What Parenting a Child with Special Needs Has Taught Me About Myself

What Parenting a Child with Special Needs Has Taught Me About Myself - jenniferajanes.com

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 bound go 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?

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18 Responses to What Parenting a Child with Special Needs Has Taught Me About Myself

  1. Amanda MacB says:

    Found your blog today via Pinterest. I would say I am learning all the things you listed. I am also learning to celebrate the milestones – big and especially little – and being grateful for things that other parents might take for granted. For instance our two year old just learned to drink from a straw. This is huge for him because he is not really talking and is low-tone. We have no diagnosis for our son other than “developmentally delayed.” Tests, specialists, a couple follow-up appointments this spring – it has been an exhausting year or so. Right now, in this season of not-so-many-appointments, I am learning to enjoy my son for who he is- without a label.

    • Yes, we are on a similar journey, Amanda. You are right about celebrating everything. It takes a lot of little things to make the big ones, and we celebrate all along the way too! Congratulations to you and your son for the “drinking from a straw” milestone!

      Our specialist appointments tend to go in spurts too. I really enjoy the “down” seasons before the busy ones start again. We have an alphabet soup of diagnoses, but the consensus with my daughter’s specialists is that she has an undiagnosed genetic disorder. She is so far ahead of what genetics is capable of doing right now that an actual diagnosis of the genetic component is a “sometime in the future…maybe” prospect. We keep treating what we know about, dealing with new issues that come up, and living with joy and laughter along the way.

      Thanks so much for visiting today!

  2. Jennifer, beautifully written. I think all children have special needs. I know I do as a mom! Everything you said is so true. Your kids have a great mom.

  3. DaLynn McCoy says:

    WHAT a great post! Sometimes it’s important to remind ourselves of how far we’ve come with the Lord’s help, even in spite of ourselves a lot of times. Our God is amazing, and His love surrounds us and carries us and makes us able to leap high buildings in a single bound through His power! This is an incredible testimony Jennifer! Thank you for sharing it!

    I would say that something I’ve learned from being the parent of a special needs child is that every child – every person on earth – is different. Everyone has a different way of thinking, of understanding, of learning, of growing. In order to communicate, let alone teach, or even yet to guide and disciple someone (including my own children), it’s up to me through God’s power to try and understand what I can about that individual and help them come to conclusions and understandings THEIR way. Not the way I’ve always done it or thought was best, but what will actually work for THEM. This isn’t to compromise the truth at hand, but to get to the same truth down a different road, sometimes an unfamiliar road to me, and along the way I, also, am learning.

    <3 Blessings!

    • You’re so right, DaLynn! Each person is an individual and is uniquely gifted, regardless of ability. It is very important to do everything we can, with God’s help, to reach each person right where they are.

      • DaLynn McCoy says:

        Exactly! I think we, the Church as a whole, really need some work in that area. It starts with truly knowing our own family – our spouses to start, and our child relationships that teach us about teaching. From there I think it’s a great lesson to carry over into our reaching others for Christ. It’s so important to realize that everyone comes from a different walk, has their own thoughts and strongholds, and help them see the saving power of Jesus through all of that murk.

        Okay, I’ll stop – just something near and dear to me right now that I’m on fire about! I could go on all day! (Week… month… whatever. LOL)

  4. Nina Daniels says:

    great post. So true. The big learn about me was what I was pushed to-the ends of: that brought out -what I did not know was within. does that make sense? for I too found that I could do…I can learn… uncovered some yucky stuff…with Gods help I got up..and then it started all over again. it took a long time for that I need help part. as there are just so many demands and expectations as the mom. growth has been happening, and that is good.

    • I’m glad you’re seeing growth too, Nina! I do understand. When we’re really pushed, that’s when the areas that need work are revealed. I haven’t arrived yet either! I’m thankful that God is so patient with me.

  5. Pingback: Homeschool Mother's Journal: Amazing News! - Jennifer A. Janes

  6. WONDERFUL post! Thanks for linking up with Ultimate List of Mom Resources!

  7. Rebecca says:

    Hey you! Thank you for linking this to Ultimate Resources! I know many will be blessed by it!

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  9. emily says:

    I just found your site. My one year old has had concerns from birth, and has an alphabet soup of diagnoses as well… We just found he has a chromosome abnormality. I so enjoyed your sentences about needing help. I’m trying to do all the specialist appointments, therapies, tests, etc on my own, but I’m wearing thin and can’t do it much longer. Pray that I find help and have the strength to ask for it.

    • Oh, Emily, I am praying for that for you. We are in the midst of more appointments and tests with new specialties ourselves right now. Please, please contact me if you need someone to talk to.

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