Looks from strangers

IMG_7090Whether we’re walking down the street together or I’m pushing her in her adaptive stroller, we get stared at.  Some people are sly about it – they look out of the corner of their eye.  Others are overtly staring – gaping mouthed – at us.  Some days I can ignore it.  Other days, I stare right back at them.  It really depends on how much sleep I get the night before.  This issue has been a BIG topic of discussion on one of the many amazing special needs parent groups that support me and Lily along this journey of ours.

One mom (shout out to Jackie from Queens!) piped up some awesome suggestions which I want to share with parents who are on a similar journey and also for our friends/family who want to better understand just one of the many micro-annoyances that are a part of our day-to-day lives.

1) You have to stop caring what other people think. Completely. Unequivocally. From the bottom of your heart, stop caring about other people’s opinions relating to your child or your parenting. YOU ARE DOING YOUR BEST AND YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB! (how do I know? because we are all trying our best – that’s why we’re here on the chat board) The rest of the world just has no clue, and it is unreasonable for you to expect them to. The rest of the world is NEVER going to understand what our lives are like – it would be impossible to convey the mountains of information relating to our kiddos and we each have a different story.

2) You should keep in mind that (even if it seems like they are really really not) those other judgy, nosy, know-it-all people are doing their best too! Their best just sucks, but it’s not really their fault – no one taught them good manners or how to behave. They don’t have good tools to share suggestions in a helpful way. People often don’t think things through, they just act.

3) If you can’t beat em – join em! LOL!!!! I am a big fan of dealing with other’s inappropriate interventions with passive-aggressive techniques! If I’m on the subway and actually feel like bothering to address the people who are glaring at me and my 6 y.o. who is having a melt down I will LOUDLY remind my daughter that I’m not going to give in to her meltdown, that doing so would teach her that she will get what she wants by throwing a temper tantrum, that it would be unfair for me to not provide consistency and stick with consequences that have been pre-determined (if you keep hitting your brother I am going to put you in the stroller, etc), and that when she has a calm quiet voice and body I am looking forward to helping her and addressing what ever is causing her to feel so upset. My daughter can’t hear any of this, of course; when she’s melting down she’s in full-on fight-or-flight mode and has lost connection to the outside world temporarily. .. but the rest of the glaring people can hear me 😉 and honestly, I think they know I am talking to them, not my daughter.

This is NYC!!! There are people who smell like urine in the subways, people begging for money, ice cream trucks playing that horrific song (over and over and over 😉 lol), there are sirens and traffic and long lines, a million annoying things that are intruding on the peace and quiet of others … a kid having a moment while leaving Dunkin Donuts should be the least of their concerns! Someone who intrudes upon your life is small and petty and not worth one second of anxiety. They don’t have the right to cause you stress!!!! I do understand your anxiety, I used to feel it ALL the time, and then I just let go … one day I stopped and looked at the big picture and realized that I was so hard on myself, being critical b/c I knew my kids were disruptive and annoying to others – but I thought about what advice I would give to a friend with unruly kids and I realized that I was just not being very understanding or nice to myself. Be as understanding and caring and supportive of yourself as you would be to your dearest friend. What we do it SO HARD! Give yourself credit and take care of your self and don’t worry about what other people think.

I’m hoping that one day I can completely ‘let it go’ like this wise momma has done. Until then, I’m going to pray for as much sleep as possible.

 

Anxiety

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Adventures with mommy! Pete the cat book launch followed by lunch at 5 Napkins and a stroll in the park (mom had to do minimal carrying of child)

I know these photos don’t depict a child struggling with severe anxiety but she is.

Screaming and crying for hours at night, unable to be consoled in any way, it’s been heartbreaking. And exhausting.

I’ve been in touch with her specialist. We are considering changing her sleep medication. She’s only on one medication for sleep. Clonidine. And am so grateful that we’ve been able to keep the drugs to a minimum so far. Most girls with Rett syndrome are on upwards of half a dozen medications.

Clonidine obviously hasn’t been working so great lately. But I may have found something that has – continuos release melatonin. It never worked for her in the past, but the past two nights she’s been sleeping. Is it luck? Is it melatonin? I don’t know. But I hope we continue with this streak.

Celebrating Lily’s birthday

On February 8th, Lily is going to be six years old.  In honor of her upcoming birthday and my unwavering desire to obliterate Rett Syndrome, I will match up to a total of $1500 donated to her RettGive.org page between today and the 8th.

