I don’t often talk about the struggles of being a parent to a special needs child/ren. I feel guilty because my children are for the most part healthy. They don’t need fancy medical equipment, but they have very real disorders that need a lot of my time. Apraxia of speech, oral sensory issues related to apraxia, fine/gross motor difficulties, a phonological speech disorder, congenital trigger thumb, and possible hip dysplasia in my infant. It takes its toll. So here’s a brief glimpse into the mind of a special needs mama.
I feel myself buckling a lot lately, thinking I can’t, but then somehow I always do.
I am lucky. For the most part, my kids are healthy. But I am so, so very tired of specialists and therapies. No, my kids do not have any life threatening conditions. You really wouldn’t know that HOURS of our weeks are spent running speech drills, working on coordination, me researching how to best help them. Am I thankful that our life has not been a revolving door of doctors? Yes. But I’m still tired.
There are still days when I angrily ask God, why??? Why can’t we have ‘normal’. We don’t want to be special today we want to be plain ol’ normal, no speech, no upcoming surgery, no doctors calling to ask if we’ve taken our child for this screening or that screening yet.
Please don’t ask me how I do it. The answer is raw and dirty. I cry. Behind closed bathroom doors. In my van in the front seat before I dry my eyes so they can’t see. In bed silently while everyone else is asleep. I tell myself to suck it the hell up because there was a time when there were no babies. When my womb was empty or healing yet again from another loss. I get so mad at God all over again because shouldn’t I get to have it easy after it was SO HARD to become a parent to begin with.
In brief moments, He answers. He gently laughs and reminds me, this is it. This is what I was preparing you for. You worked for it. And now you work FOR THEM. Cry, let it out, then remember the strength you built through all the waiting and the loss. You get to be the mother of special children, and one day, no one will know the struggle until you tell them.
You’ll use it to encourage others who are crying behind bathroom doors and in front seats of vans. You’ll use it to tell the mom whose child is struggling that one day this will only be a memory. And I move on. And do it. Just do it, do the work to help the child that you prayed for.
Because the child is here, alive, and well.
If you’re a follower of the blog, you noticed the sudden decrease in posts last month. And then hopefully you saw that I didn’t just go AWOL, I was being held captive by a little alien invader 🙂 . I’m happy to report that thanks to my doctor and lots of supportive family, I’m slowly returning to myself. Week nine and Diclegis have brought some relief that will hopefully have the blog back up and running full steam ahead.
My morning sickness had me sidelined for about a month. There were days that I barely moved from the couch and where caring for my two children truly felt like a struggle. My sewing room has been empty and there hasn’t been too much excitement going on in my house lately. But ya know what? It’s okay!!! I cut myself some slack to rest and feel yucky. I let my body and my mind cope with all the changes going on and guess what? Life went on! Nothing catastrophic happened. I learned that while life is much more fun when I’m participating fully, once in a while when there are more pressing concerns, you can take a break and things will turn out just fine.
Of course, there were times when I couldn’t just sit by and watch. I still had two children to cook for, play taxi too, and just generally care for. I still have a house on the market so there was still much cleaning and laundry to do be done. I shared a few tricks for handling diaper changes when you’re pregnant over at The Cloth Diaper Whisperer last month and many of those tips apply to just generally surviving morning sickness the first couple of months. Here are the some ways I’ve coped with morning sickness that will hopefully get you through too.
Five Ways To Handle Morning Sickness
- Extra sleep. I know, I know. I have two kids still under 5. I get that midday naps don’t often happen. But if you can go to bed a little early or catch some weekend naps, it will help. Being tired only exacerbates the nausea.
- Pleasing scents. We’re all different, if you can find a scent that calms your queasiness, use it. Citrus and mint are usually the most effective, but if watermelon or your favorite Bath and Body Works lotion brings you relief, rub, burn it, infuse it…just sniff it! An essential oil diluted with a carrier like coconut oil or scent free lotion can be a god-send smeared under your nose or dabbed on your wrist. You all know I loooveee some CJs BUTTer. The minis are great to grab and sniff.
