to meet them “where they are,” not where society thinks they should be.

I’ve had discussions with countless people who offer well-meaning but ill-informed advice, such as, “When I was 18, I was in college,” or “living on my own,” or “in the army,” etc.

I wish people understood and accepted her the way she is. Just because you were doing something at 18 doesn’t mean every other person on this earth can do the same things when they are 18.

4. A school system that recognizes FASD.

School is geared for the masses. If we want an inclusive society, and promote education as a right, then students should be taught in a way that supports and accommodates their development. FASD is not recognized in our school system as a condition that qualifies for support, be it an Educational Assistant (EA) or Child and Youth Worker (CYW) or placement in a program geared to their abilities.

A factor to improve outcomes for people with FASD is having an “external brain” – someone to provide guidance and support. Many of the incidents and struggles my daughter experienced during school, which led to multiple school disruptions, could have been avoided if she would have been better accommodated and assigned an EA or CYW to help her navigate school life.

I hope FASD is recognized soon so others have a better school experience than my daughter has.

5. Confidence in her future.

My daughter has said she wants to live with me forever. When she was young, I told her she could live with me as long as she needed to. She tells me she is terrified of living without me – that she does not know how she will manage. While she may not be ready to leave the house at 18, my wish is one day, with the right supports, she will have the confidence to live a life apart from me.

6. Timely access to developmental services in the adult system.

In Ontario (Canada) a recent report revealed over 14,000 adults with a developmental disability are on wait lists for services such as: respite, housing, job support or day programs. The wait for these services is a minimum of three years.

She can’t live on her own, and no one is paying me to be her caregiver (and she cannot stay alone all day). Even though she qualifies for support, she cannot participate in any of the day or employment programs, so she must stay in school until she is 21. What happens if she turns 21, must leave the school system, and she is still on a waiting list?

My wish is all adults with a developmental disability receive the services they need when they turn 18, without delay.

7. Professionals skilled in diagnosis, interventions and support.

Throughout the last ten years we have accessed a variety of professionals to address various behavior issues. We have been lucky because most have had some understanding of FASD – but there are others who have attempted to help my daughter or provide advice or suggestions based on what works with neurotypical children, with disastrous results.

A recent study revealed over 400 conditions attributable to FASD. Most children are misdiagnosed because doctors and practitioners are not receiving the education they need to diagnose the underlying condition – which results in many children developing secondary disabilities. And if mental health professionals are not aware, the treatment plan prescribed will not work.

I wish all health care practitioners were skilled in FASD diagnosis and intervention. And if not skilled, were aware of it and provided a referral.

8. Stigma, shame and blame are stamped out.

There are many reasons why a woman may have drunk alcohol while pregnant: she may have had a drink before discovering her pregnancy; someone she knew drank and had a baby without any condition; her health care practitioner may still believe drinking alcohol is not harmful; or she may have an untreated addiction issue and was not receiving support.

Many women will not admit drinking alcohol to their health care practitioner. When women feel safe to disclose alcohol consumption during pregnancy, the outcomes for themselves and their children are much improved with earlier intervention and support.

I wish people would stop blaming and start supporting women.

9. End FASD.

The message is clear and simple: 049 = No (0) alcohol for (4) nine (9) months of pregnancy. The only cause for FASD is the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy.

Not every child will be affected, nor will every child be affected in the same way. But if women abstain from drinking alcohol while trying to get pregnant, or during their pregnancy, is no child will be born with FASD.

My wish is one day no child will be born with FASD.

10. To know she has a Mum who always loves her.

During the adoption process, no one educated me about FASD. No plan was established should I require access to services. We have been though some really trying times. Many people ask me, given what I know, would I still adopt my daughter? Of course, I would.

I am a better person in many ways for having her in my life. What I would change, however, is how I react sometimes when my frustration gets the better of me. I hope she knows, even in those moments, I love her and always will.

11. A time machine.

If my daughter had a time machine, she might choose to go back in time and be born without FASD. But if she chose that, I might never have become her mum.

My wish is that she could go back in time and choose to be diagnosed earlier and therefore receive supports and interventions to lessen the struggles we have faced.

12. All the items on her gift list.

Even though all the above would make her life so much better, they can’t be wrapped.

She hasn’t asked for much: I hope to make her Christmas wishes come true. A purse, dress, gloves and hat are her needs. A stereo and headphones are her wants. And just for fun, I’ll probably give her Pokémon cards (her obsession.)

While it looks like I will go over the three gift limit this year, I do hope at least three of my other wishes come true for my daughter, and others, in 2017.

And if you celebrate Christmas or New Year’s and are planning on becoming pregnant, or are already pregnant, please do not drink alcohol during this season, or during your pregnancy. FASD is the leading preventable cause of developmental disabilities. Just remember: 049.

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