Awhile back, I was talking to another mom who confessed that she'd always been worried about having a special needs child because she was afraid she wouldn't love them the same. I really appreciated her honesty and the positive context of our conversation. It brought this lesson into focus for me.
When Carver was born.... no, before he was born... I loved him. I loved him because he was mine, because our lives are intertwined from the beginning and connected forever. When he was born, I got to meet this little guy I already loved and it just grew from there. Now, my experience with Carver isn't the same as someone who knows during pregnancy that their unborn baby has disabilities. I can't pretend to know what that's like. But I have to imagine that you still had time to love them first. That, for most of us, we wanted to be pregnant and we wanted that baby. That is where the love all starts. So no matter what happened, what disappointments were in store, we began with love.
It's a very emotional journey to diagnose disabilities like Carver's. I felt a lot of worry at first, those typical comparisons, some jealousy of other mom's little boys, fear of the future. I had to put all that on the table to get him evaluated, to be ready to face hard things. But I loved him too much NOT to. I wanted him to have help and I needed it, too.
It's a different kind of love to care for Carver than for my girls. I feel more frustrated, more impatient and more inadequate as Carver's mom - absolutely! I don't love him LESS for those feelings. I also feel more protective, more invested, and more sure that he needs me. It creates a different kind of love. A fiercer emotion, perhaps. But I know for sure that it isn't more/less than the other sorts of mother-love I feel for my girls.
I love that quote I just put on the sidebar:
“When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments; tenderness for what he is, and respect for what he may become."
That is just beautiful to me! And it's so true for children with disabilities. I love Carver for what he is now, for how far he's come and for all that he teaches me right now. And I certainly hope for his future and what he will become. I'm so grateful for other people that love him, too - his bus drivers, his preschool teachers, therapists, his sweet little friends and mine.
I love his smile, how he dunks his head in the pool, how excited he gets about simple things, how he's starting to fill in words to songs I've sung him again and again, how he snuggles in bed with me, the way he jumps and runs, the way he hugs me and wants to be with me. I love him fiercely, always have and always will.
And you know what? Having Carver has taught me to love on a new level. Those kids on his preschool bus have such a special place in my heart. I want to know their names and their stories and I'm just cheering for them because I know that they have challenges just like Carver. When one little boy started telling me all about the bus stop sign he could see out his window, I didn't understand a single word he said but I knew what he meant. And I loved him for telling me about it. It's easy to see the innocent in children with special needs, but I think that what really happens is that loving them purifies US.