Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) 

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. 

Build Your Ark

There are so many different people in the Bible whose journeys I relate to, but Noah was my inspiration when it came to H’s adoption in a way I didn’t expect.  
The first week I met H, God clearly said to me: “This is your son.” It was illogical. At the time I was also fostering H’s biological brother, J (currently being adopted with a biological sister into a different family), and I couldn’t understand why I was only to adopt H. 

But that was only the beginning; the foster case ended up being full of so many twists and turns, so many unexpected victories and defeats. 

The worst defeat that ended up being the biggest blessing was when I had to have H and his brother moved to another foster family. J had significant needs that I couldn’t meet being a single parent with a full time job. 

I told our worker that J needed to be in a two-parent family with a stay at home mom, other children in the home, and pets. God delivered every single thing on my wish list, and then some. 

During the six months H lived in another foster home, the foster family and I became friends and they graciously allowed me to spend as much time as possible with H. 

They later admitted that they (along with many others) thought I was crazy for thinking I’d be able to adopt H when all the signs weren’t in my favor, but they generously gave me the benefit of the doubt, and when the time came, recommended me to adopt H. 

I took God at His word and believed in my heart that H was my son. I will never forget the look on my poor foster care licensing worker’s face when she saw I’d decorated his bedroom and hung up the letter “H” to signify it was his room. At the time he wasn’t even my foster child, so I understood her trepidation. 

I kept building my “ark” one day at a time, trusting God would keep His word. 15 months after God spoke to my heart, H became my son forever. 

I learned a truly invaluable lesson: when God tells you to build your ark, you’d better pick up the hammer and get to work!

“By faith, Noah built a ship in the middle of dry land. He was warned about something he couldn’t see, and acted on what he was told. The result? His family was saved. His act of faith drew a sharp line between the evil of the unbelieving world and the rightness of the believing world. As a result, Noah became intimate with God.” Hebrews‬ ‭11:7‬ ‭MSG‬‬

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