I have a not-so-secret obsession with Oprah Magazine. The writing is very good. I’m sure fit their main demographic profile: female, 40-something, mom with older children, searching for the meaning of life.
The April issue has a feature called 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself Today. I read the answer to question #14, Am I Strong Enough, by poet Brenda Shaughnessy and broke wide open and wept, hard. Here’s an excerpt from it:
People are always complimenting parents of children with special needs for being amazingly strong. But it doesn’t take strength to love your child. It’s the other way around: love gives you resilience.
When I tend to my disabled child’s medical needs, I’m simply being a mom, caring for my son. Strength means honoring your entire range of emotion, even your despair and heartbreak. Especially your despair and heartbreak. It means acknowledging each of those feelings, your questions and ideas and faith and terror, and meeting what comes with the full force of your heart.
There is no such thing as a perfect child. Most parents discover that gradually, as their children sprout up to reveal their true selves. In the midst of the stormy teenage years, we become well aware that our ‘perfect’ child is no longer perfect – in fact, they are flawed and beautiful human beings, just like us.
When you have a child with a disability, this perfect child lesson is swift and sudden. Sometimes we even learn this stark fact when we are still reeling from giving birth. There are no years to gradually become accustomed to the reality of the imperfect child. We are handed mere seconds. This is the root of our despair and heartbreak.
I can promise you that the love will save you. The well of pain is deep. But that well of love is deeper than you ever imagined, and you will dip into it, over and over, for your child with the disability, and for all your other children, too. Love will get you through those dark cold winter nights. Because don’t ever forget – love always wins.