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Tag Archives: disabilities

Mixed messages

10 Dec

There’s this phenomenon that happens when your child is being evaluated for any sort of difference.

You are inundated with mixed messages.

Pelted by. Poked with. Swimming in. Slapped repeated by.

Mixed messages.

On the one hand, you’re told “Accept your child for everything they are!”

On the other hand you’re told “What’s the cure for your child’s issue?”

On the one hand, “Relax! God doesn’t make mistakes?”

On the other hand, lists of questionnaires from doctors asking you how you might have caused this during pregnancy.

One hand, “Your child is perfect the way they are.”

Other hand, “I could never handle a child with issues.”

And so on, and so forth, world without end, amen.

This is what I got for…oh…probably three years of Maura’s life. I still get it at times, but for three straight years or so, it was constantly there.

I was told to accept my daughter but cure her, because I shouldn’t really accept her as disabled. I was told to calm down, but that I wasn’t taking this as seriously as I could be, as I should be. I was told it was great that I was laid back, but good moms are Warrior Moms. I was told not to be dramatic about things. I was told how having a child like mine was too hard. I was told having a child like mine was easy. I was told she would catch up. I watched her fall further behind. I was told that everything had to happen by age five or else she’d be behind forever. I was told how that wasn’t true, that development could happen well into her twenties. I was asked “Was there anything that happened during your pregnancy that could have caused this?” in a dozen different ways. I was told not to give up hope. Evaluations hade her sound more disabled than anyone gave her credit for. I was told that I was the expert on my child. I was told that they knew what was best for her. I was told to trust my instincts while everyone around me told me how those instincts were wrong. I was told I wasn’t doing enough. I was told I wasn’t investing enough time in my child. I was told to take time for me. I was told they couldn’t help us.

I was told a lot of things. 

So many things. 

It’s amazing, the moment you say “I think there’s something wrong with my child.” how everyone comes out of the woodwork with an opinion on what you should be doing. Most of those people aren’t their to actually help though. They’re just there to plant a seed of doubt in your brain, which is already an acre of doubt and doesn’t need more seeding.

I don’t know when it stopped with Maura. Maybe when she developed epilepsy? People take seizures pretty damn seriously, and it’s something they know, and is real to them.

Maybe it’s when I was able to stop taking all the “advice” thrown at me. Like when one preschool mom told me the key to potty training was consistency, and I just needed to be consistent with Maura. I told her she could come over to my house any time to help out.

She never did.

But I knew she wouldn’t show.

It was all around the time Maura was four. A year into therapy for myself, three years, multiple tests, and MRI and EEG for Maura.

Three years of mixed messages being thrown at me, I was finally able to send a message to the world.

“I got this. I’m the expert on her. I don’t care what your opinion is. No, I’m not going to rub her down in essential oils because that won’t fix her brain. What’s on paper doesn’t matter, and doesn’t tell the whole story. She is who she is, and if you don’t like that, there’s the door.”

So to you moms and dads who are starting a journey of your own, be warned – there are many many many opinions out there. People will tell you what to do, how to do it, and what to feel. They will be everywhere, and they love to give their opinions unsolicited.

Here’s the thing – 

You don’t have to listen to them.

Just nod, smile, say “That’s nice, but we’re going to keep doing our thing, thanks.”

You do you.

Your path is your own, and you can hike it however you want.

 

 

 

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[image description – My two daughters, both about the same height, walking through the woods, on a dirt path, the sun shining down on them]

 

 

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Can we discuss being able-bodied?

27 Jun

My daughter Maura is able-bodied. Her legs work fine. Her muscles are pretty strong. Her organs are doing awesome. Even her epilepsy has cleared up, gone into remission or whatever epilepsy does when it stops occurring. Sure, there’s some low muscle tone and some far-sightedness, and she’s not amazingly coordinated. But all in all, Maura is quite healthy.

But she is also disabled.

But she would be considered able-bodied.

But she’s actual disabled.

But she’s healthy.

She is a conundrum. She doesn’t appear disabled. She has what’s known as “invisible disabilities” – hers can’t be seen at first glance. And that’s what’s getting me worried, what with health care back on the auction block.

Kellyanne Conway said (and I reluctantly share) –

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don’t bother clicking the play button, it’s just a screen shot

 

Does this mean she expects someone like Maura to see what her options are?

