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I wasn't sure weather to post this under special needs or adoption...so I'll start here. My dd has special needs and is also adopted. Most of her special needs (FAS, ADHD, mental imparment) are due to the fact that her birth mom drank and did drugs during her pregnancy. My dd is aware of that (dd is 18). However, dd's birth mom also has many problems, such as personality disorder and schizophrenia. I've pretty much kept that from my dd, not sure why...I guess I never knew how to bring it up or how to say it. I know that my dd deserves to know the truth about her history. I've always just told her that her BM was very sick and couldn't take care of her. (explained a little more as she got older)

When and how and how much do you tell your child? Also keeping in mind that my dd is mentally impared and doesn't always understand when things are explained...or takes them totally differently than what you intend.
 

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That's so tough. I think I have something of an idea of the difficulty of sharing this stuff with your dd, as I have also mothered a teen who experienced FAE, developmental delays, and the list just goes on from there. On the other hand, he was old enough to remember some things from when he was taken from his birthfamily (even though he still many times wasn't able to process this enough to understand, for example, that it wasn't the police who simply "didn't like" his parents and had it in for them). And he had heard many things along the way in foster care. So my job was more in being present with his grief, in the times it came up, and helping him fit all the pieces together like a puzzle. I don't know if he'll ever fully comprehend his history. He recently turned 18 and moved to his hometown in hopes of finding his mother and getting "the real story."

I would highly recommend that this be a conversation that happens in family therapy (with a therapist you really like). I think as your daughter learns more of her story, she would benefit from having a therapeutic setting in which to hear and process the information to whatever extent she is able to process it. It may not phase her at all when she learns of it, especially if she doesn't understand a lot of it, but overtime pieces may start to fit together. That ongoing relationship with a therapist who was present for much of the disclosures may prove invaluable. And for you, it might be nice as well, to have that extra support in the process.

Another thing I have experienced as helpful: repetition of the conversations, as often is the case with FAE and FAS, at least gave us a point of reference when conversations started again. Decide on the messages you want her to hear over and over as she process the information. And what information seems most significant. Decide on delivery. Then learn it well so you can go over it broken record style. I'm sure this isn't new to you. You probably do this all the time.

And a visit to dfs' birth place at one time was really good for him while we had been talking about some of this stuff, though it was so hard. He had lived there with his parents until the end of preschool, and then in foster care for a few more years before he was moved to another city. We went and re-traced some of his history. The hospital, and other big landmarks in his story. He talked a lot about his birth parents, mother especially, and he asked questions that had been on his mind. He even talked to the waitress at the restaurant where we ate lunch, and found out she knew his mother and had seen her around not long before. He also did a lot of grieving.

I can't think of anything else off the top of my head, but I'll let you know if I do. And thanks for bringing this up. I too face similar conversations with ds, who we just adopted, and he too may have cognitive barriers to processing what is said.
 

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momfirst,
My daughter is also FAE. She is 17 months old now. I made her a lifebook (I have 2 more pages to complete). I want to raise her always knowing the facts. My other children have also read the lifebook. I think you may find the book, "Lifebook" to be a great help in how to approach this subject in words.

I'll share with you the text of a couple pages of my book:

"After you were born , your birthmother was very happy to have given birth to such a lovely baby. But she was also sad and confused.

I think that part of the reason was that she had some big grown up problems. These problems started years before you were born. One of her problems was that she used bad drugs. Now, you know that there are good drugs and bad drugs. Good drugs, like penicillin, are prescribed by doctors to make people get better when they are sick. People take bad drugs like cocaine and too much alcohol to make themselves feel better. So a person might feel silly for a little while and forget about their problems. Later on, bad drugs always make people feel worse."

approaching the subject of birthmother's bipolar disorder:
"(birthmother) felt sad throughout her life. The sadness was not your fault. Part of your birthmom's brain needed special medicine that a doctor prescribes to make her think clearly. It sounds like your mom needed special help to feel better. There was nothing you could have done to fix her. You see, (birthmother) has three other children, (x,x, and x). (birthmother)l was not able to care for her other children either. When you were born, she wanted you to have parents that could take care of you.
After children are born, they either live with their birthparents or move into another family or orphanage. There are many reasons children don't stay with their first mother or father.
All the reasons have to do with the parents, not the kids. Little babies can't do anything wrong. How can they? They are just little goo goo gah gah babies.
While (birthmother) was pregnant with you, she used very bad drugs and drank alcohol. She also did some very bad illegal things. We don't know what it is that (birthmother) did, but she had to go to prison for breaking the law.
I think that when (birthmother) was a child, she did not grow up in a loving home. Her parents did not teach her the difference between right and wrong. Maybe her parents did not know the difference either. (birthmother) said that her whole family had problems with
bad drugs and alcohol. "
another page:
"We were so excited that you had been born!!!
We didn't know when you could home. The doctors felt you needed to stay a little longer in the hospital to be sure you were
healthy enough to come home. You stayed the weekend because you were jittery and irritable from bad drugs that may have been in your body. "

My Anna has facial anomalies of fetal alcohol. From strangers, we always hear the term, "oh she has the cutest button nose." And she is beautiful
She may grow out of this, Im not sure, but when she sees pictures of her birthmother, she will not see the resemblence- Anna may ask this. I feel lucky to have all the info that I do.

I know your daughter is older, but this may help others pondering the topic too.

If Anna, someday finds that she struggles with bipolar, I dont want her to feel that it is a "bad" thing- or something to be hush hush. I want her always to know we can get through these things and address them healthily. I was raised in a family that didnt discuss many issues.

I dont claim to know it all- I'm learning everday too. Following my heart always seems to direct me to the right places.
 
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