Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fetal Alcohol


This is Natalie.....isn't she pretty? We adopted Natalie in September of 2001 from Russia, fully aware that her mother drank alcohol the entire time she was pregnant. Consequently, Natalie has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. FAS causes damage to the basal ganglia of the brain which impacts spatial memory and cognitive processes; it causes a reduced size of the cerebellum, a structure involved in balance, coordination, and cognition; and finally, prenatal alcohol exposure is the major cause of impaired development of the corpus callosum (a band of nerves fibers that forms the major communication link between the left and right brain). In the US, two children from every 1000 births will suffer FAS.....in contrast, in Russia, fifteen children from every 1000 births will suffer FAS. That is a HUGE difference.
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The most tragic aspect of FAS is it is completely preventable and can be avoided. FAS has a broad spectrum of signs/symptoms, some mild and others severe, as do most "syndromes". Many orphans adopted from Russia suffer some affects of this syndrome, because alcohol consumption among mothers who birth these children is prevalent. Oftentimes, the orphans' mother grew up an orphan herself and has no idea how to care for and carry an unborn child much less parent a child. The cycle perpetuates itself resulting in an estimated one million orphans in Russia.
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Yesterday, FAS looked like this in our home:
Natalie sometimes suffers from frustration because of her disability. Although she has a mild case compared to most, schoolwork does not come easy for her, she tends to be uncoordinated, she is language impaired, and socially immature for her age. To look at her, as you can see from the picture above, you would thing she is completely "normal". Therefore, others' exectations of her are usually too high. Admittedly, even though I am her mom, sometimes my expectations of her are too high too. All of these things combined together cause her to feel anxious at times. To remedy the situation, she started jogging a few months ago with our little Schnoodle, Trudy. Each day she jogs around the block a few times and loves it.
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A younger girl that lives down the road from us seems to like Natalie alot. Even though Natalie is eleven years of age, she is developmentally more like an eight or nine year old like this little girl, Julia. Julia asked if she could jog with Natalie; so, yesterday around 3:15pm, Nat took off to meet her little friend to go for a "run". Before leaving, I went step by step with Nat about her run like I always do....."It is 3:15pm, and will take you 5 minutes to get to Julia's house. When you get there, ring the doorbell and tell Julia you are ready to go for your jog and see if she still wants to join you. If she does, then run around the block 2 times, take Julia back home, and come straight home. You should be home in 45 minutes to an hour. When you get back, you need to go up to your room and finish your reading for the day, ok?" Her reply, "Yes, Ma'am".
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I had been gone most all of the day gathering Chappy's necessities for his trip to Africa. When I returned home, I was bombarded by questions from Lydia and Caleb regarding their school work. Lydia, in particular, needed to go to the store right away to get some poster board for a project that was due at her tutorial today. In the middle of the questions, Natalie was preparing to go on her run and I was giving her instruction. (Chaos is a fairly common event in our home--at this same time, Hope was also hanging onto my leg doing the sign for "drink" and Charlie was fussing because he had just seen me and needed some mommy love).
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Natalie takes off to jog, and thirty minutes later, Lydia and I go to the nearby CVS Pharmacy to get posterboard, leaving Caleb in charge of watching Hope and Charlie for 20 minutes until I return. When Lydia and I get back home, we immediately sit down at the kitchen table to begin her project, and get lost in it. At 5:30pm (and almost dark outside), I remarked that Natalie was being awfully quiet upstairs. Caleb, who had been busy doing his own homework at the table with us, snapped his head up and said: "Mom, I don't remember Nat coming back." He took off bounding up the stairs, and sure enough, there was no Natalie.
