Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Getting too comfortable

This past week I feel like I have been sucked into an uncertain realm of chaos.  The little control I thought I had over anything has vanished into thin air with such speed that I can feel its whiplash.  I have looked up at the sky about five times since last week convinced that my life is listed in the dramatic comedy section of G-d’s library.  My brain is overtired, I am physically and emotionally exhausted, fear of the unknown is debilitating, and I feel like my world is closing in on me.  Moments like these I wonder where things would be if we did not have the CDKL5 component.  How would I be different?  How would our life look? 

The way my brain functions these days I know has been significantly influenced by what I have been exposed to over the past 3 years.  I know I have reason to have the thoughts and fears I have, but that does not change the fact that I wish that were not the case.  I wonder if there was a study done on my brain in January of 2015, before the birth of Sonzee, and then now, how things might look different.  Surely the psychological effects of watching your child seize every day and face near death experiences must play a role with how your brain continues to function from that point forward. 

I know the events of last week sent me into this 100mph tailspin because they caught me completely off guard.  I bought a new hospital bag weeks ago after a parent in a local support group raved about a new backpack that comes with a charger and speakers among tons of storage pockets.  It was on sale at Walmart and I thought, “I have to have this even though we haven’t had a need for one, because the current bag I use has only two compartments”.  It came and sat in Sonzee’s room with the tags on every zipper. 

Last Monday Sonzee went to school, she had her typical day and had a seizure with her nurse.  All afternoon her nurse, Sam, and myself sat waiting in anticipation for her next seizure.  When it happened at 6:10pm, I said “oh, there we go Sonzee…we have been waiting for it”.  Never had one seizure resulted in the use of 911, or as much medication as we loaded her with, for it to stop.  We have used the same cocktail to help with a day when she has a ridiculous amount of seizures, but this was our first experience with a seizure not stopping on its own, and even after rescue meds.  I guess that is what I get for getting too comfortable.  I guess that is what I get for thinking, “why would I need to have the new bag packed?”

You would think that I would have learned in 3 years there is no such thing as “letting my guard down” or “getting comfortable”.  It is just not possible.  Things can easily change in a minute, seizures have quite a way of smacking me back into reality when I start to get content with what her "typical" is.  I now have her new hospital bag packed and ready to go in her bedroom.  I can bet the majority of the money we have that it will get used again.  It will be when I am least expecting and at the moment I have gathered enough strength to think “things are going so well, how could they possibly change?”

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Today is D Day...

April 16...we meet again.  3 years ago, today I was handed this piece of paper.  You were electronically signed 5 days ago, but I was blissfully unaware.  

Oh, how I pray that the chain of events leading up to that moment never had to happen.  I wish time could go back to the exact moment that the CDKL5 gene was forming in Sonya's body and do something differently.  If only we knew what or if there was something different that could have been done during that one split second.  I still often wonder why she was the chosen statistic and I am still unable to accept this is part of her life or our life, yet there is still nothing that we can do.

Today my heart is heavy, and it hurts.  I cannot officially say it hurts more than it did 3 years ago, but I can certainly say it is different.  3 years ago, my heart hurt because there was a reason Sonya was experiencing seizures and she never would "outgrow" them.  3 years ago, my heart hurt because we were told our 8-week-old baby girl might not develop in a typical fashion.  We were filled with fear and doubts over the trajectory she would travel.  3 years ago, my heart broke as I watched and heard Sam's break.  3 years ago, our hearts broke because we felt like we were at the bottom of the barrel.  

Today my heart hurts because 3 years have passed, and we watch our Sonzee bear seize multiple times a day.  We give her medications that help to an extent, but will never take away her pains, struggles, or seizures.  My heart hurts today because I have watched Sonzee try so hard to hold up her head, put weight on her legs, and try to sit, but her body still has its limitations.  My heart still hurts over the unknown trajectory of her path and the doubts and fears still present every day.  My heart hurts because I am more aware of what a missing CDKL5 actually means.

Over the past 3 years I have watched so many fellow CDKL5 children suffer and lose their lives and I know how real and likely this scenario is likely to become.  The past 3 years have taught me that while the selfish mom in me wants Sonzee here with me forever, the mom who has been present and watched her suffer for the past 3 years begs she won't have to continue to endure the absolutely horrific trials she has had to every moment of her life for so much longer.  

Over the past 3 years I have learned there is not much good that comes with a CDKL5 diagnosis, but good memories, great moments, and amazing friendships can still be made.  There will never be a moment that CDKL5 will ever be far from my mind.  The impact of this string of characters has been monumental.  There is so much I have learned over the past 3 years and so many changes that have been made.  While I wish with every fiber of my being the events that led up to this day 3 years ago never occurred and we were not the ones who had to learn all the intricacies of living a life with a child who is missing CDKL5 protein, that was not the case and we were...so here is to putting one foot in front of the other, waterproof mascara, a few runs to Starbucks and embracing Diagnosis Day. 

