Sunday, August 31, 2014

Uncharted Territory

Parenting is something you can only prepare for to a point.  You can know that there will be a lack of sleep in the beginning and that potty training might just break you.  You know that the first day of school is coming, that one day your children will learn how to drive, and that likely you'll go through some times where your kid is hanging out with the wrong crowd.  There's a lot of other stuff though that there's no way to get your mind and heart ready for.
Since March of this year, Chris and I have been in uncharted territory.
Christian has always been a pretty difficult kid...maybe because we don't know his background, maybe because he's a wild boy, maybe because that's just the way he's's not really something you can know with certainty.  He's always been one to throw fits, but as he's gotten older they've escalated instead of gotten better and the fit we saw that changed our perspective happened one Saturday afternoon in March.  The trigger was nothing more than some other kids not doing what he wanted them to do. When he came to complain to me I suggested that he play with some other kids and that was enough to send him into the kind of behavior that no one wants to imagine their child will ever display.  What transpired in the following three hours was unimaginable...screaming, hitting, kicking, biting, spitting, hissing, and the list goes on.  He was advancing on us with intent to do harm and would not be talked down from his rage.
In the midst of something like this, damage control was pretty much all we could do.  Once it was over though, we knew we were in a new place and something else had to be done.  We called the pediatrician and they were able to see us that Monday.  Once we'd explained the situation to the doctor, he referred us to a behavioral counselor.  We saw her the following morning and from there were referred to a behavioral health facility.  This is not the kind of place I ever imagined I might step foot in.  Chris and I had explained very clearly to Christian that we didn't know how best to help him, so we needed some other people to help us through this process.  Unless you have been sitting in our chairs or walking in our shoes, let me go ahead and tell you that this was the hardest day we had ever experienced together and you can't possibly imagine what it was like.  It is a very humbling thing to ask for help in a great many situations, but this took the cake.  I cried more tears that day than I knew could pour out of me.
We walked away from there that day without our son.  Although we prayed and believed that this was the best next step in figuring out how to move forward, it was still terribly difficult.  That first time he was admitted he stayed for seven days.  Over the next six weeks, Christian had to be admitted to that same behavioral health facility three more times.  We became well acquainted with phrases like "a danger to himself and others" as well as "rage and impulse control."  All the while we continued to be baffled at what was coming from his six year old little body.  There were days during those weeks when everything seemed ok.  We were trying therapy and medication to see if we could get to a better place; a more manageable situation.  We started to gauge everything by how our boy might take it or what might send him into another fit.  The most difficult part of that was never knowing what might set him off.
After dealing with a lot of back and forth for six weeks, we decided to try a different direction.  We knew that calling 911 to come transport our child to the hospital every couple of weeks was not a great plan.  Chris and I went and toured a more long term care facility and felt really comforted by what we learned about the facility itself as well as the impressions made on us by the staff.  In May, we admitted Christian there and he has been there since.  While we don't have a release date, we do have a lot more knowledge than we did three months ago.  Not only does Christian attend all different types of therapy each week, we also have family therapy so that we're all learning how to cope with our new situation.
Our current normal doesn't look like it did a year ago.  It's a lot more appointments and communication with doctors, nurses, and therapists.  It's visits with our child instead of living with him.  It's still confusing.  It's still heart-breaking.  We still don't know what our normal will look like in another year.

A game of Trouble during an on campus visit

What we do know is that God chose our children to be ours.  He made them for us and us for them.  He knew this would be part of our journey.  In those weak moments when I've wondered what I did wrong, I have to remember this.  Thankfully we are surrounded by people who love us and want what's best for us.  Thankfully the naysayers have kept their comments to themselves and instead what we've heard is a whole lot of folks telling us they stand with us and that what we're doing for our family takes courage.

Today we had a home visit that went really well.  It's been in the works for five weekends in a row and finally all the requirements were met.  I was a little nervous, but everything was great.  I looked in my rearview mirror today and got choked up seeing all my people together.  It felt so blissfully normal.  We needed this.  It's a small victory, but a much needed one.

To those of you who are our net, our people who are ready to catch us, to keep Audrey while we go to yet another appointment, to love us like we need it, to continue to pray for us:  thank you.  Those words seem inadequate, but know that we wouldn't be able to do this on our own.