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Lydia called the neighbor to ask if Natalie was still there, I jumped into the minivan to go find her, and Caleb ran out to help me. We found her and brought her home. Caleb, Lydia and I were in a panic.....not Natalie. She couldn't figure out why we were so upset. It turns out, she had been jogging all over the neighborhood, not just around the block, they had even gone running on the trails behind the neighborhood. When I sat down with Natalie and explained my fear and panic to her, she reduced to a pile of tears. She felt awful. She had gotten caught up in her fun time with Julia and had never thought a single moment about home. Calling me never entered her mind.
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FAS children are not predictable and do not comprehend cause and effect. What happened yesterday is not a "lesson learned" for Natalie, but a lesson learned for mom. Natalie, if given the opportunity, would unintentionally repeat the same action again today and would be just as surprised at my panic as she was last night. (Ever seen the movie, "Groundhog Day"?) The only way to "fix" the problem is to not let Natalie run with her friend anymore OR for me to join in the jog with she and her friend (have I mentioned I hate running???)
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To give another example of how "cause and effect" is missing with FAS children, each time I go into a parking lot with Nat, I have to verbally say: "Stay with me and watch for cars." If we make a quick stop into a store, I say it when we get out of the car. Five minutes later, when we exit the store, I say it again. In those short five minutes, Natalie lost the reminder. In addition, when walking next to a large truck, I have to say, "Watch out for the mirror". If I don't, she will bang her head right into the mirror sticking out from the large SUV trucks, because she is busy looking everywhere else except where she is walking. It has happened more times than I can count----and Natalie gets into the car with a big blue pump knot on the front of her head---- And on many more occasions, she has come scary close to walking out in front of moving cars as well, when I have been distracted with another child and have forgotten to remind her of parking lot safety. If you were with our family for very long and didn't know about Natalie's disability, you would think I am a nagging mom. These are some of the things you'd hear me say to Natalie several times throughout the day:
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"Hold onto the rail when you are going up and down the stairs" (EVERY time she takes the stairs)....."Don't leave your pencil close to the edge of the table, because Hope could get it and put it in her mouth" (EVERY time she uses a pencil)......"Don't get your face so close to Hope's face, because you'll cause her to fall down" (EVERY time she plays with Hope)....."Make sure your seatbelt is buckled" (EVERY time we get into the car).....etc. You get the picture. Chappy and I laugh about it; he is married to a broken record.
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As Natalie gets older, her symptoms become more and more evident. What used to be passed off as: "Well, she is just a little child" can't be passed off any longer. Her peers are beginning to catch on and treat her differently. It is sad, because Natalie is one of the sweetest girls you will ever meet and works harder than anyone in our family. Her determination to overcome her disability is amazing.
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There are not a lot of resources available to families who are dealing with FAS, because the range of symptoms/severity is so wide. To remedy, a parent has to learn what works for their child through trial and error giving the child only the freedom she has proven she can handle. If you know a family who has adopted a child from Russia, be aware the child will likely show some sign of FAS and be a support to them, be forgiving of their adopted child's behavior, and an encouragement to the family. We should always be reminded, EVERY child deserves a family!
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This is National Adoption Awareness Month, so I will post about our adopted ones on occasion throughout the month. Adoption is a beautiful picture of our salvation. As believers, we are all adopted through Christ.....before accepting Him, we are needy orphans, full of defects and disorders called "Sin-Syndrome". But lovingly, our Father has made the biggest sacrifice of all. He died for us, taking our "Sin-Syndrome"away, upon Himself. No longer orphans, He makes us new and calls us His own.
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"He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will...." (Ephesians 1:5)
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Don't Forget to Add Yourself To the Map Below!!!

