Mar 4, 2009

odd girl out...?

A compilation of writings by Beth Grebe of Odd Girl Out...?

I married my high school sweetheart and the best man ever, in the whole world, Jake, in 2000.

We have been married for almost 9 years, and in that time, have created 4 wonderful beings:

Jake II (7 1/2), Pete (6), Betsy (4 1/2), and Rosie (2). What can I say? We work fast! I had very typical pregnancies with the boys. A little morning sickness, a little back ache, a little leg cramps, just the usual stuff. I had beautiful, natural deliveries with them. Things were wonderful. In November 2003, I got pregnant for the third time, just as planned. Almost as soon as I found out I was expecting, I was pounded with horrible morning sickness. It got so bad, and lasted for so long that I got IV fluids and was offered a Zofran pump if the oral variety didn't work. Luckily, it did, well, at least so I could function on some level. About 4 weeks before my due date, I found out that my little peanut was breech. I did not want to try a version due to the risks involved to the baby, so, a c-section was scheduled. I was very nervous.

In August of 2004, I gave birth to my third baby. A beautiful girl, our first girl. She weighed a healthy 7 lbs. 7 oz.

She had great apgar scores, all in all, a normal Cesarean delivery. She came into the world with a loud cry and pink skin. While in the hospital, we discovered that she had pretty severe reflux, and lost more weight than usual. But, all in all, nothing that required further hospitalization, and nothing we couldn't handle. We named our sweet girl, Betsy Jane. I felt high on life. Each and ever birthing experience is quite spiritual, and this was certainly no exception. I was relieved to put an end to a pregnancy riddled with severe morning sickness, complete with iv fluids because I could stomach nothing else. But it was all worth it, at that moment in August, when they placed her healthy, little butt in my arms.

Betsy was such a GREAT newborn. She ate well, slept as much as a breast fed infant sleeps, and was loved by all of us so much. A little girl was such a new experience for me, and I loved it.

The following months were a blur of nursing, two active toddler boys, nursing some more, and reflux, yet another first for us. When Betsy was not quite 4 months old, I started noticing little things that bothered me. She made no attempts to move; no head movements or rolling attempts. She also didn't appear to have reflexes that many new babies have. She would smile, but did not visually attend to anything. I said something to my husband. His response was, "Don't worry, all babies are different." I knew this all to well, being a Speech-Language Pathologist before becoming a mom, but my worries were not sitting well. I had a gut feeling something wasn't right. My mommy intuition was kicking into overdrive. I discussed it with my mom, and she agreed that there were "things" that worried her. How could this be? She was healthy, ate well, was growing. What could be wrong? What were we missing? Why had it taken so long for us to know?

At the 4 month check-up, my fears were not put to rest, but rather I was told the DOCTOR would make Betsy an appointment with a pediatric neurologist. The doctor left, after handling me with the utmost care, and when he returned I was told the neurologist would see us in 2 weeks. Fast forward through the second worst wait of my life (more on the very worst later), the neurologist confirms there is a significant delay. "I propose some initial tests that I would like done as soon as possible. Can you drive down to Children's Hospital this evening to get started?" Whoa, slow down!

What followed was months of diagnostic tests and questions about my pregnancy (including about 3,678,878,293 people asking me if I drank or used drugs while pregnant. Uh, no and no). We saw geneticists, eye doctors, orthopedic surgeons, the neurologist. It was a whirlwind to say the least. Every procedure included anesthesia because of her low tone, even her MRI. And at the end of those months of testing, Betsy had no diagnosis.

Betsy received in-home speech, occupational, visual, physical, and play therapy until she was 3. Then, she entered the St. Louis County Special School District. She goes to school four mornings a week, and gets all of her therapy there. We love all of Betsy's therapists (past and present), teachers, and doctors. They have made this journey much more bearable. Betsy wears glasses for near sightedness, wears ankle braces, has recently begun using an augmentative communication device, and, until recently, used a reverse wheeled walker. She miraculously started walking on her own in August of 2008.

