What it’s like to be a mother to a special needs child, Guest Writer: Sandy Harris

Mother’s Day is a mixed bag of emotions for me.  Being the mother of a special needs child has been a journey of pain, blessings, disappointments, pure joy, frustration and ultimate peace.

I am probably the most non-PC person you might meet and when describing my daughter to people I use words like mentally retarded and people cringe.  Well I like the word retarded.  I explained to my daughter many many years ago that it isn’t a bad word.  I explained to her that she should be proud to be called retarded. I explained to her what a Bonsai tree was.  That people purposely retarded the growth of the tree to make an even more beautiful tree. I explained that it was slow growing and that was no different from that of her growth mentally or physically.   I explained to her that she was a “different kind of beautiful” and told her that when someone called her retarded to say thank you.

Being the mother of a special needs child is met, sometimes daily, with challenges that most would never think of.  I am given advice, to this day, on what would be best for my daughter. How I should or shouldn’t act or things I should or shouldn’t do for her.  Well, I was told that my daughter would not live – she is now 40.

I was told she would never sit up – I just kept sitting her up when she fell until she could finally sit up on her own.

I was told she would never walk – I walked her on top of my feet until she was able to wobble on her own – she walks now, with assistance, but she walks.

I was told she would never talk – I cannot tell you how many times I have had to ask her to please be quiet to give my ears a rest.  So I accept the advice, pray about it and then do what I think will work best for my daughter.

She is challenging to say the least, Autism, Mental Retardation (Developmentally Delayed for those more PC than I), CP, Dystonia, Anxiety Disorders and the list could go on.

This is not a ride for the faint hearted, but, I‘ve always loved a good roller coaster! That is the ride the Lord gave me with my daughter. She is my daughter.  A different kind of beautiful. A challenge. A painful but beautiful walk that the Lord gave me.  He gave me because he trusted me with her.  Have I failed? Of course, I have. Have I had my doubts?  Sometimes daily. But, I would not trade being the mother of this most challenging and frustrating daughter for anything in the world.

I can truly say that the only reason I have made it this far is because I trust in the Lord that allowed me to be the mom to a most incredible human that is flawed by worldly standards but is a most amazing being by the Lord’s standards and it is an honor and a blessing to be her mom.

When my daughter was young, a mom of another special needs child gave me a copy of a poem by Erma Bombeck.  It spoke volumes into my life and helped me countless times when challenged by yet another surgery or another physical therapy session or just one of those days when she would not stop screaming,………… the words spoke strength to me.

Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice, a few by social pressures and a couple by habit.

This year nearly 100,000 women will become mothers of handicapped children. Did you ever wonder how mothers of handicapped children are chosen?

Somehow I visualize God hovering over earth selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As He observes, He instructs His angels to make notes in a giant ledger.

“Armstrong, Beth; son. Patron saint…give her Gerard. He’s used to profanity.”

“Forrest, Marjorie; daughter. Patron saint, Cecelia.”

“Rutledge, Carrie; twins. Patron saint, Matthew.”

Finally He passes a name to an angel and smiles, “Give her a handicapped child.”

The angel is curious. “Why this one God? She’s so happy.”

“Exactly,” smiles God, “Could I give a handicapped child to a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel.”

“But has she patience?” asks the angel.

“I don’t want her to have too much patience or she will drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wears off, she’ll handle it.”

“I watched her today. She has that feeling of self and independence that is so rare and so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I’m going to give her has her own world. She has to make her live in her world and that’s not going to be easy.”

“But, Lord, I don’t think she even believes in you.” God smiles, “No matter, I can fix that. This one is perfect – she has just enough selfishness.” The angel gasps – “selfishness? is that a virtue?”

God nods. “If she can’t separate herself from the child occasionally, she’ll never survive. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect. She doesn’t realize it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take for granted a ‘spoken word'”. She will never consider a “step” ordinary. When her child says ‘Momma’ for the first time, she will be present at a miracle, and will know it!”

“I will permit her to see clearly the things I see…ignorance, cruelty, prejudice….and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life, because she is doing My work as surely as if she is here by My side”.

“And what about her Patron saint?” asks the angel, his pen poised in mid-air.

God smiles, “A mirror will suffice.”

So happy mother’s day month to all those with “normal” children and to those with a child that is “a different kind of beautiful.” Please know that your journey is amazing and filled with challenges that most will never know – so that makes you a special kind of beautiful too!

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Comments (3)

  • Linda Woods 5 days ago Reply

    “This is beautiful ”.. there isn’t anything I can say that explains it Better, thank you for sharing …God Bless You and Your Daughter ..

    Ceci
    Ceci 5 days ago Reply

    Thank you for reading!

    Sandy 5 days ago Reply

    Thank you! It is a journey I would not have chosen – but I feel so very blessed for each and every moment.

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