Step One: Admitting you are powerless?

Noooo! I am not admitting I am powerless. But I will extract what I need from Step One in two ways.

The first, is to admit, to allow yourself to believe that nothing you did caused your child's diagnosis to happen. That you had no power to stop it.

Yes there are birth related disabilities caused by drug abuse, alcohol abuse or smoking heavily while pregnant resulting in a lower birth weight and reduced learning ability. But we are not talking about those.

The first stage of hearing of a diagnosis is the flood of guilt and fear that maybe something you did brought it about.
And if you were foolish enough to read "What to expect when you're expecting" while you were pregnant, then you are going to be easily convinced that the odd glass of wine, the donuts, the cold tablet you took when you had the flu' all brought about your child's disability. Either that or all the "empty calories" you ate while trying to stuff down the reflux you experienced between week 20 and 42. Or working up until the last month, or going running, or not doing any running, or standing in front of the microwave to heat up your noodle soups or not playing the foetus Bach concertos while having your "beautiful thoughts" for 15 minutes per day.

Don't go there. People have been eating empty calories and working in paddy fields and pushing out perfectly normal babies for thousands of years. What has happened to you happened at a cellular level long before you had any control over things; no matter how many donuts you ate while watching american sitcoms and balancing a large chocolite on your bump, on the couch.

My other take is to do the opposite to step one. REALISE your own power. Once you get through dealing with the shock and have time to adjust your expectations, you have the ability to become your child's best advocate and consultant. You will have to call on resources that you never thought you had, and develop such strength and stamina in the face of the challenges you are about to face. And all of it will be real.

There is no need to go on corporate bonding rock climbing exercise when you have to take on an 8 year old with autism and a chewed video tape. Not only will you produce adrenaline but you will burn it up chasing your beloved child across a field before they reach the electric fence, or road or swollen rapid river. phew.
And you will be forced to problem solve like the folks who wrote the enigma code as you find new ways to lock things, securely close things, hide things and repair or replace things that you failed to lock up, secure, or hide.

You will discover that you have the ability to take on the most intransigent and institutionalised public servants and GET them to help you. You will engage with others in the same situation and learn from some, reach out and help others and give yourself the satisfaction of knowing you can make a difference.

I often wonder what I would have done if both my kids turned out to be typically developing. Apart from sleep a bit more I think I would have been torn between the mundane-ness of accessing the standard health and educational services; and the need to prove myself and be a high achiever in my work. If I chose work, my kids would have suffered, if I chose my kids I might have felt unfulfilled as they found their way without my constant guidance and involvement. Either that or I would have been the world's best ( and worst) stage mom. Dakota Fanning and Haley Joel Osment would be in the dust as I pushed my kids into modelling and acting.
So I choose to focus on the serendipity of being an intense, focused and very loving person, with 2 people who really need a lot of intensely focused love. And that is my power.
Ps. Today's shoes are my long coveted "Lady Melbourne" two tone chanel-esque mary janes.I got them in Hobbs, half price for €100 or only €1 for every post I have drafted. I was powerless to resist!


The shoes are super-cute but the message is really what's great about this post. :]
Elizabeth said…
I think "Powelessness" can be interpreted in all the ways you present here; I like your way of expressing yourself.

To me, "Powerless" means I didn't cause X, I can't control X, and I can't cure X. That could apply to a child's disability, or another person's disease.

For me, "powerlessness" isn't about relinquishing my ability to do or think for myself, it's about knowing that others are doing things under their own steam, and will do so, whether or not I am present, whether or not I participate, whether or not I try to control them/what they do.

Now, in the case of your children, that interpretation must be adapted. Clearly, you MUST intervene often, and for good reason. They need you.

Keep going, Hammie. This line of thought is fascinating.
K.Line said…
How positively perfect that you have purchased shoes in honour of a) blogging (a way that you express your power and help others) and b) documenting the first step of 12. And what excellent shoes they are!

Let me also say that I think the whole "What to Expect" franchise is evil. Why not just call it "You suck and your children will reflect that"???

