‘That alcohol woman‘

This blog was written by an adopter. Her son was adopted aged 2. He is now 18.

That was how our son described his birth mother for a long time.

‘Some pregnancies are planned. Some are not. Most expectant mums want the best for their unborn child.

From very early on he had realised that there was something that wasn’t quite right with how his brain worked. 

We had noticed it even earlier when he just didn’t seem to be able to learn his colours. It was as if he couldn’t really see thedifference in colours and we thought he might be colour blind. Colours finally clicked but at a much older age than we would have expected.

He had come to us just under two years old so we don’t know what difficulties he may have had earlier than this. However we did know that he had stopped napping in the day at a very early age and his sleep was difficult. 

He struggled with learning to ride a bike. He could start with the pedalling motion for a few turns of the pedals but then he just stopped and couldn’t maintain the movement. It was as if the part of his brain that he needed to keep up a continuous movement just didn’t communicate with his body. We also saw that with his running. He could be speedy to start with but then just couldn’t keep going.

Every August the media shows us some high achieving, attractive young women. Comparing our children’s progress starts as soon as we’re pregnant. It’s probably better to just love our kids for who they are.

He did have outstanding hand-eye co-ordination though and was extremely accurate with his missiles. He managed to hit me on the head with his sippy cup from his bed through a very narrow door opening on several occasions.

We told our son very early on that his birth mother had drunk alcohol in pregnancy and that this was what had caused his difficulties. We had a lot of opposition and kick back from our family and friends for having done this. They thought he didn’t need to know or that he was too young to know.

However, he found it a relief to know why he found things so hard at times, even if it made him very angry for a long time.

‘My Mum chose drink and drugs over me. That’s why I know she didn’t love me. That’s what I know I’m unlovable’. This was the heartbreaking summary of a child we fostered.

We did talk to him about the difficulties his birth mother had and tried to explain addiction and why it had been so hard for her to stop drinking. 

He didn’t like us drinking any alcohol and in fact his reaction was so extreme if he saw us drinking anything that even resembled alcohol, or if he could smell any alcohol on us, that we stopped drinking for almost a decade. Even now I don’t find any real pleasure in an alcoholic drink given how hard our son has had to work to train his brain to overcome the alcohol damage.

In my culture, saying ‘no’ to a drink is often met with incredulity. I can’t help thinking that those communities and faiths where alcohol plays absolutely no role are pretty wise.

And now our son is old enough to drink alcohol legally. He has overcome his aversion to alcohol but so far will only drink when he is with someone he deems as safe. 

Everything has come to our son at a slightly later age than would be developmentally expected.

He is still learning and training his brain to make connections that are not easily made.

He is managing a college course and is finding new practical skills that he now has an aptitude for.

And this is the child who had such struggles with fine motor skills that he was only really able to use a knife and fork properly in his teens.

‘Our son is doing a college course,‘. It’s amazing what can be achieved with deep deep reserves of love, patience and resourcefulness.

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Birth parent, Foster Carer, Adopter and Recruiter of Foster Carers for Liverpool City Council

4 thoughts on “‘That alcohol woman‘”

  1. There are many schools of thought about what or how much we should tell our children about the trauma they have suffered and are still suffering and when such disclosures should be made – indeed, you and I Phil have discussed the idea of ‘life work’ and how badly it went down with the first children we fostered. I am a firm believer that every fostering or adoption story is unique, so the idea of a one size fits all approach to such things in the shape of a folder entitled ‘Life Work’ or ‘All About Me’ seems preposterous, however well intentioned. We, and others we know have evolved to a much more child centred, free flowing, open discussion sort of approach, which for some kids can take place over text as the conversation starter (no eye contact and time to consider responses). In fact there is no right and wrong, other than you have to know the child involved very well and be guided by them, whether that be through their words or their actions (or reactions). It is still a minefield after 12 years as a Foster Carer and Special Guardian, but we feel a little more comfortable ploughing our own particular furrow.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Our children have talked about ‘Beer’ and drugs and the problems that it can cause since they arrived with us over 10 years ago.. My AS found it hard to engage with Life Story work in a book. The wallpaper was much more successful and, at times, he has continued to develop some of the drawings that were part of that some 4 years ago. This included some research that we did together into alcohol and drugs and the effect on the body. He found the scientific approach a good place to start. At 13 he still struggles with handwriting and is getting left behind in maths now it is not possible to complete the work in his head. Rather than coping better with age I have observed that, for him, the differences with his peers are becoming more evident.

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