Sunday, April 12, 2009

Disappointing Disappointments

Today is Easter. The Christian day of rebirth. Here, in Washington state, it is gray. The morning started with rain. I can see my cherry tree blooming from my seat on the couch, though. However, it is a weeping cherry, so the variety name is enough to bring you back down in case the pretty white flowers boost your spirits too much.

Yes, it's one of those posts. Depression Lite from Laura.

This week started well. It was Spring Break. It was warm and sunny on Monday, and the boys and I met some classmates of Hutton's at the nearby park for a picnic lunch and some play time. That evening, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up some food, and while there, I got something else -- a pregnancy test.

It was positive, but so faint I wondered if it were just an evaporation mark. The next day, the boys and I went to my best friend's house. They played with her son while my friend baked cookies and I sat and watched and talked to her. She heard my possible news, and I told her about my nervousness, surprise, and excitement. On the way home, I stopped at the drug store to get another, more reliable test.

Soon after the boys and I got home, I started rearranging the living room into Spring mode. I took the wintery slipcovers off the couch and loveseat, switched around the pillows, and was happy in the knowledge that it was Spring again. Hubby came home as I was moving pillows.

He broke the news right away: his sister had called, and her baby-to-be's due date was moved up, and she needed her mother. The back story: a few months ago, Hubby found out he was to attend a week-long conference in Las Vegas for work at the end of April. He would only have a few events he was required to attend, but his company was putting him up in a hotel for the whole week, and did I want to go, too? Damn straight I wanted to go to a sunny, warm place for a week. The problem: his mother, the reliable go-to sitter who'd be willing to watch two children for a week for free, because they are her grandchildren (plus take care of granddogs and grandcats), was going to be in Charlotte with her daughter, because her fourth grandchild was due at the end of April. Hubby called his sister, and she said she was fine if their mother came out here for the week. She could have her in-laws come to help with her daughter, and her mother could fly to Charlotte from Washington. Great. Problem solved. MIL would get to see her grandsons, then fly straight on to meet her newest grandson.

I started to get excited about Vegas. I bought some cute spring dresses and a new bathing suit. The fact that my foot was still in a cast from my broken ankle dampened the spirit a bit, but I was looking forward to sitting by the pool, whether my calf muscle on my right leg were there or not. When I got the cast off, and it was replaced by an even uglier walking boot, I was a bit disappointed -- I would not be quite as cute in the dresses and sandals, as I'd still be hobbling around with a big black velcro contraption, but still: sun. Pool. Look at the big picture. Totally worth it.

So, the news that I would not be going to Vegas with Hubby after all was a disappointment. However, I felt stupid and selfish for feeling disappointed. After all, my sister-in-law was about to have a baby. She deserved to have her mother there for the birth. I was trying to get away from my children! No comparison. Still, even though my disappointment wasn't righteous, it was there.

But, there were other more important things to move on to: the new digital pregnancy test was still hiding in the shopping bag. I took it upstairs, too impatient to wait for the next morning. The three minutes wait were among the longest of my life. Then, the readout appeared: PREGNANT. I was shocked. Elated. There was no doubt now. A definite positive. I crutched out of the bathroom with it, and ran into Hubby on the stairs.

"I was going to save this, but might as well..." I started, then showed him the test.

He was confused, "What, is this old? Or new?"

"Oh, I meant, I was going to wait to show you when we went to Vegas, but now figured I might as well just tell you right away."

He was surprised. And happy. "I'm happy about your news." He told me a few minutes later, after processing it.

The next day, he brought home a big bouquet of spring flowers. Vegas was becoming less important by the minute. The news was sinking in that we were going to have our third child. We had not been trying, but we had discussed a third child, and though I felt ambivalent before, seeing the positive test made me realize I definitely wanted this baby. I was happy with my secret. Hubby and my best friend knew, but I wanted to wait a few more weeks to tell everyone else.

And then, Saturday morning, the biggest disappointment yet: the telltale drops of blood. I was miscarrying. If I hadn't taken the tests earlier in the week, I probably would have never known I was pregnant, just thought my period was a few weeks late. But I knew. And I was sad. And terribly disappointed. Saturday morning I had been thinking about the Christmas card for this year: the boys with their new sister (of course I had pictured a girl!) as the due date calculator said December 6. What a wonderful Christmas gift for everyone!

I knew that this wasn't meant to be. A chemical pregnancy, or there was probably a problem. In between moments of elation at my pregnancy, I'd had the fears that something would be wrong. I had had my ankle x-rayed last week, and even though I'd had the lead apron, I worried. The supplements I took before I found out. With Harrison's pregnancy, I was already well-along before Hutton was diagnosed with autism, so I didn't second-guess everything. This time, everything I'd done in March ran through my head. But now, it was over. No reason to obsess over the possible things that could go wrong, or right. Just another of life's disappointments.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Other Dreaded "A"

Recently, I heard from a close friend of mine from college that her mother is in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. I'm not sure how old her mother is, but I think she's right around 65 -- retirement age. My friend, who has a baby daughter, has been visiting her mother and stepfather, who live a state away, as often as possible. Her mother is doing OK still, but is definitely changing. She still recognizes her family, and my friend really enjoyed seeing her mother enjoying playing with her daughter on a recent visit. However, her mother has a hard time in restaurants; she can't figure out what to order. She repeats the same things, just minutes after she said it the first time. That part reminded me a bit of echolalia, which affects so many of our kids with autism.

