You may know Cassie. You may be a regular follower of her blog. You may know her because for Spina Bifida Awareness month, she featured our kids.
She is an amazing person. I admire her for many reasons. We have a lot in common. We would be great "in real life" friends, if geography weren't so important. Her son, Caleb, is just months older than my Esther-Faith. And I think if they ever meet, Cassie and I may be in-laws some day.
She wrote the following on her blog "Beyond Measure" today.
As she says in her intro, it is long. But it is WORTH IT.
With her permission, I republish it here.
I am warning all of you ahead of time that this is long. I'm asking you to avoid just "skimming" and glancing at the pictures. Take a few minutes to read. I think this will mean something to many of you.
I follow a lot of blogs, blogs done by other SB moms (and one dad) from all over the country...and a couple folks in Canada. A shout out to you gals in Canada! I love reading about all of these other kids that are living life with Spina Bifida. I love reading about their many victories. I pray for them when they are facing surgeries. I care about all of these kids and their entire families. Recently I have noticed that many of the moms out there are struggling. It seems like the moms that have the younger kiddos, under 2 years old, are struggling the most. It is to you that I am writing.
So many of you are hurting because your baby isn't sitting up yet, isn't crawling, won't roll over, can't stand up, and can't walk. You are frustrated. Beat down. Exhausted. Sad.
You feel like you are giving everything you have to help your child reach these milestones, but it's not working. Or maybe you are beating yourself up because you don't think you are doing enough. It's your fault.
I remember those days so well. I cry sometimes when I read your blogs and I hear the pain in your words. That pain is very familiar to me.
I had several friends that had babies right around the same time Caleb was born. And I can vividly remember how different he was, even as an infant. Caleb struggled to keep his head centered, even when he was laying down, he would just look to the right or the left. He had to work so hard to keep his head straight.
I remember having a play date with some former co-workers and their babies could hold their heads in the center, but Caleb couldn't. Something so simple. My son couldn't do it. I remember leaving that same play date crying. And honestly I eventually stopped going to play dates altogether. I didn't want to be reminded of all that was different about Caleb.
So, getting Caleb to hold his head in the center became my priority.
That was the goal we would work on.
As an infant, Caleb did not move his legs at all. And I mean no movement. They just flopped out to the side like a frog.
I saw how other babies would constantly kick their legs and could even stand up a little when held. Not Caleb. No movement, no feeling, nothing. Just sweet little legs that flopped out to the sides.
That became my priority. I just wanted him to try and use his legs. That was the new goal.
Next was head control. I called Caleb "bobble head" because the boy could not hold up his head. It was just too heavy.
He required so much support. I just wanted him to be able to hold his head up.
That became my priority.
My goal for him.
He was probably 7 months old before he could hold his head steady.
We bought him an excersaucer but he was just too unstable in it so we had to wrap blankets all around him.
His PT had to make him a special seat to go in his high chair so that he would have more support when eating.
It felt like we were constantly having to do things, adapt things, to help Caleb. Things that every other baby could do with such ease, was such a chore for my son. Everything was a reminder that he was different.
The next priority was rolling over. I worked and worked with him. Desperate for him to just roll over. Begging him too. Bribing him with toys just out of reach so that he would roll over to get them. Nothing. I was convinced that he would never roll over. While other babies his age were sitting up, crawling, and even standing...my baby couldn't even roll over. Caleb was 10 months old when he rolled over for the first time. It was to get a teddy bear that was out of reach. I cried. Rolling became his means of getting around for a long time. He would just roll across the living room to get to what he wanted. He found a way.
And then came the milestone that I thought would absolutely break me. Sitting. Caleb could not do it. I did everything the PT told me to do, I worked with him daily. I prayed and prayed. I asked family to pray. I was desperate for him to sit up. I remember calling my mom and just sobbing because I didn't understand why my one year old son could not sit up on his own. Caleb was about 15 months old before he could sit up well on his own.
With every milestone reached, there was another one that needed to be worked on. For every mountain he climbed, there was another one waiting.
Each goal became my priority.
Each mountain became my focus.
I made myself a calendar that listed all the things that his PT wanted me to work on. I put the list on the fridge as a reminder of what I was supposed to be doing to help Caleb reach his goals...which were really my goals to begin with. I would highlight the things I worked on for that day. And I would beat myself up endlessly on the days that I didn't get to everything. I felt like a failure when I didn't work with him enough. I carried a heavy burden. Every day. Every time I went to the fridge, I saw that list, the things I was supposed to be doing. A constant reminder that I wasn't doing enough. I wasn't enough.
I think us moms are way to hard on ourselves. I know I am. This idea that we have to do it all, be it all, every single day. I think all moms carry that weight but us moms with special needs kiddos have additional weight to carry. We have to be caregiver, nurse, advocate, physical therapist, chef, maid, chauffeur, teacher, administrative assistant, mom, and wife. And that's just naming a few. We wear a lot of hats.
We have to be experts in UTI's, shunt failure signs, tethered cord symptoms, non-verbal learning disorders, and more. We fight for our kids. We argue with doctors who think they know more about our child than we do. We push therapists to get our child the braces and equipment they need. We deal with stares from strangers.
I hear how tired so many of you are. How sad you are. You love your child so much and your heart is breaking because he/she isn't walking. Or sitting up. Or talking. Or standing. Or whatever. It's always something. There is always something to work on, a goal to achieve, a milestone to reach. A mountain to climb. It's exhausting.
Caleb is 5 1/2 years old now. I've learned over the years that Caleb does things in his own time. He works hard and he does as much as his body will allow him to do. And I've seen him climb many mountains. I've seen him find a way. I've seen him succeed.
I've seen him find joy in mobility.
Something that many people would considered a burden, a hindrance, something that he is "bound" to, means freedom and independence to Caleb.
I've seen him do things we were told he wouldn't be able to do.
I've seen him do things I didn't think he would ever do. Like crawl on his hands and knees. He crawled on his belly until he was 3 1/2 years old. I had all but given up on him ever being able to get his knees up under him. But he did it, he got stronger, he figured it out. In his own time.
I've seen him graduate from HKAFO's to just AFO's.
And I have seen him walk. I have even seen him run.
I've seen him get stronger and stronger. I have seen him use legs that he can't feel.
And I have seen him redefine.
I don't have it all together, I still worry, I still beat myself up on occasion. As Caleb has started school, I have found new things to worry about. New goals to reach. But I'm learning to just appreciate all that he is and all that he has accomplished. My burdens aren't his to carry. He isn't sad, so why should I be? Caleb's a happy kid. He always has been.
Even when he couldn't hold up his head, he was still smiling.
Even when he couldn't sit up on his own, he was having fun rolling all over the place.
It didn't bother him that he crawled on his belly instead of his hands and knees, he still got to where he needed to go.
Getting a wheelchair didn't make him sad. He loved it. It changed his life and his personality for the better.
So, to all of you moms out there that are just plain tired. Beat down. Sad. Defeated. Go look at your the precious child God has given you. We have beautiful, strong, resilient, determined kids. Our kids have and will achieve great things. Our kids may never blend in with the crowd, they may always stand out, but they will change this world and the people around them. They already have. There is great joy in that.
Don't let yourself drown in the milestones. Don't let each goal not yet reached consume you. Your little one will climb that mountain, just maybe not as fast as you would like. So, take the time to enjoy the scenic route up the mountain, and anticipate the beauty and the joy that awaits at the top.