The Secret Life of Special Needs Moms

Y’all, being a Special Needs Mom is unique. It’s hard. It’s exhausting. It’s rewarding in its own way. It’s special. 

To the outside world, it may seem like we – special needs parents – are steadfast, strong, and unbreakable. We speak up for our kids, we never back down, and we have an infinite amount of patience. But, behind closed doors, we feel weak. We question ourselves. Tears flow easily. We always feel guilty. 

Over the past three years, I have befriended so many Mamas and Dads just like us on Facebook, Instagram, and WordPress, and my feeds are peppered with questions and statements like:

My son is doing this strange thing with his arm. Here’s a video – is it a seizure?

My child hasn’t pooped in days. Is this normal?

He’s not drinking again. Do I take him in?

Well, another trip to the ER. Let’s hope we get to go home tonight.

Just found out my daughter has to have double hip surgery. I’m so nervous!

Doctors are saying my infant son’s head isn’t growing. I’m super paranoid about it and am now measuring it every day. Is this normal?

I’m just so tired and no one seems to support me or understand what I’m going through

This is our norm. It’s what we face every day. It’s our secret little world, one that only special needs parents “get”. Despite what many parents of typical children say, no, our journey is not like theirs. 

Time can make the special needs journey easier. Eventually, you find strength in yourself to stand up to a therapist who doesn’t believe in your child. You change doctors who don’t have the same philosophies as you without feeling guilt. You start seeing your child as your child and not as a diagnosis.

One thing that I have struggled with since day one are stares and comments as we venture out into the public. When Solly was eight months old, I remember feeling hurt when someone commented that they thought he was only 3 or 4 months old because of his gross motor delay. I wrote about another time when a cashier mentioned that Solly reminded her of her grandson who had CP and autism and was institutionalized. As Solly gets older and his disability becomes more obvious, the stares and whispers of strangers are increasing. 

This used to keep me holed up at home. Just the thought of the possibility of an off-color remark about my son turned me into a recluse.  But in the past year, things have started to change. Yes, for many reasons, it’s still difficult for us to get out and enjoy things as typical families would – family gatherings, neighborhood barbecues, trips to the park. But we are starting to enjoy adventures like these in our own way. 

A few weekends ago, we headed out to the Cheekwood Estate and Gardens. They’d recently opened up Cheekwood Harvest, which had been on my list of things to do in Nashville. When we got there, we made a beeline for the pumpkin patch. I pulled Solly out of the stroller and plopped him down on his feet, keeping him steady with my hands. I showed him the pumpkin house, and all the pumpkins in the pumpkin patch – big, little, white, green, orange. As I pointed out all the pumpkins, I slid my hands under his arms and whispered “kick, kick, Solly”. He began taking steps with my support and together we walked the length of the pumpkin patch. I’m sure we got loads of looks and stares – Solly sporting his AFO and SWASH braces among the perfectly dressed toddlers of Nashville, all decked out for their Fall photos. But in that moment, I could have cared less. My son was taking assisted steps and checking out the pumpkins with me. For once, my secret special needs world was not-so-secret anymore and I couldn’t be prouder of it.

Walking through the pumpkin patch

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