It always seems that just when I am about to crawl into a hole, Betsy ups her game. I never give up on her, but often times, seem to give up on myself. I love Betsy in a way that only others with "not typical" children would understand. It is full and pure. I love all of my kids so much, I would give up my own life for them, but with Betsy, it's just a bit different, because she needs that. There are days when I feel defeated, broken, like that grieving stage is creeping back into my heart.

I did grieve when we first learned of Betsy's prognosis. It may seem selfish to some, but it's just me being honest. I grieved for the loss of the child I thought I had, I grieved for the life I thought Jake and I would lead once all of our birds left the nest, I grieved for an end to a world I had once known, and I grieved for her and all of the things she would never be able to do. Sometimes, when I think about some of my emotions back then, I think I was being so silly. God gave this wonderful gift to Jake and me, and our other children. I laugh to myself because she has impacted so many people's lives. I know my friends and family will never be the same. She has changed their internal wiring and made their hearts grow bigger and BETTER. We are all better...because of her. She works so hard to accomplish what seems like such little things to you or I.

Betsy is now 4, and still has no diagnosis. (Well, technically, it is static encephalopathy. This is a catch-all term, much like, cerebral palsy. The good news for us is that she is healthy as a horse. She loves all kinds of music, especially, dancing music. The Ting-Tings-That's Not My Name is always a fave. She loves books and, strangely, gloves (she has a tote bag of all kinds) and snacks out of Ziploc baggys. She attends special school 4 mornings a week, and receives occupational and physical therapy (OT and PT), speech therapy, and individualized classroom instruction. More importantly, she has her family. We love her and support her, and celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how small, with her. She is special, no doubt, and we rally around her in a way that is normal to us now. She IS the odd girl out, but in the very best sense.

We are told that Betsy will always have moderate to severe physical and mental disabilities. Even now, that is a hard thing for me to write. I am not sure when I will completely be okay with that. But it gets easier and easier every day. She makes it easier and easier. She is the happiest, smiliest, huggiest, kissiest girl I have ever known. She snuggles and cuddles. She loves music, has an infectious laugh, and is kind to everyone she meets. And, we are so lucky because Betsy's body is as healthy as a horse. Other than 2 minor surgeries (eyes and ears), we have had no health concerns with our girl.

Betsy's next hurdle is to learn better communication skills. She is non-verbal and only knows a few signs. But, good gravy, she wants to communicate, and she does the best she can. Our youngest, Rosie, has been such a good addition to Betsy's learning. We struggled with the decision to have more children. Would the next baby have the same fate? In the end, we decided that it was in God's hands, and we would eagerly and lovingly accept whatever He were to bless us with. Betsy mimics Rosie and tries to do all of the things that she does. She has accomplished more in the last year, than the 3 previous years combined. Currently, she has been going pee-pee on the potty whenever Rosie does. Yea! We are amazed. I know that we will continue to be amazed by her on a daily basis. The boys love her and don't even think twice that she is "different". Her needs seem normal to them. They don't even mind when she drools on them.

This little girl has quite an impression on people. I am certainly proud of all of my children. What mother isn't? But today, I was struck with more of a "I-am-proud-overwhelmed-that-I-was-chosen-to-be-their-mother" feeling. I never, in my wildest dreams, thought that one of my kids would touch so many people's lives in such a profound way. We all have hopes and dreams for our kids, but they are who they are, and their destinies are out of our hands. An astronaut, doctor, or child actor would be nice, but who gets to say they have a 'Betsy'?

I know that God loves her. I also know that she must feel His love in a way that you and I may never know in our earthly life. He has made her special. His gift to her is LOVE. Love that knows not of judgement, or race, or bias. It is pure, unconditioned, and full. In essence, she is the most fulfilled individual I know, and she is only 4! I know that I do not need to understand God's plan. It is divine and surpasses all human understanding. It is hard for me to give up that control, but I must, and I do. That, and to love my little girl for eternity, is all I can do.

To follow is a prayer that was sent to me from my dear and beautiful cousin, Michelle, when Jake & I first learned of Betsy's condition. We were in a constant state of flux, always wondering what the future might hold for all of us, but more importantly, Betsy. I was very sad much of the time, and I said this prayer often. At the time, there were moments when I wasn't sure if I could fully surrender myself to what the words were actually saying. It was a long and difficult rite of passage for me, but I earned the badge, so to speak, and wear it with honor. Now, I say this prayer for comfort. I am faithful and know the absolute truth of the words. We do NOT need to understand everything that happens to us in this earthly life. It isn't in our job description. And quite frankly, I am glad of the not knowing. Some things are better left unknown, and some things just happen for no reason at all. It is what we take away from these crises that is the important thing. God is working through us all.

