Mighty Mom Monday: “10 Special Blessings”

When a family finds out that one of its members has special needs, it can be easy to panic. Some couples even go so far as to contemplate abortion when they find out they are carrying a Down Syndrome or other special needs child (or, worse, go through with that terrible choice).
In today’s guest post, contributing writer “Mighty Mom” shares ten ways that she and her husband have benefitted from their special needs kids (SNKs). 
10)  They make me laugh. – It’s true, every day.  for example.  My oldest has a speech delay (among other things).  One day out of the blue he started walking around saying “I’m sauced Momma!  YEEESS MOMMA!!  I’m sauced!!”  (we’re teetotalers too!)  It took me about 2 weeks to figure out he was repeating me saying “I’m exhausted!”  ~~  we still say we’re “sauced” around here!
9)  They give me the priviledge to witness miracles.  My pregnancies and deliveries were hard and dangerous.  I know just how lucky we are to have living, thriving children.  Each of these babies is a miracle.  How fortunate I am that God has allowed me to watch grow 3 of His Perfect Miracles.
8)  I always wanted to be a cheerleader.  But never went out for the team.  Now I am able to be a cheerleader every day..while wearing the much more comfortable uniform of JAMMIES!  The most often repeated phrase in my house is “You can do it!  Try again!  You can do it!”  Maybe I should invest in pompoms!
7)  They bring me closer to God, daily.  One of the blessings of parenting SNKs (Special Needs Kids) is that you slowly learn that you have no control over their development.  You have no control over their potential, we don’t even know what their potential is!  I have no plans for my children’s future, as I have no idea what that future may look like.   But see, this is how it’s SUPPOSED to be.  We’re told NOT to plan for the future, just to trust that God will supply our needs.  Learning to let that go is a painful but wonderful blessing.
6)  I am never bored!  About the time I think “This is alright, I’ve got this down…”  something new comes up.  A new experience, a new developmental hurdle, a new attitude, a new behavior “issue”, a new topic of conversation to get repeated over and over again….life is an adventure; my adventure is exciting.
5)  I’ve learned to rejoice over every little thing.   I appreciate each and every milestone that my kids reach, even something as “minor” as saying “ready…set..” and having the kid say “GO!”  will bring tears of joy to my eyes.  And this carries over into my whole life.  The adult surgery patients I take care of think I’m strange when I do a victory dance over their first post-op poop.  But to me, now, every triumph deserves a victory dance, take NOTHING for granted! 
4)   Raising SNKs inspires creativity.  I’ve carried weighted backpacks to church because it helped with my middle child’s sensory integration problems,  I bought a bounce house to help with my oldest’s low muscle tone, I’ve put tape on the living room floor to make a track for my oldest to work on physical therapy goals while playing “follow the leader” …(Mom was the leader), I created  “Mama’s Special Sauce” out of nothing but vegetables, then substituted it for ketchup when the middle kid refused to eat even the most hidden vegetable,  (yes, it worked, we used it for almost a year before starting to once again force the veggies).  I’ve been told I “think outside of the box”.  My response to this is “where’s the box??  Did your kids come in a box??”
3)  These kids have given me many opportunities to teach.  Because my kids “look normal”  most people don’t understand their needs.  No, baby girl isn’t saying “mama” at 18 months…nor is she walking.  No, middle child can’t tell you his name.  No, oldest isn’t going to look you in the eye and answer your question…he’s just gonna repeat your question back to you.  But.  the boys are both in regular classes in Pre-school.  That middle child at 3 1/2 can not only count to 12, and tell you the alphabet, he can identify all the numerals and letters, as well as most shapes.  My oldest can remember every word to every video and every song that he’s ever heard.  He understands things (like Jesus’ booboos) that have never been told or explained to him.  He knows where we’re heading by which streets we take, and if we pass an exit we normally take, he knows where we are and what is down that exit.  These are the things I find myself teaching to others.  And I teach a lot, so that others will understand and will not jump to conclusions the next time they come across a SNK.
2)  My kids have blessed me with muscle tone and endurance.  My middle child’s online nickname is Gator-boy, or Alligator.  He came by this name when he was about a year old.  He didn’t like being held, (sensory integration issues) always wanted to be on the go.  When he decided it was time to get down out of Mama’s lap he would squirm until he was laying sideways across my lap….then start rolling around in place to loosen my grip.  Have you ever seen the shows about Alligator Wrestlers?  or Crocodile Hunters??  That’s exactly what he looks like. Yes, he still tries it…but it doesn’t work– in case you ever need to know, the secret is to pin the shoulders and hips…then they can’t roll over.  You do this by putting one arm between their legs and the other across one shoulder, under the head.  Then you hold your hands together at their belly and pull the kiddo in to your trunk.   one…two…three….YOU WIN!
1)  The number 1 reason why I feel blessed to have these children is that they have strengthened my character.  Every parent’s worst fear is that “something” will be “wrong” with their child.  For most parents this is nothing more than a fear that passes away as the child grows.  For those of us with SNKs  that fear is a reality.  It does something to a person when they face their worst fear, then live through it.  Your whole perspective on life changes.  I used to be upset by little things, now, it’s much harder to get me discombobulated.  I mean.  I’m raising (with my wonderful husband) Three Special Needs Kids.  All the other upsets in life pale in comparison.  I am a better person for knowing these kids, and I am blessed, truly blessed,  that God saw fit to name me as their mother.  For that blessing, I am eternally grateful.
Do you have a list of your own? Please send it to hsaxton(at)christianword(dot)com!

