Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pomp & Circumstance

When my youngest sister Toya, went to Tennessee to attend college I made the decision to re-enroll in college with the plan to get my degree before her (I couldn't let my little sister get her degree before me).  It was a hard decision because my mind was so scattered. I didn't really know what I wanted to pursue. I loved to cook, I was honing on my baking, I enjoyed working with graphics on the computer, and I wanted to open a small restaurant.

Juwan was always a fan of the University of Michigan football team. A DIE HARD FAN! I decided to enroll at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. I attended classes part time and usually took the summer months off because my plans were not clear. I entered into their School of Business trying to maneuver the various courses that really didn't interest me.

When I found out that I was pregnant I was enrolled in 3 classes. I had a new goal to focus on immediately.  After the confirmation of Mylahs diagnosis, my drive changed. I wasn't interested in school anymore. My focus was not on my classes, especially the one that wasn't really interesting. I failed it and passed the other 2. The goal of obtaining my degree before my sister wasn't fulfilled and she was prepping for her graduation as we prepared to welcome Mylah into our world.

I took the semester off after Mylah's birth and once we came home with her I once again felt a purpose to continue with my education.  I decided to re-enroll for summer classes. As we prayed on what heart surgery we would decide on for Mylah, I was also trying to focus on passing my classes.
As Mylah was in the hospital recovering from heart surgery and her unplanned tracheotomy, some days I would leave the hospital the night before to go home so I could go to work and then go to class afterwards and my younger sister the graduate, would stay with her niece in Ann Arbor.

Many nights during those rides home it was the thought of Mylah's uncertain future that gave me strength and reminded me of what the ultimate goal was; a better life for her. After we brought Mylah home from Mott Hospital in October 2012, I knew that I needed to speed up the process. I could no longer move at the snails pace that had gotten me to where I was. I needed to suck it up, buckle down and take as many classes as I could at a time in order to hurry up and finish; no matter the sacrifice.  I wasn't getting any younger and I needed to be able to free up my time to spend with my daughter. I met with my counselor to get a final plan together and once again I had a new goal.

After discussing my plans with Juwan I enrolled in classes full time and decided that I would not take any breaks, I needed to be done in a year so I had to attend every semester including summer. It was hard and when you are a procrastinator it makes things even more difficult, but I tried to convince myself that I work good under pressure. Every semester, during finals I would find myself burning the midnight oil trying to finish a paper or study 4-5 chapters for a deadline or test that was usually 12 hours away.  I had to adjust my schedule at work in order to be able to attend the classes that I needed in order for this 1 year plan to work.

I found myself also being put in situations where I could share Mylah's story. Each time there was an assignment or presentation, I found a way to incorporate Mylah into it. Not only was I being educated, I was also advocating for Mylah and educating about Trisomy 18 along the way.  Sometimes I wasn't sure of how our story would be received, but once my marketing professor, assured me that a product idea I presented at our mock Shark Tank presentation was a great idea, I knew that I needed to continue sharing our story whenever I could.

Ever been so close to something you could feel it? taste it? smell it?? That's how I felt earlier this year. I had one of my last meetings with my counselors last fall. We outlined all the classes I needed to take and she wrote on my goal sheet "graduation Dec 2014".... Graduation? "wow" I thought.
I never thought I would see those words. Now it was basically etched in stone, I just needed to deliver on my end of the bargain.

Then Mylah had a seizure one night in April 2014, a week before finals, just days before I was scheduled to present in class along with 3 others. My team assured me that I would be ok and that they would handle things for me and even talked to my professor and they all agreed that I should remain at the hospital with Mylah and I would get the group grade.... We got an A. I never used Mylah or any of her medical issues as an excuse to get out of something and I never expected and/or wanted anyone to feel sorry for me because of what I might have been going through. My teammate(s) assured me that what they were doing for me was what they would expect anyone to do, have compassion and understanding. I was brought to tears by what they did for me.