I am so often struck, when reading your posts, by the good fortune of your children in having you as a mother.
Anonymous said…
Darnit! Blogger ate my first comment and it was so eloquent and amazing too! This one won't be so good...
I think I said, that admitting you were powerless freed you from the guilt and associated feelings that came with it. Then you could use your energy to become powerful about the right things. Good start to your 12 step programme. I'm also going to be using your posts/thoughts on this to deal with some issues of my own - will let you know how that goes.
Sister Wolf said…
I am saying a godless Amen to that, Hammie.
I so relate to feelings of powerlessness. I had to admit powerlessness over my infertility---even as all the m.d.'s and books told me that I could take my power back. Yep, I admit it. I am powerless. I just recently threw away the "What to expect..." books.

Really great post and fantastic shoes.

p.s. I mentioned you on my blog today.
What are talking? You'd be Dina Lohan and both babies would currently be enjoying the facilities of some obscure rehab in Iowa..true.

ps I've just seen your dropped in my spam.
Nan P. said…
This is very, Very interesting.

The only comment I would make is that, once you truly, really, unequivocally accept that you are powerless over certain things because they are out of your control, the sense of relief is immense. And at the same time, the sense of empowerment for what you CAN change is all the stronger. I know, I have been there, several times! I have learned the hard way.

And If I sound as if I have just put on my “granny hat” I apologise, I’m only telling the truth here… ;-)

The other part of that step is about admitting that our lives are unmanageable. Once we accept our powerlessness (see above), our lives DO become manageable again.

Waiting impatiently for the next instalment.

I won't even mention these shoes.. oh my!
bronwyn said…
Since I don't have children, I can empathise on a certain level, but I can't imagine what it it must be like to deal with what you are going through. It sounds like you have been able to evolve to cope and act for the best with an incredible amount of love, compassion and inner resolve and strength and I honour you for that. I can relate to the feeling of being powerless, there are some elements of my life that I am feeling powerless over at the moment...and after reading your post, I'm thinking that I need to step up to the plate and resolve this stuff...I need to think about it some more....thank you dear Hammie for sharing your thoughts and feelings.
Lisamaree said…
Thanks Mrs C; I am glad you liked it.
enc. I agree with you and I am so glad you "get me"; gives me the courage to keep going.

K: you are an enabler! I bought those shoes because I wanted them; I made up all the reasons afterwards. Thankyou for going along with it.
And thankyou! I so agree with you on the "what to expect" franchise. I threw my copy in the bin. Couldn't even bear to donate it. And thanks; I hope I can live up to what my kids deserve. xx

Cybil: thankyou and dang on blogger but your comment is very nice anyway. Will look forward to reading about your journey.

Sis: Shalom to you too. xxoo

La Belle: I know nothing I say will make it any less painful. But I'm sending you love. And thankyou, I read your blog this morning on the iphone while I was still half asleep. You are a brave spirit and I am so glad Seeker awarded you, so I could learn about you too. xxooxx

OH Immie! I could so be Dina Lohan, thankyou. And Bratty is wayyy cuter than Lindsay, so we would make millions before we had to send her off to Arizona to dry out.

NanP: I get you on the sense of relief at realising it was nothing YOU did wrong to cause this. And as a control freak, I will try to remember the second part of your answer. Because I often think the world is perfectable and manageable, if they would all just do as I say!
Bronwyn thankyou for stopping by. I am glad that thinking about this is helping to clarify stuff for you. I am finding the same myself, even more with all the feedback I am getting. xx
Seeker said…
My dear Hammie,
I must be honest with you... please don't be sad with me.
I have been here early reading your post, but I felt I could say nothing so I left without a comment.
I'm so sorry, please forgive.
But I felt so afraid that I could disappoint you not saying the "right" words, felt so pressured that I could fail, dissatisfying you.
Please forgive me, I'm thinking that it's better a brief comment that no comment leaving you with the feeling that I didn't check you.
Please tell me something.

I think this is a great post, deep and thoughtful. As for powerless there are such things that make us feel powerless, like many things we can't control, like when you see your mother forgetting things.
But you know that adage that says "Admitting the problem is half the battle." If so we can be consciousness, that can be a process which enables us to gain power,authority and influence. Having positive thinking on the ability to make change. Increasing our positive self-image and overcoming stigma.
You are a great mother and your children chose you because they knew it.

