Falling In Love With My FASD Son

I haven’t posted in awhile, and I blame two things. The first one I’ll call Freedom. I had six days off from the kids (Yay!!). I actually planned this as a high volume writing retreat, but quickly I discovered that writing about my children was the LAST thing I needed. Instead, I luxuriated in NOT thinking about them all the time, which in fact was glorious. I thought I’d be on my laptop, but instead I walked miles a day, by myself, feeling positively happy to be untethered, and practically giddy when I could walk into a restaurant spontaneously and eat a meal without telling my daughter to please sit down and my son to please at least try the mac and cheese.

The second reason I’ll call Fatigue. I returned home energized and devoted, but got sick almost immediately, as did my daughter, and have found it surprisingly difficult to work out of the depression that ensued. I thought my renewed energy would carry me further than four days. It didn’t.

This phase isn’t new. I’ve struggled with periods of depression since Zak came home from the hospital, which was surprising, because I’d tried to have kids for five long years, and felt absurdly lucky to suddenly have two. But he was unhappy for twenty- one months, and it still amazes me how profoundly exhausting an unhappy baby truly is. I will never succeed in forgetting how it felt whenever I placed my pinky in his infant palm, and waited for him to grab it. He never did. I still haven’t come up with a word to describe it: sadness and frustration combined with alarm and occasional anger. I didn’t know at the time that alcohol exposure had damaged the part of his brain responsible for bonding. So I took it personally. When he loosely grabbed my finger at four months, I found myself thinking, “Finally!” But I wasn’t happy. I was still hurt. I actually was mad at him for taking so long.

The absence of bonding moments isn’t just the lack of positive feelings. It’s the presence of negative ones, right where the positive ones should be. It’s expecting a paycheck and getting a bill instead. It should feel like a gift, but instead it feels like failure, and this takes something important away from life. It makes it harder to be happy.

Now the kids are just two year olds, and thankfully, pretty typical ones. I should be happy. And I feel pretty crappy admitting this, but there are days I don’t feel that Zak has a right to the Terrible Twos. Not yet anyway. Like every other milestone, he should be delayed in this one. I feel like he owes us a happy, easy period, just so we can catch our breath. I need an intermission between the intensity, an opportunity to add something to the Tank of Good Memories and Sweet Moments of Bonding. A break from difficult, so I can remember why I did this.

I didn’t get a break, but I did get a moment. It was a haircut. We put these off as long as we can which means he spends several weeks looking like one of the Beatles. It’s when he looks like Hillary Clinton that we know it’s truly time. When I tried to talk him out of a meltdown by telling him it wasn’t his fault he lost the election, that it was the Russians, I knew it was time.

In order to not get a reputation, we try to go to a different Supercuts every time. When this particular stylist pulled out the clippers, she asked me to hold Zak’s head still. So I grabbed his face in my hands and sang to him a song I was making up on the spot, about how much I loved him and how I’m the luckiest mom in the world. And he stared straight at me the whole time, as if he was soaking up every word. It gave me more than the eye contact I have been craving for two years. It was our two souls finally in the same room, bowing to each other. It was me meeting my son, finally, and falling in love with him. In Supercuts. The hairdresser, God bless her, must have known she was caught up in something special so she just kept buzzing, and now Zak looks like an Army recruit. It’s adorable. I feel like his slightly ridiculous haircut is a walking reminder of what happened. Just a single moment, but one that carried me out of the darkness.

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