Mothering a child introduces a unique kind of love. The kind of love that rocks you to your core.
We meet this wrinkly, squishy stranger and we know things are different now. ‘Mother’ is a special title. We know when our babies breathe just the slightest bit differently, even from four rooms away. I realized I was doing fine as a mother the day I discovered one of my long brown hairs was the cause of Liam’s infant cry. It had wrapped itself around his toe. Who would check for something like that? You know who, a mother.
The joy that comes with motherhood is indescribable. Seriously, I’m not even going to try. You know what I’m talking about, because it’s in our bones.
The pain that comes with motherhood is something entirely different. The kind that makes you forget to breathe.
As a culture, we are taught to believe that we can work hard and fix problems. What if the problem is something that you can never, ever change? Something that rips away all your hard work, and all your visions of what the future should look like?
Early after Liam’s diagnosis there were moments of falling to my knees, punching the ground, while screaming but making no noise. Within minutes, I wiped my tears, and greeted a sweet, bright eyed, very lively little boy asking for apple juice. He was the reason I was falling apart, and he was the reason to get back up again.
He was right in front of me. Right there. Alive and happy. I remember saying that I felt like I was grieving his death. The future that I had imagined for him was crashing down. I was blind to what Liam’s life was going to be, I just knew what I thought happiness should look like. My sweet husband reminded me that everyone experiences joy differently, and Liam would have joy too, it might just look a little differently than mine.
My sweet friend Elizabeth sent me the essay Welcome to Holland written in 1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. Kingsley wrote of the shift in perspective when your expectations of parenthood are met with the reality of parenting a child with special needs. It’s not what you expect, but it is still beautiful, full of adventure, and a bit foreign.
When I first read the poem I thought, I have zero interest in Holland. I signed up for Italy. Italy is what I dreamed about! My trip to Italy was going to give me hiking through Bachelor Woods. My Italy would give me the chance to teach my son how to ice skate. My Italy was going to be letting him run loose with buddies and not having to worry if he is getting too tired, and over working his muscles. My Italy was imagining Liam driving. Liam living independently. Liam having the chance to show off his sweet white guy dance moves at a bar in his early 20’s.
I’m here to report that Holland has dark, stormy days. Holland is also spectacular.
Liam may not be able to skate, walk more than 100 yards at a time or run a 5K with me, but that’s ok.
Liam keeps showing me that even though I can’t “fix” his tired legs, we find a way to make it work.