Month: August 2014

Dad, again!

Before another post from my husband, I want to take the time to make a bit of a retraction about a statement I made in one of my very first posts.  I’ve been meaning to do this for a while but I got the perfect opportunity to do so when Andrew emailed me this blog post.  After weeks of sadness and extreme darkness and grief, we had a few moments of light where we laughed.  We enjoyed the day, we smiled, we functioned.  Almost like we did before we got a diagnosis.  I was on a high and felt ‘good’ for the first time in a long time.  In that post, I believe I used the word ‘promise’.  I ‘promised’ that life would go on and some sort of acceptance and a new normalcy would occur.  I was wrong to do that.  As much as I would like to think that happens, it’s not my place to even say that.  Not one experience is the same and there’s no one who can tell you how you’ll feel or even how TO feel,  for that matter.  I think I already knew that, even at that time, but I wanted desperately to feel ‘normal’ again.  What I want for this blog is to share our experience and our journey but also shed some hope, if any, can be found.  We’re less than a year into this journey but we feel the need to document it all and the beginning was a whirlwind.  One day, I hope to look back and reflect on how far we’ve come but the truth is, I really don’t know.  These experiences are our ‘here and now’ and we can only continue to take things day-by-day and stay as optimistic and hopeful as we can in the process.

-Steph

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One of the primary reasons we started this blog in the first place was to provide hope to a family out there who just received a lissencephaly diagnosis for their child. The day that we learned about the severity of my daughter’s condition was the most gut wrenching day of my life, and if we can help somebody else navigate their way through such a day, and subsequent days, then we want to make that happen. When we got this news at the end of last December, I couldn’t eat for days. I felt like there were two twenty pound weights strapped to my shoulders when I tried to roll out of bed in the morning. I don’t think that any words I could use would describe the feeling I had back then, but it was basically like living in a movie – a really, really long and depressing movie. I’m lucky that my boss / employer were very understanding of the situation and gave me some time off, as I could barely bring myself to get out of the house, let alone focus at work. Steph and I felt like we were on an island. The two doctors in my family, AND our pediatrician had never even heard of this syndrome before, which tells you how rare this diagnosis truly is. The internet provided nothing but more painful news. Everybody was as “there” for us as they could have possibly been, but there’s nothing anybody can do or say to make you feel any better. I obviously very much appreciated all of the support we received from family and friends, but my point is that you cannot possibly understand what Steph and I went through, unless you’ve been through something similar yourself.

We had so many dreams. Steph always talked about singing and dancing around the house with her little girl. I envisioned dropping her off at college one day (I, of course, assumed she would go to Pitt) and lecturing her about what pigs men are until they’re about 25 years old. We talked about all kinds of family vacations and activities that we wanted to partake in, and pictured a world where Paige and Will would always be playing, running, and throwing blocks at each other. And all it took was one hour at a doctor’s appointment to feel like lissencephaly had robbed us of all of this.

If you take nothing else away from this post, or this blog in general, just hold on to this one thing: having a child with a lissencephaly diagnosis doesn’t mean that your dreams will be crushed or eliminated. You may have to “tweak” or “adjust” your dreams a bit, but this absolutely will not make them any worse. It’s going to take time – probably more time than anybody would like – but, I can say from our experience (and that of many others we’ve met on this journey) that we’ve gotten to a point where we accept this and the things that happen as a result of lissencephaly, and it’s just becoming a part of our normal daily routine. And we realize that all of the things we were worried about “losing” aren’t really lost after all. Let me put it this way – just because we might have to take our kid to Sesame Street Live in a wheelchair will not take anything away from that wonderful memory with our children.  We feel there is light at the end of the tunnel, even when we feel like we’re at our worst in coping with this situation.