I found this article in The New York Times, and was struck by the "In Brief" bullet points at the top:

The number of Alzheimer's patients is expected to increase dramatically in coming years, straining the health care system.

Scientists have not discovered the cause nor devised effective treatments. Even diagnosis is difficult.

In the absence of therapies, attention has turned to teaching the skills necessary to cope with demented patients.

Increasingly caregivers are encouraged to validate the feelings and perceptions of the person with Alzheimer's.

The first two points, especially, struck me in their similarity to Autism.
The number of Alzheimer's patients is expected to increase dramatically in coming years, straining the health care system.
I hope Autism will not continue to increase dramatically in coming years, but it already has increased dramatically in the past fifteen years. Imagining the "unexplained" dramatic increase in Alzheimer's is heartbreaking, considering it already affects "1 in 10 over 65 and nearly half of those over 85." The straining of the health care system is already a threat with Autism, as well, especially as our children become adults and the parents can't take care of them anymore.

Scientists have not discovered the cause nor devised effective treatments. Even diagnosis is difficult.
With Autism, too, there is no known cause or "effective treatments" according to main-stream science, though many of us parents have our theories as to what caused Autism in our children, and have been trying many treatments, many of which have helped recover our children. Considering how hard mainstream medicine talking heads work to convince us that vaccines do not have a link to Autism ("We don't know what causes Autism, but we know it's not vaccines!" they repeat over and over, though they haven't actually proven this to anyone; in fact the exact opposite seems to be the case in certain children), it seems they will do the same for Alzheimer's -- "We don't know what causes Alzheimer's, but we KNOW it's not that flu vaccine we push so hard in senior populations." Sigh. They'll keep developing and trying new drugs, but if (and that's a big if -- I have no idea if toxins and heavy metals build-up in the brain are responsible for Alzheimer's; I haven't been reading about it for the past six years, as I have with Autism!) flu shots have anything to do with Alzheimer's, are doctors going to be willing to admit that in order to recover patients and prevent new cases? Like Autism, it's a wait and see approach, when those currently suffering can't afford to wait and see.

In the absence of therapies, attention has turned to teaching the skills necessary to cope with demented patients. In the Autism community, there are behavioral therapies for the children, to help them cope and learn life skills. The adults and parents, though, may need therapies themselves, to learn to cope with life if their child isn't high functioning enough to live on his or her own as an adult. Coping with parents with Alzheimer's, when they have reached the stage when they are incontinent and unable to communicate, doesn't seem that far from the Autism world that many live in. This quote from the article struck me, as well: "how to deal with the anger, the wandering, the sleeping all day and staying up all night, the person who asks the same question 15 times in 15 minutes, wants to wear the same blouse every day and no longer recognizes her own children or knows what a toilet is for." Apart from the recognizing her own children part, the rest were eerily familiar. I and my friends with children with autism have dealt with at least some of these! Anger, wandering, and asking the same question over and over were big issues here, though fortunately these problems have faded over the years. Well, the repetitive questions still happen, but two out of three ain't bad!

This quote also hit home: "People with Alzheimer’s and their families are so desperate that they will buy any drug that offers even a shred of hope, and many will keep using the drug even if the symptoms don’t get better, because they can easily be convinced that the patient would be even worse off without it." When my child was diagnosed with Autism, I and my husband probably would have done anything and tried anything to help him. Over the years, we have lost our fervor to try any new thing, and we have avoided pharmaceuticals for the most part, sticking to various supplements, though we have spent money on things we can't afford, as when we rented a hyperbaric chamber for a month of treatment. Hutton's verbal skills and his drawing and writing increased in the month following, but we can't afford to continue to see if there are further improvements. Often it is difficult to tell if anything we do actually helps, or if it's just Hutton growing up and developing new skills on his own or from school. Unfortunately, our child is not a controlled experiment. Then again, fortunately, our child is not a controlled experiment. Being able to tell, right off the bat, if a new treatment is working or not would be great, versus waiting months or years, and watching for subtle signs, but we do the best we can with what we have!

In the ideal world, no one would have to deal with Autism or Alzheimer's. In this one, the big "A"s hit hard and often, attacking at either end of the life cycle. The young are faced with Autism; the old with Alzheimer's. However, those of us in between may have to cope with both.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wading in Self-Pity

I've decided that monthly blogging is the future! Or at least, that's how it's going to be as long as I'm addicted to facebook, and it keeps me away.

So, as this week starts, I'm wading in self-pity. Not wallowing. Not yet. Today, in fact, it's quite mild -- more guilt associated with the feelings of uselessness and helplessness. Yesterday was worse, in which I almost cried.