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Monday, April 9, 2018


There was a post over the weekend in our CDKL5 support group of a mom of a 10 month old who was recently diagnosed.  Change the date by 3 years and 7 days, and her daughter's age to 8 weeks and there we were.  She mentioned her daughter's current status, and she sounded pretty similar to Sonzee at that age.  I skimmed the replies and had zero intention of replying, after all, she was caught off guard by the diagnosis, in shock, and was looking for some hope.  I know what she is looking for, I know how she is feeling, I know what she wants to hear, and I know I am not the support she currently needs.  I am having a difficult time myself defining what hope even looks like at this point.

I remember 3 years ago it was merely a voice in the back of my mind that was saying she would not outgrow the seizures she was experiencing.  I remember 3 years ago how often Sam said exactly the opposite, he not only hoped, but really believed that when she was a little older the seizures would stop and she would be just like her siblings.  Her stint in the NICU and subsequent 8 day PCH hospitalization would become a distant nightmare and not part of a recurring adventure.  I wonder if deep down I clung to any minuscule amount of hope that I wouldn't allow myself to consider out of the devastating fear of the reality crushing me. 

It was 3 years and 6 days ago we received that phone call that redirected our focus on the path we had been journeying.  The phone call that told us we had an "answer".  I remember feeling at peace that we had an answer, eager to not want to wait the night to hear what it was, but "at least we knew what we would be dealing with".  Later on that day, Sam told me nothing we were going to be told was going to be good.  It was an odd switch of roles.  I asked him how he knew, and he told me he looked up the infant epilepsy panel and only two diagnoses were "good" and they were not what Sonya had.  I think it was one of the few times I remained more calm than him, and said, "well, we will know what it is tomorrow".

From the moment we read "CDKL5" on that genetics report, we clung to the hope that Sonya would not fall victim to all of its devastating effects.  Day after day, week after week, and year after year, I have watched her with my own eyes become its prey.  There have been some successes on this journey, and invaluable experiences, but my faith and trust in hope has been shaken to the core.  I hope she isn't suffering.  I hope that she knows she is loved.  I hope she feels we are making what we feel are the best decisions for her.  Gone are the days where I place the measurements of my hope on her accomplishment of typical milestones.  I would still love for her to sit just one time unsupported in her life, to take her first steps, to say one word, to purposefully communicate with her family, and to interact with her siblings, but if someone asked me to give them hope for their child diagnosed with CDKL5, I would say there is certainly hope, but, the reality might not follow in those footsteps.

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Thursday, April 5, 2018


Sonzee's baby brother turned 4 months old last week, and I wish I could say I am enjoying every minute of the experience, but that would not be the complete truth.  After you have a child following your child who falls under the category of "rare" it becomes challenging to accept the "typical atypical" baby behaviors for what they are, and not for what they might be.  So here I find myself sitting at my computer watching videos of my first daughter when she was 4-5 months old after spending the entire day sending videos of my son to his pediatrician, two good friends, and panicking to Sam that things are not right.  

It was on my 7th video of watching my oldest doing everything similar to her youngest brother, yet vocalizing significantly less, that I wanted to cry.  I sent two different but similar texts, one said "I want to go back to being that mom", the other continued to say "...the mom you sadly never got to be and the one I miss being.  The one where her baby does everything [Sonzee's brother] does and even more questionable movements but the mom who had zero [expletive] clue about rare".  Then the tears could not help themselves, because this is just too much to keep inside.  This is not how it should be.  

No one should know raising a child with CDKL5.  I have always been grateful Sonzee was baby #4, I got to experience my naive mommy-ing moments.  The negative is that I am aware of how my mommy-ing was different, I know the type of mommy-ing I am missing.  Despite my son's congenital heart defect, there was nothing that prepared me for the situations CDKL5 has brought to the table.  I wish I could go back to being the type of neurotic mom I was with my first, because CDKL5 has brought me to an entirely different level.  

Every day I wake up and tell myself that my son "is not seizing", "he makes eye contact", "he has an adorable laugh", "he smiles at everyone and everything", and "he is fine".  But then there is a picture posted to Facebook of another child his age doing something he is not that I did not even consider he should be, or there is a momentary flashback of Sonzee at his age doing the same "weird" movement, and the panic washes over me in an unstoppable manner.  There is no rationalizing with me, or convincing me otherwise, because I am sitting here waiting for the shoe to drop.  I am so confused between my actual gut feeling, nerves, and the potential to journey down a similar path of Sonzee's with another child that it makes me nauseous.  There is something to be said about the carefree first-time mom of a typical child, the one I will not ever be again, and sadly, the one I never realized until now, I once was.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

13 Days

In 13 days we will celebrate the 3-year anniversary of Sonzee's CDKL5 diagnosis.  A day that no matter how much time has passed on a calendar, the details of that day will remain forever etched in my mind.  A day that I can confidently say "changed my life", and one that I feel I should say "for the better", but honestly, I do not believe that.  I can twist this scenario into being something positive.  I can say how my perspective has changed in many areas, or how I am a different,  and or there are people I met because of all of this, and how great these experiences have been, but today I am honoring the part of me that stays tucked away, afraid of being judged.