"Father God, Thank You for always being there for me no matter what I face. I know You will never fail me, even in my most intense trials. I have not always understood why I was going through certain things; however, I do not have to understand, because You are God and You are in control, in spite of my lack of understanding. I know that all You require of me is to trust You, and look to You in faith and You will come and save me, and bring me an answer. You always have, and You always will, because You are faithful. You never fail any of us who look to You. I have failed You, Lord, by my doubt and unbelief at times, but You have never failed me. Lord, please remove all the sorrow and grief I feel. Heal this pain I feel in my heart and help me to trust You more. Fill this empty place in my heart with more of Your Spirit. I ask this in Your name. Amen."


Becky said...

Betsy is such a beautiful little girl. Thank you for such an inspiring story.

Beth said...

thank you, tara. how beautiful!

Beth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colleen said...

Betsy is so cute! We went through the not having a diagnosis for so long also and can totally relate to many things. I love the prayer!

Lacey said...

She is so sweet. What a great story.

Nana said...

Betsy is a doll. What a sweet mommy. I think all of her feelings are very normal. Heavenly Father sent her to a great family.

Anonymous said...

i have first hand experience with just how special this little girl is (i'm beth's sister and betsy's aunt). the story still touches me when i read it and gives me that "feeling" in my chest. we love all of you!

Tinabean said...

She is just beautiful.
God picks special mothers for children like her.
You are very blessed.

momonamisson said...

Full and pure that is the way to describe the love, thank you. I have a Belle and as I type this she is sleeping off a seizure morning. She started having them about 10 AM at 1 PM the doctor said to give her her diastat. She has autism and epilepsy. She is my Belle. Your post brought tears to my eyes. You put it so well. I love her in a different way. I celebrate every accomplishment. She is my beautiful gift from God, I am grateful to Him for giving me a blessing. I did grieve the loss of a "normal" child when I found out about the autism. I think it is normal. We lost the child we thought we had but my Belle is such a blessing. Thanks so much for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Betsy's story bring tears to my eyes. You have more strength that I could every have. God Bless you and your entire family!

The High Family said...

This story warmed my heart.

Thank you for sharing your beautiful Betsy with us!

Night Owl Mama said...

What an amazing little girl thanks for sharing your story.

Stephanie said...

What a beautiful little girl. You are blessed with a special little girl...and she is blessed with a special family as well.


Marie said...

What a sweet little girl, and family I might add. Your writings and thoughts touched my heart, and those pictures- those pictures say a thousand words with one glance. Thanks for sharing such deep feelings and thoughts. Betsy isn't the only one touching other people's lives. I think you are doing more than you realize too. Great post!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your story. And Betsy is ADORABLE!

Piper Paradise said...

Thank you for sharing this beautiful post about your amazing little girl. A truly precious gift from God you have there!!!!

I was your apron swap partner from the valentine swap : -)

Momtothreebabies said...

Hi! Betsy is GORGEOUS!!! I am also a momma to "special amazing" kids. One has autism and the other has numerous health issues inlcuding no immune system. We live near st louis, I would love to email with betsys momma! I found your amazing blog, through mormonmommyblogs, it is colorful and fun!!! you are so talented and your family is gorgeous too!

Mandy said...

Thank you for sharing Betsy with us!! She is so cute and looks like she has quite the little personality!! I also grieved when realizing I was not going to have a "normal" child. I now look back and think of all the wonderful things and gifts he has brought into my life that it seems almost sad that I was so sad!! I still have days I cry and think this isn't fair but wow all in all I have been given so much more from having him in my life than it would have been otherwise!! You are strong and she is so blessed to have a wonderful mom and family to love her!! That is the best gift ever!!

Celine said...

Betsy is such a beautiful and inspiring little girl.
Her story truly uplifted me, thanks for sharing it with us.


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