Sunday, August 01, 2004

ANOTHER COUNTDOWN

The first year and a half of Ross’ life was a mix of many things. It is really hard to describe the avalanche of change that you go through when a new baby arrives. I remember coming home from my antenatal classes in London and when I used to tell Daniel about them, he would look at me and smile. Then he would go on to say things like “you have no clue about what you are about to go through”. He said this as a well-informed father of two children from a previous marriage. I was confident that all the challenges they spoke about in these classes would be ok for me to cope with because I was so much older than most the ladies in my class. There was some extremely young mother’s to be in the class and I felt my age, in this situation, would be an advantage. I do see now why Daniel found it quite amusing because the reality is that absolutely nothing can prepare a woman for the first few weeks, and in some cases, moths of new motherhood.

My Mom had come to London from South Africa and spent the first three months of Ross’ life with us. My sister came for a visit from the USA and they were leaving together as my Mom was going to take up residence with my sister. We all sobbed as we said goodbye to each other at the door and I turned to carry Ross upstairs and in that moment realized how difficult it was for me to climb the stairs with him in my arms. Obviously Mom had done most of the carrying while she was here and neither of us had noticed it as anything unusual. I had not been diagnosed with MD yet and would not be for another 3 months.

The search was now on for a bungalow, which is the equivalent of what is referred to in the USA as Ranch style home. We were fortunate to find one quickly and we moved. Three months later I was diagnosed and the only advantage this brought in to my life was the fact that it made me eligible for disability assistance from Social Services.

My situation proved to be quite unique in that although I was classified “disabled”, I could for the most part take care of myself. I did however have tremendous difficulty taking care of my baby. The fact that there was not a label for this kind of situation, resulted in my file being bounced from one department to another and before long, a year and a half had gone by and there was still nothing in place. I was fortunate to have a wonderful social worker and she was happy to fight the fight with me, for as long as I was.

The fight I was fighting was that my child was being deprived of the basic activities that he should have been experiencing. For example, he was not attending any Mother and Baby groups because I could not sit on the floor with him. He was having no exposure to kids his age because I could not manage the physical demands of those situations. Aside from me taking him to his grandparents when I had to go to the supermarket or attend to other chores, we were pretty much stuck at home. There were no outings to the park and unless someone came to visit us, no time spent outdoors in the garden. I had to keep him in a situation where he could assist me in lifting him by having something to climb on to as part of that process. The bulk of our time was spent indoors and at home.

I do believe however that a lot of good things came out of that circumstance. Ross has an amazing ability to occupy himself and play by himself without getting bored. He is happy spending time at home and I think he acquired a “go with the flow” attitude because there were many times where we were faced with situations we could just not do anything about.

What made my case a difficult one for Social Services was the fact that I needed the back up of an able bodied person at different times of the day. It was difficult to decline having someone come in for an hour or two a week but I did. This was not what I needed and young children are hard to confine to an appointment schedule. I therefore suggested to my social worker that she should make Ross the client and not me. This changed the context of the case completely. That is exactly what happened and after struggling for a year, within one week of this conversation, I was privileged to become one of 55 people taking part in a new program by Social Services.

In an attempt to let people manage their own care, which is exactly what I wanted to do, Social Services provided me with the funding, which we could not afford at that time in our lives, to employ a nanny.

I contacted an agency and made the request for a live-out nanny. Our bungalow was not big enough to have a live-in nanny. Very soon after that, a wonderful young lady by the name of Martina came to work with us and quite simply; she shifted my parenting experience from one of endless challenge and struggle, to pleasure and fun. She enriched Ross’ life by her own input and by the things he could now participate in because his Mommy had able-bodied backup.

Marti worked with us for just over two years and we said our very sad goodbyes on the day we left England to move to the USA three years ago. A month after we left, Marti returned home to Slovakia.

During our first year in the USA we applied for a tourist visa for Marti as we wanted her to come spend Thanksgiving with us. The visa application was denied and along with it came the fact that she was not allowed to apply again for another year.

A couple of months ago we put in for another application under the guidance of a lawyer who told us about a “Domestic Worker” visa she might qualify for. It required quite an extensive application package, but we put it together and off Marti went for the interview. We were very confident she would get the visa because she more than met all the criteria.

She called me immediately after the interview and I could not believe what she was telling me. “I’m telling you, Dawn, that my visa was denied because the woman said I had filled in the wrong form”.

“THE WRONG FORM?” I bellowed down the phone, and yes, I do confess to bellowing down the phone. We waited this long to be told she can’t get the visa because the lawyer completed the wrong application form. I DON’T THINK SO.

We prepared another application package with enough official documentation to sink a ship. This documentation outlined how and why the original application was in fact on the correct form. Pleased that we had solved one problem, we were now told by the Embassy that we need to produce another Contract of Employment. Why? We need to do this because we should not list what she will earn by month, but rather by week! Is it worth getting freaked out over such nonsense?! NO! So, I sent off a revised contract which they said over the phone was ok. Marti now has another interview scheduled for this coming Tuesday. For those people reading this who don’t know me, it might just be a boring story that reflects what some people can do with just a little power in their hands. The embassy official is literally playing with a small part of Marti’s future, and doesn’t she just know it!

For those people reading this who do know me, you will know how fantastic it will be for us if this final attempt at the visa application is successful. I am very clear that this is the final attempt because one has to surrender to the reality that if it is meant to be, it will be, if not, proceed to Plan B.

I would so love to have Marti here for any part of two years, which is how long the visa is issued for. In addition to the huge help she will be to me, we have missed sharing our lives with her and so look forward to the possible opportunity of giving her the experience of an extended stay in the U.S.A.

Regardless of whether you know us or not, please put positive energy behind the interview appointment on Tuesday morning.

Marts, we are holding thumbs and eagerly awaiting your call.
GOOD LUCK!

 
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