I loathe April 16.  It ranks up there among the days I wish could be erased from the 2015 calendar.  A day I wish would never have happened.  It is a day that no matter what, will continue to play out for the rest of my life.  It will forever remain a staple.  It is a day that cannot be erased, ignored, or forgotten because it was just a starting point.  It was the day we were first introduced to the string of characters, CDKL5, to a world that was essentially out there and just waiting for us to find.  That day we learned there was a community, an actual family for us that we never realized existed.  There were families that had already been affected by CDKL5 living their daily lives right alongside ours, and we never knew.  There were children who had already lost their lives due to one of the many complications that can arise being diagnosed with CDKL5, and I had spent 31 years oblivious.

Lately, I have found myself trying to envision what life would have been sans anything CDKL5.  It is hard to tell what exactly would be different.  Would I have had 6 pregnancies?  Would we still have had 5 children born?  Would we travel more?  Where else would I be dedicating my time and energy?  Was CDKL5 bestowed upon Sonzee to prevent something else from occurring to one of our other children, Sam, or myself?  I know the answers to these questions will one day be answered and so many more questions will eventually be asked.  After all, during this time 3 years ago somewhere in a science lab, a test was occurring that would give an explanation as to why my newborn baby was seizing, it just was not the one we wanted.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018


Yesterday was Purple Day, a day to help raise awareness for Epilepsy by wearing the color purple.  For me, to be honest, I just love any opportunity to make something cute or fun about CDKL5 and whatever situation we are faced with as a secondary consequence.  I picked out Sonzee's outfit on Sunday night, and even decided on wearing purple leggings in advance of 7:00am in the morning.  I went onto Facebook and chose the frame I wanted to display for my profile picture as my first attempt to spread awareness of a day that effects 3.4 million families in the nation.  In fact, according to the Epilepsy Foundation "there are more people who live with epilepsy than autism spectrum disorders, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple sclerosis, and cerebral palsy combined", and as of 2015, the CDC reports 0.6% of children 0-17 have active epilepsy*.

20-40% of those who suffer from epilepsy will have drug-resistant epilepsy, which is defined as a patient with epilepsy who does not become and stay seizure free with adequate trials of two anti-epileptic medications.  Sonzee fell into this category by the time she 2 months old, and sadly not much has changed.  Over 3 years she has been on at least 7 seizure medications, while each new drug gives a sense of hope, reality has said otherwise.  Unfortunately, for some reason each dose change, each new medication, each potential for some relief continues to give me a split second of hope and a subsequent broken spirit.  

It was fitting that for 36 hours (12 of them during epilepsy awareness day), Sonzee had not had any of her big seizures.  It was enough time to get excited, not enough time to truly enjoy the moments, but enough time that I am mad at myself for considering the medicine and VNS changes we just made would actually work.  It was enough time for me to be left wondering how I gave into the false sense of hope again.  My mind filled with the thoughts, "You know better",  "Why did you do that to yourself?", "This is not the first time this has happened, you knew how this would end", my heart is filled with brokenness, aching, and longing for a different outcome for her, and my eyes, they are filled to the brim with tears, again.

If you asked me when I was 4 what my favorite color was, I would have eagerly told you it was purple.  It has always been my "signature color", and if you know me personally, you know it was an accent color almost 10 years ago at my wedding.  Yet for the past 3 years it has become a color that I rely on to spread a message.  Maybe one day there will be a cure for epilepsy, but even then, I will not ever look at the color purple the same.


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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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Thursday, March 1, 2018


It was at some point in April 2015 where I became so used to watching seizures occur that they lost their "wow factor".  Sonzee was only 2 months old.  I have seen so many varieties of seizures, so many different presentations that it takes a lot to make me lose my composure.  The first time of a new seizure type it usually takes me a quick second to adjust, but then like becoming comfortable with any new area of parenting, they too just become the normal.  We have been used to 10-15-minute seizures since August, some have needed oxygen, thankfully the majority do not.  This past weekend however, was the very first time Sonzee had a seizure longer than 15 minutes.  We gave her rescue medication and expected her to stop seizing, but it was not until 7 minutes later that she finally came out of it.  I admit the thought of dialing 911 crossed my mind, but I knew she was fine and I knew she would stop, and she did.

Yesterday was the first day this week I had not received a phone call from school telling me Sonzee had a seizure.  I was honestly a little surprised considering she had 2 within 2 hours of each other before school, but when I walked into her classroom I saw her nurse and teacher standing next to her and I said, "I was thinking it was odd you had not called me yet".  She was already a few minutes into her seizure when I gave her kisses, rubbed her arm, and started to talk to her teacher.  Her nurse was doing the timing and we were just waiting for her to stop.  Minutes continued passing by, her nurse letting me know every so often where we were on the time.  A mom friend walked by the classroom, we spoke for a little, and Sonzee continued to seize.  I met her school occupational therapist and she and a couple of others gathered around to learn about Sonzee's seizures.  The clock ticked on, 13...14.... 15....I started to take out her rescue medication and at 16 minutes I told her she had 10 more seconds before I had to give it to her.  10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1....rescue med given.

Then we waited.

