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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I Just Wanted To Be a Foreign Correspondent

The other day, I was encouraging a cancer-care nurse-friend of mine, commenting on her ability to perform such a difficult job. Not only is she medically-smart (which I am NOT), but she’s also an emotional rock and actually finds joy in spending time with people who are sick and dying. I told my friend that I was so glad that God gifted her in this area, because there’s no way I’d be able to do her job. I’d be having a nervous breakdown within the first week (and that would be IF I could even fudge my way through the biology courses needed to graduate from nursing school!).

She responded by saying,

“Well, I feel the same way about YOU. There’s no way I could raise a special needs child. You’re obviously gifted in that area and God knew that.”

My friend said these words to me out of pure love and I wasn’t offended by them at all. I was, however, struck.

I am NOT gifted in areas of any child-rearing, never mind the raising of a special needs kid. Truth be told, I don’t even LIKE kids that much. Typical or special needs.

When Richard and I decided that we wanted to grow our family and make some babies, there was a part of me that was hesitant. I wasn’t a “kid person” and the baby stage absolutely terrified me. I was always afraid that I wouldn’t know what to do with my own child and sometimes questioned our decision to have kids.

Of course, I knew that it would be different when the kid was MINE. Everyone said that. I had a couple of really good girlfriends who weren’t baby-lovers either, and yet they did a great job mothering and loving their own kids. And the desire to have a baby with Richard, to expand our family, was pretty intense. Somehow, I just figured it would work out. And, if the “baby/toddler stage” wasn’t my favourite, it’d be okay, because my kid would eventually grow up and by the age of 3 or 4, I’d at least be able to hold conversations with her.

Obviously, I knew that there was a possibility that things may not work out just as planned. Sometimes, when things are hectic and overwhelming with Ellie’s therapy and medical appointments, I use the phrase, “I DIDN’T SIGN UP FOR THIS!” Of course, this is only half-true. When that second line popped up on my pregnancy test in August of 2004, I HAD signed up for it. I had signed up for the possibility that my baby could have issues. I had signed up for the possibility that my baby could come early. I had signed up for the possibility that my baby could have an in-utero stroke. I had signed up for the possibility that my baby could have life long delays and be diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

But not really. Because everyone else I knew had healthy babies. And everyone else I knew had nine-month pregnancies.

Sometimes I actually chuckle when I think of the irony of my situation. I’m just a girl who thought it would be cool to have a baby with her husband. A girl who would have rather caught chickens at 5am than babysit. A girl who had absolutely no experience with special needs kids (or adults, sadly enough).

NOT a girl gifted in raising a special needs child.

The reason I am head-over-heels in love with a four-year-old special needs kid is because she’s mine. The reason I navigate the complicated (and often frustrating) medical system is because I HAVE to. The reason my arms are so strong is because I have no choice but to carry around a 33-pound sack of cuteness. Not because I’m gifted.

I am just doing what I have to do. I am doing what (almost) any other parent would do. I have not chosen this road; it was chosen for me.

I know I’m doing a decent job. I can’t think of anything else that Ellie might need to make her life easier, or her future look brighter. Some days, I feel really good about my abilities as Ellie’s parent, and all the extra work it takes to ensure that her chances at an independent future are maximized. But, honestly, most days I feel so inadequate. The farthest thing from gifted. I have not a hot clue what I’m doing. I know how to make phone calls (over and over and over again). I know how to research on the internet. But that’s about it.

I guess it’s not really about my giftedness then. It’s about wanting the best for Ellie and doing whatever it takes to give that to her.

It’s about showcasing ELLIE’S gifts. She has so many that are often hidden by her disability. Precious girl.

So, excuse me while I make a call to a pediatric ophthalmologist, an occupational therapist and a social worker….


Jennifer said...

perfect! you couldn't have said it any better.... and you ARE an amazing mama. you inspire me!

Erin said...

I really connected with this! It was so well written, which is the usual for you. I have heard from a few friends that if anyone could deal with the stuff H-Dub am going through it is me. And for me, it makes me feel stronger. But like you, you do it because you have to and will always do what is best for your child.

Southern Eccentric said...

Okay, I've been mulling over this post and I've got some thoughts (scary, huh?) In fact, I had so many thoughts, I ended up writing an entire post about it on "Todays Trek." But here, in a nutshell, is the gist of it:

#1. You don't give yourself enough credit.

#2. People do not understand the difference between a gift and a challenge.

Your friend has a GIFT. She CHOSE what she is doing.

You have a CHALLENGE. You did not ask to do this, it wasn't something you chose to do. You can now only chose how to deal with it.

Hers is an admirable profession, but you have taken a challenge and are trying to do something you would never have chosen to the best of your abilities. So while I'd admire your friend for doing a job I wouldn't be able to handle, I admire you (and Richard!) even more for rising to the challenge and doing a fantastic job raising a special needs child.