Why the drama? Last Tuesday night, I injured my ankle playing soccer. I knew instantly that it was worse than when I sprained my other ankle last February. (Which begs the question, why do I keep playing soccer when I injure myself once a year? Do I believe I'll suddenly become skilled and lose my innate klutziness?) Two of my teammates took me to the ER, where an x-ray revealed a fracture. For some reason, this made me feel a bit better. That my intense pain was from a "real" injury perhaps, not just another sprain. However, this feeling of almost relief was short-lived. Pretty much as soon as the fiberglass splint hardened on my leg. The Vicodin helped me feel a bit calmer, though.

Pulling out the old crutches didn't help. I've had them for twelve years now; I got them when I tore my ACL in my left knee skiing in 1997. A year and two surgeries later, I put them away. But they came out again last February, and again on Wednesday morning, when I returned home from the ER.

I was doing OK, though. The boys and Hubby were helping me around the house. It was mid-winter break, so the boys were out of school, and we didn't have anything we needed to do. Of course, I might have done more exciting things than hang out around the house had I not injured myself, but whatever. And then, Friday I went to the orthopedist. I was fitted with a cast. No weight-bearing on my right leg. For six weeks. It finally hit me. This was not going to be fun. Not that I thought I'd be having fun, but still.

And yesterday the impact of not being able to use my right leg for six weeks really hit home when Harrison mentioned his soccer class on Wednesday. Hubby and I were discussing what we were going to do about Harrison's preschool, since I can't drive. (I don't know if driving with my left leg instead of my right is: a. doable b. legal c. a good idea or d. none of the above. I decided to err and the side of caution.) Hubby said he's just work from home on the mornings of preschool days so he could drive Harrison and pick him up. Then Harrison piped in with, "And soccer on Wednesday morning!" I told Harrison soccer class was going to have to wait for a month, since Daddy couldn't take that much time off of work to take him to soccer. I think he took it better than I did. No soccer for Hutton on Monday afternoons, either. No chiropractor for me. I am already feeling completely out of alignment from walking on crutches and lying on my left side so much. Wah.

What snaps me out of the pity and back to reality is when I get annoyed by others not doing things up to my high expectations. OK, I'm not really that much of a perfectionist, but the house is slowly falling apart into chaotic mess, and I am not able to stop it. I had Hubby bring down a wheeled office chair from upstairs so I could do things in the kitchen -- most importantly, making my coffee. Coffee is so, so important. Imperative. Of course, getting the coffee into the living room so I can enjoy it while lounging on the couch still involves someone's help.

The thing that does not get done at all: pooper scooping. Hubby has been great, helping with the laundry, cooking most of the food, doing the dishes...but he doesn't do pooper scooping. And when the boys are outside playing, they don't notice the mine field of dog poops. Thus, they step in it, and I have to clean their shoes. My philosophy has always been to clean the poop up before you step in it. Better to have an unsoiled shoe from the beginning than to have to scrub poop off of it later because you couldn't take the five minutes to clean up before. I'd much rather deal with poop outside, at the end of a two foot long scoop, than inches from my fingers in the laundry room. But, apparently, Hubby doesn't see this. And did I mention we have a new doggy soiling our yard?

Yes, with my perfect timing, we adopted our new dog, Ruffy, on Monday, and a day later, I was unable to walk this giant, energetic dog. We have an invisible fence, which works fine with Sally our older dog who knows the boundaries, but the fence is broken, so Ruffy can't learn the boundaries until it's fixed. Hubby attempted to fix it Saturday, but gave up; the fence people come out on Wednesday to fix it, I hope. Fortunately, Tuesday, before the dreaded soccer game, I took the dogs to the dog park and they ran around for an hour, and Hutton has been running around with Ruffy in the yard (though I imagine him running into dog poop every time he goes outside).

We got Ruffy from one of Hutton's classmates. His family was worried they weren't giving Ruffy enough time, attention, and most importantly, exercise. He's a tall, leggy, goldendoodle (the lame name for Golden Retriever/Poodle mixes - someone out there come up with a better name for these kick-ass dogs!) who is not quite two years old, so very energetic. "Oh, no problem!" thinks Laura, "I can walk Ruffy daily! I'll start jogging again and take him on long runs on the trail at the end of our street." Or, I'll break my leg the very next night and not be able to walk him for six weeks. So, I feel a bit guilty about that, too.

Ruffy is a sweetheart of a dog, and I hope when our invisible fence is repaired, he'll learn the boundaries quickly (his first owners had an invisible fence, too) and I can at least throw a ball around for him in the yard, if not walk him daily. The few times I've been out on my crutches with him, with Hutton holding his leash, I've been deathly afraid of being clotheslined - having the leash wrap around my crutches and pull me down. I fell inside the other day, landing on my butt and smacking my cast on the floor, which was painful, and not something I want to repeat.

Blah blah blah. Whine whine whine. Time to go reheat my coffee and use the bathroom. Easy things to do without crutches.

I'll leave you with some pictures.

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