I’ve been thinking a lot today about Susan’s post on The Family Room today. She really captured the essence of where we are in our lives right now —sort of. We are very far along the acceptance curve but are still somewhat in “siege” mode, too. It’s a strange and uncomfortable place to be. I so often find myself teetering on the brink of full-on acceptance and being able to simply adopt new routines and adapt when and where we need to. I’ve been able to work out regularly and have managed to lose 40 pounds —nearly half of the weight I’ve put on over the years since Nik’s birth. Stress is a horrible, horrible thing if you don’t create healthy outlets for it —but that’s a post for another day or perhaps even another blog altogether.
Then, there are days like today when my adrenaline flows and I am in my battle regalia.
Today Nik woke up very congested AND runny, coughing, feverish. In short, a sick little boy. Well, at least we think he’s sick. It might possibly be a strong reaction to the DTaP booster he had to get on Thursday. It is part of the ongoing evaluation of his immunodeficiency. Yes, Nik the human pin-cushion has to get jabbed with needles way more than anybody should have to. And we still don’t know the extent of his immune function. The immunologist on call today said, “Well, it is most likely just a reaction to the shot…but it could be an opportunistic infection trying to take hold what with his compromised immune system.” WTF…thanks, I needed that like a hole in the head today.
Going back to Susan’s post, I found myself nodding my head “yes, yes” as I re-read the bit about “a simple cold can throw us all into chaos” and wondering when, if ever, I will be able to stop getting anxious over every last little sniffle or cough Nik has. I hate that such a thing has the power to jerk me right back to the panic of all the months in the NICU. The times we were sure Nik was off the ventilator for good, or had turned some corner then…BAM!
On days like today I feel like I haven’t come nearly as far as I think. I hate that I let it distract me from other things I need to be paying attention to. I become obsessed with finding the answer, the “fix”, the “cure” for whatever physical ailment is standing in our way.
Arrogance? No, desperation.
I really need to be focusing on something else right now —getting ready for a non-IEP IEP meeting on Tuesday morning. That stirs the siege mentality/feelings, too; after a pretty mediocre school year for Nik, it feels like we have to get this one right. This one is a biggie; this is laying some significant ground work. We are meeting with the IEP team plus the district autism coordinator and the psychologist to discuss their evaluation of Nik. We’ve put in calls to both of them to ask for a private conversation before-hand but have gotten NO RESPONSE. I would rather have some vague idea of their general thoughts so as to not be blind-sided in the middle of an IEP meeting. I hate when that happens because I get caught in the emotion and get stuck there. It is not useful or helpful for Nik in any way and I have learned —the hard way—not to operate from that place if I can help it.
To that end, when the school case manager called to schedule the IEP —at which neither PT nor Speech will be represented (WTF, I didn’t agree to that!), I told her that she should absolutely not plan on walking away with anything vaguely resembling a signed IEP. I want this meeting to be a discussion about Nik’s needs and classification and placement (possible school change may be on the horizon. We have very mixed feelings about that!) and that we would need to reconvene for his official IEP later.
Just in case, though, Niksdad and I are preparing a list of the things we want incorporated into Nik’s IEP, including the rationale supporting the educational necessity of each item (e.g., “supports independent living,” “necessary for safety,” or “supports LRE”…those kinds of things). For each one the school denies or doesn’t address, we will follow up in writing and ask for explanations. I’ve been reading Mom Without A Manual lately and have been taking some notes based on her recent experiences with her school district.
I keep telling myself that if we can get through Nik’s IEP for next year and are able to get him the supports he needs (which includes a 1:1 paraprofessional full time), I can let go of the fight or siege mentality and begin to settle in and simply BE Niksmom and Niksdad’s wife. Pursuing my own longer-term interests will have to wait a little longer —and I’m OK with that. Right now, I have two guys in school who need my unwavering support. Nik needs me to fight for his rights until he can do so on his own. Niksdad needs me to believe in him and support him in his very challenging career change from engineering to nursing. He is working toward the ultimate goal of becoming a pediatric nurse anesthetist; it’s a long road but he is brilliant and dedicated. He is building a new future for us so I guess you could say he too must feel under siege sometimes.
Lest I get stuck in the bleakness of the ka-ka going on today/this weekend, I have had glimpses and reminders of all the progress Nik has made and continues to make every single day. The continuing efforts to communicate with those around him, the easy laughter —often at appropriate moments, the physical shifts toward more standing and attempts at walking, the music, the kisses to the “other boy” each time he passes a mirror, the sippy cup with the straw, etc. Those are the things which pull me back from the brink of despair when I am besieged with Nik’s latest illness and the worry that it will turn into something bigger, the IEP planning, or the discovery that Nik has not had ANY speech therapy at school since the June 1st. Yes, I have to take a deep breath and allow myself to focus on the here and now.
Unlike some couples, we haven’t yet figured out how to make time for too many dates or conversation that doesn’t revolve around Nik, school, or work. But we’re getting there in baby steps. Regular workouts, sitting down to dinner together, making time at least one day each week for a family outing of some sort. Like Susan said, “It’s small, but it’s progress, and that makes it feel huge.”