Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Over at No Greater Joy Mom, Adeye is continuing her series on adopting children with special needs.  She tries to highlight a different disability every time, so people can link their blogs to hers as a resource for those thinking of adopting a child with that disability.  Also so we can connect with other families for support and ideas.  Since it is National Adoption Awareness Month the timing for this is great.  The highlight for this Blog Connect is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Autism and RAD.  I will try to do these in a three part series, to give the best focus of “our” experience with each topic.

The first time Tim and I had ever heard of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome was during a several hour long foster care training we had went to on the topic.  When you go thru foster care classes they just briefly brush over a few things like, what it might be like to foster a child that was drug exposed.    This seminar we went to was in depth and very scary.  The presenter was a parent of a child with FAS and she had slide after slide of statistics, pictures, and scary stories from families raising children with FAS.  If you wish, you can read just a brief description and see a picture here.  I must say it left us never wanting to parent a child with FAS.

But… one day the phone rang, it was DFCS and it was for a placement of a 10 week old baby girl.  She was diagnosed at birth with FAS.  Upon questioning by the doctors, her biological mom freely admitted she drank heavily every day of her pregnancy.    I called Tim and we were actually very excited and took the foster placement.   We didn’t know at the time, that this child would one day be adopted by us as our daughter, Carolyn.

I think the biggest thing we need to keep in mind, when considering adopting a child with a special need, is children are children are children…They all need their needs met.  They all need the love of a family and I have learned to never say never to God because He will show you what you can do, with Him working thru you.  As soon as I took Carolyn into my arms for the first time…she was a baby that needed us to love, care for her and meet her needs, like all children need.  She was Carolyn.  FAS didn’t even come into it all.  We just met her needs and prayed really hard for Gods wisdom.

I know that there is a huge range of damage that can be done by drinking when pregnant.  I have seen and read about children that are quite affected and some not as much.  Carolyn was very easily diagnosed at birth because she bore every birth characteristic there was…from rocker bottom feet to microcephaly.   Our son, Antonio, his mother also admitted to drinking and doing drugs while pregnant.  Antonio has been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Effects.  As he didn’t have all the physical markers just some but has many of the behaviors.

These are the things “we” have experienced in raising Carolyn.  Physically, she has always been extremely small compared to her peers.  Now, I actually enjoyed that part of it.  I was able to cuddle her and baby her way longer than most young children.  She fit into baby clothes for a long time.  Of my three littles (Elizabeth 10 years, Zeke 11 years and Carolyn 13 years)  Carolyn is the oldest and the smallest/shortest by many inches.   

She was a very content baby as long as she was held.   She actually needed to be held almost every moment.  She was the only child we ever wore in a baby carrier most of the time. 

She was developmentally delayed physically, emotionally and mentally.  She met all her mile stones late and in her own special way.  Like she never crawled on her knees.  She crawled like Mowgli in the Jungle Book.  On her hands and feet.   

She was overly bonded to Tim and myself.  DFCS wanted her to participate in pre-k.  She screamed the whole day every day.  They kept saying to give her another week but after not settling into the routine of it after about four weeks…it was so unhealthy for her, we received permission to pull her out.

Home schooling her has been a huge challenge.  We go very slow and with a whole lot of repetition.

On a very positive side, she is one of my children that once she learns something, she has it.  So praise God, no regression with her.  She is very good at remembering certain things, like peoples names.   She is also very observant.  She will notice if someone got new glasses or a hair cut or a new jacket.  She could easily navigate our town, if she had to because she takes in everything and pays attention so well.

She has had, in the past, huge issues controlling her emotions.  She had lots of tantrums growing up, when young.   Most of the time they happened when being scolded for something.  Often when she is very happy she cries uncontrollably.  Or when in trouble, laughs hysterically in my face. (not easy to deal with at times :)   She has come soooo far in this area and is maturing into a wonderful young lady.  I see her thinking and knowing how she is supposed to respond to a situation and try so hard to act appropriately.  Bless her heart. 

She is terrified of new experiences but tries new things anyways, shaking like a leaf the whole time.  We keep things very regimented for her and she does best this way.

