Most parents of children with special needs become very familiar with the essay, ‘Welcome to Holland,’ at some point during their unexpected journey. If you haven’t read it, well, you better so my post will make sense to you! You can find it here.
Shannon’s recent post, Deciding to Have More Children After Your Special Needs Child, made me reflect on the years of worry we went through deciding if and/or when we would have more children. Chloe, our daughter with cerebral palsy, was our first child and our only child for over six years. Although I got pregnant with Chloe easily and rather unexpectedly, I had a difficult time getting pregnant again. And even though infertility is a heartbreaking experience, there was a small part of me that was relieved when I would discover that I wasn’t pregnant month after month because I was not really sure how we would be able to meet the needs of another child. But, in the end, the heart wants what the heart wants and we were blessed with another pregnancy and another baby.
My baby, Sam, has been surprising us since the moment we found out I was pregnant with him! I was actually at an infertility clinic being evaluated when it was discovered that not only was I pregnant, but I was 11 weeks pregnant! Happy tears were shed not only by myself and my husband, but every staff member in the clinic that day. It isn’t often that they get to see a little baby profile on an ultrasound and they were just as shocked and thrilled as we were! Sam continued to surprise us with an early arrival and resulting 3-week NICU stay. I thought surely he was done surprising us when we got to take him home healthy and happy.
But the truth is, because we had adjusted and accepted our experiences with our child with complex medical concerns and special needs as “normal,” experiencing milestones that are typically considered “normal” for us has been one wild ride! Don’t get me wrong, I love it! But I think I experience every little thing he does in a way that many parents do not. The first time he rolled over on his own, the first time he intentionally reached for something, every time he entertains himself with a toy, every time he communicates with me in any way, every time he interacts with other children without assistance, every time he feeds himself, and many, many other times, I am taken back and overwhelmed with gratitude! I know that might sound a little inflammatory, but it is the truth. I take no tiny thing for granted. Ever. It is a tremendous joy to watch a child be able to use their body and enjoy life with ease and without physical suffering.
That being said….he sure does keep me on my toes! I’m not used to having to keep everything out of reach, trying to keep a child contained in public, chasing a child and having to use all four of my limbs just to get clothes on! Oh my goodness, he gives me a run for my money, that is sure. And many times when I find myself feeling unprepared and out of place in my role as Sam’s mom, I can’t help but laugh and think, “Welcome to Italy.” I planned my whole life to go to Italy only to land in Holland almost 8 years ago and now I dance between the two places, sometimes gracefully and sometimes not so much. But I enjoy both places wholeheartedly. It is the adventure of a lifetime!
Photo credit paigedavisphotography.com