When Rain Hurts by Mary Evelyn Greene

April 1, 2010

May 2008 (Jersey Shore)

April 1, 2010.  People often ask me – sometimes whispered in nervous apology but other times blurted out like a distasteful joke, whether I would adopt Peter, even Sophie, if I had it to do all over again.  The short answer, at least regarding Peter, is no.  But the long answer, the one where hopes and dreams weave themselves into a beautiful tapestry of reality through utter will and desire?  That answer is yes.  And here’s what I mean.  Before we met Peter we were financially secure, I was on target in terms of career goals, we were socially and physically active, we took far less medication for various complaints, we were thinner and more fit, and there’s no doubt we slept better.  Before Peter, our lives together were full, our marriage filled with love and laughter.  Becoming parents has changed all that, of course.  Almost anyone could say the same, even those with perfectly typical biological children.  But then Peter’s different, that’s clear.  Even Sophie with her hypervigilant need to control, her anxious personality, and her often stubborn refusal to accept parental direction, is a daily challenge.  In her own, more manageable, lovable way, she’s different too, and shows prominent signs of damage.  But Sophie’s traits that exasperate us as parents, at least we hope and pray, can be shaped and channeled into traits that can benefit her as an adult.  With Sophie, I can envision a successful parenting path to guide her toward adulthood, and so the sacrifices we’ve made are worthwhile, of course.  But what about Peter?  Will we have been successful if he’s potty-trained 24/7 as an adult?  Will we have done our jobs if he’s never arrested?  If he understands who can help him and who only wants to take advantage?  I don’t know.  Pat and I constantly redefine and reconsider what success for Peter (and us as his parents) means.  If I could wave a fairy’s wand and go back to that day in September 2004 when we opened his referral, I would see different features; a face with a philtrum and a plump upper lip, a baby perhaps with normal growth parameters.  Given the choice, I would never choose to parent an FAS child.  Thank goodness there are better people than I who aren’t so afraid of the challenge.  They have my greatest admiration.  But for me, it’s too hard and the price too great.  Having said this, would I still want the face in the magically recast referral to be Peter’s?  Absolutely.  In my fantasies, Peter is whole.  His intrinsically sweet nature, his kind heart and gentle soul, the bravery he exudes and the unfettered resilience he exhibits every day – that is who Peter is, who he was meant to be.  The bad stuff comes from shoddy assembly, his birth mother literally drunk on the job.  So again, the short answer is no.  FAS is impossibly hard!  Not only does it selfishly rob innocent children of any potential for normalcy, but its an isolating, lonely, misunderstood, and financially and emotionally crippling disability for their caregivers.  But I still want Peter.  I’ll always want Peter.  And that’s the long answer.  I can’t imagine my life without him.  I will love him every minute of my life, even through the times when I don’t much like him, because he is my son and he deserves my best.  I will love him through all the tough, probably heartbreaking decisions we face down the road, in the coming years or given the recent school situation, maybe even in the coming months.  He has taught me so much and I’m in awe of his courage and noble heart, of the love that he’s able to express every day despite the impossibly tangled wiring in his brain.  But I do wish he could be reassembled.  In fact, I wish both our children had “grown in my tummy”, a wistful fantasy into which Sophie and I often escape.  In the pinnacle of my dreams, Peter would be Peter, sober and whole, just like all FAS victims deserve to be.

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  1. I think the best fiction or non-fiction work is when the writer is completely honest. That provides the reader with experience that makes the effort worth the while and meaningful. While some people would shy away from this, I applaud you for your bravery and honesty. I think folks in similar situations will benefit from knowing that they are not alone in their feelings.

    Comment by Amy FitzGerald — April 1, 2010 @ 3:05 pm | Reply

  2. My daughter has similar behaviors to both of your little ones, but not bi-polar or autism. Peter’s ‘accidents’…well, with my daughter Anna…it also still happens every once in a while when I term her as being contrary, or she just plain forgets because she is so busy enjoying playing with other children.