6 comments:

  1. That verse is one of my favorite verses! Thanks for sharing this. God has blessed you with some special angels.

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    1. লাব্লি আক্তার ঢাকা ভার্সিটি ফোন সেক্স করতে চাইলে ঘণ্টা ২০ টাকা রিয়েল সেক্স করতে চাইলে ফোনে টাকার পরিমান যেনে নিতে হবে ফোন নম্বর =chick here open --------------------?




      সপ্না রানী যশোর পতিতা লয় ফোন সেক্স করতে চাইলে ঘণ্টা ১০ টাকা রিয়েল সেক্স করতে চাইলে ফোনে টাকার পরিমান যেনে নিতেহবে ফোন নম্বর =chick here open--------------------- ?





      পারবতি ঘোষ কুষ্টিয়া পতিতা লয় ফোন সেক্স করতে চাইলে ঘণ্টা ৩০ টাকা রিয়েল সেক্স করতে চাইলে ফোনে টাকার পরিমান যেনে নিতেহবে ফোন নম্বর =chick here open --------------------?





      মুক্তা আক্তার মীম ঢাকা ভার্সিটি ফোন সেক্স করতে চাইলে ঘণ্টা ৫০ টাকা রিয়েল সেক্স করতে চাইলে ফোনে টাকার পরিমান যেনে নিতেহবে ফোন নম্বর =chick here open------------------------?





      দিপালি মিরজা খুলনা ভার্সিটি ফোন সেক্স করতে চাইলে ঘণ্টা ৪০টাকা রিয়েল সেক্স করতে চাইলে ফোনে টাকার পরিমান যেনে নিতেহবে ফোন নম্বর =chick here open---------------------------?





      হিরা আক্তার যশোর পতিতা লয় ফোন সেক্স করতে চাইলে ঘণ্টা ২০ টাকা রিয়েল সেক্স করতে চাইলে ফোনে টাকার পরিমান যেনে নিতেহবে ফোন নম্বর =chick here open-------------------------?





      জরনা বেগম কুষ্টিয়া পতিতা লয় ফোন সেক্স করতে চাইলে ঘণ্টা ২০ টাকা রিয়েল সেক্স করতে চাইলে ফোনে টাকার পরিমান যেনে নিতেহবে ফোন নম্বর =chick here open------------------------ ?





      রত্না আক্তার রানী টাঙ্গাইল পতিতা লয় ফোন সেক্স করতে চাইলে ঘণ্টা ১০টাকা রিয়েল সেক্স করতে চাইলে ফোনে টাকার পরিমান যেনে নিতেহবে ফোন নম্বর =chick here open----------------------- ?





      সারমিন সীমা বরি সাল বাড়ি ঢাকা থাকে সেক্স করতে চাইলে ঘণ্টা ২০ টাকা রিয়েল সেক্স করতে চাইলে ফোনে টাকারপরিমান যেনে নিতেহবে ফোন নম্বর=chick here open--------------------------?





      তানিয়া কুষ্টিয়া দউলদিয়া পতিতা লয় ঢাকা ভার্সিটি ফোন সেক্স করতে চাইলে ঘণ্টা ৪০ টাকা রিয়েল সেক্স করতে চাইলে ফোনে টাকার পরিমান যেনে নিতেহবে ফোন নম্বর =chick here open----------------------?

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  2. Natalie is beautiful on the inside and out. I can't stand the fact that others may treat her differently. Please tell her Mrs. Tiffany said she is beautiful.

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  3. This was an eye opener to me! I had no idea about the effect of this on a child, although I knew there was one. It breaks my heart to think of that innocent baby being hurt unnecessarily. However, Natalie is so blessed to have y'all as her parents. You have learned so much and are still learning I am sure. I don't know where you get enough energy, Melanie! Your family is SO precious. Just makes me wish I lived next door and could help out a little!! For now, I will pray!

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  4. I am so touched by Natalie's story. Thank God she has you for a family. Not only are you and Chappy amazing but so are Lydia and Caleb whose unselfishness in helping care for your other three shows such a Christlike spirit. I am inspired by all of you. May God continue to give you the strength and resources to care for your family with such love and wisdom. What very special people all of you are! I pray for improvement in Natalie's condition as well as healing for Hopey. Nothing is too great for our wonderful God! He created everything and He can also recreate. We will pray for that. May His hedge of protection be around each of you. In His love, your sister in Christ, Lois R.

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  5. So nice to meet Natalie!!! Having suffered from infertility, I have a lot of friends with adopted kiddos, both domestic and foreign adoptions.

    Just a practical suggestion that might help in Natalie's situation. Many of the kids in our neighborhood carry small (palm-sized) walkie talkies so that they can periodically check in with their parents. They clip onto their waists. Would this help Natalie continue to enjoy her job and independence?

    Carpe Diem!
    -Candy

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