Editor’s note: This post is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a medical professional or physician before treatment of any kind.
Sometimes, we get thrown a curveball. Like awaiting the birth of your grandchild only to find that you’ll be the mommy instead.
On the Halloween morning that my first grandson was born, I had no idea that by that same time the next day I’d be his sole legal guardian. He was found to have cocaine, barbiturates, and alcohol in his system when he had breathing problems at birth and DCF stepped in to remove him from his parents. The short story is, I received temporary legal guardianship over him before he ever even left the hospital. When he did leave the hospital, I’m the one who was taking him to my own home.
His parents, my son and his girlfriend, faded from our lives pretty quickly.
I was clueless as to his condition. I mean, I knew he had drugs in his system. I knew he had some breathing problems. But I didn’t know that the first five months of his life would be pure hell for us both and that there would be far-reaching ramifications.
I didn’t know that he was basically a drug addict and would have to come off them the hard way, cold turkey. I didn’t know he would scream for an hour at a time until he could barely breathe.
I reached out to so many sources about how to handle his issues. The local medical authorities had no resources, the Department of Children and Families had no resources, friends and family had never dealt with anything of this nature. I was all on my own and left to my own devices. I scoured websites and found that drug addicts are usually underweight, get cold or hot easily, have no control over their bodies, don’t sleep much because of those things, and feel generally uncomfortable or actually have pain from the withdrawals. They cry, they sweat, they startle easily, they have diarrhea, can’t keep food down, and they often have respiratory issues.
The doctors recommended methadone. But I didn’t feel like compounding the problem was a viable solution. Methadone seemed just an easy fix and not a way out. I felt completely lost.
Through research and trial and error, I came up with some thoughts of my own. These things haven’t been verified by doctors, or specialists, or people who have experience with “drug babies” — but they worked.
First and foremost, I put him on a very exact schedule. I decided that since he had no control of what was happening to his body, at least I could control what was happening around his body. I thought this would give him security based on knowing what to expect from his day. Every day, at the same hours, he had his bottle, went to bed, napped, and had baths followed by a warm massage to soothe his aching muscles. Because of the withdrawals, he rarely slept more than two hours at a time, so his waking schedule through the night also became regular.
To conquer his irritability and the fact that he was easily startled, I swaddled him about 90% of the time. As a mom of practically grown kids, swaddling was foreign to me. It became popular after my kids were born. But my 15-year-old son and I became experts at swaddling. When he was having episodes of inconsolable screaming, which happened several times a day, I found when he was swaddled, sung to softly in a horribly off-key pitch, and very lightly bounced against my chest, the episodes dissipated more quickly. Lavender baths and lotions proved to be soothing. I burned jasmine oil in his bedroom to try to ease him into sleep. When he was having breathing issues, I burned eucalyptus oil instead.
One morning, after five long months of waking every two hours, I awoke to sunlight streaming through my bedroom window. Panic-stricken, I jumped from my bed and ran to his room. Why hadn’t he awoken in the night? That short dash to his room next door from mine felt like an hour. But when I slid to a halt at the side of his crib, he was lying on his back and smiling at me. It was the first time I’d ever seen him smile. It was a beautiful smile. It was the most amazing moment in my entire life.
It was over.
We had conquered it. And he was smiling … at me … his mommy. (When I tell this story in person, I cry each and every time).
I adopted him when he was two — he’s nine years old now. He still has a speech impediment and asthma, but he’s been in speech therapy since he was four and is down to just the “r” sounds now. The asthma attacks seem to be happening less and less. He’s on the honor roll at his school. He’s always any teacher’s favorite. He’s such a happy, sweet little boy. He is very eager to please and basks in my praise and my pride, which I have a lot of. He’s overcome some big hurdles to be this little boy. And he does it so well!
It’s amazing to see him grow and learn and become himself. People always tell me “He’s so blessed to have you.”
What they don’t understand is that he is the blessing.