I'm sorry again, I'm looking forward for next.

Oh, and those shoes are awesome, love them.
Also love you very much!!!!
A big hug.
Songy said…
I'll be here all the way (every post from now on). Keep on going.

Inner strength is an amazing thing. I found mine in all strange situations. I cannot begin to imagine what would be like and how difficult it might be on some days.

Humbling and powerful.. that's what I felt reading this. I hope you feel empowered.
Make Do Style said…
Great shoes and perfect for the perfect parent. You are a complete star
Anonymous said…
This is a tremendously empowering take on lack of power. I agree with enc, that powerlessness in this context means lack of blame. But I feel like it could also mean that you are in a tough situation and may need the support and help of others - that you may be powerless to change your situation ALONE. But maybe that's coming up later.

Well-put and thought-provoking as always, Hammie.
simimoon said…
i love reading your blog! keep it coming :D
Seeker said…
My dear thank you so much for your understanding.

WOW we both dressed alike today lol Well, what can I say just "Great minds think alike" ;)

I would go for "Ecclesiastical purple and satanic red" lol
Seems cooler, the mix of the two worlds... sometimes they fuse in one...

CONGRATS!!!!!!!! Seems cool the job thing. Are you glad?
I think it will be more demanding for you but at the same time you will clear your mind. So I think it can be great!!!

Much love
Seeker said…
I gave you the “I ♥ your blog” award.
Please check my blog.
Nick McGivney said…
Great post, missus. Course you're wrong about the Bach thing. I'm only the genius that I am because of me mam playing Rolf Harris's Two Little Boys ad nauseam (her nauseam) to me on the old Bush record player before I was born. How's that for power un-lessness. Or something.
Sesame said…
Admitting you are powerless...that was easy for me..maybe too easy..I think I practically handed babs over to be fixed and be returned in full working order..which of course didn't happen..I never once blamed ourselves for babs autism (although I did venture into analysing both sides of the house to pick out who I thought had autistic traits and found dat both sides had), I put blame on the doc for letting me go 14-19 days over, the midwives for not realising he wasn't coming out without c-section, the public health nurses for not picking up on it, the speech therapists for missing it too so by the time diagnosis came we knew he was autistic and we were powerless to change that. So we went about doing everything to empower ourselves for the battle ahead..

I've been tempted to google the Steps but decided I would wait for you to do them step by step with as much insight as this one..keep up the good work..
Anonymous said…
I totally get the powerless ness ness ness!! When Eric was diagnosed I was already pg on Scott. On diagnosis day (or armageddon as we call it) I asked them if it was likely to strike again in Ben. Not likely was the response. Ignorance on my part, I took them for their word. We now have 4 fabulous sons (3 of whom have been touched with autism).
Yes, I had the power to "not have more children". I chose to have my babies - I didnt choose for them to be affected.
However, be that as it is, I am a far stronger person, thanks to my boys.
Where once I was the meek, sit at the back, agree with everyone kinda gal, I am now the first to question, argue and stand my ground.
I love my boys for giving me that strength and for shaping me into the mother I always wanted to be. Parents of special kids work harder and get more pleasure from the simple achievements in life. I know I do.
Great blog - as usual Hammie - Ill be checking in to see the full 12 steps.


PS Im sooooo not jealous of your shoes!!! AARRGGHH Wish I could win the lotto and build a house especially for some lovely shoes!!
Helena said…
I used to teach Asperger syndrome kids when I was a student at university and they were my best pupils!
Cassoulet Cafe said…
I just discovered your blog (linked from LBR) and I just read this post. One of my best friends has a son who is autistic. I've been by her side through the whole process,...the wondering, the diagnosis, the denial, the acceptance....and a jillion other things.
Your post reminded me of the time she was walking by the TV when CNN was on, and on the sliding news at the bottom she saw, "Mothers who ate tuna linked to autism in their children." She fainted and fell to the floor. (She loved tuna and ate it often during her pregnancy.)
Accepting that she did NOT cause her son's autism was a long road, and those kind of things didn't help.
I have immense respect for moms like you and her.
I am off to read more on your blog.
I have immense respect for wonderful moms like you and her.
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