I’m so proud of this kid – she literally smiles in the face of adversity. I see it every day when she’s struggling to stand, walk or breathe.  I see how hard she works to do – well – almost anything right now.  I pray for the day when Rett Syndrome will be just a painful memory.

For those who have already generously donated… from the bottom of my heart, thank you! Your support and love is palpable.  For those who’ve not gotten around to it yet, or don’t feel that giving $10 or $20 will make a difference, believe me when I say that every dollar counts.

Lily is the bravest, sweetest, smartest, hardest working almost 6 year old that I know. And I know that one day in the near future she, and her Rett sisters, will be cured.  But without funding, it will remain a pipedream.

D-Day

Tomorrow it will be three years since we got the Rett Syndrome diagnosis.  Sometimes it feels like time has stood still since that moment.  Sometimes it feels like time is racing by.  Sometimes I feel like I’m on top of it.  Sometimes I feel completely defeated.

These past two months have really put us to the test.  And I’ve been more afraid now than I was when I first heard the words ‘your daughter has Rett syndrome.’  I don’t think it’s because I was naive to what the future could hold. I’ve been cautiously optimistic that my kid would beat the odds and be healthy.  And we’ve taken every measure to try and make this a reality.

However, her health has taken a nose-dive as of late, as many of you know.  And I’m still looking for answers to what’s been going on.  But have come up with nothing new.

Physically I’ve noticed that she has been getting stronger.  Afternoons and evenings are better for her.  She can walk around most evenings completely independently and somewhat safely.  But mornings… they take my breath away.  And not in a good way.  Most mornings she is struggling to stand.  Some mornings, she can’t even get herself up to sit.  But when she is struggling, she has a smile, and a determined look on her face.  It’s almost like she’s saying ‘I’m going to have fun while fighting this.’  I try to take her lead on these things.  I really do.  But it’s fucking heartbreaking.

Just as she’s been seemingly getting physically stronger, a new symptom has reared its ugly head out which is putting a wrench on her recovery.  Breathing.  Or lack thereof.  The past two nights in a row, it’s taken her 5 hours to fall asleep.  Breath holding and hyperventilating for hours at a time.  She’ll fall asleep, but forget to breathe while doing so.  Which means that a few moments later she wakes up gasping for air.  It’s been this terrifying cycle to watch.  And there is nothing I can do but hold her hand and tell her I love her and that I’m proud of her and that we will figure this out.

In a few weeks she is going to have a birthday.  Six years old.  In many ways she is a typical 6 year old – she loves to play dress up and read stories and giggle.  But in so many ways she is not.  There are way too many hospital visits.  Way too many health issues.

The scientific community is inching closer and closer to a cure.  Some say it is a matter of 3-5 years.  This is not soon enough.  But one day, Lily will be rid of this Rett monster.  This is a fact.

For those who were considering sending her a birthday gift, the greatest gift you could give would be making a donation to the Rett Syndrome Research Trust.  In honor of Lily’s birthday and diagnosis day, I’ve created a fundraising page specifically for her.  I have an audacious goal of raising $100,000 by year end.  Help me get there.  Help me spread the word.

A cure is in sight.  And it can’t come soon enough.

Here is the direct link: https://rettgive.org/projects/a-cure-for-lily/

 

 

Struggling

I am not going to sugarcoat what’s been going on. Lily is having an extremely difficult time doing things she used to do effortlessly like sitting up on her elbows, standing, walking, breathing.

I’ve been busy trying to procure additional help at home – whether it’s friends or family stopping by in the evenings or hiring a morning aide to come and help us get out the door. We just got approved through Medicaid for a home health aid to be with us 24/7 but there are still numerous steps to actually get that support into place. It still may be a matter of months until this service kicks in.

We are navigating through a new, terrifying TEMPORARY time. Through it all, this kid amazes me with her determination, grace and beauty. She is my hero.

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Searching for answers

It started with her having 2 bad Rett episodes (shaking and freezing and groaning) back to back and then getting strep in late November. It was while we were in Florida for thanksgiving that I started to notice her left arm freezing. And then a few days later her left shoulder looking like it was getting pulled back and then a few days after that watching her entire body writhing (not convulsing) and knocking her to the ground.

So we did the home EEG. During a 24 hour period we saw two dozen of these writhing events. It turns out they weren’t seizures. However, she did have one seizure in her sleep the night of the home EEG that I didn’t even notice (she slept with me that night).

