Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: Walk A Mile in My Shoes
Recently, I was at a neighborhood gathering, and the conversation worked its way around to nursing, babies and pregnancy. Someone made the comment that it was OK to have a glass of wine every now and then while you are pregnant. I couldn’t just sit there and ignore it. I had to speak up because, you see, I have a 22-year-old son with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). His birthmother did not realize she was pregnant at the time and drank too much. It has caused our family much confusion, frustration and heartache.
My son’s brain was and is scrambled up because of alcohol. He has irreversible brain damage and there is nothing that can be done. It is an invisible, lifelong disability. My son looks like any other typical young man. You cannot tell just by looking at him. My son has little, if any judgment, cannot grasp cause and effect and has a very poor memory. Just stop and think for a moment about how one uses these skills daily.
Not long ago he had read on the internet that if a cell phone would no longer hold a charge that the way to fix it was to put it in the microwave. He thought that was a good idea and did this while I was away running errands. Naturally, I was horrified when he told me about this experiment. He said, "Well, Mom, it did spark a little!” I am just relieved my house is still standing. My son is beyond gullible. He figures if it is on the internet, then it must be so. This is what I mean when I say he has no judgment.
He doesn’t understand when someone is taking advantage of him. He always seems to be the butt of jokes. You can’t imagine his levels of frustration and rage. He realizes he isn’t like everyone else. It is hard for him to make friends. He feels safe with us and so he rages at us—yelling and damaging property—about the terrible injustices he has to endure daily. We are his mom and dad, and we love him unconditionally. We can’t help but be weary. We had no idea this would be our fate.
He came to us at 10 months—an adorable angel that we had awaited for eight long years. We were ecstatic when we got the call from the adoption agency. He did everything right. When I took him for his well-baby checkups everything was just fine. I’d always ask our pediatrician “Why is his head so small?” The doctor assured me everything was fine because he showed no developmental delays. He walked when he was supposed to, talked clearly and loved us back. This all suddenly changed once he was in third grade. He could not pay attention. He could not focus. I knew all along that his tiny head had something to do with it. We took him to numerous doctors, therapists and psychologists to help us unlock the mystery. We did not get a clear diagnosis until he was in seventh grade. That’s a long, long time waiting for an answer. Now that he is older, it is tough for him to hold a job. He’s still terribly frustrated.
So don’t tell me, "Well, one glass of wine won’t hurt, because I know differently." Every day is incredibly hard. I don’t want your pity. I just want you to know that your action has consequences. Why would you put your baby at risk? That’s why I am writing this article to warn you that when you drink, so does your baby! I want to shout it from the mountaintop that drinking alcohol while pregnant is far worse than you can imagine. You must pledge to have "none for nine." Nine months of pregnancy with zero alcohol. I don’t want you to ever have to walk a mile in my shoes.
Ellen Corona is a mother of two in Apex.