We all continued to talk about her seizures and then finally 7 minutes later it stopped.  We were finally ready to head home and Sonzee agreed because she went from seizing to being rescued to playing with her hands.  I mentioned to her nurse, "Only Sonzee could go from having a 22-minute seizure that required rescuing, to playing with her hands as if nothing happened".  I do not like that her seizures are like the "boy who cried wolf" and it makes me a little sad that they do not all impact me, and that I can sit around for 20 minutes while she seizes carrying on as if she was watching Octonauts on T.V.  I know I do not have the psychological capabilities of entertaining each one like it won't be happening 3-5 more times each day, because they will, they do, and this is just part of her life, but it just hurts that this is where things are at.  

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Square one

This afternoon marks the end of Sonzee's first week of school.  I am so happy and excited for her, she appears to love it, but still, I have had this achy feeling in my chest each day she has gone.  It is the same but different than when each of her older siblings began preschool.  I know she is in the best place for her and I know everyone there cares about her and absolutely loves working with children who have special needs.  It is comforting beyond measure that her two amazing nurses get to spend their shifts there with her as well, but it has been really hard to relinquish control of her for 11 hours and 15 minutes this week.

Beyond the typical concerns of leaving a three year old at school I wonder if they will forget to turn her feed on if they turn it off to change her diaper, if they will miss her having a seizure, or if she will present with a new seizure type that they aren't aware is actually a seizure.  I wonder if they will know what her whimpers are indicating, will they recognize if she is pain vs just wanting to be left alone, or if she is hot or cold?  I wonder what they will do when she has her very first seizure at school, thankfully so far she has been amazing with having them before and after school.

I know her going to preschool is a way for her to develop her independence, but the truth is, she has limitations that prevent her from expressing what she wants or needs and I do not know how to trust that someone else will know her as well as Sam or I do.  I know eventually she will get her teachers and others to understand her and they will learn her language, and eventually for me each day will get easier for me to loosen my grip just as I did with her older siblings.  But for now I am just excited today is a shorter day and she is home the next three days before we start back a little past square one on Monday.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Doing alright

Once I find myself at the bottom of the dark holes CDKL5 places in front of me, it is really challenging for me to pull myself up and out.  It is almost too easy to just keep falling further and losing all of my ability to see the light from above.  Every day that Sonzee seizes, whimpers in pain, is unable to communicate her wants and needs is another day I feel suffocated and a failure as her mother.  Then there are these fleeting moments where I am able to see that she really is truly content with the life she has been given and that she really doesn't know any differently and I realize that I should not be discouraged.

I had one of those mommy moments during Sonzee's swim class this week where the world around us did not exist and we were in a dream.  It was one of those great moments that caught me off guard and brought some tears to my eyes, a ridiculous smile to my face, and for a split second I forgot about her troubles.   For a good half an hour I watched her in her element; not in any pain, smiling on and off, looks of content across her face, just pure happiness exuded from her as she kicked her feet, went under water, and worked on back floating.  Lately I feel as if these situations are rare and I wanted time to stand still so we could be frozen in the moment for a little longer.  I live for these moments, they are what make hallmark movies and P&G Olympic commercials. 

The other day one of my special needs mommy friends mentioned she keeps her daughter on palliative care because it is "care-ative" medicine vs "curative" medicine, the line resonated with me immediately, but it was not until today watching Sonzee play in the water that I felt its true meaning.  We will never cure Sonzee of seizures or the lack of CDKL5 protein that is present in her body, we won't ever be able to cure her GI issues or make her able to function like a typical person does in our society.  We are only able to care for her in a way that shows her we get her, we understand her essence, we only want her comfortable and happy and during her swim class I felt it was her way of giving me a pat on the back and telling me "Ema, thank you, you are doing alright". 

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

It is not the same

Sunday marked the official beginning of "Birthday Week".  To be honest I still have not decorated the chalk board wall in the playroom, and I have yet to hang the birthday cupcake door sign.  Birthdays are a source of excitement in our house, it is one of those things I pride myself on.  The joy that comes from the birthday child is easy to feed off of and something that helps hold me accountable for "birthday week" follow through.  Besides me saying that it is "birthday week" Sonzee is not showing any source of excitement.  She doesn't run to the playroom to see that the wall is ready for her to pose for pictures.  She doesn't ask who the presents on the shelf in the garage are for.  She is not able to show if she is even fully aware that it is her birthday this weekend.

I have no idea why, but the weight of all these events and milestones have been much more challenging for me to accept recently.  Maybe it is because 3 is typically that age where a lot of things just click for a child.  It is the age that represents so much change, so much more "maturity" than the first years of life.  It is the year that all those amazing personality traits develop, and that individual personality becomes more known.  Sure, we have a glimpse of Sonzee, but sometimes I feel like I am completely off the mark.  I often wonder if her eye rolls and head turns are not sass, but rather just her oculomotor apraxia and muscle weakness?  

I have been watching videos of her first years of life, she was so happy her first year, so full of smiles and life.  If she could be stuck in a Groundhog Day for a year I would choose that first year of her life.  The year before her EEG background turned to hypsarrhythmia, before her seizures became so much longer and so much more often, before we really dealt with her GI issues, before feeding tubes and the ketogenic diet, before her ridiculously high 2-month steroid treatment, before multiple medication changes, before we started to really gamble, before she lost her true Sonzee happiness.  I think my heart hurts worse now than it did then, and I remember thinking that was not possible.  

