Please don’t tell me you are “sorry”. When you find out someone’s child is disabled (i.e., has Autism, Rett syndrome, Down’s syndrome, etc.) do not say you are “sorry” – we understand you mean well, but it is incredibly upsetting to hear. Our child is still our child. She has not died and we are not at all sorry she exists. We are madly in love with her. As you are with your child. Every accomplishment, development, laugh, makes our hearts sing! Just as your child’s accomplishments, development, happiness, makes your heart sing. Every tear she sheds breaks our hearts. Just as your child’s tears breaks yours.
Granted, ours is not a life we likely would have chosen. And we have had to drastically shift our expectations (like continental – tectonic plate shifts). And we have had to come to terms with a life completely different than the one we had expected to lead. And it is a challenge. And it is not one we would ever expect you to understand. And it is not one we would ever want you to lead…it is hard. And we are NOT sorry. Our child gives us unspeakable joy and you saying you are sorry about her is heart breaking and painful to hear. We only wish you could see her as we see her and enjoy her as we enjoy her…So do not tell us you are sorry.
Lifted, almost verbatim, from Jocelyn Gould Turken, super Mom and autism advocate. ❤️
Tomorrow the movers are coming to pack up and gather all of our stuff and then on Friday we’re in our new home. It all sounds so simple!
Regardless of the general moving stress, we are all super excited. This is a big change for me and Lily though we’ll still be staying on the UWS. It’s been just the two of us for the past six years. But we are both really excited to start this new chapter, combining homes with Stephen into a beautiful new place which is conveniently located right next to Lily’s school. I kid you not.
Lily is beaming and giggling and talking about her new bedroom and what she wants it to look like. Every time anyone speaks to her about it she just lights up. This kid is just amazing. So open-minded and invested in this new adventure. It’s almost exceeding the buildup to Christmas.
She independently navigated this page the other day when talking to Elaine, her speech therapist. (FYI this is a complex sentence to structure using Tobii/PODD so it’s pretty mind blowing.)
And then this is what she said she wants for the color of her room:
Lily and I just got back from a week in Florida visiting our family. It was a good trip. But a tough one. It’s not as easy to travel with her now. She’s bigger. Her symptoms have evolved. And caring for her has gotten more complex.
I’m exhausted. Lily is too. But damned if we’re going to let Rett Syndrome keep us away from our family.
Here are a few photos of our vacation. There were a lot of smiles. But there were definitely a lot of tears and frustration and really hard days and very scary moments too. They just don’t make for good pictures. So I’m only going to share the happy ones.
I’m also going to share an article from another special needs mom who writes about the isolation and exhaustion that comes with being on this path. Thank you Amy from Raising the Extraordinary for so beautifully and eloquently explaining what this journey is like for us moms.
And thank you Florida family for loving and supporting me and my girl so very much.
As you know, the east coast was hit with quite the storm. Lily and I hunkered down and did our best to enjoy her day off from school.
We played dress-up, read books, watched movies and even went outside for a nanosecond. She doesn’t like the cold or the snow. She too must be a Floridian at heart like her momma.
Winters are not easy for Rett girls. Not only is it more isolating than usual, but also they struggle more with their health. Peeing, sleeping, breathing and eating have become concerns again in this house. For the most part, she’s staying positive. But she’s had more than a few moments of feeling miserable and sad. I’ve seen many more tears than usual these past few weeks.
We are both trying to keep our spirits up. It’s not so difficult to do as we are heading to Florida to visit our family next week. We are both excited to feel sun on our skin and sand under our feet. And of course see our relatives!!!
Lily is ready to get back to school. She’s been sobbing intermittently for the past few days. Likely because she’s been cooped up and is missing her friends. Or maybe today it’s because she’s not peed in over 18 hours. There’s a lot of calculated guessing when it comes to figuring out what’s going on with her.
Anyway, it was pretty apparent when she came home to me yesterday evening that she wanted to go outside.
This is how she tells me she wants to go out… she stares at the doorknob wishing it to open
But as it’s currently hovering around 15 degrees Fahrenheit and she has zero body fat, there was no chance that we were going to venture out in the dark last night.
Our first 20 or so minutes at the museum were tense. She was not pleased. But we finally made our way to the Native American section which she loves; she eventually perked up – her favorite music, Snapchat filters and bead displays helped. Lily spent about an hour roaming about looking at furs and feathers while I played bodyguard, blocking her from other museum patrons.
So the museum was mostly good, though exhausting as I had to carry her for much of it. And the other half was spent chasing after her.
Next on our agenda – lunch! The restaurant was 4 short blocks from the museum so I decided that we should walk. I mean… she was busting to get outside last night, right? Well it turns out that Lily likes the cold and snow even less than me. After about a half a block of walking/carrying, she burst into tears. Thankfully a taxi driver took pity on us and took us three(!) blocks to our restaurant. He was very kind and laughed along with me at my kids over-reaction to the snow.
Thankfully she ate her lunch – in between sobs – and I got mine packed to go. We braved the short block and a half to our home – amidst the sobs – and now we are home. And it’s only 2pm. And she’s still not peed.
Wish us luck.
This is what she currently thinks of winter break.
Even though our mornings start with me saying “Lily – breathe” “Scoot forward angel face” “Stand up – you can do it!” “Keep your feet under you baby girl” “Walk forward” “Lily relax your muscles” “Lily open your mouth sweetie” “Swallow your food honey” “Lily you need to eat something before going to school”, they are also filled with so much love and many giggles.