- Juice, soda…whatever stays down. I gave up soda a year ago…don’t miss it. But during my first months of pregnancy, plain water doesn’t work. I gag, I throw up almost every single time. After finding myself dehydrated and constantly dizzy, I tried having a soda. And it stayed down. I found small sips of cold juice stayed down too. So I did what I had to do to stay hydrated. Getting myself back to functioning was more important than keeping up the anti-soda streak. Once my morning sickness eases, I’ll be back to drinking boat loads of water, but until then drinking it and vomiting isn’t worth it.
- Eating less…more often. If another person ever tells me to eat a cracker for morning sickness, I might get sick on them. Even thinking about a cracker turns my stomach. Crackers don’t work for me. But, I found that having about 6-8 small meals a day does work. Cereal, sandwiches, jello, fruit cups….whatever eases your stomach, try having something to eat every couple of hours. The minute my stomach gets empty, bam, nausea sets in and it is HARD to break. Sadly the first trimester is not a glowing picture of health food for me. But it’s okay. When your main concern is keeping anything down, you can cut yourself some slack and do the best you can.
- When all else fails…call the doctor. I spent almost four weeks a sick, shaky mess. My doctor put me Diclegis at a very small dosage and after just one week, I felt brand new. My blood pressure came back up, I had more energy, and I was not throwing up twelve times a day anymore. If medicine isn’t your route, it’s okay. But if you aren’t functioning, getting help from your doctor is an option. They see pregnant women every single day, they will likely have some tricks to help you. You don’t want to wait until you’re dehydrated as that isn’t good for you or baby.
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The blog’s been quiet this month…mainly because of this.
And then we got to see this…
So I’ve spent a lot of time with my head in a toilet the last month or so. This baby was a BIG surprise. Most of my plans for the year have been thrown for a loop as I’m in the midst of some pretty awful morning sickness that keeps me close to the couch or bathroom lately. If you’ve never experienced severe morning sickness, I hope you never do. It is truly exhausting. But, Baby Boo is growing right on track so far and that is indeed reason to celebrate.
I’ll be back…
There’s always been a lot of talk about what makes a family. Now that times are changing and more people are coming to realize that the traditional components of a nuclear family are not what we once thought they were, the view of what makes up a family is changing too.
I believe the most important component to any family is love. Without love, support, and compassion a group of people who live together is just a group, not a family. Family loves you without conditions and provides support when you are struggling. They offer compassion and try their best to be understanding of each other’s goals. When a member of the family, or the family as a whole, is faced with an obstacle, true families stick together and persevere.
The type of people involved have nothing to do with who makes up the family. It could easily be two men, two women, siblings, even friends. There could be children, or not. Children could be biological, adopted, or blended from past marriages. There could be legal documents binding the members together, or not. The family could own their home – or they could rent. They may even live with extended family to make up a bigger family unit.
What families don’t do is judge and criticize. A family is not a unit who puts you down and makes you feel bad about yourself. A family unit is not cruel and their love for you does not depend on the life choices you make. Sure, families who love and support you want the best for you. They don’t want you to make bad decisions that lead to a bad life. But choices like who you choose to marry (in healthy, non-abusive relationships) are not put down or judged. Things like sexual preference, race, religion, and politics are not taken into consideration. The character of one’s heart and the content of the soul are what matter.
So what is a family? It’s love. Support. Guidance. Acceptance. A hug when words don’t suffice. A shoulder to lean on when life throws a curveball you weren’t ready for. Family is realizing that life is not perfect but as long as you have each other, it’s doable. Even enjoyable and can be pure happiness. Family is a group of people who make you want to be better, not just for yourself, but for those you love. Family pushes you to try new things when you’re scared and they offer to catch you when you stumble.
Simply put, family is love. What/who makes up your family?
As parents, we spend so much time taking care of our children and our families that we often become the background noise in our own lives. We spend each day ticking off items on a list – appointments for the kids, a project for friends, maintaining our homes, work obligations…. At the end of those long tired days it is very easy to just snip off the end of list that we’ve put ourselves on and forget those tasks. But the easy way, isn’t always the best way.