I am going to get her wall decorated, and before this post is published the cupcake birthday sign will be hanging on the front door.  The final items for her birthday dinner will be delivered tomorrow and by Friday night the tables will be set, and the house will look like a party city.  Sonzee's siblings will be my source of birthday week motivation and Sonzee will have no choice but to embrace this celebration and know it is completely for her.  However, for tonight, I am going to take a brief pity party time out and cry over all the things she and therefore I miss out on all due to CDKL5.

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Friday, February 2, 2018

Dear Sonzee Bear (2)

Dear Sonzee,

The last letter I wrote to you was the day before you turned one.  I can remember so many if not all of the feelings I had that day as I reflected on your first year of life.  The joys and sorrows that filled each and every moment of your first year are etched into my mind.  To be honest little girl, the years have continued to pass by and the same types of feelings fill my heart and mind as your third birthday inches closer.  I feel I have grown as a mom and as a person in more ways than I could have ever imagined, but I also feel I have lost portions of myself I fear I won't ever be able to recover.  It is purely due to the situations that I have been faced with while on this journey with you, but it is due to no fault of your own.

I sit here tonight with a huge lump in my throat and tears in my eyes as I think about all you have gone through over the past almost three years of your life.  I honestly wonder about what the next three have in store for you, and I pray no matter where we are in all of this, you will have been given some reprieve to the suffering you are constantly forced to endure.  I do not want this to become about me, because this is your journey, this is all in the name of your soul's special purpose, but g-d do I wish your purpose was not at the expense that you are currently paying.  I wish I could have an ounce of your grace and ability to cope in the manner that you do with everything that has been thrown your way, because you my little bear live up to and beyond the spirit of the fighting bear you represent.

My heart aches for all that you are required to deal with, my mind is pained for the inability we all have at understanding your methods of communication, I feel suffocated as i watch your daily struggles to make the smallest movements, and my body is physically tired from watching you take part in the seizures you are constantly enduring.  I wish you didn't have to experience any of the hardships or limitations you have been given, but I must commend you on your absolute strength and determination not to let any of these things take you down.  I wish with every ounce of who I am that you did not have to live the life of a child missing such an important genetic protein.  There are so many times I feel so selfish for wanting you to keep pushing on despite all that you go through, but I also hope you understand that I would never want you to keep pushing on if you ever felt it is just too much to do.

You continue to bring out such joy and happiness to so many people.  You, yourself, all 20 pounds of you have made me an inspiration to others.  Do you know how many people have been able to make that sort of impact by the time they are three years old?   I will let you in on a little secret, very few.  You are a beautiful, strong, endearing, fierce little girl.  You amaze everyone who truly gets to know you, and you have influenced so many more people than you will ever know.  As painful as this journey has been so far, I cannot imagine where I would be, where our family would be without you.  I am so excited to be in the final planning stages of celebrating these past three years and am eagerly awaiting birthday week to begin in two days.

As always I am fervently praying that the next chapter of your story will be one filled with more ease and less days of hardships; but if it is not, I know you will be up for whatever challenge is sent your way and I hope you know I will be right there holding your hand, stroking your face, and kissing your forehead along the way.

Happy almost third birthday Sonzee Bear.

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Monday, January 29, 2018

How? Why? When?

Seizures have been consistently horrific since their debut (again) after the brief VNS miracle wore off back in July, however, this month it appears Sonzee is about to break her personal monthly record.  With three days of January still remaining, as of Sunday she was tied for October and December with a minimum of 415 minutes spent actively seizing each of those months...that is at least 6.917 hours.  Those numbers do not represent any questionable activity or brief spasms (even in clusters).  She has required at least one rescue medication a week since October, and we are extremely conservative with giving her those.  I am at a loss for words, I really do not understand, how does this happen? when is this horror going to stop? what is left for us to do?

I know this is what life is when CDKL5 is the diagnosis, but I am having such a difficult time accepting this for Sonzee.  She hardly complains except when the seizures are so horrible for her that they cause her to whimper afterward.  She puts up with every episode like a champ, sometimes even continuing on with whatever activity she was previously doing rather than falling asleep.  Regardless of how she handles each one, none of them are okay, none of them should be happening.  Why won't they just stop?  Why won't these medications we throw at them actually work?  Why is there absolutely nothing we can do for her?

I have become so used to seizures being part of our daily routine, their shock value has become nonexistent to me despite how dangerous they are and can potentially be.  I vividly remember the days when I wondered who would let their child seize 30 seconds much less 2 minutes before administering a rescue medication like the directions stated.  Now I wonder how I could possibly give her a rescue med at only 2 minutes when she will typically stop on her own around 5-6 minutes.  I have found myself saying, "what's 10 minutes?"  Are the addictive properties better or worse than the potential brain damage she could be experiencing?  Her brain activity isn't typical regardless, so I would prefer she not be exposed to more medications and so the clock can tick on. 

I wish someone could tell me how any part of this should be considered normal?, or why she continuously has to suffer? or when it will stop.  If I could have one wish granted it would be for her to wake up and have a functional CDKL5 gene, but until then I will continue to wonder how? why? and when?

