Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Twelve years ago, when my youngest daughter was an infant, she literally had eleven appointments a week, EVERY week, for two years. Physical, Occupational, Speech, and Cognitive therapies, as well as vision services. Because my baby was born a little different, as we all are in our own ways
Out of those eleven appointments a week, only two of them were conducted in our home. All the other appointments, were down at the childrens' hospital, on the therapy ward they had at that time... with all the other special needs kids and parents. Naturally, we made friends, got to know the other families. My two girls spent so much time there, it never dawned on them that anyone was 'different'. Even my eldest who was eight years old at the time we first started going, didn't bat an eyelash at a little friend who was born with her arms on 'backwards', with knees and elbows and ankles that didn't bend. Many kids unable to walk, talk, unable to move at all. But kids are kids... they readily accepted each other. While my youngest was in therapy, my eldest would lay on the mats with kids who had NO movement.. none at ALL.. and she'd sing and chatter and read with them, and I would see their smiling faces and hear their laughter.. kids are kids.. it really was a beautiful thing.
Dealing with doctors and therapists.... that was a hard time for me then. My eldest who had just turned 8 years old had just gotten diagnosed with ADHD and ODD... and now I had just had this little year old baby girl too... and she was born legally blind, the myelin in her brain not fully developed, and autistic... and for me, it was a lot. I felt overwhelmed. It was a lot to take in. I wondered if I was being punished by God. I wondered if I'd done something when I was pregnant to cause it. Because, surely, this was my fault? It had to be. I cried a lot. I felt pulled in a hundred directions. Depression and anxiety were a daily thing for me.. but I kept going, because I had to.. I had no choice. My girls needed their Momma. Dinner still had to be cooked, the laundry washed, the dog walked and fed, and homework completed. I struggled to find joy... it seemed to be hidden away from me. And it felt permanent.
Looking around on the therapy floor... sometimes it was hard to not cry. Severe deformities, diseases, illnesses, syndromes that I was not used to seeing... I would try to smile...act normal... and then later I'd sob my heart out all the way home after our appointments after my kids passed out in the backseat. How on earth did their families manage? After all of the "why me, Lord?"... I had an epiphany. "Why NOT me?" Seeing the other kids who were severely impaired, or may not even live to see adulthood, made me realize how totally blessed I really was/am. God had given me two very precious gifts... my daughters. And they are perfectly imperfect. Exactly the way they are. Two of the best reasons in the world to be joyful.
My girls are now ages nineteen and twelve. Last night I took my youngest to swim training for Special Olympics. She still has very poor muscle tone, and is a slow, awkward swimmer. Her legs spread apart instead of keeping them together, and she flails around as she tries to swim. But she DOES swim!! With a big smile on her face, she eagerly jumps into the water. She may not be the fastest, but like her big sister, my girl is part mermaid... she loves jumping in the deep end, having fun, and then laying back to float... smiling up towards Heaven as she relaxes, enjoying the feeling of floating. And she is completely joyful in that moment.
The Special Olympics is a God-send for us. I absolutely LOVE that my daughter has friends who accept her, and she can play sports now... sports that she couldn't play before on a 'typical' team. She isn't the 'odd kid out' anymore. She is a "pea in a pod" with her team mates. All that matters here is doing your best, and being brave enough to try. They are friends. They are actually pretty competitive, and they really, truly accept each other. The Special Olympic athletes inspire me... The volunteers I am so grateful for. God is GOOD!!!