This Is Not What I Signed Up For
I was pregnant with my first child, Noel, at age 18 and gave birth 2 weeks after my 19th birthday. I raised him as a single mom with the help of my mom and my grandmother. My son is now 24 years old. He lives and works in New Mexico and just graduated with his BFA from UNM. Needless to say, I am very proud of him and grateful that he was my first born. I have many stories to share about our experiences together but today... this piece is about my second born or as we like to call him “Baby Shae.”
I had Shae when I was 39 in January of 2014. Shae is my little miracle because I was told by a doctor I would not be able to have any more children when my Noel was around 8 years old. For a woman who loved children as much as I did this, as you could imagine, was pretty devastating news for me. I was not even 30 yet. And for the most part the doctor was right.... until he wasn’t. It seems God had other plans for me.
Raising Noel was like a breeze…. almost effortless. I could take him anywhere. He was once my date at my friend's wedding. I believe he was about 5 years old. The wedding was on a boat that was out to sea in Newport Harbor for 4 hours! Nowhere to go if he acted up, threw a tantrum, shit himself, or whatever. But all of those things were never anything that I ever had to worry about with him. And to be honest, I completely took those things for granted.
I was the type of mom that I encounter now. I had no idea what it was like to be a stressed out, frazzled, sleep deprived, anxiety ridden mother of a special needs child. And I never understood what everyone else was complaining about. I went around like “what’s the big deal? They’re just children. They all just want to be loved and played with. Life’s not that hard!”
Noel was my breeze and Shae, well, he is my tidal wave.
I have 24 years parenting experience, 20 years teaching experience, an AA in Child Development, a BA in Human Development & Early Childhood Education. I am a former foster parent and have been a Director of a Head Start Preschool program and Lead Teacher and Acting Director of many reputable afterschool and full day care programs. But none of this would prepare me for my Shae.
I’ve come to realize God blessed me with Shae to humble me...In His own time, when He finally saw that I was ready and I’m honored that God had so much faith in me because there were many times when I questioned if I could get thru this. There were many times that I wondered what I did wrong. There were many times I thought to myself … “This is not what I signed up for!”
I won’t go into the details in this article about the first 2 years of Shae’s life that were full of heartbreak confusion chaos and worry and countless emergency room visits and screaming night terrors.
I won’t go into the pain it caused both his father and I and how much it took a toll on our relationship.
I won’t go into the vaccine injury that led to a week in the NICU or the many hurdles I’ve had to jump thru to get a medical exemption for Shae just to give him his constitutional rights to an education.
I won’t go into the many so called friends who jumped ship during the roughest toughest two years of my life.
This article is about what it is like to have gone thru everything I have gone thru and recognize every day that there will always be people in this world who don’t understand autism, who don’t understand Sensory processing disorders, and who somehow still think they “know it all”.
There will always be people who just don’t “get it”, there will always be people who think they “know better”, think they’ve “seen it all”, or think children should act a certain way and that we are parents who have no “Back bones”. There will always be people who just don’t understand our pain. I was once one of them.
These people may be your very own mother, mother-in-law, husband, friend, or just strangers in a bathroom.
But listen honey, you do you! No one knows your struggle the way you do. No one knows your unique story better than you. No one knows that it’s a miracle you still get up every day and put on fucking lipgloss.
But I do. I know, and I will continue to write about my experiences so that you remember that you are not alone in this and so that you remember that GOD chose YOU to do this! Because you are amazing, YOU are LOVING, YOU are STRONG!
You are the Mother (or maybe even father) of a special needs child and there is no one who can be that CHILD’s MAMA BEAR… better than YOU!
So, stay strong Mama Bear. Cry it out. Talk it out. Write it out, Blog it Out. But whatever you do, don’t hold it in. Don’t bottle it up. This journey is not for the weak. I’m here for you. I’ve got your back. I know the shoes you walk in and they are big shoes to fill. Don’t forget SELF CARE. Don’t forget respite care. Don’t forget about yourself while you’re caring for someone who often cannot care for him or herself.