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Friday, January 26, 2018

Still trying to accept...

I know one of the harder parts of this journey is acceptance.  While I have experienced brief moments where I am content with how things are, I can admit that I have not truly accepted everything CDKL5 has thrown Sonzee's way, but I don't think I ever will.  Usually after watching one of Sonzee's CDKL5 siblings who is around her age celebrate the mastery of a skill that Sonzee still cannot do I tend to feel the saddest.  While I am genuinely happy and excited for each of them as they meet their own inch stones, it makes a small dent in my heart and the doubts of what we are doing for her creeps in.  What are we doing wrong? Are we not giving her enough therapy?  Is it our fault?  Could we be doing more?  Should we be doing more?  Will more make a difference?  

This train of thought begins to wreak havoc in my mind and an internal game of devil’s advocate ensues.  Even if we give her intensive therapy it won't make a miracle happen (we have tried that).  If we do more therapies, she will surely excel (she seizes and then sleeps through the ones she currently has).  If we pushed her she would meet her milestones (she is doing her best, she cannot beat genetics and her mutation is not a "lucky" one).  She is happy and content (Is she really?)  If we finally got control of her seizures that would surely help (No. It won't because even during her 5 weeks of seizure freedom that she has experienced twice in her life, she made zero gains developmentally).  You are doing your best for her (No I am not because she should be able to hold a toy or sit).

Lately it feels like every CDKL5 sibling around Sonzee's age has blown past her.  They are sitting, pushing to sit, rocking on all fours, crawling, bearing weight, walking with toy walkers, walking holding hands, and/or walking on their own.  Maybe it just feels that way because I am feeling like it is my fault she has not moved beyond a 3-4 month developmentally.  I remember when she was 4 months old and Sam and I had dreams she would be the one who would defy the CDKL5 stereotypes.  She was taking part in every therapy under the sun, it didn't matter the cost, she would have it all.  We bought or asked for every possible piece of equipment that might make a difference that was age appropriate.  Here we are, her about to be three and I don't want to give up on her being able to sit...but even that has not happened.

I know mastered milestones do not correlate to the level of success a person has achieved in his or her life, but as a parent of a child who has hardly completed any I just feel like a huge and complete failure.  I know we have tried everything we possible could to help her and I do not know how to accept that maybe she really will not ever meet any of these "basic" life skills or that there is nothing more we can do to help her complete them.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

What if it's not?

During this past pregnancy (as well as all the others) when people would ask me "do you know what you are having?" or "is the baby a boy or a girl?", it was typically followed with, "just as long as it is healthy".  I would nod my head in agreement because what else are you supposed to say?  It could get awkward really quickly if the next words spoken were, "What if the baby is not?".  Yet honestly, what if it's not?  I have been wondering to myself recently what exactly does a person mean when they say those words.  I can assume each person who makes the comment has a different reason as to why they have said those words, but really, what do they mean?

Me personally after having a child who ended up under the category of "what if the baby is not healthy", I can tell you I am not offended by the phrase itself; but during this last pregnancy the words took on a new meaning.  I am not ashamed to admit that I said "as long as he is healthy" aloud to anyone who asked me the gender question.  I know in a way that not every mother does what it means when your child falls under the other category.  I have lived in a hospital, my house is filled with medical supplies and equipment, my children excitedly yell "Sonzee's hospital" every time we drive by Phoenix children's hospital, I have watched her endure too many medical procedures, and I have had to play the "what happens if Sonzee doesn't make it this time" scenario in my head more times than I can count.  While some experiences of parenting are worth repeating, these are not ones I was begging to do with another child.

No one asks for "unhealthy", but sometimes that is just the card that gets played.  I promise I do not love Sonzee any differently than I do any of my children, but I also would never want to watch another child suffer like she must.  It is already too much to have to wonder what her thoughts are in regards to having to endure what she must on a daily basis.  Having to carry the burden of literally making life and/or death decisions on her behalf is often times just too much to handle.  When strangers would say "as long as the baby is healthy" my mind would of course turn to Sonzee.  Her almost three years has been filled with a mixture of joyous occasions and challenges, tears and some smiles, fear and hope, and missed milestones and completed inchstones.  It has been a roller coaster of emotions and events all along the way...and still I wonder when someone says "as long as the baby is healthy" what if the baby is not?

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Monday, January 22, 2018

Toughing it out

This past summer our oldest son celebrated his 6th birthday, sadly (and I suppose only fitting for a middle child) life got in the way and we never celebrated his big day with a party.  Fast forward to biggest sisters 8th birthday that just occurred, and I couldn't in good conscious (or without never hearing the end of it) throw her a birthday party without having had one for him.  So yesterday we took the morning to celebrate our daughter and the afternoon to celebrate our son.  Two parties, two different locations, two different parts of Phoenix, two different groups of children, but one fun filled (exhausting) day.

