As a first-time mom, I learned a lot about parenting and myself. By the time my second daughter was born twenty-two months later, I thought I had the mommy thing pretty much figured out. I dealt with sleep deprivation, feeling harried because of having two little ones in diapers, and the usual issues associated with having small children. What I didn’t realize for ten or eleven months was that I also had a child with special needs. As she has grown, my younger daughter’s challenges have become more and more evident, and we have acquired an alphabet soup of diagnoses.
I have gradually grown into the role of parenting a child with special needs, and I obviously have learned a lot along the way. What’s surprising is how much I’ve learned about myself.
What Parenting a Child with Special Needs Has Taught Me About Myself
- I’m selfish. I had already gotten some idea of how selfish I am with the birth of my first daughter. I hadn’t realized it until then, when I had someone completely dependent on me for every aspect of her existence. When my second daughter’s special needs became clear (and couldn’t be explained away any longer), I learned that much selfishness remained. My younger daughter was not only dependent on me for food, diaper changes, enough sleep, and protection, but she needed for me to advocate for her to get diagnoses and treatment for the issues she was having. This meant even more sacrifice on my part. I have done it all—and gladly, because I love her—but it has been hard to die to myself and be the mother the situation requires me to be.
- I’m capable: . . . of a capacity to love more deeply than I ever imagined, of taking care of my daughter in ways I never thought I would have to do (like sticking needles in her belly for infusions), of acting unselfishly, of studying and researching complex medical issues and medications, of sacrifice, and of much more.
- I have a backbone. I have always hated confrontation, but I have learned how to stand up to professionals when necessary to make sure my daughter gets appropriate care and treatment.
- I am strong. When necessary, I can
leap high buildings with a single boundgo without having my basic needs met and still take care of my family (for short periods of time). I can take care of my family day after day, even when I have a child who is struggling to feel comfortable in her own skin making extra demands on me. I can pursue my dreams and walk through the doors God opens for me, even when my time to do so is limited because of the demands of daily life.
- I need help. I need physical help with daily tasks, and I need emotional support from others who understand. I have learned to ask for help when I need it and to refuse to try to carry the load alone. Before I reached this point, I compromised my health and my emotional state. I don’t want to go there again.
- God is more than enough. I can’t overcome selfishness or become capable and strong on my own. I can’t provide for my daughter’s needs without help. Only with God’s help and in His strength can I do what He has called me to do—raise my beautiful daughters to reach their unique potential and become all He created them to be.
What have you learned about yourself while parenting a child with special needs?
Other articles you may be interested in:
- KCS Holiday Express! (And a Note about Leaving Denial Behind)
- Labels Have a Place
- Small Victory Over Phonological Processing Difficulties
- Denial: “My Child is NOT Sick!”