Getting told that your child will be a bit different to the rest is not easy news to absorb, let alone process.
You probably feel like curling up into a ball right now. It is going to take a while, but if I could I would take your hand right now and tell you that it is going to be okay.
Somehow. It will be okay.
I know because I have been in your shoes. Crying myself to sleep on long dark nights.
Feeling like you are just surviving, not living, one day until the next.
My little boy is now five and if I could go back and tell myself five things it would be this.
1. Never give up on hope
I think the thing that got me through the early days was hope. I still hoped that everything would turn out fine eventually.
At first this was that the doctors had it wrong and he would be a ‘normal’ boy one day, then it was just that he would walk and talk.
Now it has evolved over time and all I ask of him is to remain healthy and happy.
And most days I settle for happy.
2. Make new friends, keep old ones close
I can’t stress enough how important it is to find friends going through the same thing.
When you feel a bit stronger try and brave the support groups online or even in person.
It will make you feel less isolated and realise that you not alone.
Because you are not alone in this.
Also, try as much as you can to not push away your existing friends. They won’t always get it right, but they will try in their own way.
One day you’ll want to be the old you again – an enhanced, slightly bruised version – and whom better to let your hair down with then those that know and love you best?
3. Acknowledge the bad days and then crack back on.
There will be many – too many, bad days.
The days when you don’t recognise yourself – when you’ll scream at your partner, parents and children.
The days when the smallest thing will tip you over the edge.
The days you won’t want to get out of bed to face it all again.
Never be ashamed of these days. Each time they happen, you move on a bit more and learn how to cope better the next time.
You are human after all. And we’ve all done it. Chalk them up to experience and keep looking ahead, not back.
4. Get help – lots of help
If it is offered, take it. If it is not offered, ask for it. Back when my boy was months old his consultant asked if we’d like her to arrange some respite.
I said no – slightly outraged that she thought we were not coping and also that she was suggesting – gasp – that he was sick.
Now years on, any mum of a child with additional needs will tell you this type of thing is not offered on a plate.
You need to put the wheels in motion early to have the right support in place.
You need to have some time out every now and again – either alone, with your partner or with any other children.
Stepping away is sometimes the best thing in the world you can do for your child.
5. Nothing much might change, but you will.
This is very true. One day you’ll wake up and like your life again. Warts and all.
Because it will be yours and yours alone.
I’m not saying this will happen immediately, but slowly you’ll get used to the different ebbs and flows that come with being a mum to a child with special needs.
I promise you in a few years you’ll be writing your own list of things you wish you knew.
I bet at the top will be this:
I can do this.
Because you know what – you can.