As I realized just how vital his presence is to me, I decided to write him a letter sharing with him exactly how I feel as his mom and now I am sharing that letter with you all.
Writing this letter forced me to take time to really appreciate who Cooper is and why I need him just as much as he needs me.
If you're ever feeling a bit melancholy over your child and their struggles, I encourage you to sit down and write them a letter.
Today I sit here thinking about you, my sweet, wild but innocent little boy.
There's so much that I would like to say to you, so many feelings I would like to share.
You wouldn't know it now, but you were a big surprise to your dad and me.
Neither of us ever thought we'd be parents, then all of the sudden, we were.
As you grew in my belly much like your baby sister is growing in there now, I would spend hours sitting around imagining who you would be and what you would look like.
I admit, you weren't what I had pictured—in my mind I saw you with my dark, ebony hair and your daddy's beautiful hazel eyes.
I pictured you as a bouncing, chubby, healthy baby dazzling us as you hit all of your milestones.
Instead, you were born with a head full of blond hair that undoubtedly came from your father, and my big, round doe eyes—brown and sparkly as a new fawn.
You also came much earlier than expected—seven weeks to be exact—and for a terrifying moment, I thought I was going to lose you—a notion that didn't really seem fair after all that we had been through during my pregnancy.
The pediatric specialist who looked over you in the NICU warned us that while you were physically healthy, there could be some developmental issues that would become apparent over time.
For a long time, your dad and I brushed off that notion, sure that you were fine.
But as time went on, we realized that the doctor's warnings hadn't been in vain—you were, in fact, lagging behind on your milestones.
You were 18 months old before you took your first step and nearly two before you could say a complete sentence.
When you did begin to talk regularly, we noticed that your speech was a little different than most kids your age.
In fact, we couldn't understand most of what you said and you had to point and use other forms of communication to tell us something.
Finally, your dad and I agreed that we needed to take you to a specialist.
I was sure you would be tested and found to be on the autism spectrum.
As it turned out, you weren't autistic nor did you fall on the spectrum at all, but there were some “problems.”
The specialist diagnosed you as being developmentally delayed, about a year and a half behind other children your age.
At first, I was sad.
I thought all of my dreams for you would never come true.
But that turned out not to be true, either.
As we've moved along in this journey with you, I've realize that you, dear Cooper, are everything I've dreamed of and more.
Your delays don't make you who you are, they just mean we have to work a little harder than everyone else to reach certain goals.
But they don't change who you are at your core.
You are kind, loving, personable, imaginative, and smart.
Yes, I said smart.
Though you often hear that you are dumb or stupid, your dad and teachers and relatives and I know differently.
Though you have to learn in a different way than everyone else, you are incredibly intelligent, maybe even more than your dad and me.
I still have high hopes for you and there's not a doubt in my mind that you will one day become a paleontologist or marine biologist, depending on which profession you love more by the time your school years are over.
You are also the best thing that has ever happened to me.
You made me grow up, learn some responsibility, and, most importantly, you've taught me how to be a better person.
You've taught me that the world is not black and white, that things are not always one way or the other, but sometimes the solution lies somewhere in the middle.
You've taught me not to measure achievement by accomplishments and failures, but by the journey in between.
So thank you, my son, for making me better.
Thank you for loving me unconditionally and without prejudice even on my worst of days.
Thank you for teaching me to slow down and appreciate the magic in everyday life with you.
Thank you, Benjamin Cooper, for being you.
I wouldn't have you any other way.