Sunday, December 9, 2007

Silver bells, silver linings

So I thought in the interest of "fair and balanced reporting" I would post something about some of the unexpected gifts that have come out of my experience grappling with Hannah's delays/disabilities. I would rather not have gotten these gifts as a result of going through what we went through (couldn't there have been any easier way to become enlightened?!) but nevertheless, here they are. Some of them, I've mentioned a bit in other posts as well.

One gift I've spoken about before but which definitely merits a repeat appearance is my appreciation for the miracle of development and awe at all of the mechanisms, gears, and teeny tiny steps that make up the process by which someone learns to sit up, crawl, stand and walk. I can't say enough about how intense it is to watch this process unfold before you in slow-motion and how appreciative I have become about the smallest of gains that Hannah makes. This appreciation also extends to my fascination with all babies in the pre-walking stage. When I see one crawling and pulling up, I find myself watching closely at the way their chubby little arms grab hold of something, reach and pull up the rest of their body, including their equally if not more so chubby legs, which in turn plant firmly and squarely on the floor to give them a wide base of support. I always wonder if their parents know how amazing it is that their child can do that.

Another gift is that I, and our whole extended family, are becoming much more sensitive and in tune to people's differences, in whatever form they come. I'm not sure I would have sought out Todd Parr's book, "It's OK To Be Different" with the same fervor that I did. I doubt I would critique the girls' other books the way I do, so aware of how certain language can be inadvertently exclusive. One book they have says, "Legs are for kicking and dancing and stomping," and I immediately thought, "Well, not for everyone." (On that same book thread, I am gearing up to approach the librarian at story time and ask if she would consider selecting a book that addresses physical differences.)

It took awhile to get here, but another gift is that I truly and honestly see Hannah as Hannah: her great smile, her bright mind, her fun-loving, soft-spoken and gentle nature, her love of music and stories and dancing. This might seem like, "Well, yeah, of course. You're her mom!" But this is somewhat new for me, that her limitations are always there but not in the forefront of my mind all of the time. I went through a really hard stage where her struggles were all-consuming. Of course I still saw all of those other great things, but I was so weighed down by the fact that she was falling so far behind other kids her age in terms of movement that all of her amazing qualities were more out of my reach. It helps that she is now so verbal and expressive and social. And it makes me really appreciate how, as she gets older, her physical limitations will be such a small part of who she is. But when she was younger, her ability to communicate and interact was much less, and the focus at that age is so much more on gross motor skill attainment. Watching all of her peers move through those stages and beyond was really hard for me. Now that we're past all of that and she is such a shining star on all other fronts, it's so much easier to embrace her as a whole wonderful being.

I've also realized, through this experience, the importance of getting support from others in whatever ways I can. This blog is part of that realization; that by frankly sharing what it has been like for me to be on this journey, I'm more likely to get the support and understanding I need. I've also realized (another gift, I think), that it's okay that not everyone has the ability to offer up the kind of deep empathy and understanding that I think all people who have experienced trauma and loss are looking for. And that's okay. As long as I can get what I need from those that can give it, I can better handle encounters with those that can't.

I'm sure there are other things I'm not thinking of right now, so if they come to me, I'll add them. For now, these are my silver linings.


Melissa said...

Krista, thanks so much for being so eloquent about the joy our kids with special needs can bring us! I, too, have had times when all of my boys' needs were at the forefront of my mind, and it is so important to focus on the wonder and awe of them being who they are. Beautiful post!

mom said...

SIlver lining...ahhh. Loved this. Thanks to you for reminidng me about the miracles we can sometimes forget too easily -- not only in our kids, but in ourselves. And, Yes! Ask the librarian!