I had great difficulty making friends, let alone keeping them and was far more comfortable by myself. I am still very much a loner and prefer the quiet of home. Crowds of people cause me to panic and I don’t care for loud noises. When I am in public can become anxious and frightened to the point of dizziness. I worry about what others think of me and am afraid of stuttering, which I occasionally do. I have learned I stutter most when I am becoming overstimulated and then quietly remove myself from the situation. When at a party I will often walk around the room as though I am on my way to chat with someone and don’t make eye contact or I will be busy serving food or cleaning up. If I keep busy, I won’t have to talk to anyone or say more than a few words before moving on. If I do stop to chat with someone, I am constantly worried that I am slurring my speech, stuttering or that I sound stupid. I mostly listen, divert the conversation to my partner or excuse myself as if on my way somewhere. I am expert at focusing the attention elsewhere.
Our business is doing well and we are constantly making improvements to our property, buildings and business. After adding Psychiatric service dogs to our company, I also began to include Brain Injury, Epilepsy and Disease into our training programs. I have been quite successful providing very well- trained service dogs to clients with many disorders who were desperate to regain control of their lives. When I began with the F.A.S.D. program it hit very close to home and I found that I still carried a great amount of anger towards my maternal donor. I cannot and will not ever call her my mother, not only because she drank when she was pregnant with me, but because of the abuse I experienced due to her neglect and selfishness. Mostly I will not forgive her because of her denial of ever doing anything detrimental to me during pregnancy or after my birth. To me, a mother is the person who sees you through difficult times; supports you and loves you even when you’re at your worst. I have a mother and a father who did not give birth to me but are far worthier of the titles than the people who did. They earned them each time I did well at something or behaved my worst, when I was the most ill and they did not desert me, or as I become successful and earn my achievements. They have the right to be called Mom and Dad, where my biological donors have none.
As a parent, I now understand the challenges and appreciate the hard work and sacrifice that goes with each child. The worry and fear that every parent feels when the child strikes out on their own for the first time and most definitely the incredible need to protect that child with everything you are and have. My biological donors never felt or did any of it with me and continued to prove they were too self-involved to ever be a real parent. My maternal donors’ choice to neglect and leave me as an infant in the care of two other children was extremely irresponsible at best. For her, everything was everyone else’s fault; she never even attempted to accept any responsibility. The last time I saw her, she again risked my safety for her own needs. To me, this is not a mother, this is a selfish, addicted individual with no redeeming qualities, or at least none I want to search for again! It wasn’t until I met my partner that I began to mend fences with my adoptive parents, so in all reality it took thirty years for me to grow up and begin to understand and accept them. Will every child be this difficult, I suspect not all, but some will.
If anyone understands what it is like to grow up with a debilitating diagnosis, it’s Elizabeth Baker. Against all the odds Elizabeth has built the life she wanted despite being diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Elizabeth is an engaging, entertaining, and powerful speaker whose message about ‘Focusing on the Positive’ is clear, insightful and most of all, important for anyone diagnosed or living with a child with F.A.S.D. She clearly understands the desperation faced by many individuals with F.A.S.D. and addresses the nuances of behaviors associated with the diagnosis. Elizabeth is able to offer hope and clarity to those navigating the precarious life of a F.A.S.D. individual with compassion and humour.