Her struggles continue. Some of her symptoms are getting worse. Some are easing up. But she still manages to put a smile on her face and bravely move forward with her day. I do my best to follow suit.
I’m grateful that this girl continues to persevere in the face of so much adversity. A lesser person would crumble. I’ve crumbled. But I dust myself off and remember that Lily needs me. I do not have the luxury of losing my shit completely. Though I do lose it momentarily, and preferably when she’s not around.
I am her voice (though she’s getting quite fluent with the Tobii), I am her arms, sometimes her legs, oftentimes her nurse, her doctor and always her advocate. Oh yes, and I’m her mommy. So we do our best to have as much fun as possible in between (and sometimes during) all those doctors and hospital appointments.
It’s the season of giving. And my ask to you is this: if you are considering making a charitable donation in the coming weeks, please consider giving to the Rett Syndrome Research Trust. We are SO very close to a cure; every dollar raised inches us to our goal. And all of our Rett sweeties and their families could use a miracle right about now.
My heart is bursting with pride. Sharing a note Lily’s teacher wrote today along with some pictures…
This kiddo had an amazing day! She’s been very interested in notes and letters (wanting to keep re-reading the notes you send in her lunchbox, very proud of the card she wrote for Christine’s birthday, etc). So yesterday and today we started talking more about letters. We talked about parts of a letter (greeting, body, closing) and Lily helped me sequence a letter that I wrote to Ms. Ariel. She was very into the activity (wanted it to be a secret and a surprise, and asked for “more” when the activity was complete). Then, she worked on her own letter. Christine, we sent it home in her backpack. We were blown away… she wrote it almost completely by herself, with nothing but some verbal prompts (e.g. “don’t forget, a greeting is like a hello…”). She chose who the letter was for, what she wanted to say, and how she wanted to close out the letter. It was really great practice (writing work and using the Tobii), so I’m sure you’ll be seeing more letters in the upcoming weeks.
Today we also read a few more chapters of Junie B Jones and she was laughing hysterically at the silly parts. In one of the chapters, Junie is sharpening pencils (and attempts to sharpen a crayon in a pencil sharpener, which doesn’t go so well). Lily requested, “my turn,” so I took her to the office to sharpen a pencil. She seemed to think it was great fun! She once again did a fabulous job asking comprehension questions during the read aloud, and seemed very engaged. Once again, she was a total cuddle bunny today. At the end of the day, she kept going back and forth between me and Ariel, squealing, and leaning in for hugs. She also put her arm around each of us at least once, which was so exciting! She was very, very happy this afternoon.
See you soon,
P.S. Lily and I had matching shirts on today, which she seemed to think was pretty funny!
A few months ago while Lily and I were flying back from Florida, we struck up a conversation with the woman sitting next to us. It turns out that this woman works in the media – in a pretty high-profile way. Vera had never heard of Rett Syndrome and was intrigued. And so we kept in touch.
About a week into my 5-week leave from work this summer, she interviewed me for an online magazine. We weren’t quite sure what the focus of the interview was going to be but it became pretty apparent with the first few questions that it was going to be about how the hell I manage working full time and caring for Lily.
You see – I was week one into a 5 week leave and it hit me in these first five days of not going into the office just how much I have on my plate with Lily. Managing her 4 caregivers, her 2 home-based therapists, her 15+ doctors, filling out medicaid paperwork, filling out private insurance paperwork, making appointments, thinking about her diet, writing about her diet, counting calories, carrying therapy over into the home, ensuring that I’m communicating effectively with her teachers and therapists at school ALL while managing a home (laundry? dishes?). Holy shit. I really didn’t know how I was keeping up. And now that I’m back at work, I’m still not fully sure how it all comes together. But it does (hint: super helpful caregivers and therapists/teachers). And so I continue – on most days, with a smile on my face. Because I really have the sweetest, smartest, bravest, funniest, coolest kid in the world.
If you want to check out our interview, click here.
Both Lily and I transitioned easily back into our routines. I returned to work with a clear head about the direction we were/likely are going in with the feeding tube. Of course my kid upended it all by devouring most everything in her sight after the appointment with her pediatric GI (who recommended a small feeding tube). So for now, the decision is still somewhat up in the air. She’s still eating well. But I’ve done my research, I’ve written out the pros/cons and I’m as comfortable as can be about this situation.
Which is a good thing as it’s been a crazy few weeks at the office. Thankfully my team held things together while I was out. Actually they did more than hold things together – they did a phenomenal job managing some really complex projects that arose during my absence. And the projects have kept piling up since my return. Currently my team is running multiple community fundraisers and assistance programs for employees who have been severely impacted by these recent disasters (the company I work for operates in over 100 countries and 500 cities). Additionally we hosted Cherie Blair (former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife and kick-ass advocate for women’s rights) for a conversation and cocktails the day after the earthquake in Mexico. It’s been both a a sad and inspirational time at work. So much devastation but also so much support for our employees (which my team and I are managing). And to top it off, a cool panel session with some awesome ladies.
As for Lily – she continues to have her ups and downs. But is loving school and her therapies. I’m getting notes from her teachers and therapists that she is blowing them away. I’m so proud of this hard-working kid.
From top to bottom:
Mom working hard
Lily letting me know what she thinks about Rett Syndrome on a bad day
Whether 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.
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.