As I stared down the barrel of what looked like sleepless nights and a plate fuller than what I thought I could handle, I started taking off the parts that were for me. When your days are already filled, it’s hard to imagine adding anything else even if it’s something you want and believe in. I thought taking away those parts would make me feel relieved and at peace, but instead it left me feeling empty. Yes, my days would be clear to fully devote myself to my children and my family, but there would be little room for myself.
Room for self – that’s an important part of being a parent that many people forget. It’s easy to do. From the time you become pregnant people’s reaction to you changes. It goes from, “Good morning, how are you,” to , “How’s the baby, have you picked a name yet?” For nine solid months your life will revolve around your growing baby and that growing belly. When the baby enters the world, your own focus is fully centered on feeding, diapering, bathing, and loving this new being. You will think of your child almost every single second of every single day. Their care will, at first, leave little time for your own. You may feel guilt when you leave them for the first time even and if you aren’t careful, you may very well lose yourself entirely.
The role of mother does not have to be the only one you take. It does not have to replace your role as wife, friend, daughter, co-worker, even business owner. While it can permeate each of your other roles, molding and shaping who and what you are, that isn’t a bad thing! Motherhood can teach you patience, compassion, and perseverance. It can show you just how strong you always were and how much you can accomplish when you are dedicated. It can teach you to be humble and you will learn to multi-task with far greater ease than you ever have before.
Last week I gave up. At least temporarily. I threw in the proverbial towel and I resigned myself to give up the roles I wanted for myself. Lucky for me, I’m not alone. I have friends, family, prayers, and a power greater than myself. Thanks to a combination of all these, I was guided back on track. I realized that deciding to give up on the parts of myself that were just for me might make completing all my daily duties easier, but it wouldn’t be living in its truest sense. When we exist without passion or goals, we aren’t truly living and I want to do more than exist – I want to truly live.
There’s a popular saying that God only helps those who learn to help themselves. In one sense, I very much believe this. I believe that God helps those in need, but I also believe we have to play an active role in bettering ourselves and our lives. When you’re given an opportunity – take it. When you’re given a chance to try something you’ve always wanted, you owe it to yourself to do it. To be the best parent you can be, you must also take care of yourself and learn to let go of guilt when you do. An evening away or a decision to take on roles in addition to that as a parent are good for you and your children.
There was a time in my life when I couldn’t imagine anything more fulfilling than being a mother. I longed desperately to be a mother and finally, finally got my wish. A struggle with infertility had made being a mother feel like the only thing I needed to be complete. And for a while, it was.
Before having children, I worked full-time. I enjoyed working and had no intentions of becoming a stay-at-home-mom. However, once my oldest son was finally here and those weeks were speeding by to the end of my leave, I realized that I just couldn’t leave him. I trusted the daycare providers we had chosen and visited, but there was a strong bond between my heart and this new being’s that pulled me ever so close to him. There was no way I would be returning to work. That was just over four years ago and I’m now a stay-at-home-mom to TWO little boys. My boys are still young, but they are no longer babies. They are capable of playing independently for longer stretches of time and I’m no longer caught up in bottles, naps, and mountains of diapers and spit-up laundry. I’m still quite busy being their mother, but I’m often not nearly as content as I was in those first three years.
Being a stay-at-home-mom has awarded me the luxury of witnessing so many of my children’s firsts. I saw first steps, crawls, rolls, laughs, words. I’ve watched fine motor skills become more precise and language skills flourish. I’ve watched my children began to discover just who they are and what they enjoy in life. It has truly been miraculous. When they were infants and still loved to nap, I reintroduced myself to sewing and learned that my talents and passion for it were stronger than I’d remembered. I learned to crochet, cook from scratch, and grow a garden. I became an advocate for living more naturally and frugally. I learned to help moms learn to cloth diaper and embrace more natural products. My children not only brought me (and my family) joy, they brought me back to life. They were an awakening I hadn’t known I’d needed. It’s almost painful for me to look back on a life before them because there was always such a strong emptiness with me back then. There was always anger covering a pain where my soul was aching for these little beings that I didn’t even know yet. There was part of me there…but my kids brought back the rest of me.
