Parenting Through Pain and Special Needs
Romans 8:35 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”
After my healing from cancer (read that blog post here) I became pregnant for our third child in late 1999. I was 23. My other two children were ages 3 and 2. In the few weeks of that pregnancy’s length, I had a roller coaster of emotions. When I miscarried that baby, I felt devastated. I felt responsible for his/her death through my bad attitude and unsettled heart. It took me a long time to forgive myself. Everywhere I went for the next several years, I felt like there was a child missing from my family. Regardless of the busyness of life, I felt for almost 5 years that baby’s empty spot in our home and in my heart before I could forgive myself and fully accept that loss. I became very depressed.
My marriage began to fall apart. My attitude was so bad. I was mean, judgmental, and easily angered. I was acting as Proverbs 14:1 says “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” From the abundance of my bitter heart, my mouth flowed with meanness. My poor husband was working 16 hour days so that I could stay home with the kids. When he was home, all I did was complain, boss him around, and make him miserable. When we went to family get-togethers, my uncle would announce that Saint Joel had arrived. Knowing that everyone else considered me to be difficult to live with didn’t help matters much. I had no idea how God viewed me. I could only see myself through my own twisted set of glasses. I had an easier time being nice to people that were not in my family than I had being nice to myself and my husband/children.
Romans 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
I had to learn how to accept myself by letting go of things I was taught about myself in my childhood. I began to see that I am of value.
1 John 3:1, “What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it — we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are.” (MSG)
By 2000, I became anorexic and weighed 115 pounds at 5’9” tall. I was lost in my own emotional downward spiral. Our pastors sent us to the Family Life Marriage Conference to try to offer us some hope and a last chance at making our marriage work. We learned some good skills for communicating with each other but my lack of self control where my tongue was concerned didn’t help matters. After the first day of the conference, I had to leave to visit a local urgent care. I had symptoms of a urinary tract infection that were unbearable. The doctor asked me if I could be pregnant. I figured there was no way. He tested me anyway. Thank God he did because I was wrong. I was pregnant. I felt like this was a fresh start to our marriage relationship. A new baby coupled with our newly learned marriage-perfecting-skills would surely draw us closer together.
I had to learn to NOT trust in myself or in my new found skills. I still had a long way to go.
1 Corinthians 1:9 Indeed, we felt within ourselves that we had received the [very] sentence of death, but that was to keep us from trusting in and depending on ourselves instead of on God Who raises the dead.
Midway through the pregnancy, I found out I was having another girl. Two girls and a boy! What a blessing. I spent the summer preparing for the fall delivery. I went to garage sales and picked up as many pink and girlie things as I could find. I had saved loads of money shopping this way. My dear husband, Joel painted the larger of the kids’ bedrooms pink and prepared for her delivery. Finding out the baby was breech and that she would have to be turned was scary. We went in for a final ultrasound to see if she had turned on her own and to go through the turning procedure if she hadn’t. Much to our delight the baby had indeed turned. And we discovered that “she” was a “he” and I was actually having a boy.
Before he was born, God gave me a dream. I knew it was from God. I told my Christian OB/GYN. I told him that the umbilical cord was short and that the baby was in danger. He laughed at me and reminded me that pregnant women have strange dreams. I asked if there was a way to check the umbilical cord and he assured me there was not. He tried to convince me everything was fine and normal and that I shouldn’t put any stock in dreams. I tried to push the issue but I could tell he was getting irritated with me and wouldn’t listen.
After a long two-day induction, my second son was born. His umbilical cord was so short that he was born along with the placenta which tore open during the delivery. I hemorrhaged. He sustained a scar on his brain that is categorized as mild cerebral palsy. He wore leg braces for a few years and had lots of therapy. Five more seconds of being stuck in the birth canal and he would be a different boy than we know. It is only God’s grace that he is here with us today and is as healthy as he is. Whenever I look at him, I feel so grateful. No one could ever tell by looking at or talking to him that he had any underlying neurological damage. He is a constant reminder of God’s grace. I really believed that because the doctor didn’t listen to me, that there would be irreversible damage. I am so thankful to God for His mercy despite the doctor not heeding the warning.
Psalm 33:4-5 For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.
The five years that followed were the hardest of my life. Our son had lots of therapy. We had teachers, speech therapists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists in and out of our house every single day. I joked about installing a revolving door! He had leg braces for nighttime and leg braces for the day. He almost needed surgery to lengthen his Achilles tendons. Through stretching and therapy and bracing we were able to avoid that but the spasms were awful. We were up with him nearly every night rubbing his legs, putting him in a warm bath to ease the tension in his calf muscles, and praying. He hit every milestone really late. But he did hit every milestone.
Psalm 103:13-14 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
Today, my son is 16. He is driving a car, graduating early from high school, and hoping to one day work as a detective. He is an amazing drummer and guitarist. His heart is good and he loves God. I am so blessed.