I think we can all agree that assumed motherhood and actual motherhood are two completely different things.
I had always wanted to be a mom. With lots of practice having two younger sisters and babysitting at twelve years old, I thought I knew all there was to know about being a mom. I could change a baby, I could scoop out formula to make a bottle, I could make dinner and give baths. It couldn’t be much harder than babysitting, right? The only thing that would change was that I couldn’t give them back at the end of the night. Right?
As little girls, we daydream about having children. How we would raise our little boys and how we would buy dresses and take our girls to dance classes. But no one can truly prepare you for the hard days, the worries, the days that you truly question your parenting.
I had my first daughter a week before I turned twenty-four. And while a lot of things did come natural to me because I had a lot of practice, it was still completely different than I had imagined. Breastfeeding was a nightmare. I couldn’t bear the thought of going back to work and leaving her, so I quit my job. And just when I thought I had figured out this “mom” thing, at 2.5 years old, our daughter Opal went through a huge regression.
She lost all her verbal language, and that led us down the road of autism. Right after she turned three, she was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Nothing can prepare you for that.
No one can prepare you to be a special needs mom.
My worries went from, “I wonder what she wants to be when she grows up.” to “I wonder if she will need to live with us her entire life.” My worries about her completely shifted. Those long nights of being terrified to send your child to school because you worry others will make fun of them intensifies. The worries about making friends doubles.
And while there are so many hard parts of being a special needs mom, there was something else no one prepared me for.
How deeply I could love another human being.
I can’t even describe to you the feeling when your baby is placed in your arms. The feeling that you would do absolutely anything in the world for them. The feeling of “it’s us against the world.” The feeling of knowing that there is nothing that child could do that would make you love them any less.
Becoming a special needs mom never changed that feeling. In fact, I think it intensified it.
Opal has taught me to love in ways I never would have understood without having a child with special needs. She has taught me to see the whole world in a completely different way. She has taught me what true kindness and true compassion are.
So, while nothing can truly prepare you for the hard parts of motherhood, nothing can prepare you for the best parts either.