Since she was a baby she has had a deep seated fear of clowns, anything in a costume, mannequins and some statues.  She will literally climb up me to get into my arms, tears flowing down her face and shaking… if a clown or Chick-Fil-A cow is coming our way, when we are out and about.

I can not imagine having to deal with the extreme impulses of emotion and nervousness my daughter has had to learn to deal with.
I can not imagine having such a hard time concentrating and learning even simple math or money.    That simple concepts are just so hard to understand for her.  She has had to go thru these things thru no fault of her own.  We talk openly about adoption and her life’s story.  We always have.  She understands.

I know some of this sounds like a lot to manage when raising a child.  I will not lie, it was very hard at times.  But all I can say it was so worth it.  She was a beautiful, precious baby that I enjoyed every moment of holding, cuddling and raising.   She was a tiny fun toddler who loved being read to, pushed in a swing and tucked into bed at night.  She was a wonderful child as she grew and matured.  Following me around the house and farm and learning all I would teach her.  She can do so many things.  
In my husbands and my eyes…she was and is just Carolyn, our treasured daughter that we love fiercely.  
Obediant and hard working.

Such a sweet soul.  

She has grown into my cherished friend. 
We spend a lot of time together.    
I would not want to imagine life without her.  

She is such a blessing.  If I had to list everything that there is about Carolyn... FAS would be at the bottom of the list!  

We are forever grateful that God allowed us the privileged of raising her as our daughter.  Carolyn was and is a blessing.  She has grown into such a beautiful, kind, helpful, God loving young woman.

Proverbs 31:29-30  Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.  Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.


  1. Aww, what a sweet testament to a beautiful young lady. I have two friends that each adopted a child with FAS and while there are definitely learning challenges, they are still people with their own strengths and weaknesses. Great post.

  2. Thanks Julie, she is a precious soul we are so grateful to be her parents. Blessings!

  3. beautiful story and beautiful girl.

  4. Thank you for writing this. Our son was heavily exposed to drugs and alcohol, and his is not yet 2, so we don't know what his future will look like yet, but not knowing is scary. However, reading something like this is so inspiring. And comforting. Brought tears to my eyes.

  5. Gina, I am so grateful that this was an encouragment to you! You were chosen to be your sons mother and God will equip you to raise him. Don't get discouraged while raising him. Parents go thru easy and hard seasons in raising any child. Just stay in prayer and very consistant with him and he will do amazing. He is fearfully and wonderfully made. My daugher, that I wrote about, was not my hardest child to raise, by far! May God hold you in the palm of His mighty hand in this area and fill you with faith, dispersing all fear. Blessings!

  6. My daughter Faith (13) has FAS and my son Andy (38) has FAS. My son functions as a 10 year old in a large mans body, and my daughter is miraculously, academically right on! But both have the exact same social difficulties- too trusting, gullible, and they tell anyone everything about their personal life or ours- they can't filter what they say.
    Sometimes I cry for what could have been, but then I Thank God for what is.
    Your Carolyn is beautiful! (((HUG)))

    1. I have been following your family blogs for quite a while. It is encouraging to see others working for the Lord with children. To see God build your family. To see how you handle certain things and get ideas from things that worked. God is so good. Your children are all beautiful! My Carolyn has the same social issues and is very trusting of people. She is very gullible in such a sweet way. The world would eat her up of not for God's protection. I pray for you all often. blessings!

  7. First of All GOD BLESS YOU. Angels on earth. I love you guys for what you have done and your children May they have a very long, happy and healthy life.

    I am single woman and about to adopt a 15 month old child that for some reason God is bringing into my life and the Children's Aid has felt I am the best fit. Her mom used drugs and alcohol during pregnancy up until the last trimester. How much we don't know. She doesn't exhibit any of the FAS signs yet but I speculate she will have some challenges. I was very fearful and initially said no I can't but something changed inside of me and I have decided to go with this. If I can at least make her a God fearing woman and bring her on the right path and help make a good human being, i've done my part.

    Your story has inspired me to not fear and move forward in faith. Thank you for sharing.

    1. A big hug to you and may God bless your lives together. Stepping out in faith is often the most difficult part of a path God asks you to walk. He will do a great work through you because of your faithfulness and you will be blessed beyond words. God be with you and thank you for the encouraging and inspiring comment! Blessings!