Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome blows . . .

I am having a rough week. I am sick and tired of dealing with the fall out of my son's prenatal exposure to alcohol. He is running again people! Those of you new here, my son tends to fall more on the flight side than the fight side. His impulse control is ZERO and when he gets frustrated with us, he takes off. The nicer spring-ish days has allowed him to take off twice now. Saturday he took off for about a half an hour and yesterday he left, but Robert caught him before he hit the corner. Saturday he was out of sight for about half the time. The other 15 minutes were spent running away from Robert, back and forth in front of our house and down to the very busy bridge just south of our block and nearly being hit by a truck. Seriously. He spent the rest of the weekend in his underwear. It is the only way I know to keep him in the house.

I get so frustrated that his life could've been so different. I know that his Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is made more difficult by the fact that he is also moderately mentally handicapped and schizophrenic, but I am just so sad that the FAS portion of his issues was 100% preventable had his mother refrained from drinking while he was in utero. I know that I can only deal with what is given to us, but I mourn the life he could've had.

I am spending Thursday afternoon speaking to pregnant high school students in an alternative learning program. I am going to have a hard time because I have been told that some of these girls are currently in drug treatment and some have admitted to drinking while they are pregnant. I know some of their children already have some deficits due to their choices while their children are supposed to be in safe in their womb. I harbor much anger for Dustin's mother and I hope I can convey kindness to these girls while still explaining that their choices are effecting their child. I am not sure I will be asked back. It should be interesting.


Amber said...

can i come listen? :)
you will do fabulous...glad the babies have a voice in you.

r. said...

If you're feeling that angry, maybe you're not the best person to go. You don't want these young women to feel attacked.

I don't actually know what makes these sorts of presentations go well, but I do have some things I'd keep in mind based on some previous experience working with moms with substance abuse and other problems . . .

- Avoid making sweeping statements. Even though you know any alcohol is too much, be careful what you say and how you say it. I once invited a stop-smoking counselor to speak to a group of young women in a transitional housing program. The presenter was speaking on the importance of not smoking while pregnant and mentioned that maternal smoking is associated with low birthweight. One of my clients stood up and said defiantly, "Well I smoked through both my pregnancies, and both my babies weighed over 9 lbs." (Inwardly I groaned, thinking to myself that gestational diabetes wasn't anything to brag about either...) But that's the kind of thing people will come up with when confronted with this info, so be ready for it and be ready to explain things in a nuanced way.

-- On a similar note, avoid being judgmental. (This is where my above comment about you maybe not being the best person to go came in--sorry if it sounded snarky). I knew one teenage mom whom one could easily dismiss as "selfish" because all the meth and other drugs she did while pregnant. But if you knew her, you learned that she didn't know she was pregnant for a while. And once she did, she planned on getting an abortion. And as time dwindled for that and she couldn't come up with the money and transportation, she tried inducing one through various "home remedies"--which though they did cause quite a bit of cramping and bleeding, didn't cause her to abort. So it's not like she was thinking about the consequences of carrying a baby to term with her substance use, because she was in deep, deep denial about the reality that she'd be carrying to term (and if she had more money, she wouldn't have). That same mother had serious, untreated psychological issues, and the drugs had a lot to do with the fact that she wasn't getting treatment through mainstream channels. Fortunately she was able to access inpatient treatment and was able to think much more clearly when she came out. When she came out she was very, very different.

-- I'm sorry this turned out to be so long and rambly and anecdotal, but I guess that's part of my point--All of those girls/young women you'll be speaking to have stories too. Some may be very, very defensive about the issues. Some may not have known they were pregnant until they were nearing the end of their first trimester. Others may be like the woman in my first anecdote, who likely had FASD herself and definitely had some learning impairments. Others might be like the second woman I described, who was very, very smart, but grew up amid extreme violence, had serious mental health issues, and an addiction that made her unable to think clearly about anything until she was forced to get clean.

Sorry, I'm still rambling. This isn't my most eloquent day. I guess my main point is this: Don't go in angry. And try to talk not just about the dangers of alcohol, but also about support networks and strategies for staying clean.

Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

I'd love to hear how it goes. It would be interesting to get the perspective of the girls. Seeing as I have 2 girls :)

Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

PS, "r" is right on. I have heard teenagers say stuff like, who cares if I have a low birthweight baby. I wouldn't want to have a big one, I want the baby small- they catch up.

Seriously! They don't understand what low birth weight means! It's not "just a small baby"!

:)De said...

I love your underware idea. 2 summers ago I had a runner. I wish I would have thought of that as she never would have left the home in just panties.

Good luck on your presentation.