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Archive for September, 2011

I often think about the other parents. The ones who are in intensive care wards, or in the “bad news room” at the hospital awaiting results. The ones who are sitting next to incubators, who pray, who hope, who despair. We were them once.

I had so many questions then. Not medical questions – questions for my future self. And, I expected every answer would filled with more misery than the next.

Fast forward 2 1/2 years. How would I answer the questions of the woman I was?

Question from me 2009: Does life suck?

Answer from me 2011: No.

Question: But, surely it does and you are just covering it up to make me feel better.

Me: No, I’m not. Everything takes longer. I worry more about the future. I will never feel “grateful” for May’s brain damage. But, that doesn’t mean I hate my life. I love my life. I love my daughter.

Question: I know you are lying to me. What about her seizures? She has over 100 a day.

Me: They stopped. That was a major challenge, but we tried out various medications and got them down to almost non-existent.

Challenging, but not without its pleasures.

Question: Well, that sounds good, but she still can’t sit. Or, feed herself. Or, speak.

Me: Yes. I hate all that. But, I don’t let it eat away at me. I can’t. I focus on helping May become as independent as she can. I try to focus on what she can do rather than what she can’t.

Question: Oh, come on. Don’t you want to run-away or scream or anything but not have this be your life?

Me: My life has changed. It is definitely different than I imagined. But, the worst moments all happened when she was still at the hospital. After we left that behind, the only way was up. It never got that bad again. That’s the truth. When we were told of May’s injuries it was a blinding, desolation of my emotions I have never felt since.

Question: Are you sure you don’t wish every day that this never happened?

Me: I do. I would literally give of my body if it would cure her – anything to erase May’s injury and make her whole. It’s hard to watch her struggle to do what comes naturally to the rest of us. But, mainly I worry about her future when we aren’t around. But, here’s something to think about: almost everything I worry about, May doesn’t. She doesn’t even understand that there is anything wrong with her.

Question: But, you must look at her and know she will amount to nothing.

Me: I can’t wait for you to see everything May can do. Watch her Olympic level bouncing to see even a sliver of the joy she has brought into our lives. Society rates success on money and degrees and titles. And, okay, she won’t achieve those. But, how many of us can say that we made a member of our family smile every day?  Is that nothing?

Until you live with May every day, you will not understand how proud of her we are – how her most minor achievements astound us. It is simply not possible to love her more than we do.

There is much pleasure, love and silly songs in your future.

I really wish I had known that then.

Want to read more from Stacie? Check out her posts on BabyCenter’s Momformation!

VOTE for May and Mama! We are nominated for Best Special Needs Blog at Parents Magazine!

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Last night, in anticipation of the arrival of May’s glasses today, I asked to my husband, “Do you think the glasses will make a difference?”

“No,” he said, bluntly.

I made a kind of hmmm sound. The kind of sound wives make to husbands when a “no” isn’t quite a sufficiently long enough response.

He looked up at me, since I was still looking at him, thought better of it, and continued. “Noooo, but I hope.”

Like him, I can’t expect much more than that.

I picked up the glasses today, less than two weeks after doctors discovered she has an astigmatism. Just as you are, I saw her in them for the first time today. I hope hope hope this makes a difference. So, what do I think of them so far?

Hmmm. Very cute.

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Want May to win Best Special Needs Blog at Parents Magazine? The easiest way to vote is to register with your Facebook, Twitter or email account when prompted. May thanks you for your vote: Bounce!Bounce!Bounce!

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A few months ago, I entered a giveaway to receive a free iPad for May. It was the second giveaway the blog, called Marissa’s Bunny, ran. In the first, Mike, the writer of the blog, organized a raffle where for every $1,000 raised, a special needs family would receive a iPad. Tickets cost $2.

In the first giveaway, 20 families were promised laptops. It doesn’t appear than any received them. Perhaps some did but, if so, the vitriol unleashed over the internet would imply few did.

Why then open a second giveaway? There is much about this story that perplexes me. Since my initial application, months ago, I have not heard anything back other than his own postings on the blog. (I did email him for this post, to hear his take on the status of the contest, but he did not respond.)

Once it was clear that receipt of the iPads was no longer a given, he wrote an elaborate story on the blog involving emailed threats, the police and his family’s safety. Without revealing any specifics, he conveyed vague threats of violence to towards himself and his children as the reason he was forced to stop. Given the tone of the writing, I hope it was all in his imagination.

This lack of details about the closure of the giveaway, combined with the disappointment of parents already bludgeoned daily by disappointments, sent the special needs blogosphere into a tizzy.

People have a tendency to trust and admire the parents of disabled children. There is no justification for it. I’ve never understood this. Not many of you readers know me in real life. I could be complete loser in real life, or worse, a man. (That is a joke!) Or even, an American! (Actually, that part is true.)

As the father of a daughter with special needs, readers took Mike on faith and donated A LOT of money to help raise money for his daughter’s surgery. I’ve read of figures topping $25,000, though how much exactly, I am unsure of.

On the other hand, it is not unheard of for companies and charities to offer special needs children free products. Only a couple of weeks ago, my speech and language therapist told me about a British charity that is giving away iPads to children. But, I’ve never heard of something like this.

What a curiosity! Have you heard of the Marissa’s Bunny giveaway/raffle?

