Perfect Morning

Okay people, maybe there is light at the end of some tunnels. A year ago, I was terrified about my daughter Colette, then 19, who was expecting a baby any day. I want to tell you about this morning.

Colette has done a surprisingly good job of mothering her little boy, who will be one year old in exactly one week. But -- despite the fact that she is charming and articulate, she cannot access resources on her own. There have been many many resources offered to her in a city the size of Toronto but she won't use them. She says things like, "The people are all snobs." That kind of thing. So she has spent most of the past year sitting in her tiny apartment watching TV.

I finally figured out that she is unable to go to places on her own. So...I tracked down a mom and tot drop-in centre a few blocks from her house, in a church basement. I suggested that she and I go today. Poor little Ken, her baby, has been cooped up in two tiny rooms, and he can't crawl or toddle more than a few feet in any direction before she picks him up and pulls him away from whatever he wants to get into. On the way there, she asked if I planned to take her all the time. I said that I'd take her until she felt comfortable going on her own. I said, "You look so strong and together, but --"

She finished it off, "--but underneath, I'm a WUSSS."

We went this morning. There were about a dozen women there, several of them caregivers, a couple of other grandmothers, one young woman about her age, and some older moms. There was a separate nursery for the kids. Ken's eyes lit up when he saw all the toys...and the kids, who were all a little older than he was. There were two supervised attendants in the nursery part. The moms, grandmoms, etc. sat around a table drinking coffee out of lovely china teacups. I remarked on the teacups and the "parish nurse," who runs this drop-in said, "Oh, we get them from all of the old dolls who go into nursing homes."

The parish nurse's son's girlfriend gave us a short course on infant massage. Every ten minutes, Ken would come crawling from the nursery across the immaculate carpet, big grin on his face. He'd crawl over to Colette's chair, she'd pick him up and hug him, and then he'd get bored and want to get down on the floor, and one of us would take him back to the nursery. He was just checking in, making sure Mom was there -- he'd never been away from her like this before.

I was fascinated by the notion of infant massage, and the massage therapist actually mentioned the words, "Fetal Alcohol Syndrome." She said that research had indicated massage was helpful for babies and toddlers with FAS -- Colette and I STARED at each other. I thought about the grandbabies of people on the link -- babies we're all worried about -- and wondered if it could be helpful. I was also thinking about little Kali, and wondering if gentle massage could ease some of her distress. I asked the therapist some questions and she was quite interesting on the subject. Then Colette piped up, "We learned about massage in my postnatal classes, but nobody ever mentioned FAS before." Then Colette asked some more quite good questions. I was really surprised that she was so interested.

Colette and I were about the last to leave. Colette explained to the nurse and therapist that she has FAE, and then she went on to talk about the work I'm doing for FAS Day, and how important it is for women to learn that alcohol in pregnancy is dangerous to the fetus. She said, "Look, I seem perfectly normal but you have no idea of how hard school was for me. I just couldn't focus." She talked about how school seemed easier when she was smoking marijuana. The women were very understanding but also very stunned...she is SOOO gorgeous and seemingly together.

When we left, she said, "Gee, that was fun. Can we go back next week?"

I said yes.

And Baby Ken slept all the way to her favorite burger joint for lunch.

This is the girl who spent the summer of 1997 living on the street addicted to crack.


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