I emailed my counselor at least once every 2 months to just have confirmation that I was on the right track and that there were no surprises. Then I received a email this summer that said I could apply to graduate! I did and for the next few weeks I would receive other communications and instructions regarding graduation, cap & gown, degree frames, graduation fair all the things that lead up to the walk across the stage.

I downloaded an app for graduation countdown on my phone as I entered my last semester of classes. Almost every week I would text the number of days til graduation to my classmate followed my some type of inspirational sentence; "we are almost there", "getting closer", "1 week left".

I ordered 2 dresses, tried to decide on whether I would order a few announcements or pictures for myself for memories sake because for months I had been operating in secrecy.  I was excited but upset, ashamed, and depressed that I was completing undergraduate studies at the age of 34. I felt like a failure even though this was an accomplishment. I couldn't really be proud of myself. I had a number of people rooting for me and encouraging me, but I couldn't do the same.... With each positive encouragement from a friend or family member, there was always the bad girl on my shoulder putting me down with something negative. "You're 34 and just getting your Bachelors degree", "It took you so long to do what others do in 4 years",  "You are 34, come on there's really nothing to celebrate", "People your age have their Masters degree". I felt like a failure for being the oldest child, but the last to get my degree. I was supposed to be the example for the other 2. They were supposed to follow in my footsteps. I was supposed to be someone who they could look up to & say "I want to be like my big sister".

When I tried on my cap Wednesday night, I looked in the bathroom mirror and smiled. I made it. Further than I ever thought possible. I would be getting a degree with my name on it to display however I saw fit. I crossed the tassel, once, twice...a third time. I had not seen myself in a cap since June 1998.  It looked good on me. I liked the person I saw in the mirror. She had been through so much in the years since she was last in a cap and gown; did many things that she wasn't proud of, made lots of foolish mistakes, cried a lot of tears, felt a nice amount of pain but in the end she could smile.  She made some great decisions, accomplished things she deserved to be proud of, stood in the face of adversity and faced it head on, fought a lot of fights, cried many tears of joy and now she was here.....

I saw the maize & blue curtains.... the bright lights... the smiles on the faces of mothers, fathers, daughters, sisters, & grandparents. Each person full of excitement. We all traveled a journey seperately and we had arrived at our final destination. It was our moment, this was our day. "You can be happy, you deserve to be proud, some people never make it this far and you did it.... it doesn't matter how long it took you"... YOU DID IT!

Some people in their congratulatory expressions often say "Girl, I don't know how you did it"....

Faith, Family, & Friends........

That's how I did it.... I couldn't have made it alone.....

Friday, December 5, 2014

CNN iReport

This morning when I checked my Facebook feed I saw that CNN was doing a piece on Raising A Child With Special Needs.  They solicited families to share their own stories so of course I obliged.

Here is the link to my submission. Maybe we will get lucky and CNN may contact us....wishful thinking! Lol but as Mylahs Advocate and mother, I know that one of the ways I can help her is by bringing awareness to her condition. 

Here is the link for you to view 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Parenting Handbook

Let's be honest, there isn't a book in the world that could capture all the aspects of parenting. No matter how hard physicians, therapists, and specialists claim they have all the answers to every parents dilemma we all know that life throws you curve balls that you can never be prepared for.

For a psychology class assignment, we were tasked with reading a book and presenting key aspects of the book to our class. Of course I chose a book that discussed special needs children. 
What I found was a 8 chapter, 115 page book that was full of my very thoughts! 

Jonathan Singer, provided important information to parents in his book, The Special Needs Parenting Handbook. His book provides tips on how to manage life with a special needs child and the various experiences parents of special needs children are sure to encounter. I highly recommend this book to not just parents with special needs children, but parents and individuals in general. I think that many can learn so much from this book. 

After my presentation in class a classmate expressed that he had enjoyed my presentation. I gave him my blog address and thought to myself "you better update it then!".   

I know that I have been absent since earlier this year, but the motivation to blog took a backseat. 

There has been so much going on in our family, blogging no longer was a priority. 

