I wrote the entry below while Oia was still an only child and as best as I can remember, it was even before I was pregnant with Esme. At the time, I wrote this for a different purpose other than for this blog but in honor of D-Day, which I only take a mere second to remember, I'm finally sharing this piece now. Oia's Diagnosis Day was exactly 5 years ago today, on April 2nd, 2008. She was barely 8 months old.
If Only I Had Known…
So much about being set on a path that you never expected to walk is about surrendering to the notion that you are not in control of the big picture. As a child, I never imagined what my life would be like as an adult. Sure, I was determined to graduate college, certain to find love, hopeful to marry and eager to have a family; all when the timing was right. It’s easy to imagine such things, to dream of their perfection, but when I did, I of course never dreamed the life that has become the one I live today.
I did graduate from a top-notch university and I did find the love of my life who I later married. And yes, we began a family. After that, my path took an unexpected turn and the “big picture” suddenly became much bigger than I. The detour made me feel like I’d never find my way back to where I thought I needed to be but once I surrendered and ultimately accepted my fate, I realized that I wasn’t on a detour after all but headed in the best possible direction chosen just for me and my family; one that would lead me to beautiful perspectives and the most touching, unexpected lessons that would shape me into the woman and mother I never dreamed I could be.
The “detour” happened on April 2, 2008 when my 7 ½ month old daughter was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with Cerebral Palsy. The news took my breath away, weakened my spirit, and rendered me speechless. I was a new mother and a naïve one at that, thinking why on earth is this happening to my baby and our family? Life just felt cruel that day.
Some time has passed since then and it delights me to say that I am nowhere close to the person I was then nor do I feel the same way. That day changed me for the better but at the time I was too hurt to understand what was really happening. If only the person I am today could have visited and prepared the person I was on the morning of April 2nd, I could have saved myself from the emotional pain and overload that was about to take place.
If only I had known then that the pain of that day would slowly fade.
If only I had known that my tears of anger and sorrow would eventually dry from my face and be replaced with giant tears of absolute joy.
If only I had known that my child’s determination would provide me with more hope than I’d know what to do with.
If only I had known how parenting a special child would give me the ability to slow down and absorb life’s littlest details that so many others rush by without notice. Life isn’t a race and slow is okay.
If only I had known that this special needs parenting journey doesn’t get easier. It just shifts and changes. Both my child and I become much stronger and tolerant as a result of the experiences we tackle and overcome.
If only I had known that I don’t just have a daughter with a life-long disability but instead I have a daughter who has become the best teacher I’ve ever had.
If only I had known that the special abilities my daughter has far outweigh her special needs.
If only I had known that I would so easily be able to find the silver lining in any situation. There is always a bright spot amid the darkest of moments. Always.
If only I had known the acceptance and patience that I would acquire as a special needs mommy; not only for my child but for the world around me as well.
If only I had known how thankful I would be for such an unfair diagnosis. The greatest of blessings often come in disguise.
If only I had known how content I would become because of this unexpected turn and how absolutely stunning the view is from this portion of my path. This was no detour, just a planned portion of my life’s journey. I could have never dreamed of this life before my daughter entered into it because I never knew what perfection looked like. Perfection is my child who deals with and lives so eloquently with the challenges that are a part of her. Now I know – and knowing these things on Diagnosis Day would have erased the sadness and made me realize how amazingly blessed I really am. My daughter isn’t an angel on earth by chance or circumstance but an angel of God’s will. I was chosen to be her mother and I will spend the rest of my days as her student. I am both humbled and honored to witness life from the wings of this special little girl who I can so proudly call my own.