From the first moment you discover you’re going to become a mom, you’re praying your child will be born perfectly healthy and beautiful. You have hopes and dreams for your baby. What will my baby look like? Whose personality will she have? Will he have talents like mine or his dad?
The last thing that most mothers are consumed with is the possibility of having a child with a challenge, with a disability.
Sometimes, God gives you a child with a disability. It’s not what you feel prepared for and not what you prayed for. You might be shocked, angry, or sad. The fears, the uncertainties, and the doubts set in. What if I can’t handle this? What if I’m not good enough or patient enough? What if I can’t give her what she really needs? What if I mess it all up? Not to mention the guilt and the loneliness. What did I do to cause this? Who can I turn to? Your whole world is different than you had been imagining.
But, overtime, something starts to change. Something deep in your heart, in your being, begins to transform. Through the trials and emotions, you begin a refining process, smoothing your rough edges. Your flaws start to be supported by grace and start to strengthen. When God gives you a child with a disability, He molds you in ways you couldn’t have imagined.
Your eyes become more watchful. You watch everything about your child. You watch for things and people to avoid that could harm her. You watch for extracurricular activities to enhance his strengths, and those that help strengthen his weaknesses. You sometimes just know. No one is more watchful than a mother.
Your soul becomes more courageous. You finally find your voice. And that voice gets the message across, and people listen. It may school the experts at meetings and appointments. No one has a more courageous roar than a mom at an IEP meeting or an appointment in which her concerns are being dismissed. And, if they don’t listen, you get a second opinion. You’ll surprise yourself with your boldness. You’re the best advocate your child can have. Hands down.
Your mind becomes more knowledgable. College reading has nothing on the reading you do. You learn what therapies work best, which medical interventions you should accept, and which educational goals you should suggest. You know, by heart, the parent rights, and you even quote them when you’re challenged. The experts of our children are us, not the professionals we hire.
Your soul becomes more hopeful. Your mother heart is able to hope for things that some say are impossible. You may have to hope beyond what your child can hope for. When not even the experts can see it, you have a clear vision of hope. You know it can get better and that things can improve, even in the most subtle of ways.
Your arms become more comforting. Your child may cry or be overwhelmed with what he cannot control. The tears that come down in those private moments at home are heartbreaking. Your arms are soothing tools to anchor your child in the storm. A gentle embrace may be all she needs.
Your hands become more prayerful. The prayers of a loving mother are powerful and precious. Sometimes you pray for a miracle. And, many times, you pray for small progress. Seemingly small steps are such a huge victory! You pray for the right specialists and the right answers. You pray that your children will have a good day and that they’ll have good friends. You pray for things other parents never have to pray. Those prayers remain in our hearts even when they aren’t in our minds. Our whole mothering heart can be expressed in a tearful prayer.
Your heart becomes more loving and forgiving. We may have lived life striving for perfection. What happens when things suddenly are outside of our own efforts. Your genetics, the vitamins you took, the vitamins you didn’t take, the not praying hard enough, the things you didn’t know at the time, all the what ifs. We can drive ourselves crazy playing the self blame game. The fear that we somehow caused this disability in our child is the worst fear a mother can have. When we allow God to work through our flaws as mothers and our imperfections, that’s when grace takes over. And we need grace to do this kind of mothering. Learning to forgive and love ourselves is one of the best gifts we can give our child. Our children with disabilities need to see us loving ourselves despite our imperfections, so they can love themselves with their own.
When God gives you a child with a disability, it’s not because He knows you can handle it. He knows you can’t handle it on your own. But, with each roadblock, tearful prayer, challenge, and triumph, He transforms you more and more, like the wonderful Potter He is, into the mother He planned for you to be, even before He placed your intricate child in your womb (or in the biological mother’s womb). You are a wonderful mother of a wonderful child with a disability. God made your child for you, and He made you, mama, for your child.