I’m not trying to sit here and act like I’m the world-renowned expert on dealing with a liss child. We only got this news 8 months ago. But I feel like enough time has passed that my perspective on this situation is relevant. And I want to state, for the record, that my family and I are in as good of a place as we can possibly be with this. I’m also not trying to fool anyone here – there are going to be days that suck. Our daughter has responded to this condition as well as she possibly could have to this point, but we still have days that suck. But let me assure you of one thing – you will have many more good days than bad. Your child is not defined by lissencephaly or his/her “shortcomings,” and there will be plenty of opportunities to make wonderful memories with your son or daughter. As I mentioned in an earlier post, if you spend all of your time worrying about negative things that lissencephaly can lead to, then you’ll miss out on a world of opportunities to make lasting memories with your family.

Having a Liss child will help you to appreciate the “little things” more and really put life in perspective for you.  At least, it has for us.  When I hear about “problems” that other parents are experiencing with their children, I just have to chuckle, because they don’t know what real problems are. Please understand, however, that I am not resentful towards them – I understand that, in their world, these things that are downright petty to me seem like a big deal to them. That’s the world they live in, and that’s perfectly fine. To be honest, having gone through what we have, I am happy for these families that have perfectly healthy children to worry about, and that’s the truth. But when you’re told your child is likely to experience massive seizures that will eventually lead to her death, color coordinating outfits for a family photo shoot suddenly becomes irrelevant nonsense. Again, there is no resentment here – I just have a different perspective on things than most parents would, and would like to think it’s made me a better person/father/husband.

Even though our child may not be able to do a lot of the things we envisioned when Paige was born, we find a way to replace these things we’ve dreamed of with equally good moments and memories. For instance: our son Will loves to play basketball in the hall with me. We always pull Paige over in her little tumbleform chair so she can play along with us. Will always makes sure to “pass” her the ball a few times, and she enjoys watching us take turns running up and down the hall shooting airballs. So, while she may not be able to physically shoot the basketball, she is a part of it. She’s there, she’s present, she’s included, and it makes her happy. And as a parent, there is nothing more you can wish for from your child than happiness, and I already have wonderful memories of our family basketball nights.

When you are constantly reminded of what your child cannot do, it makes you that much prouder when they achieve something that every doctor in the world told you she wouldn’t be able to do. At 14 months, most parents are trying to child proof their house and keep their kid from destroying very expensive electronic equipment (as was our experience with Will). For Paige, the fact that she is gripping on to and shaking a rattle is a monumental achievement for her, and I couldn’t possibly be any prouder. I am as proud of Paige for being able to use a rattle and eat solid foods as a “normal” parent would be of their child achieving a 4.4 GPA and getting into Harvard. The point of this post, and this blog in general, is that there is hope. Appreciate your child for who he or she is, and their so-called “shortcomings” will not even be relevant. And their achievements, against all odds, will make you prouder as a parent than you ever dreamed you could be.

My daughter is wonderful, she’s an angel, she’s a warrior. And most importantly, she’s my daughter.

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Milestones, Summer Recap, and Pics!

It’s the middle of August and can’t believe summer is almost over!  I have to admit, I am a little ready to slow down but we’ve had so much fun moving and grooving all summer that I’ll be sad when it comes to an end.  Also, at the end of this month, we will have a THREE YEAR OLD and we’re certainly having a hard time with that.  How did that even happen?!  Where did the time go?!  Didn’t I just have that little tornado of fun we call Will??

Last summer, I had an almost two year old and a newborn and I remember joyfully thinking ahead to this summer and what it would be like having two toddlers.  I envisioned them playing together, arguing over toys, sharing snacks and juice after a trip to the park, wresting them to take naps, and a huge mess in the bathtub before I got them ready for bed.  As hectic as this sounds, it was something I really looked forward to.  I actually enjoy the chaos that comes with kids and I think it’s the purest labor of love and something that makes me incredibly happy.

Fast forward to what this summer actually is.  Well, let’s see.  Things certainly are… different.  But at the same time, in many ways it’s not!  While I technically have do have two toddlers, it feels like I have one toddler and one baby.  While that sometimes makes me sad, it’s really not at all!

It’s. Just. Different.

