to have the life that awaits us.
I have often heard that after a diagnosis you find out who your true friends are. And I have discovered that this is true. Perhaps I am extra blessed, but I have found my friends have multiplied, acquaintances give generously to our fundraiser, neighbours help with food and cleaning, my church holds us up spiritually, facebook groups become community, and our family supports us. It might be because it's all still so new, Braxton is so cute, and we are open to help, and maybe in a few years the supports will dwindle. However, I believe it takes a village to raise a child and Braxton has drawn together a group of people who will continue to support him.
2. Having a special child allows you to escape the race.
I admit, when I imagined my future child I pictured my kid would be the first to walk, first to read, best grades...only the best and brightest. It didn't take me long to realize my weekly email updates that my baby should be doing such and such by the time he's blank weeks old was not accurate. And there is something freeing about being out of the race. I see other parents panic when their ten month old isn't doing something they are supposed to be doing at nine months, and other parents gloat when their kids are a few weeks advanced. There is so much pressure in our society to be better than others. But in the race you miss the little moments that make life. I wish Braxton would be further advanced developmentally, but I am learning to enjoy the ride. Not many parents get to have the joy of a newborn for ten months, who loves to cuddle and root, coos when he hears you sing, and isn't eager to leave you for a toy or tv. Having a special kid allows you to enjoy the uniqueness of your child that can be missed if you are only looking for the ways they are like their peers.
Things that phase other parents wont bother you. Immunizations might be terrifying for another mom, but you and your child are used to pokes. You have muscles to carry a ton of equipment when others are frazzled by a diaper bag. Throw up and poop can be caught and cleaned without a break in the conversation. Melt downs in public no longer increase your pulse. You can drive to the hospital blindfolded and navigate the units in your sleep. More challenges serve to increase your skills and make you stronger for your child.
4. You learn to believe in yourself.
I have found mother's intuition is right more often than doctors are. You know your child best, and no matter how educated professionals are, they don't spend 24/7 with your unique miracle. I was told that google is the enemy by many doctors. I get that they don't want me fretting and fearing all the could be's, however everything that I found on the internet informed my future decisions and often the information I discovered was critical in making the right medical decision. I read all the books I could find on Braxton's conditions. Knowledge is power. Sometimes I wonder should I bring my baby to the hospital, or should I have not brought my baby to this specialist. Be still, listen to your heart. It hasn't led me astray when I know something is right or wrong, I follow through, and do what is best for my baby. No one else is walking in your shoes. If you are questioned just let others know "it is what it is", you don't have to justify to others what you know to be right.
The one thing I see in most families of special needs children is the ability to see their children as a blessing. Maybe all parents see the blessings of their offspring, I admit I don't hang out with many typical parents, but I don't see it articulated as openly as moms of miracles discuss the blessing of their kids. There are tough times, of course, and days you ask "why me?" With a bit of time and perspective it is easier to see that everything happens for a reason. Our special children are here to teach us important things about life. The big lesson Braxton has taught us is what it means to love unconditionally. Loving unconditionally is hard work. Late nights and early mornings. Days without a real meal or shower. Last minute change of plans. Hours of research, appointments, and travel. But unconditional love goes both ways, and I know Braxton is working just as hard! I thought I knew what love meant, but now I have lived love. Giving of yourself, because your heart bursts when you look at your little baby. Seeing beyond the diagnosis, beyond the disability, the tears and treatments, to see the true child that owns your heart. The child becomes the teacher, the leader in their life, and opens your eyes to see the miracle that exists right in front of you.