For the longest time I thought Samuel's prematurity was a lesson in character building. You know...one of those situations that you come out the better for. The problem was, I couldn't think of one way that my character had been improved. Before Samuel's birth, I had unshakable faith. Before Samuel, I was strong. Before Samuel, I didn't worry as much. Before Samuel, I had everything under control.
What was I supposed to have learned? Did I miss the opportunity to benefit from this?
It's funny how God molds you without your knowing. Even when you're trying to pay attention to what He's doing. I'm only now beginning to see how He has changed me for the better.
I've made a habit out of being honest when I write, so when I tell you what an uncompassionate person I used to be, you'll have to forgive me. I had just enough 'compassion' to listen to someones problems, lecture them about how they got themselves into the situation, and give them step-by-step instructions on how to dig their way out. I thought people made their own problems.
As a teacher, I was able to pick out a parent of a special-needs child in a crowded hallway. They were the ones that looked careworn. Run down. Withdrawn. Tired. I always felt a bit embarrassed for them. I wondered to myself if the problems with the child happened during pregnancy. Did the parents try to have a baby too late in life? Did the mom take care of herself while she was pregnant? Harsh...I know.
Now I know that you can try your best to do all of the right things and still face MAJOR challenges in life. Having a micro preemie has opened my eyes.
Samuel has a few unique issues. He wore oxygen for 8 months after coming home. He's VERY difficult to feed. He needs almost seven hours of therapy a week - occupational, physical, speech, and developmental. He can't be taken out in public regularly due to the risk of getting a simple cold. He takes an array of medicines daily.
Despite these issues, I wouldn't consider him a kid with 'special needs' - given what I've seen in the world of disabilities. However, they do separate him from the average kid....and I've had a small (and I mean SMALL) taste of what it feels like to be one of THOSE moms.
When Samuel began therapy a few months ago, I eagerly awaited my opportunity to meet other moms like me. It took a few weeks of friendly smiles and vague conversation, but in the end, my patience was rewarded. Two wonderful women began to share the stories of their children. Both women had carried their babies to term...and had been lucky enough to take them home the following day. However, a few months later, they each learned that their children had severe brain abnormalities that would keep them from ever talking, walking, or functioning as a normal child would. It was just something that happened - it wasn't something they had to deal with because of a bad choice they made.
Needless to say, our problems are VERY mild compared to theirs. I loved listening to them share their hearts....their joy, their pain, their frustration, and their love for their children.
A few days later it hit me. How wrong I'd been. Those parents of special needs kids that walked down the school hallways looked careworn because they are the most unselfish people you could possibly meet. They sacrifice more time and energy for their children than you could imagine. Instead of spending the morning touching up their make-up; they are getting their children in and out of heavy medical equipment, taking them to doctors appointments, therapy, and so on. They are withdrawn because so very few people understand what their life is like.
To me, those parents are the BEST of us. They have been given one of the most difficult jobs imaginable, and they do it with unconditional, unrelenting love.
They are superheroes. Now I know.