With the day scheduled to focus on our older two children it made perfect sense that Sonzee would decide to have one of her atrocious seizure nights the night before.  Really it included the day before as well, so let's just say the 24 hours preceding the parties (as well as the parties themselves).  I already have so much guilt as it is with my four other children, I was not adding "missing 2 birthday parties" to the list, so Sam and I watched her closely and explained to her that today was not her day.  One thing about Sonzee is how determined she is when she wants to be, so despite the fact that she surely would have preferred to spend the day in bed she managed to do what she does best (second to seizing) and tough it out. 

Her day did finish with a warm bath and some rescue meds but she managed to experience some incredible experiences with her siblings, complete with her big sister pushing her around the ice rink, and having cupcake frosting twice in one day.  I really cannot stand how much the effects of CDKL5 attempt to throw wrenches in everything we do.  I know Sonzee would have been so disappointed to not share in the festivities of her siblings today so I am glad Sam and I were able to remain calm and trust our seizure management enough to not have to split parenting duty between parties and the ER and that she was able to stick it out. 

CDKL5....you are going to have to try harder because Sonzee is quite a resilient little bear.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Tug of war

We finally toured Sonzee's preschool yesterday.  I say finally, because we have known since she was 2 months old that we wanted to send her to this school.  We have attended the family program on Friday's over the past 2 years, but have never actually set foot on the other side of the double doors.  We have one remaining meeting in 13 days that will make this next step our official reality.  I am filled with mixed emotions as my baby girl is getting ready to enter her first school.  On one hand they are the same emotions that have filled my head and heart as her three older siblings took these same steps, on the other hand, they could not be more different.

I feel like my mind is separated into two sides and there is a rope attached to both sides, for every happy emotion there is one that makes my heart sad, and I am being pulled back and forth between them.  I am so excited that Sonzee will have the ability to flourish in a new environment, but it is not in the same environment where her siblings are.  I am so thankful she will be in a classroom that is tailored to meet her needs, but she will no longer be home with me every day.  Her classroom while likely to be amazing and will provide her with the tools she will need, is not a typical classroom in any manner.  I am so grateful for the opportunities this school will undoubtedly provide for her and to her, but they are not the opportunities parents wish for their children to have to experience when they envision their schooling.

We walked from classroom to classroom, looking through the glass at the children as they learned.  We started by seeing those children who are developmentally the oldest; smiles across their faces, lights bright in the room, sitting around the table enjoying their snacks.  Multiple teachers and aids at their side helping them with their snack time activity.  As we continued our tour the lights in the classes were lower to help with seizure activity, and the centers were slowly replaced with several types of equipment.  Sam joked that there were easily thousands of dollars in equipment in one of the rooms.  My heart bursting at the idea of her getting to experience incredible opportunities that insurance would never allow us to do at home, but simultaneously hurting at the fact that she needs all the several types.

My baby girl is no longer a baby for all intents and purposes, but she will not be walking into her first day of school.  She will not require a teacher to hold her while she kicks and screams begging me not to leave her.  She won't come rushing back to the door or look at me with a face that pleads with me not to leave her with people she hardly knows for the day.  She won't give me kisses or huggies or tell me she loves me, to have a good day, that she will miss me or even say good-bye.  I won't look through the glass window and see her distracted by an activity, so she doesn't realize I am gone.  She won't glance back to see if I have walked away.  All the first days of school experienced since 2015 that brought me tears as I wondered how Sonzee's would go are about to come to fruition, culminating into the biggest game of tug of war.

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Monday, January 15, 2018


In 27 days we will be celebrating Sonzee turning three years old.  There are so many emotions accompanying my preparation for this day.  Three years.  It will have been three years from the day our family began the wildest ride of our lives and the day our little bear began a life full of hardships no person should ever have to endure, much less a baby/toddler/preschooler.  It will also be a day we weren't sure she would be here to celebrate with us, so I am doing my best to focus on this as the theme and toss out the heartache that comes with celebrating another year of struggles she will be sure to endure.

I cannot lie, there is honestly so much heartache that every moment is a struggle to remain focused on the fact that she is here with us; simply because of the daily price she pays.  I do not know why it is currently weighing so heavily recently.  I can only attribute it to watching her seize so often and be locked inside her body for her entire life to date.  I have this constant lump in my throat as I force myself to hold back tears over these thoughts, but mama bears heart feels like it has been stabbed a million times, and sadly I know one day it will fully break.  As we get deeper into this journey, it all gets harder to accept.

On paper Sonzee is turning three in just 27 days, but there is nothing that represents that fact if you see her in person.  She is an almost 23-pound, 34 inch three-year-old who cannot sit unassisted, has limited control over her body's purposeful movements, and is nonverbal.  It is not about "needing to focus on the positives", these are simply the facts.  Facts that are making this soon to be birthday celebration a bit clouded.  I wish I knew how to have tunnel vision, but for now I suppose part of this journey is learning to accept what each moment throws at me and deal with it in the best way I can.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018


For the past couple of months we have been slowly weaning Sonzee from one of her medications in between increasing a new one.  The one we are weaning is the highly addictive benzodiazapine medication, Clobazam (also known as Onfi).  It was one of those medications on the "I would never give my child that medicine ever" list, but then life happened.  She has been on the medication since August and while she thankfully never experienced any of the severe respiratory distress issues that she could have, her seizures sadly never abated either.  Instead of waiting for her new medication to be at the highest therapeutic dose to wean her more consistently, it was decided after her most recent palliative care visit in December that we would focus on only weaning the onfi and not increasing the new medication. 

