Tuesday, February 5, 2013


One of my sisters is dead.

Not my biological sister, not either of my sisters-in-law, but my sister nonetheless.

One of my RAD sisters, who understood the heartache of loving a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder.  Understood the pain and the long road, the uncertainty and the suffering that seems to have no end.

One of my sisters, DEAD, presumably at the hands of her RAD daughter.

I didn't know her well.  Had never, in fact, even met her.  We were bound together only by a support group full of parents raising children with RAD....all sharing that invisible bond of friendship that comes from finding someone...finally...who understands.

This group of friends has supported me in ways that no one else could, giving me that calm understanding and sometimes needed advice;  a safe place in which to vent the strongest of emotions.

Every frustration, every failure, every horrible day, every small victory. 
Shared trials and triumphs.

They pass no judgement, for they are also on the frontlines, living the same uncertainty as I.

And now one of us is dead.

Today this hits me incredibly hard.  It has, after all, been only a few months since my own son threatened to kill me...and my husband...and our baby son.  Sure, it's easy to pass those threats off as simply a way for our son to manipulate; an attempt to get his own way and force us into action.  Such threats are usually just that.  Manipulation attempts.

But sometimes they aren't.  And then what?

I'm angry right now.  Angry that no one seems to take us seriously...the hurting, stressed, vigilant, exhausted and abused parents of these emotionally impaired kids.  'If only we loved those poor kids enough.  If only we were more structured as parents, or less structured, or more permissive, or less permissive, or more understanding, or more forgiving, or more this or more that.  If only, if only, if only.' 

So many people pass judgement and yet would be unable to stand up for a moment in the shoes of a RAD parent.

Yes, I'm angry. 

Angry that there is so little help to be found for these traumatized kids. 

Angry that so many mental health professionals have no training in attachment issues and don't understand RAD enough to make a difference.

Angry that we spent months making phone calls to everyone and anyone that would possibly listen, and yet our family, church family and close friends are the only ones that came to our aid.

Angry that our insurance (which is considered the best) won't pay for the only therapist in our area that specializes in adoption, attachment and RAD because the letters after his name aren't the "correct" letters. 

Angry that the adoption medicaid that is supposed to pick up the cost of anything our child needs has also refused to pay for our therapist simply because the insurance company would pay for someone else...none of whom specialize in adoption related issues.

Angry that insurance refuses to pay a cent for residential treatment for our son's severe mental illness, or any mental illness for that matter, but would gladly pay if he was an alcoholic or a drug addict or had an eating disorder.

Angry that the adoption agency and the foster care system from which our son came have no resources or motivation or desire to help.

Angry that the state of Michigan was going to force us to bring our violent, threatening son home for in-home counseling before they would help in any way.  They are more willing to put our five little children (and ourselves) in danger than to part with a single dollar.

Angry that even if the state of Michigan HAD agreed to fund treatment, it would not have been at a facility that specializes in RAD because they are all more than 200 miles away.  No exceptions would be made.

Angry that the only option the state of Michigan gave us if it was truly too dangerous to bring him home for counseling was to "Let the Juvenile Courts have him."  He is mentally ill and needs help, for crying out loud...not JAIL! 

Angry that the only way to get him into a facility that could help him through the Juvenile Court system was to actually abandon our son to the courts, leaving us open to charges of neglect.

Angry that no one seems to take mental illness seriously until an entire first grade class is murdered, or the parent of a RAD child is found stabbed to death in her home. 

And I'm angry that there is now one less person on the planet that understands what parents like us go through.  One less, instead of one more.  When what we desperately need are more.

It wasn't that many years ago when autistic children didn't get the help and intervention they needed, when insurance refused to pay for necessary, life-altering therapies, and when people didn't really understand what it meant to be autistic.  It wasn't too many years ago when children with learning difficulties were labelled "retarded" and were given no extra help...no chances to succeed to the best of their abilities.  Mercifully, these things are beginning to change.

How many systems will have to change, how many people will have to die, before children with mental illness get the help they need?  When will the insurance companies and the state agencies begin to care about what is best for the families and not about the dollars involved?  And all those parents...the ones in my support group, who are persevering through the worst...when will their concerns be taken seriously? 

Today I am rattled.  I hate to admit it, but whenever I hear a story like this, my heart skips a beat.  It hits too close to home, because my family is walking a similar path as that of this poor woman who lost her life.

God, please don't ever let that shattered family be mine.  


Sister, you truly had a Joyous Heart.  Thank you for trying to make the world a better place and for all of your efforts on behalf of a traumatized child.  Thank you also for your input and your many words of encouragement.  You will be missed.


Friday, February 1, 2013

The Birth Story

I'm not much of an informational writer, or even an avid story-teller; I'm definitely more of a get-these-feelings-off-my-chest-before-I-explode-and-maybe-throw-in-some-humor-while-I'm-at-it type.  However, due to recent events (namely, the birth of our sixth child), I realize that some semblance of a birth story is in order.  So here is my attempt at informational story-telling in the best Lisa-form that I can manage:

You've all heard birth stories before.  First off, let me assure you that I have no intention of discussing things like mucus plugs, membranes, dilation, stitches or cervixes.  Come to think of it, I'm not even sure if cervixes is a word.  Only having one myself (and rarely speaking of it), I've never needed to use the plural form.

But I digress. 

In my mind, our birth story begins around January 17th...our baby's due date.  This is the date that had been engraved in my head since the beginning of the pregnancy.  The Golden Date.  The magical date by which I would no longer be pregnant, but would be holding my babe in my arms.