Lorraine Hartsook: An Extraordinary Mom

Lorraine Hartsook is an extraordinary woman by any measure — adoptive mother, recording artist, speaker, and grandmother-to-be. She has a voice like Patsy Cline … and a heart for hurting souls.

I met Lorraine at a meeting of Catholic authors and speakers hosted by Stan Williams last spring, and was immediately struck by her compassion for and desire to serve women who feel “stuck” in the past and who need to experience the love of Jesus.

Today I’d like to share one of Lorraine’s songs with you: Lorraine Hartsook – Bring That Child to Me, from her album “Embrace the Cross.”

You can order the album ($15) through Lorraine’s website, or directly through EMN.  If you order it through me (just drop me an e-mail if you’re interested), all proceeds go directly to support EMN.

Happy Grandparents’ Day!

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter declared the first Sunday after Labor Day National Grandparents Day. Have you hugged a grandparent today?

The September 2008 issue of Metro Parent has an article about how the role of grandparents has changed in contemporary society. According to AARP:

*  1 in 12 children lives in a home headed by a grandparent,
* In Michigan, 5.5% of children live with a grandparent-caregiver,
* 73% of custodial grandparents are under the age of 60,
* 33% live in a home without the grandchild(ren)’s parent, and
* 14% live in poverty.

  • Of the 70,044 grandparents who are raising their grandchildren …
    55% are white
    36% are African American
    4% are Hispanic/Latino
    1% are Asian

Of course, all grandparents — no matter how much time you spend with your grandchildren — play a vital role in the lives of their children’s children. Their experience, patience … and humor adds perspective and balance to our own parenting efforts.

It wasn’t until I became a parent myself that I fully began to appreciate my own mother who, as my father often says, was “Born to be a grandmother.” When Craig and I decided to foster-adopt Christopher and Sarah, my parents (who already had seven grandchildren) told us, “You bring ’em to us, we’ll love ’em.”

And they have.  Happy Grandparents’ Day, Mom and Dad!

A Special Mother Is Born: Guest Post by Leticia Velasquez

Christina swims with Mom 2007

I’d like to introduce to you the newest of our Extraordinary Moms, Leticia Velasquez. A gifted journalist and mother of three, Leticia is a strong advocate for families with children that have Down Syndrome. If you or someone you love is struggling with a prenatal diagnosis of DS, feel free to get in touch with Leticia at “Cause of Our Joy.”

“God would never send us a special child,” I mused, caressing my pregnant belly, “our marriage isn’t strong enough.” I was deliriously happy to be pregnant at 39, for three of my five pregnancies had ended in miscarriage, and my younger daughter, Isabella, was an independent four year old. Last summer, I had returned from a homeschool conference with an aching heart, longing for a translucent-skinned newborn nuzzling my neck.

When my pregnancy lasted past my danger zone, I was ecstatic, and refused the triple screen blood test. “There’s nothing you can tell me that will make me end my baby’s life,” I told my doctor, putting the subject of prenatal diagnosis to rest. Or so I thought.

Five months along, I was attending Sunday Mass, absent-mindedly watching the parishioners with Down Syndrome from a local group home when, from out of the blue, I heard an internal voice. “You’re going to have a child with Down Syndrome,” the voice said.

Astounded, I tried to dismiss it as a hormonal fixation, until, in line for Communion, the voice spoke again. “I want you to accept this child as a gift from My Hand, when you receive Me.”

Now I knew there was no escape. Jesus had a call for my life. How would I respond? I choked, “Yes, Lord, as long as you bring my husband along for the ride.” I received His Body in tears.