VOTE for May and Mama! We are nominated for Best Special Needs Blog at Parents Magazine!

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If you think May is a superhero – if her Superior Power of Cuteness has directed you to read posts when really you should be working, there is no need to thank us. Who needs a job anyway? Mama and May approve of your devotion!

Here are a few ways you can spread the LOOOOVE:

1. VOTE for us! Parents Magazine is running a Best Blog Awards contest and we are nominated for Best Special Needs Blog.

2. Can you help out May’s special school Small Steps School for Parents? The company Give-It-Away has donated in excess of £150,000 to Small Steps over the years by renovating and selling on houses in London. Do you work for a building firm? Or, do a bit of plumbing?  If you think you can help, even to give them some publicity, not only Small Steps, but all the other small, underrepresented charities that they help will be very grateful!

May thanks you! (bounce, bounce, bounce!)

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You know why I love social services so much? Because working with them is an adventure; I never know what to expect next. What fun! Plus, I get to really focus on what May can’t do. That’s something I love doing.

Today, a social worker called to confirm an appointment. Her call was the first I heard of it. Today. An appointment at 3.00 today.

I couldn’t figure out what this appointment could be for. Then, I had a sudden realization, “Wait! Is this about respite care for May?”

Turns out it was. So, I said I was free.

The information the social worker collects goes to a panel later this week. There some people, as always strangers who have never met May, will decide exactly how many hours of help we need assistance with, based on a report compiled after our 40 minute meeting.

It doesn’t instill you with much confidence does it?

Me neither. And, given our previous experience with Social Services, I expected the worst. I was actually nervous. While Ieuan took a nap, I went outside and paced in the sunshine creating a list in my mind of reasons we need respite care. Newborn baby. May’s increasing heaviness. Not enough time to do basic stretches. Need someone to assist for the safety of both children while I’m concentrating on one. That I want just one cup of tea without being interrupted. Just one.

Is that too much to ask?

Here is where this post turns bizarre. I LIKED the social worker. I don’t think she’d be for everyone with her blunt mannerisms, dark sense of humor and business-like professionalism, but that is exactly what I want in a social worker. I want someone who will say, “On the form it asks about communication. I’m just going to write, ‘none’ and fill in the rest on your behalf later using the medical reports.”

Hello? What? Honest, to the point and helpful all at once? A social worker entered my home and had already read May’s case history. She did not ask me a single thing about the birth. She had handwritten notes on May’s reports. I didn’t need to explain anything except where she didn’t know what to say without asking me.

I thanked her. Repeatedly.

She acted like it was all part of the job. She doesn’t realize how rare it is that people do their job.

From her chair, one which reclined comfortably and she said she may never leave, the social worker snorted a chuckle. “It says here, ‘Did you meet with the applicant alone?’ as if May and I would arrange to meet!”

“Next time, I’ll leave you two be,” I said, “and you can meet for coffee.”

She chuckled again. This woman, with her notes and strong demeanor is what I have been fearing for so long. Good news for once from the department that trains the so-called experts.

We should find out in the next week what kind of respite comes from the report.

Want to read more from Stacie? Check out her posts on BabyCenter’s Momformation!

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You’ll have to look closely here. As quickly as I could in such an awkward position, I tried to capture something I’d never seen before. The shaky footage is due to me grabbing my computer, the only thing with a camera to hand. Also, the upload plays at a slightly faster speed than real life giving it a silent film like quality. Not to mention I started weeping.

All this, and yet it is such a miraculous moment that I’m uploading it anyway.

Here May reaches out and for the first time I have ever seen, touches something other than our faces. And, it’s her brother.

In my wildest dreams, I never expected May to acknowledge Ieuan so early on. I didn’t get my hopes up on her acknowledging him at all – not until he was old enough to make his presence known. But here, May gently reaches out with an open hand, caresses his face and sticks her index finger in his mouth for him to suck on. She did it here, on the video, but also numerous times throughout hour they lay together under the playmat.

Don’t lose hope parents of special needs kids. Amazing things are always just around the corner. Of course, we endure the desperate eternities between milestones, and even our milestones are not conventional, but sometimes we are rewarded with the most beautiful moments of our lives.

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I shouldn’t get too excited. The Prof even told me not to get too excited. (Side Note: You know they are medical big wigs when… everyone calls them The Prof or The Boss.)

I took May into Morefields Eye Hospital this week to get her eyes checked. The doctor in charge of the Developmental Vision Clinic at Great Ormond Street recommended attending the clinic. She said they would be sympathetic to May’s developmental problems and not shrug off my attempts to improve her vision with a flippant “there is no point” comment like we’ve received in the past.

The Prof didn’t shrug me off. He was honest. That’s different.

May has an astigmatism. That’s a fairly common eye problem. This means May finds it difficult to see fine details, and things look blurry.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if that was, even partially, the trouble with her vision and glasses could correct it?

I know. I sound too excited. The Prof said it was unlikely that it would make a difference to May due to her brain injury, but in a child suffering solely from the astigmatism, it definitely would. The correction needed is significant. He thought it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try.

So, following the appointment, I chose an adorable pair of spectacles for my May. Said spectacles will make their world debut on this blog in about a week’s time!

Want to read more from Stacie? Check out her posts on BabyCenter’s Momformation!

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