I said “can”, not “will”. So, stay with me.
Having a family was always at the top of my life’s to-do list. I thought I knew exactly what kind of mom I wanted to be, what kind of discipline I wanted us to practice, and I just knew that my kids would never act like those kids over there. In fact, there’s so much thought that goes into planning out your life that you rarely have any energy left for what happens when your plans don’t exactly work out the way you’d hoped.
Our daughter is a beautiful product of fertility treatment. I’ve written about that journey before, but in short, when all you want is to get pregnant, you have trouble seeing beyond the positive test finish line. It’s literally all you think about. When she was born in 2013, I thought we were finally on the road we’d mapped out for our lives. We’d conquered the infertility mystery. We could get started and have more kids later since we finally knew what the issue was.
Little did we know the challenges of having a family were just beginning.
I had been so consumed with getting pregnant, no matter what it took, that I never took time to think about everything else.
What if we have a child with a significant disability? What if she’s hearing impaired? What if she’s visually impaired? What if she needs a heart transplant? What if she gets here and she requires 24/7 medical care? What if she has a terminal diagnosis? Can we handle that? Can we afford that? Do we have the resources/village/stamina/mental capacity for that?
These are not questions I ever considered. EVER. We just wanted to get pregnant. Period.
Our daughter was diagnosed with autism in early 2018, and if you’ve never sat in a chair across from an expert and heard tough words confirming your worst fears, you may not quite understand what it’s like to have all the oxygen sucked out of your lungs.
That day, one fear was confirmed, and a thousand more were born. Will she be able to go to school? Will she be able to ever live independently? Go to college? Will she get married? Have kids of her own? Drive a car? Will she be taken advantage of when I’m not around? How will we pay for this? What if we get hit by a truck? Who will take care of her? Where will she go to school? How will she communicate? How would she ever be able to tell us something bad happened if she can’t communicate very well? What kinds of therapies will she need? Does insurance cover that? How are we going to pay for all of this?
To be honest, it wasn’t until we were faced with a tough diagnosis that these kinds of questions were inevitably shoved to the forefront of our minds.
It changes things.
It changes how you think about the future. It changes how you think about your future family plans. It changes how you think about ever having more kids. Having a child with significant challenges isn’t easy. There are a lot of tears. A LOT. There is a lot of stress. A LOT. I wish I’d thought about these things before, planned for before – mentally, emotionally, and even financially. It can be really hard.
However, our daughter is a brilliant, bright light in an incredibly stressful world, and while I never imagined we’d be on this journey, I am thankful every single day for the new things she teaches me about how to be her mama.