“Don’t be silly Phoebe, she doesn’t mean her, obviously.”

But obviously, Maura is able-bodied. And Maura’s been considered “not disabled enough” in the past, by the state of Michigan when we applied for a children with special needs Medicaid program.

You can be able-bodied and unable to work. Maura a prime example. But there’s also those who are working so hard to just stay alive mentally that they can’t actually hold a job. Should they seek “other options” because they have PTSD or depression? Should they be denied Medicaid because they are working to figure out how to live with schizophrenia right now? I mean, they might be as able-bodied as Maura. Are they just all slackers undeserving of health care?

Meanwhile, V.P. Pence said this –

 

First – why the rush? Why does it have to be by the end of summer? Why can’t we take our time and do it right?

Second – what’s this “personal responsibility” you speak of? Can you define it more?

Because, Mr. Pence, your platform is a pro-life one. And one would think that being pro-life means you’re willing to help all lives, not just congressional ones or political ones. But when you say “personal responsibility”, it seems that you are putting families who do choose life – whether it’s the couple whose unborn child has been diagnosed in utero with Down Syndrome or the woman taking care of her elderly parent – off to float alone.

That isn’t the American way. It may have become the Republican way, to smack a person on the ass as you shoo them out the door while yelling “Good luck! By the way, there’s holes full of bears and snakes!”, but as Americans, we pride ourselves on coming together and helping each other. That’s why there are so many people sharing Go Fund Me campaigns to pay for someone’s child’s new wheel chair (that isn’t covered by insurance) or wife’s cancer treatments (that have left them bankrupt).

You say “personal responsibility” like we all haven’t been personally responsible for our health care bills. Newflash – we already are. Too much so. But the way you say it has people worried. Do you expect my disabled daughter to be personally responsible for her health care bills when she can’t be left responsible for brushing her teeth daily without supervision?

“Of course not Phoebe.” you may say. But what you’re also saying is that we as her parents, who are being pro-life, are personally responsible. And not to expect help. Ever. Because that’s the Republican way.

So here I am, with my able-bodied daughter, wondering what the future holds. What the future is going to expect from her. And I don’t know.

What I do know is that something like health care shouldn’t be rushed. Something like health care should have lots of input from people whose lives it affects. Some things, like the phrases “able-bodied” and “personal responsibility” shouldn’t be thrown about carelessly. Health care shouldn’t be broken down into sound bytes and tweets.

And I definitely shouldn’t be told I’m overreacting or that it can’t possibly happen when there are congressmen who are willing to vote on a health care bill they haven’t read.

I have enough to worry about and plan for Maura’s future. I don’t need to worry about what kind of job will give her health benefits because she’s deemed “able-bodied” and able to work.

If you live in these states, please call the listed senators. If you don’t live in these states, pass on this list to people you know in those states. A call script is below the list. Copy and paste for widest circulation. Call EVEN IF they said they are voting against the bill. GOP Leaders are looking to offer $$ for votes right now.

Alaska – Lisa Murkowski (202) 224-6665
Alaska – Dan Sullivan (202) 224-3004
Arkansas – Tom Cotton (202) 224-2353
Arizona – Jeff Flake (202) 224-4521
Colorado – Cory Gardner (202) 224-5941
Florida – Marco Rubio (202) 224-3041
Louisiana – Bill Cassidy (202) 224-5824
Maine – Susan Collins (202) 224-2523
Nevada – Dean Heller (202) 224-6244
Ohio – Rob Portman (202) 224-3353
Pennsylvania – Patrick Toomey (202) 224-4254
Wisconsin – Ron Johnson (202) 224-5323
West Virginia – Joe Manchin (D) (202) 224-3954
West Virginia – Shelly Moore Caputo (R) (202) 224-6472

“Hi, my name is [NAME] and I’m a constituent from [CITY / STATE].

I’m calling to urge Senator [NAME] to vote against the Better Care Reconciliation Act. As the CBO analysis of the bill makes clear, this legislation will cause millions of people to lose their insurance and will raise premiums for millions of others, yet does nothing to resolve the Affordable Care Act’s shortcomings. I hope the Senator will do the right thing and reject this bill, even if there are modest changes. Reforming the ACA should be done in an open, deliberate way with public hearings and input – not rushed through the Senate with only days to consider the ramifications.”

