I believe in accepting the child who is in front of me and loving him with all of my heart.
When I became pregnant with my second child, I was as thrilled as any expectant parent. I had been through one pregnancy already, and I knew exactly what to expect. I took care of myself and passed all the appropriate tests of fetal health. All I needed to do was wait, give birth, and go on with the life I had always dreamed of as the mother of two beautiful, healthy children. I never expected to have a child with a disability—that was something that happened to other people.
While my son was in neonatal intensive care and I was in a sleep deprived, post delivery, state of confusion, a nurse came to talk to me about a trip to Holland. She explained how this might seem a disappointment to someone who had been planning a trip to France but that Holland was really a very nice country. Why is she talking to me about Holland, I thought to myself, when my son is unconscious two floors below and no one can tell me what’s wrong? (And, by the way, everyone knows that France is a much nicer place to visit than Holland.)
My son, Alexander, who has cerebral palsy, is five years old now. Over the last five years, he has taught me that my only duty as a mother is to love him for who he is—not for who I had hoped he might be before he was born.
The most difficult days are those when I compare him with normally developing kids (which is another way of saying, when I compare him to the boy I imagined he would be before he was born). But when I shut out those images—of someone else’s child or some imagined child of my own—I can see him. Happy, laughing, fighting with his sister, singing, dancing, having a tantrum, throwing a ball—but unable to walk.
When I see him as he is, my heart swells with love for the child in front of me. And, I realize that the only thing keeping me from experiencing all the fulfillment I had hoped for as a mother is me. As I grow in accepting his disability, I find new ways to love his older sister too.
I believe that the most noble gift that I can give as a parent is to love the children in front of me, to accept them for who they are, to cultivate the innate talents that they may have –however foreign or unexpected—and to rejoice in their unique contribution to this glorious and unpredictable world.
And each day, I work hard to live by this belief, even when it’s really, really hard.
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