About 2 weeks ago we noticed Sonzee started to act more lethargic and just not quite herself.  We thought maybe it was effects from the wean so we held off on her wean for a week.  We waited to see if she was getting sick.  We attributed it to any possible excuse we could fathom, nothing gave us clarity yet nothing was improving either.  After this weekend we decided to contact her doctor and get some lab work, surely that would shine some light onto the situation.  The results came back with nothing significantly out of normal ranges, we have no better insight into what could possibly be going on in her little body. 

I used to think that we could be on top of the situation, one step ahead of any potential danger zone, but I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that maybe that really is not possible.  I hate sitting here feeling less in control of a situation I didn't have any control over to begin with.  No leads to go off of, no place to look at next...just forced to sit and wait for her to look and act healthier but not knowing if that is the direction things will go. 

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Monday, January 8, 2018

It's not fair

On Sunday morning I placed Sonzee's little brother on his tummy for a little workout.  Full disclosure, I don't do it as much as I did for his older siblings, but honestly with (what we perceive as) a fully intact set of genetics, I am not overly worried about his neck muscles or a flat head.  I videoed close to a minute of him holding his head up while Sonzee was nearby rolling from side to side.  I was so excited he held it for so long and then equally as excited that I didn't cry because my almost 3-year-old has never been able to hold her head while on her tummy for more than 10-15 seconds, and those 10-15 seconds require an immense amount of effort.  

I (stupidly) decided to watch videos of Sonzee when she was around the same age as her brother.  I know how much she works to attempt basic skills, but it literally broke my heart in half to see her struggle video after video to even try and lift her head for a second to turn it.  As I watched a couple of videos I was immediately transported back to the exact day they were taped, mixed with emotions of relief we had a diagnosis of epilepsy and fear of the unknown.  It must be some kind of protective mechanism of my brain, but I honestly forgot about these videos, and I swear in my mind she could at some point hold her head up and that she lost that skill.  I liked my reality better.  

It makes me so angry that everything is an uphill battle for her.  It makes me angry her life will not ever get easier.  The basic skill of holding up her head, which just happens as part of typical development within weeks of being born without any effort for a typical child, my almost 3-year-old cannot do, and it is not due to lack of trying.  In fact, those videos were worse to re-watch now knowing her diagnosis was more than epilepsy.  The days they were created it was impossible for me to know just how hard her struggles would become.  I feel like I did such a disservice to her making her work so hard and inevitably it not being enough.  A repetitive theme woven throughout every aspect of her life.

My heart is so full and simultaneously heavy these days.  There is so much joy with Sonzee's baby brother, yet so much aching from the cards she was handed.  We spend our time focusing on the positives and pushing out the negatives of life with CDKL5, but honestly, a life with CDKL5 is just not fair.

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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Looks can be deceiving

I have been keeping Sonzee's baby brother out of the public as much as possible since he was born because once you have a had a newborn baby hospitalized, regardless of the reasoning, you don't want to relive any part of that hellish event what-so-ever.  So with it being a particularly bad flu and RSV season, limited exposure to others has been our way of life.  With him being a little over a month, I decided to take him with me this morning to pick up curbside groceries and then to the post office to run in quickly to buy some stamps and send out 4 larger brown envelopes.

I was carrying him on my chest and was waiting in line to weigh the envelopes when a nice older woman walked up behind me and started with her doting comments. 

"Ooooohhhh, a brand new baby"
(I smiled)
"Ohhhh, so tiny...how old?"
("a month")
"Oh, 30 days...so sweet....well, he looks healthy...."
(head nod and smile)

There I stood in the line at the post office, stunned into silence, not knowing what to say and not wanting to engage in dialogue, but with my mind having so much to say.   "Ya, so does my atypical toddler who has a rare genetic mutation and is at home with her nurse"..."What does that even mean? What exactly is your point? and What made you say that?"  My heart stung a little and sadness overtook me for the split second that it took before it was my turn at the kiosk.

When Sonzee was a month old she was already diagnosed with epilepsy.  For all intents and purposes, she too "looked healthy" despite graduating out of the NICU just 2 weeks prior.  She was growing typically and in fact was my only daughter to be in the 50th percentile for height and weight (ever).  She didn't have any feeding tubes or surgical scars.  She had already had 3 lumbar punctures, a 45 min EEG, MRI, numerous blood tests, genetic testing pending, and a PEMU stay under her belt.  She was already delayed in all areas of her development, but her deficits were not visible to the naked eye.  I remember how torn I was by the fact that people couldn't tell her daily struggles by merely looking at her.  No physical representation of the inner hell she was experiencing daily or the struggles we were facing.

I kissed Sonzee's brother's head and wondered what this woman thought "unhealthy" looked like.  I wondered what experiences in her life, with maybe her child or grandchild, specifically compelled her to make the comment.  I can't and wouldn't honestly be able to wrap my head around Sonzee's brother (g-d forbid) not being healthy, but we don't know what his journey has in store, and all I have to say is from my personal experience, looks can be deceiving.

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