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Anything is Possible if you Dare to Dream

March 1, 2009

How I became a Special Needs Mother - Chapter Two

By the time Jesse was 3 we knew she had a speech problem, she communicated mostly by pointing and screaming, if we did not immediately understand what she wanted.

I looked into the possibility of speech therapy, but she was too old for our state's Early Intervention program (Birth - 3) and she was not yet in school. And, everyone kept telling us that she would talk when she was ready.

Speech of course was not her only issue, she was also very clumsy, not just the toddler/twaddler issues, but a total lack of balance and awareness of her surroundings. At age 2 we found a wonderful gymnastics program to enroll her in.

We had no idea at the time that gymnastics served as an alternative to autism intervention. Over the course of 6 years from age 2 to age 8, Jesse's gymnastics program helped her develop her fine and gross motor skills. It also gave her a sense of accomplishment. The beautiful smile on her little face when she raised her trophy each year with her classmates at their spring show was priceless.

Jesse had all the classic signs of autism and still we thought she was just a difficult toddler/pre-schooler, who needed a strict routine.

Part of that routine was Jesse's new Montessori school, which she started attending when she was 3.5 years old. We had interviewed that particular school before placing her in her first school at age 2. At the time, the new school was still housed in one building and the toddler room was very small.

When we went back to the new school for primary Montessori (age 3-6), we were amazed at the changes they had made, including expanding into another building. Jesse's new teacher was absolutely wonderful with her and the Montessori method was perfect for her then.

For the next two years, we settled into a predictable routine with Jesse. She screamed every morning when we dropped her off from school, she continued to have pottying accidents, even though we forced the issue of potty training during the summer of her third year, and her speech improved only marginally.

However, by that time, we had learned how to communicate with her. We had a good idea of what situations would set her off and we avoided the inevitable screaming fits from changes in routine, as often as possible. In other words, we stayed home, joined a church where she could quietly color at our feet during the service and did not take her out of town, except for visits to close relatives.

Baby sitters were not a word in our vocabulary. If we did have to go out at night, dh and I arranged for a relative to come and stay with us. One night, we literally had dh's aunt distract Jesse by the kitchen door, while we snuck down the stairs and out the front door to attend a black tie affair.

When Jesse was 4.5 years, her school conducted routine speech and hearing testing. They recommended that we have the county formally test Jesse to see if she qualified for speech therapy.

So we did.

And the county turned us down for services. They told us that all of her issues were developmental. She would improve her speech with age.

There were right on only one point, her issues were definitely developmental, just not the type they wanted us to believe.

By that time, we were already trying rather avidly to have another child. This time we only waited six months before seeking fertility treatments. After some initial tests, and before going back to Clomid, I found myself unexpectedly pregnant.

My fertility doctor made me come in every other day from week 4 through week 7 for blood tests to make sure my hormone levels were increasing regularly and put me on some medication to help me along.

Everything looked great, until the day I went in for my 7-week ultra sound.

I will never forget the look on the nurse's face when she refused to tell me anything and would not let me look. I knew exactly what my doctor was going to say. No Heartbeat.

They gave me a choice of scheduling an immediate D&C or waiting one more week for another ultra-sound just for peace of mind. We opted to wait and I found myself in the OR having a D&C two days before Christmas.

It was a very bad time for us. That was Jesse's first Christmas where she really looked forward to Santa Clause and I spent it on the couch on pain medication.

Blessedly, the New Year and Jesse's 4th birthday breathed new life into our family.

When Jesse continued to potty accidents in the fall of her 3rd year, we bribed her by booking a cruise on the Disney Boat for her next birthday. We showed her the video of the cruise ship and told her she could not go unless she was fully potty trained.

For the next several weeks, Jesse went around saying, "I stink in the potty, I go on the big boat by my birthday." In retrospect, that was probably her first complete sentence. And, sure enough, by Christmas that year she did just that.

The cruise itself was wonderful and a trial in patience. Jesse freaked every time she saw the Disney characters running around the ship and she lasted less than 15 minutes in the Kid's Club before they paged us.

In Jesse's defense, she was still fighting a 6-week ear infection; the result of losing her second set of tubes a couple of months before.

Needless to say, we ended up seeing the ship's doctor, going on stronger antibiotics and apologizing for several episodes of losing her lunch/dinner.

By the end of the cruise, we managed to convince Jesse to pose with a few of the characters when no other kids were around. Most of the time, as you probably know, everyone lined up for hours for the scheduled character photo-ops.

Not my Jesse.

Among her other issues, she was still rightfully sulking about her new, extremely short page-boy haircut; the result of a very bad hair stylist at our local mall. I had to take Jesse to another town with a special kids salon to get them to fix the damage and remove the rat-tail.

When we returned from Jesse's birthday cruise, we made a decision, which ultimately changed our life.

We decided to adopt.