Note: Any comments disparaging H’s birth mom will immediately be deleted. I am not sharing her story, but suffice it to say, she loves H and never meant to harm him. In addition, H gave me his permission to speak about his story because he wants to help other kids not suffer like he does.
Before H’s adoption, his adoption worker handed me a folder of mostly redacted information containing H’s biography. It featured smoothed-over facts, half truths, and one particularly huge lie: that H’s birth mom didn’t drink alcohol while pregnant.
I knew H had struggles, but no one, including several doctors, suggested that alcohol might be the cause. No one told me that approximately 70% of kids in foster care have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. I didn’t know I should have a full trauma assessment done or that most serious issues don’t show up until after the age of three. I didn’t know that H would face life-long difficulties due to permanent, organic brain damage. I didn’t know how expensive his therapy would be, or how little help I would receive (currently I pay $500 out of pocket per month for H’s therapy, the state pays zero).
H is fortunate in that his IQ is average, as are his verbal skills, but IQ often drops in kids with FASD as they age, so time will tell. In addition, he’s outgrown his growth deficit. He’ll never be large, or even average, but he won’t be in the tenth or lower percentile on the growth charts. And that in itself is something to celebrate.
It is my plan to use my voice and H’s voice to tell his story. H is very much my child in that he too lives his life openly, and without pretense.
Now, without further ado, one of the saddest conversations H and I have ever had.
H: Mommy, why can’t I remember things? I don’t like it when I can’t remember.
Me: Precious boy, I’m sorry. It’s not your fault. When you were in your first mommy’s tummy she drank alcohol and it hurt your brain.
H: What’s alcohol?
Me: Alcohol is something adults drink to feel funny [poor choice of words, it was the first word that came out]. She didn’t mean to hurt you, honey, she made a mistake. She loves you very much.
H: I know that, mom.
Imagine having this conversation multiple times with your child each year starting when he’s four, because he can’t remember the conversation. It’s a conversation I will most likely have to have with him for the rest of his life.
Please, please, please, don’t drink a single drop of alcohol while pregnant. FASD is 100% preventable, and currently there is no known safe amount of alcohol to consume while pregnant.