Expecting mamas daydream about what it will be like to bring their child into this world. We have these amazing visions of the cooing sounds and the bonding. Almost as if you can smell the amazing scent that comes from the top of a precious newborn’s head. We dream of the nursery, the adorable baby shoes, and showing our amazing gift off at the next family gathering. Our hearts know there will be tough times. And we may have anxiety about the sleepless nights, but overall our picture of the future is very blissful.
We do not daydream about therapists.
When your child is born with special needs, you find your perfect bubble bursting and uncover a foreign world. This new reality, a new normal, is filled with a series of therapist and early intervention teachers. It’s so difficult at first. You are filled with postpartum hormones and have to get used to all these new people coming into your home. Telling you all the things you must do in order for your child to thrive.
They also set you up to understand all the things you dreamed about that your child may never do.
As gut-wrenching as this transition is, you soon come to develop intimate relationships with these caregivers. You find yourself sobbing on the shoulder of your child’s early intervention teacher as she explains to you that you do not have to do every single exercise on the list you’ve been given for your six-week-old baby. She hugs you and tells you that being a Mama to your baby is the best therapy you could ever give.
You hold back tears as you watch the physical therapist attempts over and over to motivate your beautiful six-month-old baby to just hold his head up. You watch as your baby cries, fights it, and you want nothing more than to grab him, hold him, and never let go. Finally, you cry when your physical therapist holds your hands and tells you, “It is my job to push him hard, not yours. I do this for him, and you give him the strength to get through it by showering him with love when I’m not around.”
But the therapists are lifesavers.
At two years old, you attend your first group speech therapy session. You walk in proudly with your baby boy. Only to be thrust into the reality that he is very much struggling developmentally compared to the other two-year-olds in the group. You realize you’ve made peace and moved past the worry that he will be behind. But, you never realized that he may be more delayed than other kids with the same developmental disabilities as him. Your face shows your worry, and your speech therapist reads your mind. She grabs you as you begin to hurry out of the session, looks you in the eye and says, “He will get there when he is ready to get there, and you are doing EVERYTHING you need to help him thrive. He is happy, he is loved, and he will get there.”
At two and a half years old, you sit next to the physical therapist as you watch her coax your child to use the walker and take a few steps. You’ve seen this attempt multiple times with no success and aren’t feeling optimistic. Suddenly the therapist tries something new. Your baby boy stands up and begins walking in the walker with the most contagious giggle you’ve ever heard. All you can do is hug them, cry and celebrate! There is applause, laughter, tears, and the therapist celebrates that victory in her heart as much as you do, and you know it.
Getting all the support your family needs.
Through all of this, these people become your support system. These therapists, teachers, and aids become your family, and they love your child fiercely. Then, when your child approaches three years old, you realize that it is time to transition from early on to pre-school. The family you have acquired will be going away. Now, you are starting with a new normal once again.
Mamas that have children with special needs approaching this transition, I see you. I know your hearts and I know how heart-wrenching it is to once again approach finding a new normal. I know that some of you went through a handful of therapists or teachers before you found ‘the one” that clicked for you and your child.
Mamas, I know how hard it is to hear all the other parents of three-year-olds talk about finding the right pre-school. I know how hard it is to know that you now have to transition to the world of IEPs. To make impossible decisions on whether full inclusion or partial inclusion. Or to go to a school set up for children with special needs is right for your child.
You can do this, we can do it together!
I know how hard it is to leave your team, your family, behind and transition once again to the unknown. I know because I’ve done it and I’ve felt it. I too struggled mentally with this.
As you round out your beautiful summer here in Michigan in preparation for this transition, I want you to know that this will soon become your new normal too. This change may not be easy, but it will be worth it. You will continue to experience the joy that comes when a new group of therapists and teachers fall in love with your child. They will celebrate each milestone alongside you.
You will get through this because you are an extraordinary mom. And because you have to. You will get through this because you will get through anything for your child.