Before we got the results back from that EEG, I made the decision to put her on anti-seizure medicine. The meds initially worked. And then they stopped. And then she got even worse. Lips turning blue, breathing labored, mobility worsening. Zero energy. Little appetite.

So we went to the hospital. We were admitted yesterday and will be leaving tomorrow.

What did we learn at the hospital? Well these episodes we are seeing are definitely not seizures. This is a good thing. However what is going on isn’t entirely clear. The doctor says Lily had a growth spurt and it’s been exacerbating her apraxia. Basically what it means is that she’s having dizzy spells and her body has changed so much so quickly that she needs to relearn how to do all the things she was, up until recently, able to do. I know my kid well and I haven’t noticed any major growth spurt. But this is all we’ve got.

The Rett specialist says that this is just a bump in the road. It’s going to take months, and lots of physical therapy, to get her back to where she was 4 short weeks ago.

Right now Lily can’t walk without assistance and when she does walk, she now walks backwards mostly. She’s lost almost 2 pounds.

She has managed a few times in the past few days to emerge from the fog and be her silly Lily self. These moments don’t last nearly long enough. But when they do, my heart soars.

I’m trying to wrap my head around this new TEMPORARY chapter. Lily cannot be left alone for a moment. How do you cook? How do you get ready for work in the morning? I don’t know the answer right now but I’m going to have to figure it out fast. And I will. And this kid is going to get better.

The strength of motherhood

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas.

I had a quiet Christmas day while Lily was with her dad.  It’s been a roller coaster of a few weeks – so many highs and way too many lows – so I’ve been looking forward to some much needed down time.

We’ve not yet received Lily’s EEG results but in the meantime, I asked her neurologist to prescribe her some anti-seizure medication while we are awaiting the results.  I couldn’t bear to not try something (and of course I’ve done countless hours of research on the topic so it’s not a knee-jerk reaction).  Lily had become a shell of herself.  And dammit if I’m not going to try every approach I can to help her get back to where she was 3 weeks ago.

Before Lily had her setback, my friend Carlos sent this note my way and it perfectly explains the joy, and pain, of motherhood.  And it’s even more relevant to me now than ever.

The strength of motherhood

Motherhood takes you to heaven and hell every day. It erases your past and amplifies it at the same time. It destroys and rebuilds you, slowly and carefully: replacing the cracked, broken bricks with stronger ones with no anesthesia.

Motherhood kills the old you; it doesn’t care who you think you are, only who you must be in this moment to meet the needs of the ones you invited into this world.

And somehow, by feeding that child, loving that child, wiping that child’s tears from their damp cheeks, pouring water over that child’s head as you sit beside them, uncomfortable and damp next to the bathtub, you become the gentlest of warriors.

Motherhood is a bridge that you walk alone, but as you look to your left and to your right, you see others on their own bridges, navigating the rickety planks of swaying wood. And as you see them struggling just like you are not to fall, it gives you the courage to take one more step.

Motherhood is painfully lonely, but at 3 o’clockin the afternoon whether you’re sitting on the living room floor with a child who doesn’t know your real name or at 3 o’clock in the morning with a child who needs your steady tapping on their pajama-ed back, you’re not alone because all over the world, mothers are doing the same thing. Their minds wander through the garden of their imaginations and memories, dreaming of sleep and rest, but powered by the fiercest of love.

The love that one pours into their child doesn’t come from the heart. Anyone can be in love. Anyone can be infatuated. The type of love one has for their child comes from the center of their bones. It’s the type of love that doesn’t need reciprocation to burn hot. It’s the type of love that never keeps score. It’s the type of love that powers nature in her infinite beauty and ruthlessness.

When a mother says, “I love you,” she doesn’t mean “I love how you make me feel” she means “You are my world, my sun and my moon and not life or death can change that, wherever you are I will find you whether it be across seas or lost within yourself. You are my breath and the light inside my eyes.”

Motherhood, while almost never glamorous, is always beautiful.

Written by:  Bunmi Laditan

Lessons Learned in Life

Motherhood has been the greatest gift I have ever received.  And I’m so grateful for my sweet kid.  She’s going to get through this and come out even stronger.  I just know it.

Wishing you all a peaceful and healthy new year.  See you in 2017!

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Opening Lily’s Christmas presents a few days earlier