Today is FASD Awareness Day. The ninth day of the ninth month was chosen to remind women not to drink alcohol during the nine months of pregnancy.
This morning I am thinking of how fetal alcohol has affected my children, our family, and me. It is hard to imagine how a decade ago, I only knew a little of the effects of alcohol on a child. I didn't realize how much it affects every day of a person's life, and how much it affects others. Every day, we make adjustments to our lives. Every day is a bit of a struggle.
Sometimes the accommodations we make for our children's benefit become so much a part of our lives, we hardly notice them. The other day, as I was driving a friend home from a park, I took some side roads to avoid a traffic backup on the freeway. As I got into another lane, I explained to her why I was changing my route. My friend wondered why I bothered to tell her. I realized I need to explain any changes to our usual routes to my children with FASD, or they become very uncomfortable. Everything in life, schedules, car routes, people they meet, all need to be a routine, or my children can become dysregulated. Spontaneity does not work with people who have been affected by alcohol prenatally.
Every day, I have to make parenting decisions that take into consideration the effects of fetal alcohol. Can my daughter go to the park with a friend? Can she make a good decision if her ability to think is clouded? Will she make an impulsive decision that will hurt her the rest of her life? How much is her ability to grasp an academic problem affected by FASD? How much freedom do I give her, and how much do we protect?
Our whole family has been affected by the choice of the birthmother to drink while pregnant. Sometimes I wish I could go back in the past and stop her from her from drinking and taking drugs while pregnant. It would have prevented so much suffering. Of course, in that case, we probably would not have had the children in our home, she would have been able to keep her children, and we never would have known them.
It is too late to prevent my children from being harmed by alcohol. But it isn't too late for others. It is my hope that someday, I won't have to tell people to not drink while pregnant. I hope that I won't have to educate police, psychologists, doctors, and educators about the effects of alcohol, because they already know. I hope that people will learn the effects so that others can be spared the heartache.