We celebrated Mylah's 2nd year of life and her 2nd Heart-versary this summer (July 5th). It was a beautiful gathering of our family and friends. The first year of Mylah's life I decided that I wanted her to have a summer party outdoors, so we made that happen. It was a luau theme complete with colorful lei's, a beach cake, and of course my favorite the Kona Ice Truck! We also collected new toys to donate to CS Mott Hospital

Mylahs seizures seemed to resolve with the medications she received after her April seizure and we were happy. 

She began a wean of her seizure medications in late August, but her body didn't seem to agree with the decision and 4-5 weeks into the wean she began having seizures multiple times a week. The months of September and October were extremely hard for us. We were in and out of the ER more times than I could count. The seizures were different than the ones she had before and now included cyanosis and apnea spells that resulted in us having to breathe for her for as long as an hour! At one point I was so upset at the number of seizures she was experiencing, I was convinced that she didn't have much longer to live because of the reoccurring seizures and blue episodes.   

Very scary to say the least! 

She was even life flighted from a local hospital to CS Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor. 

Those 2 months were extremely frustrating for our family. The seizures just seemed to take over our lives.  I was so happy that Mylah didn't require her pulse-ox  (I think of it as a tether), but it proved to be a lifesaver. We had to dust it off and now it's used every day, and she has to sleep with it on.  Sometimes the seizures started while she was sleeping and the pulse ox alerted me to trouble in those late hours; a not so good alarm clock, but thankful nonetheless. 

My frustrations at that time and still present is the lack of active listening by physicians.  I wish that doctors understood that there are parents who know the ins and outs of their child's disorder and could probably teach them a thing or two.  

What was extremely frustrating was miscommunication between multiple physicians, medical tests not performed thoroughly, and feeling that I wasn't being heard by doctors. 
This adds so much stress to an already stressful situation.  
There were a few times where I had to use my "not so inside voice" to get my point across and it's not something that I like to do. 

We spent 5 days in the hospital for EEG monitoring in October and of course Mylah went from having seizures 2 times a week to 1 seizure that lasted "40 seconds" according to the physicians in the hospital.  It was kind of weird that we were hoping she would have a seizure, but we needed answers. We still have questions. 

Once again we have adjusted to this new normal of ours which now includes seizures. We know what we should be aware of and what to do; we don't panic nearly as much as we used to. 

So I press on....... There is no other choice. 

We are planning Christmas card pictures, and even bought the Elf on The Shelf! (I think I'm more excited than anyone else). 

Mylah has been well. Her personality has changed a little, she gets irritable quickly but we just attribute that to her being so spoiled *wink*. 

We celebrated her 3rd Thanksgiving this year! 

Yes!               THIRD!

Remember when doctors said she would never make it?!  She's growing well and her physicians like the pattern her growth is taking. UP!  She's moved on to 18-24 month clothing and a size 4 shoe! (I wear an 11 so I knew she would have a nice size foot).  I'm happy! 

The Special Needs Parenting Handbook indicates that you should Celebrate Progress, Not Perfection & Be Prepared, Don't Get Scared! 

It's all progress in my book and now we are better prepared to handle these situations. 

There are still days that are challenging but it's nothing prayer can't solve. 

I'm extremely grateful to those who continue to provide support, words of encouragement, and pray on our behalf.  We love you and will never be able to thank you enough. 

Here are some pictures to update you! 

Mylah and her Godfather

Mylah's Toy Box

Sweet Nothings in Wyandotte, MI never disappoints!

Whose ready to celebrate? 

Our little Hula Girl!

Mylah with the Toys her party guests donated!

Catching up on her beauty sleep

EEG monitoring! a girl's gotta have pink shoes right?

Crying.. hoping the therapist will stop! NOPE

Sleeping... Hoping the therapist will stop... NOPE

Pretty Smile... 

Sweet Dreams I guess! 

Celebrating Mommy's 34th birthday!

Our little glow worm... 

All bundled up!