Sure, my kids might not pass a ball back and forth or play with blocks together.  But, when I see how Will talks to Paige and the look on her face when he rolls her on the floor, I melt.  When they’re in the bath (which is one of Paige’s favorite things) she annoys Will by kicking and splashing water in his face. And, that’s their version of fighting!  When Will get feeds Paige her pureed food and tells her “Good Job!” as he wipes her mouth with a spoon, I feel like we did something right.  It might not be what I envisioned but it’s still pretty amazing.

The plus sides to our new normal are that Paige is perfectly content to hang out anywhere.  She’s good in her car seat, a stroller, my Ergo 360, a feeding chair, or on the floor… I mean it when I say ANYWHERE!  I only really have one toddler to chase around.  I still feel like I can truly give all of my attention to both at the same time.  (I know that doesn’t seem like it makes sense, but I don’t feel like I’m stretched too thin.  Um, most of the time!) I can strap Paige in her carrier and chase Will at the park.  I can do therapy with Paige and talk about shapes and numbers with Will.  Since Paige only complains when she’s hungry, I only really have one whiny kid at a time.  Since Paige is super easygoing I don’t get stressed out if she doesn’t nap like I do with Will.  At doctor’s appointments I only have to entertain one child and I don’t have to ration iPad time with two wiggly and impatient children.  We can still go out to eat as a family, travel to visit family, go to a movie, and make day trips.  We can still have fun!  We are doing everything I envisioned we would but it’s just in a different way.  It might need a few more gadgets and extra planning but we’re doing it!  We are doing it!

Another reason that we’ve been on-the-go this summer is because we can.  With Lissencephaly, you just don’t know what will happen from one day to the next.  Right now, she’s doing really well and it’s thrilling to watch everything that she does. However, we do have this little voice in our heads reminding us that one seizure or illness can change this.  One day, she might need more help, more equipment, more medicine, and more care that will make things even more difficult.  Knowing that, in a way, helps us to live more in the moment and more apt to do the things we want because, right now, we can.  You know what though?  That sentiment could go for anybody.

This summer meant a lot to me for many different reasons. It was certainly a lot different than I ever planned but it was still absolutely incredible! One of the very first things Andrew said after we got a Lissencephaly diagnosis what that it will not make our lives any worse, it will just make them different. And that is the truest thing that I’ve ever heard.

Like I said before,  Will is turning 3 and he will be going to preschool and start gymnastics in September.  Between both of those activities, I’m hoping he learns, burns some energy, and has a blast.  This will also be the first time he’s in activity where I’m not in the room. (Okay, maybe the second.  I had jury duty for a week when I was pregnant with Paige and Will had to go to a daycare for a week but I don’t really count that!)  I’m actually really excited for him and hopes that he takes turns, shares, and plays with his friends and listens to his teachers.  He’s a great kid and it’s awesome to see him grow!

As for Miss Paige, she has had a huge burst in development and we couldn’t be more thankful!  Since her birthday, four teeth have popped through, her hair is getting super fuzzy, and her motor skills are.. well.. motoring!  Paige is a thumb sucker and it’s so cute to see.  She plays with her hair to self-soothe and she is starting to reach more and play with toys.  She shook a rattle for 40 seconds and she did it purposefully!  She uses her feet as feelers, which I’m told is a bad habit, but I’m thrilled that she even has a bad habit!  Her physical therapist thinks she’s super close to sitting up but needs more trunk support but we can tell that she’s getting a lot stronger week by week.  Paige now eats 3 full 6 ounce homemade pureed meals a day and she’ll hopefully be drinking whole milk over formula soon.  She can chew bananas, pears, avocados and today she had 20+ baby puffs!  We go for an evaluation at the Children’s Institute at the end of the month to look for possible equipment Paige might need in the future to make all of our lives easier.  She’s pretty freaking amazing for doing all of this but she’d be pretty freaking amazing even if she couldn’t.  She’s a delight and we’re thankful she’s ours.

Paige has another eye appointment at the end of the month to check on a sty she has on her left eye.  Her pediatrician thinks she might need a simple surgery on her tear ducts but we won’t know until we see how the antibiotic works on it.  I’ll keep you posted and Happy End-of-Summer!

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