I love being able to stay home with my kids. We make sacrifices so that I can be so involved in their lives and I truly wouldn’t change that. I would be lying though if I told you that it still left me totally and completely fulfilled as a person. I wish it did! I know mothers who are truly content and happy being ‘just’ moms and I admire them so much. While my children changed me for the better, I am and will always continue to be an individual. My own wants and desires did not fade to black when the occupation of mother was added to my résumé. I am very proud of the me who was so content and happy staying home and devoting her every being to the care and love of her children. I’m still that mom, but one wants to add in parts of my old self once again. After all, isn’t melding parts of our old and new how we evolve into something better?
We all too often doubt who we are as mothers. We shouldn’t. Whether we’re the mom who is juggling a career and motherhood, the mom whose whole life is staying home, or the mom whose found a balance somewhere between – we should embrace the parents we are today. We won’t get to relive these moments, we won’t get do overs. If we’re teaching our children to love and we’re loving them back, we’ve got at least part of it right. Love yourself mama, your kids already do.
One week (or perhaps just a few days) before Christmas, we were to find out the gender of the baby that I lost in September. Just as I had made an elaborate video to announce our new babies impending arrival, I had a big plan to reveal baby M3’s gender. I was so excited that the time was going to work out so that we’d find out right before Christmas. As soon as the ultrasound was done I was going to rush over to my favorite baby store and buy an outfit in the appropriate colors that screamed BOY or GIRL. Two outfits actually – one for my mother and one for my mother-in-law. And oh how a big part of me prayed for a girl. One tiny precious little girl among my rough and tumble, but painfully sweet boys. If that box had been filled with a pink outfit, my heart would have leapt higher and higher. Of course, if that box had been filled with more blue I would have rejoiced just as freely at having another protector. Another precious little heart for me to teach how to be kind and love. And who could teach me in things like superheroes, race tracks, and playing in the dirt as my other boys so love to do.
I can’t help but be a bit sad – occasionally weepy this holiday season. I am so blessed to have so much good in my life that it can often overshadow what I feel is bad. Yet in the quiet of the morning and the stillness of the night I’m often left alone with the thoughts of what could’ve been and it becomes a heavy burden. While there will be presents beneath my tree, there will not be the promise of another child’s birthday to await next spring. There is not a growing life in my womb to be celebrated…
As it so happens, my oldest son was born just two weeks shy of Christmas. It is always such a celebratory day for us. We celebrate this beautiful child who brought into our lives so much more than a new life. Through his labor hope and proof that miracles happen were born. He proved to us that dreams come true if you never give up on them. He was a beacon of light that pushed his way out of a darkness many mother’s sadly know about – but not all escape. His birth showed me that I embody strength and courage and still kept a soul gentle enough to be brought to tears by a brand new baby’s cries. Such a small baby, born three weeks before he was to come, just couldn’t wait to tell the world – we did it. My mom, dad, and I – we beat this infertility thing and we’re here.
I view my two boys as true miracles, it would be hard not to when you look at how many of their siblings failed to thrive in my womb. With so many living, walking miracles in my life I often feel guilty that I still pray for just one more. God placed within me a mother’s heart and that is one calling that I have never wavered upon. There were many times when the darkness in me called upon me to give up…but, I was never one to be told I couldn’t do something. My mother’s heart always won out in our battle to become parents. And, I do sincerely believe it will win out in our battle for “just one more”.
I’m not wrapping up any big news to place under the tree this year. The day that I was so impatiently waiting for will not be. I am wrapping up love and hope. I’m walking proof that perseverance is a trait worth holding on to and that if you want something to happen, eventually it can. I do not hold time’s playbook. I don’t get to peek under God’s Christmas tree and see what he has waiting for me. However, if I take the time to breathe, let go of my fears and anger, I can open my eyes and watch all the past gifts that mean so much play out before me every single day. For that I am thankful. I am clearly blessed….