Thursday, March 22, 2018

Epilepsy Blog Relay: Time

This post is part of the Epilepsy Blog Relay™ which will run from March 1 through March 31. Follow along and add comments to posts that inspire you!

Before you become a parent, you are continuously told "time goes by so fast", "cherish every moment", "Before you know it, your children will be out of the house", and so many other phrases that insinuate life is about to move a whole lot quicker.  You smile and nod at everyone who tells you these phrases, and you might even think you understand what this means, but then your child is born, and your comprehension of those words and phrases take on a whole new meaning.  From the second your child is born you are instantly placed into a lifelong game of tug and war with time, wishing time would speed up, yet simultaneously begging for it to slow down.  If you become one of the chosen parents who are gifted a child with epilepsy, all the above takes on a whole new meaning.

That moment you witness your child's first seizure, or the moments following the realization that what you just witnessed was your child's first seizure, the concept of time takes on an entirely new meaning.  Seconds have never felt so long, yet by the time the next seizure occurs you wonder how time flew by so quickly.  There is now a new version of tug of war, this time it is wishing time would fly by faster so a seizure could end, but then praying time would stand still so you never have to experience those moments ever again.  Yet just like with everything else, the clock does not slow down, it does not stop, it just continues to tic on by.

If your child has epilepsy secondary to a life limiting diagnosis, the tug of war with time game takes on another shift.  Your life revolves around time and an unspoken ticking clock that only you are aware of, that can make you cling to every aspect of the seconds going by, no matter how good or bad they are spent.  You prefer for them to be spent with your child experiencing more happy moments vs moments filled with seizures or other medical complexities, but yet you will take any and all moments you are gifted with him/her.  

Living life with a child who has epilepsy makes a person appreciative of time, never knowing what each second holds, you learn to accept whatever comes your way.  You soak up every second, hoping and praying it won't be the last, but with the fear of the unknown, and realistic potential of that occuring keeping you on guard and in the moment.  You do your best to always be in the moment, but try not to be paralyzed by it.  You anticipate the next seizure while trying to not live in a constant state of fear or panic.  One of the hardest parts of living life with a child who has epilepsy is learning the balance of holding onto time, while also trusting enough to let it pass by. 

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The other side

I cannot remember exactly where my mindset was in October of 2015 but being a rookie on this journey I can guess I was in a more optimistic position.  I had witnessed fewer seizures, experienced fewer moments of overall defeat for Sonzee, not fully addressed her diagnosis of her being Failure to Thrive and had not done her first medication wean.  I had thoughts about wishing things would be better for Sonya, whatever that meant in my mind at the time, but then wrote a post about being content with where things were personally, because you just never know what the alternatives really are, even when from the outside others situations appear more ideal.  

There is honestly NO ideal way to have a CDKL5 mutation.  No mutation is "better" than another, they are all essentially awful and unwanted, and each child presents with unique strengths and challenges.  There is not one parent of a child diagnosed with CDKL5 (that I know of), who prayed for their child to have a mutation in their CDKL5 gene and present with whatever skill sets and or medical complexities they do because of that mutation.  Some children with CDKL5 do walk, some do crawl, some can sit, some have a limited vocabulary but are able to communicate verbally, some have behavioral difficulties, some have respiratory issues, obviously the majority if not all, have the seizure component, but there are no two kiddos who are exactly alike.  Every child who has a CDKL5 diagnosis and their family experience heart aching, gut wrenching struggles, yet I am sitting here wishing Sonzee did not have the specific challenges she has.

Why do her struggles have to be what they are?  Why couldn't she be one of the more mobile children with fewer GI and motility issues?  Why couldn't she be one of the miracle stories where CBD worked?  Why couldn't she be one of those kiddos that thrived when her seizures have been momentarily controlled?  What would it be like in our house if she showed negative behaviors such as wreaking havoc on the playroom and eating non-food items?  Why can't she tolerate the amount of food she NEEDS to survive?  I know handpicking the way CDKL5 could affect her would not be a better idea, and knowing my luck, I would probably not do her any better justice, but I wish I could have an alternative version of her story playing out next to me for me to see what it would be like if she did not have the specific set of challenges she was given.  Yet 2 years and 5 months after my optimistic approach at turning lemons into lemonade, knowing that "the grass is always greener on the other side" is not always the case, I can't help but wish so deeply that she had "the other side".   

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Quality of Life

The moment I became pregnant with my first child I began fantasizing about the future.  Unsure of her gender during the pregnancy I had wanted a boy because I had an older brother and while we had our moments growing up, we were always close, and I considered him my protector and defender, so I wanted my first to be a boy.  At the same time, I thought how fun it would be to have a little girl.  I knew no matter what gender she turned out to be, Sam and I would become smitten.  When she was born we both could not have been happier with the outcome, our journey into parenthood began, my dream of becoming a mother came to be, and life was absolutely amazing.  Our little girl was happy and so we were happy, it was that simple.  Then 5 years and 23 days later we were introduced to Sonya, and everything we knew about parenting, about simple, and typical, was essentially thrown out the window.  Our life became rare with a huge emphasis on quality of life.