    Her Aunt, a special needs teacher, broke the accidents cycle one summer, when Anna was just five. But then, my daughter’s Aunt is also an adoptee. I think that had everything to do with getting through to my daughter on the topic of accidents in her pants. They have a special connection. Her Aunt is also her godmother. I’ll never know exactly what happened between them, but I am forever grateful to my ex-sister-in-law. Unfortunately, she now has had two bouts with ovarian cancer, and it’s not looking good. But then, I’m a cancer survivor twice over too – but twenty years ago. I’m hoping for the best for her.

    So, I must say I am blessed by my heart baby from Russia. A belly baby – well, as I tell my daughter, “My easy bake oven (belly) just kinda’ makes lopsided cakes.” It’s the only way my daughter understands why I cannot have a belly baby. But my heart – makes angels. 🙂

    Thank you again for sharing your story. It has really helped me these past few days… Good timing and all for me to find your blog. Best wishes for the the Easter holiday to you and your family.

    Comment by Lori — April 1, 2010 @ 4:37 pm | Reply

  3. You hit the nail on the head. Well said!

    Comment by Jan Crossen — April 1, 2010 @ 10:13 pm | Reply

  4. Well said, thank you for your heart-wrenching honesty and for telling your truth so that other prospective, adopting parents can understand further what some of the possibilities are when adopting internationally ~ and for parents living with children currently that have similar disabilities…so they can realize they are not alone. I so admire your bravery and courage in sharing your story with all of us. Your love for them is obvious through your writings and it reinforces that parenthood, no matter how our children find us, is never a ‘cake-walk’, it is a job.

    Sending you much love and many blessings,

    Comment by Meg Coldwells — April 2, 2010 @ 2:14 pm | Reply

  5. If I had known my child was fasd – I would not have adopted her – No, Never.
    This has been such a wicked journey…..the risky sexual behavior, the disobedience, the stealing…..it is just too much…..I wish I had never met her….My analogy to her is like a bad relationship with a man – except it’s a child…….yuk…….

    Comment by Maggie — April 2, 2010 @ 7:51 pm | Reply

  6. My FASD son is difficult at times, but making progress towards becoming a more healthy (scoially) person. He somedays will start to do something he knows he should not and stops, thinks and changes to a “good decision”. At 10 yo he is working very hard on doing the right things so he can have rewards-hasn’t made much progress this week with spring break, but most weeks get at least one or two days with good behavior! I had no idea what effects fetal alcohol had on a child when I adopted him, but I knew I wanted to adopt his two older sisters and fell in love with the little waif within 5 minutes of meeting him! He is definitely the son of my heart as his older sisters are the daughters of my heart by adoption. And, YES, I would take all four of them again in a heatbeat as they are the reason my heart keeps beating a happy song despite all the problems we have encountered in our 3.5 years together. We are family.

    Comment by Mama Bev — April 7, 2010 @ 2:33 pm | Reply

  7. Your blog is courageous, honest, and so well written that I feel as if I am going through your life events myself. I have been considering adoption, specifically from Russia, and therefore have done quite a bit of web research, whereupon I discovered your blog. Quite honestly, it needs to be written! It should be required reading for anyone considering international adoption, because no one should be faced with this who cannot say to themselves “I knew what I was choosing to get into.” It is another thing if your own birth child had these issues, you’d say that was the hand you were dealt. Also, it does seem to appear that Russia is making these babies wait way too long in the institutions until they find loving parents. Do you think that much of the prenatal neglect could be repaired somewhat if they much better personalized care immediately after birth? I’m also very interested in knowing your response to the story in the news today about the woman who returned her seven-year-old Artyom Savelyev, to Russia? My first response was “how could she???” but then, what were her options? How much damage has she done to that child by returning him?

    Comment by Emma — April 11, 2010 @ 2:29 pm | Reply

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