I overheard two expectant mamas talking in a Chick-fil-A play area. They sat together on one bench, oblivious to their older boys playing together, and they each were expecting a boy. I watched my kids play with these soon to be big brothers.
These mamas chatted about due dates, pregnancy woes, and pediatricians. And then the conversation took an unexpected turn. One of the mamas confessed that she’s constantly having fears that something will go wrong with the baby. It even keeps her up at night. What if something happened during the birth? What if her child has special needs?
And the other mother joined in, that it’s something she worries about too. Then she added her own “what ifs?” but I tuned them out, because my mind started whirling.
Now, I’ll admit, before we had kids, Hubster and I discussed having children with special needs. We knew it could be a possibility, one that felt overwhelming to really think about or imagine. I understand why every parent-to-be, when asked if they want a boy or girl, usually responds with “I don’t care, as long as it’s healthy.” So I could see why her fear was reasonable, but now that I am a special needs mom I see things differently. So these were the thoughts I had swirling in my head, thoughts I wanted to voice to these worried mamas but didn’t have the words for:
Sure, each time you hear a specialist confirm a diagnosis, you will feel so lost and overwhelmed. You will be angry and you will cry and you will worry about your child, their future, your finances, everything. You strangely will weep when you finally get confirmation of a diagnosis, but you also will experience relief to finally have answers and can begin looking for specialists that know how to work with your child. With each diagnosis, you go through stages of grief, as the dreams and expectations you had for your child disappear. But you come up with new goals and dreams for your child and you keep moving forward, keep loving your children fiercely, keep living.
You google the new diagnoses, find new blogs about it, order books about it, find therapists who know how to work with it, call insurance about services for it, find online support groups for it, etc. It seems overwhelming and exhausting, but you now have the opportunity to learn new things you wouldn’t have even dreamed of researching otherwise, and it allows you to meet people you never would have encountered otherwise.
You expect that life will be a little bit harder, more stressful and exhausting. And I’m not going to lie, it will be. Your schedule will be filled with appointments rather than play dates. Your phone contact list will be filled with more therapists and clinics than friends. But what you don’t expect is how much it will change you for the better. Being a special needs mama molds you into a different person. Stronger, more determined, more resilient, passionate about a world you hadn’t experienced before. More appreciative of every milestone, every strength your child has, every friend and family member who sticks by you, every therapist and specialist who has helped you along the way.
You will grieve. You will cry. You will fear for your child’s future. But your love for your children won’t lessen once they get their diagnoses. In fact, I think it makes your love fiercer, stronger, more purposeful. You will love them selflessly, putting their needs before your own, with the reward of their smile, their giggle, their snuggle, them finally saying “mama” being enough to keep you going. And then you will find yourself crying a lot less and smiling a lot more. You will find yourself enjoying your child and all their quirks, your life and its new normal, and every good thing that enriches your life.
Sure, you will get overwhelmed with how far your child is behind their peers sometimes. You may even leave playdates crying or stop going to them altogether, because seeing the gap is too painful. You may stop following a friend on Facebook because she posts so many bragging posts about her child it makes you want to give her a piece of your mind, but you never will. You will unsubscribe from those stupid “This week your child should be able to…” developmental emails because they make you worry and cry even more than you already do. But your love for your child will keep you moving forward, one step in front of the other, and cherishing every inchstone and milestone of development. Every single one of them is a victory to be celebrated.
You may feel guilty that you’re not doing enough, or that you should have seen the signs earlier, or that maybe you did something in pregnancy to cause this, but that’s just because you care so darn much about your child, you want the absolute best for them. But you will also learn that you are the absolute best for them, and that feeling guilty about it does no one any favors.
You may be mad at God. You may ask God why your child is this way, and why He hasn’t healed your child when you’ve prayed and pleaded for healing, but here’s the thing, you also wouldn’t trade your special child in for a healthy/neurotypical child for anything, because they wouldn’t be your child, the child you fell in love with before they were born and have fallen more in love with as you’ve watched them grow and develop into people who work hard for each skill, who have perseverance and resilience built into them before their peers will ever need to learn them. These precious children who learn to appreciate the differences in others, to love unconditionally and wholeheartedly because it’s all they’ve known. They have passions and talents and character traits that make them unique and special and yours. No, you wouldn’t trade that child and that precious heart inside of them for anything or anyone else.
So next time I hear an expectant mama saying she fears having a child with special needs, this is what I will tell her:
The fear is real and understandable, but please don’t let it rob you of the blessings all around you. You will love your child, no matter whether they are healthy and neurotypical or have special needs. You will love your child fiercely and selflessly, putting their needs before your own, because that is what you were born to do. You will celebrate every milestone whether it comes easily or you have to work your butt off to get it. You will view your child as a blessing. They will bring you joy and purpose. And you will be the absolute best mama your precious child needs, because that’s just who you are.
Plus, look how cute our kiddos are playing together. 😉
I hope this post was a blessing to you, as it was to me in writing it. For more encouragement in the special needs parenting journey, please subscribe to receive free resources and stories of encouragement each month.