The phrase quality of life has become our household staple, it is how we respond to every situation and it is what weighs heavily on my heart 100% of the time, but what does it mean?  I realized after a conversation with one of my closest friends recently that when you do not have a child with a life limiting diagnosis, grasping the concept of what quality of life really stands for is about as clear as mud.  It also means something different to everyone, even parents of children with the same or similar diagnosis.  This is one of those tough to understand, tough to explain phrases.  There are many many interpretations of this phrase, but there is absolutely no right or wrong, no better or worse, it is purely subjective.  This topic can cause judgement and controversy but is 100% individual and that (to me) is all right.

We have found ourselves at what I consider a pivotal moment on our quality of life journey for Sonzee.  The point where keeping her needs for sustaining her life and ensuring her quality of life meets head to head.  The crossroads of where the selfishness of parenting a gift from g-d  and respecting the selfless act of what mothering really is, parallel.  This is an extremely difficult place to be.  While I know deep down there truly is no right or wrong, my brain is having a challenging time trusting in that, because there must be.  As we were told yesterday, even if something negative occurs as an outcome to the decision we make, it does not mean we made the wrong decision.  While I want to believe this to be true, it is difficult for my heart and brain to be on the same page, but as George Michael said, "you'll never find peace of mind until you listen to your heart." 

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Sunday, March 11, 2018

Go with your gut

When I signed onto Facebook this morning there was a notification telling me that I had 8 memories over the years "on this day".  Naturally I decided to go and see what they were, and I saw Sonzee's one-month picture from 3 years ago.  My caption read "1 month already?!?!".  Looking at this picture I recall vividly how many pictures I took to find the "right" one to post.  It was different than with my other children.  It wasn't because the pictures were not the perfect picture because I was trying to get her to lay a certain way or I wanted more of the background to be a specific way.  It was not because I was trying to find her cutest pose and post that one.  It was because something in my gut was nagging at me.

"Something was not right", I said those words so many times during her first month of life and they fell on deaf ears.  I felt it was so obvious in this picture, and while I wanted someone to agree with me, I was afraid of someone agreeing with me.  Her eyes were facing directly at the camera, but they were not looking at me.  Someone made the comment, "so alert" (for the record, I HATE THAT PHRASE).  I wonder if they could not figure out what was off in that picture, so they chose that overused phrase.  

It was a few days after this picture that I finally ignored others best attempts to tell me "baby's do weird things" or that I was just being crazy, and I decided to go with my gut.  It was within 24 hours that my gut feeling was confirmed.  All those twitches, shakes, and random eye movements were actually seizures, I was not crazy after all.  While there was some validation in knowing I trusted my gut and it was correct, there was not an overwhelming sense of victory when it just confirmed my worst fears.  

The past 3 years have been filled with so many doubts and questions where I continue to question my gut, but time and time again my gut wins.  So many times I challenge my own gut to play devil’s advocate and a lot of the time it is simply done because I want so badly for my gut to be wrong.  I still hold out hope that just once it will be and I tend to cling to that more often than not.  But if I could give anyone starting out on their parenting journey, special needs or not a piece of advice, no matter what others tell you.... go with your gut.

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Monday, March 5, 2018


For the past three years we have been faced with making decisions on behalf of Sonzee that have  altered her quality of life, and every once and awhile, literally her life.  It is the latter that throws me into a constant state of anxiety and panic, that to me, has to be similar to the feeling of drowning.  There are bobs back up to the surface for me to take a gulp of fresh air, but then I find myself falling back deeper in the water only to look up at the rippled surface.  As I look up I wonder how it is we are back in this position?  Didn't we do everything we were supposed to in our best attempt to avoid this situation?  How do I get back to the surface?

I am trying to filter out the clutter and confusion in my mind by conducting research and weighing pros and cons.  I feel like no matter the decision, it will only buy us a little more time before the next situation presents itself.  Nothing seems clear.  I hate to say that making these decisions does not seem fair, because it isn't about what is fair, it is about what is best for Sonzee.  I find the most challenging part of my job as her mother is removing the distractions of what I want and honing in on what she would want.  That in and of itself is suffocating.  What if I am completely off the mark?  What if I misread my gut?  Simply put, what if I am wrong? 

You would think that essentially repeating this process over and over again would make us professionals at it.  This is where the complexity of medically complex parenting comes into play in a different manner.  So many aspects to consider, so many ways to falter, so many ways this could knock down every domino we have tried to stack in her favor.  I guess this is when I have to really dig deep and give way to faith, faith in what is meant to be.  So as I sit here holding my breath deep under the water, I will do my best to swim to surface to take another breath and keep treading water.

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