The other night I was sitting around a dinner table with a couple of new mom friends. We were taking care of ourselves– out at a rooftop restaurant, sipping on drinks, and talking without interruption. It was everything we all needed: the food, the drinks, and the connection.
But as we kept talking and getting to know each other a bit more, I was brought back to my early days of motherhood. Because of Jaxlee’s Cerebral Palsy, everything about my life was different from other mom friends I had. My stories didn’t look or sound like their stories, and it was hard.
Every mom of a child with special needs has experienced this. Regardless of their child’s disabilities, there is some part of their role as mother that doesn’t fit the narrative of what you see on commercials, pictures on Instagram, or in the BabyCenter app.
So for me, in those early days as a brand new mom with a daughter who struggled to eat enough to sustain herself, hearing stories about other typically developing kids was a real barrier for me. It made it hard for me to connect with other moms with young kids. It broke my heart over and over again. Not only could I not relate, but the very same complaints they had– like how their kids were so busy and into everything– were my exact struggles. I was working tirelessly to help Jax develop her ability to move and play. We took her to weekly therapy and we went to all sorts of specialists to help her.
I wouldn’t change a thing. Jaxlee is the most amazing warrior and I’m so grateful to be a part of the special needs parent community. You will never find another group of more dedicated, loyal people as those who parent kids with special needs. Our kids defy so many odds; we get to experience life-changing growth every day.
But this reality didn’t change the fact that it was hard, and that I was still a new mom who needed connection with other new moms.
I think every child you have is the exact child you need. Jaxlee was and is who Jonny and I needed as our firstborn. Our lives are a testament to God’s faithfulness and the way he works in big and small ways. She teaches us so much every day.
Having Braylon was no different. She brought us into a new experience as parents. We got to watch her play and learn how to use a spoon like other typically developing kids. And for me, it opened up a whole new realm of understanding and connection with friends.
To the moms of kids with special needs, I see you. Most people don’t understand what you experience, and all the pictures on social media and kid products and toys don’t represent what you see in your amazing kid every day. I want to encourage you that there IS a community of parents out there who get it. Reach out and connect so that you can feel seen.
Whether you’re a mom of a kid with special needs or a mom of a typically developing kid, you need meaningful friendships. That can be hard when you move to a new place or when you are in a hard spot. But it’s worth the time to get a sitter or ask your spouse to have the kids so that you can go out and sit outside with a drink in hand and just be you. You’re filling yourself up so that you can go back and do the same for everyone in your family.