 

 

Even among the extraordinary, we’re still a bit ordinary

7 Jun

“Medical science is just not interesting in kids like your daughter.” a neurologist once told us.

What I’ve come to learn is something I’ve always sort of known. We’ve never been interesting enough.

Sounds silly, because if you’ve met us, you know, we like to keep things different. But when it comes to disabilities and special needs, we’re kind of bland.

Oh, don’t get my wrong, I’ve always been thankful for the blandness of Maura’s issues. Having bland disabilities means she’s healthy and happy and able to do so much. Ironically, that’s what makes us a bit uninteresting.

Maura’s needs have never been sexy or trendy enough to get interest from the medical community. Maura’s disabilities are too generic for strangers to really care. We have no big diagnosis story to bring out. I can’t tell you what it’s like to have a doctor reveal The Something Maura Has – because we’ve never figured that out.

Reality is, for the first five years or so of Maura’s life, everyone downplayed Maura’s disabilities. Told me I was overreacting, that Maura would be fine. By the time we all realized she wasn’t going to be fine, we were all used to things the way they were, and there was no crisis moment to deal with.

And yet, I can also look back and realize that part of our perceived ordinariness is my own fault. I was raised in a “suck it up kiddo” atmosphere. If you skinned your knee, you grabbed the Bactine and a band-aid and dealt with it. When the choice is either laugh or cry, I choose to laugh. I was trained not to show my darker feelings. I still don’t show my sadness. I will joke at a funeral before I’ll cry at one.

So there I was, being calm through it all, finding the humor in situations, carrying on with life, and embracing each new thing thrown at us. While other people would mourn the introduction of ankle braces, I was giddy about them. Maura needed the support and when we got them, I was happy for the difference they made. When she developed epilepsy, I remained calm, and within a few weeks, noticed so many developmental gains that I all but hugged the bottle of seizure medication for allowing Maura to do more.

And Maura was such a happy little kid, smiling with her whole face, always willing to try something new, working hard to keep up with her siblings.

We were a pair – a smiling happy pair. Obviously we weren’t in crisis, obviously life was okay. There were others who needed more attention than us, others with more problems, more issues, real issues.

When I did crack, I would crack spectacularly. One can’t hold it all in and not eventually crack in a normal way. No, I would crack, spectacularly, garnering interest and concern for a moment. But since my life motto seems to be “Never let them see you cry”, I’d dry the tears, take a breath, and keep moving forward.

Outwardly, we were pretty normal. Yes, eventually, everyone got on the same page that Maura, indeed, was disabled. But getting to that point took years. Not a day, not months, years.

And so, even in our extraordinary life, it all became ordinary.

Because we treated it all as ordinary, people followed our lead and treated it as such. Because we didn’t make a tragedy out of things, no one else did. Because we included Maura in everything, people accepted her presence where ever we went.

And those are all good things.

But, in doing all that, we’ve sort of been seated in the back of the room when it comes to families with special needs. It seems like I’m complaining, and I know, I shouldn’t. But dang if at any point, I could have used a meal train or someone coming to clean my house or just watch my kid.

Instead, I ordered a lot of pizza, had a messy house, and dragged four kids about town. Because stuff still had to be done. Life still moved on, and no one was going to help us out. I wasn’t one to ask for help – I’m still not – so again, some of the blame for not having any help falls straight onto my lap.

I guess I make the extraordinary look ordinary, and Maura has inherited that skill from me.

The fact is, more people find the fact that we lived in Ireland more interesting than Maura’s disabilities. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. Or maybe it’s because she doesn’t have a diagnosis that we aren’t as interesting as something like autism, which gets all the press time, or Down Syndrome, which has a lot of warm fuzzy media coverage. No diagnosis that affects one lone girl isn’t as interesting as a syndrome that affects 1 out of 100 kids. No one noticed when Maura’s seizure meds tripled in price, but raise the price of an EpiPen and people lost their damn minds (for good reason.)

Maura’s disabilities affect her, and her family. They don’t really spread to the wider world, not in a way anyone can test for. Not in a way medical science is willing to study and decipher. Not in a way the public can do an awareness walk for, or have a cause to donate to.

And I am grateful for that. Maura has health and happiness and the ability to go where ever she pleases.

But while we go about our ordinary lives here, please, don’t forget, it’s also extraordinary.

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