I would venture to guess that almost all parents of children who have special needs have acquired a list of the ridiculous things people say to them.
A couple of the most popular phrases familiar faces and strangers alike pass out to special needs parents sound something like:
“I just don’t know how you do it” and “I could never do what you do.”
Whether they say it aloud or not, the parents who these comments are directed at generally think something along the lines of “I don’t really have a choice.”
When you are given the gift of a child who has additional needs or diagnoses, quitting is not really an option.
Do typical parents abandon their children when the going gets rough? Hopefully not. Neither do we.
I am a mother to multiple children who have special needs.
But the difference between myself and the majority of other special needs parents is that I did, in fact, have a choice.
My children who have special needs were not born of my womb. I chose to care for them through foster care and adoption.
While I wouldn’t say I had a full idea of what I was getting into with each child (not even close), my husband and I do know that every call we receive about a child in need will be a child who as a disability or medical condition.
From the beginning of our foster and adoptive journey, we specified that we wish to be a home for children with special needs.
So while the journey is always filled with the most unexpected unknowns, these are twists and turns that we have asked to be a part of.
In many ways, the fact that I chose to be a special needs mama does not make me that much different from those who parent special needs children who were born to them.
But there are some differences that stand out.
I remember when a child with complex medical needs came to live with us and someone said, “Well I know you’ve probably thought about adopting her but you have to think of future holidays and vacations.”
I remember thinking: “Would you say that to someone who is holding their freshly born baby who has special needs?” Of course not.
The truth is, our journey of parenting is viewed and treated differently because we have chosen these children.
In the past when we have felt overwhelmed or asked for help, there have been times that we’ve been met with an attitude of “You chose this” and “Maybe you shouldn’t take on more than you can handle.”
To be absolutely transparent, sometimes I do struggle with feeling unsure about whether my husband and I have made the right choice.
It does feel intimidating to commit to care for children who have a long list of unique needs, whether I will be their mama for a short time or forever.
I see the ways it changes relationships. I see how tired and isolated I can be. I do battle fear over what I have signed up for or what I have given up in return for caring for these children.
But when it comes down to the heart of the matter, I would choose this life again and again. I would choose to love, adore, and care for these children who cannot care for themselves.
I would choose the sleepless nights and endless appointments. I would choose to hold their struggling bodies in their deepest, rawest hurts and join them in their greatest victories.
I would choose the medical mysteries we wade through and I would choose to keep advocating like a grizzly bear time and time again.
I would choose these children because these children are more than worth every ounce of what I give to them.
I would choose these children because they are not given the same choice that I am.
And you know what? I believe that the parents who didn’t get to choose to have a child with special needs would choose their child again and again too. They already do.
We as parents all wish our children didn’t have to be in pain or be left out or work so hard for everyday tasks. We do become exhausted.
Almost every day does hold grief, heartache, and ridiculous amounts of hard layered in among the beauty.
But when given the choice, the answer is easy. We choose these precious souls that have been entrusted to us no matter their needs or how the arrived in our hearts and homes.
May these children know and believe the words “I choose you” every day of their lives.