Do I Have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

My birth mother's drinking problem has impacted my life in ways I never realized.

Rebecca Tillou June 27, 2014
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I knew my birth mom drank. I knew she may have been drunk when she gave birth to me. I always assumed she did not drink that much, and she didn’t drink enough throughout her pregnancy to affect me. I also thought maybe she did drink a lot, and it as only by the grace of a higher power that I turned out so well.

Fast forward to May and June of 2013, when I discovered that my birth mom not only drank daily, but drank all day, every day. She was a chronic alcoholic, according to her friends and co-workers who worked with her every single day, in a bar. She would drink as she worked as a bar tender, then she would finish her shift and become a customer, continuing to drink as she sat on a bar stool, drinking away her pain and sadness. Her coworker verified that my birth mom was indeed intoxicated when she gave birth to me.

Take another leap into the year 2014, when my adoptive mom and dad received a pamphlet on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders, and my mom called me up, choking back tears. She read the symptoms to me over the phone. I possess about 90% of them.

As an infant, I had a thin upper lip and still have that trait today.

I was diagnosed as “failure to thrive” by my pediatrician at 18 months of age.

My vision is horrendous, which can be due to an alcoholic mother.

I struggled from my elementary school years through graduate school with understanding how to write an outline for a paper, and then writing a cohesive paper. My papers were long and drawn out, and the main points were at times hard to decipher.

I did not pass graduate school due to my lack of professional writing skills. I went to graduate school for Speech Pathology, and I did good in the classroom setting and taking tests where memorization was key. I fell apart when I was asked to student teach a group of 5 children, all at different levels of learning. I could not figure out how to teach them and keep it simple.

Solving word problems in math was a weakness of mine. I could solve one word problem, but if any of the names or places changed, even though the way to solve it was the same as before, I would be at a loss.

I can’t follow a map, and if I follow verbal directions to a destination, I have to follow them multiple times before I know the way.

I am considered by my parents as immature in some ways, and I am extremely impulsive, and do not always recognize or think about consequences before making a decision. This has fared poorly for me in my marriage and prior relationships.

Each of these characteristics I present can be characteristics of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Once my mom read me the characteristics, she was not the only one with tears on her cheeks. It all makes sense. My mom, dad and I feel such a sense of relief now, knowing that my issues may have a reason behind them.

So, what happens next? I went to a neurologist after speaking to my primary care physician, who believes I do struggle with symptoms of Fetal Alcohol exposure. The neurologist did some neurological tests, and I was unable to perform counting backwards by sevens and struggled naming 4 legged animals. He did some basic research on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders before he saw me, and told me he was not a specialist in it, but did not think I had any physical signs of it. After the testing was complete, he told me I do have mild learning difficulties, and now I am waiting for an appointment with a neuropsychologist for more in-depth testing. This testing will show exactly where my learning deficits are. I also have been in touch with a geneticist in the Albany area where I live who specializes in dysmorphology, or the cause of birth defects and developmental issues. My hopes are that with the results of the neuropsychological testing and the geneticist appointment I will be given strategies to assist in my learning difficulties, and maybe even get a diagnosis.

Yes, I am now 34 years old, and I have been successful in life so far, for the most part. So why bother getting answers now? I am the type of person who wants to know the whys to everything, no matter how long a problem has existed. For me, life is ever-changing, and I want to be able to successfully adapt to changes.

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Rebecca Tillou

Rebecca was adopted as an infant. She found her birth family in May of 2013 and continues to keep in touch with them. Sadly, her birth mother passed away in 1999. She and her husband live in New York and are the parents of two beautiful little boys, Dominic and Nicolas. They also have a German Shepherd mix named Chester. She was recently diagnosed with FASD at 34 years of age. She is currently working with and to get the word out that there is hope, and that you are never too old to better yourself.

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