My husband, Francisco, was floored, thinking that I had finally gone over the edge. I also began to doubt the message, since there had been so many normal sonograms. “And besides, Lord, I’ve seen these mothers of special children. They’re saints. You could NEVER compare my impetuous personality with theirs.” That, I decided, was the clincher. God gave special children to saintly women. I was safe.

Never tell God what He is capable of doing. During the remaining months, I struggled with self-pity, and even, for one instant, regretted my pregnancy. All the while, unknown to me, His grace was molding my heart.

The time came for little Christina Maria’s arrival. At her birth, the delivery room fell deathly silent. Alarmed, I glanced over at the pink, wriggling baby in the isolette, and asked “What’s the problem?” The doctor didn’t respond. Francisco tried to tell me in Spanish that Christina was a “mongolita” (Spanish for Mongoloid), but I didn’t understand. So, on the way to my room, the nurses circled my gurney and said, “We regret to tell you that this child has symptoms consistent with Down Syndrome.”

I was ready with my response. “This child will never take drugs, go Goth, or shoot up a schoolroom. She’ll learn the Faith and keep it her whole life. She’s my best chance at getting a daughter to Heaven, and I consider her a special blessing from God.” My answer came from a book, Pregnancy Diary, by Mary Arnold, which I had read regularly for inspiration.

But words are cheap. What cost me dearly was watching the other newborns in the nursery and comparing Christina’s weakness to their vitality. I resented the happy chatter of the other Moms in the ward. I was haunted by dark thoughts, and self-pity took hold of me.

Just then, the phone calls began. My mother and homeschooling friends had summoned support from around the country, and I was encircled in love. I spoke with a mother from my parish who told me what it was like to raise her youngest daughter with Down Syndrome, and answered many of my anxious questions.

Another friend, the mother of 11, sent an Elizabeth Ministry package for special babies, with a CD and book set entitled, Sometimes Miracles Hide, Stirring Letters from Those Who Discovered God’s Blessings in a Special Child,by Bruce Carroll. That package was a constant companion, reminding me that regardless of how inadequate I felt, God had, indeed, chosen me to mother Christina, and that she would be my means of attaining holiness down the road. God’s favorite road, the Via Dolorosa.

On Mother’s Day, the day of Christina’s Baptism, we shared that song with the over 100 guests who crowded the church. My heart swelled with gratitude to God for choosing my family to raise Christina. And when her godmother asked what she should pray for, I didn’t ask for a cure from Down Syndrome. I was beginning to understand that her “condition” was a blessing, not a curse. Perhaps, as Fr. McCartney had said, Christina pities us for not having the purity of heart to see what she sees.

After six years of specialists, therapists, and conferences, our family has grown in acceptance of her halting development, yet often, we are awed by Christina’s perception of that which escapes us. One day, I brought her with me to Eucharistic Adoration. Entering the chapel, she waved enthusiastically to the Monstrance and called, “Hi, Jesus!” I was congratulating myself for having communicated that Jesus was present, although unseen. She promptly put me in my place, for, as we were leaving, she waved again, saying, “Bye Jesus!” as if He was as visible as Grandpa standing in front of her!

You know, I believe she did see Jesus. And what’s more, they already have a friendship.

This article was published as a sidebar to an article in “Faith and Family” in May/June 2007.

EMN Carnival #1: Tea Time!

I wanted this, our first Carnival, to be a friendly introduction to the women you’ll be hearing from now and again through EMN. We’re just getting started, and I’m hoping this time next month there are many more entries for you to peruse. But for now, just pour yourself a favorite cuppa, and “come and see.” (This is a picture of my favorite teapot … just ignore the tree!) Continue reading

Make a Difference – Become a CASA Volunteer

Today in her adoption column, Carrie Craft posts about the need for CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) volunteers, who provide support services for children going through the “system.” Carrie notes that with the high turnover of social workers, the CASA worker is often the one constant source of support a child receives.

If you are interested in making a difference in the life of a child, click here to get more information about a program near you!

Join the Carnival!

Join the Carnival!

Join the Carnival!

August 1 will be the first-ever Extraordinary Moms Carnival. If you’d like to participate, please submit your entry by July 28 at 10 p.m.

You can submit your entry here, or you can send me a link along with the following information:

*  Your name and blog

*  Your blog URL

*  Link to your post

*  Post URL

*  Your area of interest/expertise (adoption/fostering/special needs/grief and loss/etc.

Please be sure to put the EMN logo on your blog, so I can add you to the blogroll!