Alas, it was not to be. 

For the entire week before the due date, I thought he could be born at any time.
                        Our first baby came a week early, after all.

By the day before his due date, I was certain he would be born in a matter of hours.
                        Our third baby was born the day before his due date.

And as January 17th passed us by, I thought surely he would make his appearance within the next few days.
                        Our second baby was born four days after his due date. 
                   Surely this one wouldn't wait that long?

But those four days came and those four days went, and somehow my hormonal, emotional and impatient self came to a rather shocking conclusion.

I was going to be pregnant forever.

Looking back, I can see this was slightly irrational, but I think it's pretty safe to assume that few women who are more than nine months pregnant are rational.  And despite my doubts, we did actually have a baby.  He was born on January 23rd, 2013...six days past his due date.  Being as though I, too, frequently run late for important events, I thought it best not to begrudge the little guy his untimely arrival.  He obviously takes after his Mama.

Here are the details of his birth.

Going to bed on the night of the 22nd, I was still fairly convinced that the baby would never be born.  I felt no different than any other night, except for the fact that (due to nerve pain) I was having trouble using my right leg.  Each of the four-hundred-and-twelve times I got up to use the bathroom, I performed a macabre sort of peg-leg walk through our bedroom.  Hop, drag... hop, drag... hop, drag.  The normal thirty-five steps that it takes for a pregnant lady to waddle to the toilet (yes, OCD people count their steps...especially when there are frequent trips in the dark to the same place) became more like fifty little hop-drags.  Fun.

Anyway, on one such trip at about quarter after one in the morning, I returned to bed and had a really painful contraction.  I started paying attention for real at 1:22 am, when I realized that they were coming hard and fast...only two to three minutes apart, and lasting for a minute or more.  We immediately called my Dad, who was coming to stay with the kids, called the doctor, gathered our things, and prepared to leave.  At this point, the contractions were so bad that I was sincerely hoping that my husband wouldn't have to deliver our baby in the car on the side of a dark country road in the middle of winter.  The hospital was a good half hour or so away, but mercifully, the contractions slowed down to every four minutes as soon as I was sitting in the car.  We got to the hospital without incident.

Our three youngest.
The rest of the night and early morning is kind of a blur.  Emergency room.  The trip to the labor/delivery floor.  Triage.  Being wheeled to the delivery room.  And through it all...lots and lots and lots of super-painful contractions.

I have very little to say about labor itself.

1)  It hurts.

2)  I hate it.

3)  I love epidurals.

Once I had my epidural, I was home free.  Sure, it slowed down contractions and took a lot longer, but I, for one, would trade one hour of hellish pain for three hours of peaceful rest in a heartbeat.  Wonder Woman I am not.

And then, at nearly seven in the morning, he was all of a sudden ready to be born.  He was out in just a couple of pushes, and I watched (completely painlessly...bless you, epidural) first his head, and then his entire little self slip out of my body. 

It was breathtaking.

The most amazing thing about witnessing the birth of a baby (and I've now witnessed four of my own as well as the birth of a niece and a nephew), is that moment when the top of the baby's head is clearly visible.  You can see that little head moving from side to side, just waiting to be born, and you think (somewhat stupidly), "That's a real baby!" 

The whole process of pregnancy and labor and delivery is so crazy and incomprehensible, that I wonder if we as humans are just not quite able to grasp it. 

Even though I've known all along that this little person exists, have talked to and sung to and loved him for a solid nine months, have felt his kicks and heard his heart beating, it's like I can't fully grasp the miracle that's happening inside me until I've seen it.  And then, after all that waiting and all that pain, I see the top of that tiny head, and I am acutely aware of the presence of God.  In that moment, I'm in awe of the Creator like at no other time.

Darling Baby Boy
So I know I said that I hate labor, which is true...and not true...all at the same time.  Labor is awful, but it's also the most incredible thing I've ever experienced.  The worst pain I could fathom followed by the highest elation and the biggest sense of wonder imaginable.

I gave God my body and, in return, was given the privilege to participate in one of His greatest miracles...the creation of our new baby son.

Welcome to the world, little one.


A few observations and notes about our birth experience that didn't quite fit into my story:

Proud Daddy. 
I didn't get a picture of him with a Long John.
1) My wonderful hubby never leaves my side from the moment I have my first contraction until the moment we leave the hospital to come home, except for frequent trips to the cafe for food.  We love our time in the hospital together bonding with that new baby (and each other), and we've joked that we need to keep having babies because it's the only way we get a few days away.

2) During our stay, I sometimes wonder if my husband is more impressed by the hospital food than by our newborn child.  I certainly hear a lot about those hospital Long Johns and the sandwiches by the pound.

3) I can now safely say that no one has ever been pregnant forever.

4) We only make hairy babies.  This one, however, is the least hairy one we've had.

5) Our son's birth weight was 8 lbs, 0.6 oz.  This sparked a debate between nurses about whether it should be rounded down to 8 lbs even, or rounded up to 8 lbs, 1 oz.  It's documented both ways.  I, for one, am still confused.
6) If you aren't a personal friend, there is a good chance you will never know our baby's name.  For privacy, we don't use our kids' names on the blog, so he'll be known for now as Baby A.  I assure you, though, that it's a really cool, uncommon name that I love.  I apologize if you have OCD and can't sleep tonight until you've exhausted all names beginning with the letter A.  Do you also count your steps on the way to the bathroom?