By Davina Mullaley, an Adopt4Life Community Parent
I see and feel the impact Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) has on our family everyday. My thoughts and feelings about FASD basically can be summed up like this: recall the saying, “a person who wears many hats”—well that's how my son appears. He wears the hat of Anxiety (generalized and separation anxiety), the hat of sleeping disorders, the hat of Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, the hat of Sensory Processing Disorder, the hat of proprioceptive problems, the hat of ADHD, the hat of executive functioning problems, the hat of affect dysregulation, and the hat of adaptive behaviour problems. I may have forgotten a hat or two; however, my point is that my son wears too many hats, and the exhausting part is that he wears every hat at the same time, all day, every day. Parenting a child with so many needs is a 24–7 job. Can you imagine how my son feels to wear all these hats?
At least I now know the reason behind all the behaviours, and I can see him through an FASD and trauma lens. But in the 3+ years leading up to having answers, I struggled as a new mother with a child with special needs that I didn't understand, so I had to find my way navigating the system in order to make sense of our family. My husband and I felt that we were parenting very well, however, our son seemed so distant from us due to his behaviours. We didn't see his problems in the other children who were in the same adoptive circle as us. Therefore, we started to question ourselves. I was confused and tired but I never gave up advocating for him. I asked for help, I searched in parent groups, I read books, there was no limit for me. I had to persevere and ultimately my goal was to help my son find life's experiences more peaceful and enjoyable.
Motherhood has been a difficult journey, but my son is worth it. He deserves to be happy and healthy. We still don't have everything figured out, we're still learning and we expect to have many challenges along the path of parenting a special needs child.
Parenting a child with FASD is overwhelming, exhausting—it takes a toll on your emotional well-being, it’s demanding, it's very often a thankless job, and you need to make sacrifices. Therefore, I feel it's imperative that parents join a support group and engage in self-care in order to stay strong. Without having others to lean on, and exercise, I doubt my efforts would be as successful.
I hope all parents who have children with FASD find ways to cope and shine with triumphant smiles.