Sunday, September 4, 2011


I've been struggling this week.
Ye olde guilt is hassling me.
I'm having a hard time, and its manifesting in several ways.  First, Matthew struggles hard in school, and his learning assistance teacher recommended testing for ADD and learning challenges including short term memory problems.  We accept this and are actually pretty pro intervention, and the earlier the better, when it comes to learning difficulties.  Every teacher friend of mine comments on our acceptance of this possibility for Matthew as unusual in parents....
It is who he is and access to a diagnosis means access to tools specific for his problems, if they turn out to be anything more than late blooming.  I was still of the opinion that his linguistic skills were playing catch up from the years of chronic ear infections and subsequent hearing loss and speech pathology, but his Ear, Nose, Throat surgeon told us a few weeks ago that if it was simply his hearing, he would have caught up by now and it is possible he has some sort of learning difficulty.
This is not ideal, obviously, and seems impossibly unfair given the life challenges Matthew has already faced in (nearly) seven short years of life.  Losing his birth mom, living in a foster home, being adopted across the sea and away from everything he'd ever known and everyone he'd ever loved, having allergies, chronic ear infections, speech delays, speech pathologies, an immature and irritable bladder, years of speech therapy, surgery on his ears, anaphylactic allergic to antibiotics (sulfa), and now possible learning difficulties on top of all that?
I mean, I know kids who have greater life challenges or conditions but it seems like there's this series of distinct issues that set up road blocks for this kid, you know?  And the speed bumps just never stop coming.
But it is what it is, and it is WHO he is, so we don't have a problem with testing, diagnoses, and treatment.  In fact we are advocating strongly that he get it earlier than average.  We want him to succeed in life.  We want him to feel good about himself, who he is, and how he approaches learning and life, but to do that best we need to know how his brain is wired and how best to meet him where he is at, rather than always asking him to meet us the way we teach.

The part I have a hard time with is (true to my past form) wondering if it is my fault.  What if I had stuck with the expressing breast milk for him when he was one, instead of bailing because I couldn't handle adjusting to pumping 6-8 times a day and life with two toddlers?  What about all the fainting, sometimes I didn't know he was holding his breath and suddenly he would faint and KLONK there he was on the floor or pitched head down into my flower garden or off the fence at the park, fainted dead away and I didn't even know he was upset about anything?  What if I'd paid more attention?  What if I'd been a better mom, less crazy and less anxious and less angry and less yell-y and less wrapped up in the crazyanxious chatter in my head, I could have paid closer attention and made him happier and calmer and faint less and fall less often?  Kids with depressed moms score lower on all aptitude tests, maybe those with anxious moms do too?  What if I'd gotten diagnosed three years earlier than I was and treated and coped better and....

Add to this the fact that last Thursday night Matthew woke up covered in hives as big as the palm of my hand and I was so loopy with fatigue that I sent him back to bed instead of taking him to emergency, and next morning he woke up with a puffy tongue and nausea, and I'm one freaking out bad momma.  Seriously, folks, he could have died.  I sent him back to bed.  He was having an anaphylactic allergic reaction and I didn't really clue in until the next morning when he woke up and said his tongue felt too big!  I'm a paramedic!  I know better!  I'm dreading taking him to my doctor for follow up (we have an appointment in a few weeks) because I will have to admit to her I made such a poor judgment call, and I'm afraid she will get mad at me.

I'm having these daymares, too, which I get when my anxiety disorder is not well controlled, where my imagination follows what would happen if one of my kids got injured or killed, usually in a really gory way, often with something I've seen at work, and often triggered by some normal event like Amarys eating a leaf and getting it stuck on the roof of her mouth and gagging over it like she did this afternoon at the park.

However much my anxious thoughts might start in reality, they spin rapidly out of control until I'm so far from rational and reasonable that I can't even recognize it anymore.  It feels normal, it feels rational, it feels like the bare minimum of vigilance and emotional investment from a loving mother.
It is not.
It is Satan yelling in my ear.

I'm aware of the irony of a crazy person calling up the Devil and railing against him as a key factor in her craziness.  "It all is a little ridiculous, really (Anne Lamott)," when it comes to religion.  But it's true.

Last week in church my pastor got up during the worship portion and said he felt God had a message for someone in the congregation, and it was that they needed to let go and forgive.  He didn't know what for, or whom they should forgive, but he knew for sure that someone needed to let go and forgive.  And it was me, and who I need to forgive is myself.  For not being better at coping when we first adopted Matthew.  For failing.  For falling.  I started to cry, and I tucked that away in my mind and touched on it during the week a few times, but I didn't really know how.  I've done it before, but all the guilt had unpacked itself again in light of Matthew's learning difficulties and allergic reaction, and I was wrestling with the idea that how poorly I had coped four and a half years ago was possibly affecting Matthew's well being now.  I could forgive myself if it was over, but could I if it wasn't?  I kept thinking; I would never get over that.

Then today we went to church again and it wasn't just one sentence in the middle of worship time, this week the entire sermon was written just for me, I swear, word for word and verse by verse, and I cried the entire time.  My church has this really uncanny ability to make me cry (in a good way).  The biblical text was when Jesus meets Simon and renames him "Cephas" also known as Peter.  Our pastor dove into the whole concept of naming, and outlined that the first time Jesus met Peter, he gave him a new name that meant 'The Rock,' and which would define who he was and the nature of his ministry as an apostle of the early church before he was even a follower of this new, barely known Rabbi in town, Jesus.  This was before he fell asleep in the garden the night before Jesus was killed, it was before he cut off the ear of the guard who arrested Jesus, before he denied being Jesus disciple three times after Jesus was arrested and mere hours after promising Jesus he would never, ever forsake or deny him, and before he quit religious life and went back to being a fisherman.  It was only after he had stumbled around and fallen and made a mess of things and betrayed Jesus and himself that he grew into this name that Jesus had given him on their first meeting.

The world often names us, my pastor said, and it has horrible names for us to grow down into.  Names having to do with power acquisition, wealth accumulation, fear, and hopelessness.  And Satan names us too, with words like unforgiveness, cowardly, fearful, and full of rage.

Four years ago I stumbled, and I fell, and I got up again, and I fell harder, and I failed.  But it isn't who Jesus named me to be, and it isn't who I am.  Jesus gave me a name whose meaning encompasses: forgiven, courageous, rescuer, mother, child of God, beloved, adopted, grafted onto his body, forgiven, forgiven, forgiven.

He's enough, for me.  He is good.  He will give me what I need to cope with anything, even if the worst were true and Matthew's bumps in the road were my fault, and what I was unable to do four years ago does not define who I am.  It is not who Jesus saw in me when I first met Him when I was sixteen, and it is not who I was four years ago, and it is not who I am now.  I'm not sure what Jesus did name me at sixteen, but I know it included a meaning that had forgiven and courageous in it.  Because mental illness is no cakewalk.  And I fell but I kept getting up again.  And not least of all, Jesus died to pay for all of it, so who I am is far more about who HE is than about who I am, anyways.

I'm still grappling.
One foot in front of the other.


Caryn Ouwehand said...

Thank you for this Melissa.

Rachel Clear @ Clearly Speaking said...

You are doing the best you can, Mel. And that is a whole heck of a lot more than a lot of moms are doing. It doesn't mean never failing. It just means you never stop trying. And the trying, loving, forgiving, kissing, hugging, nursing, loving more... all that stuff makes up for those tiny little failures (that in truth, aren't really failures so much as they are just cause for us to doubt ourselves).

Thank you for writing this.