The Before and After of a Mom to Children With Special Needs
Before is a life captured in old photos that have been shoved in a box instead of displayed in frames. Before has no wrinkles, sleeps 10 hours a day and ponders ambitious career directions. It’s best to ignore Before..
And then came a 15-year college reunion, which despite my resistance of acknowledging Before, sounded liked a good idea. A girls getaway, a break from reality! So I went, and there was Before staring right at me in the face. There was no hiding from her.
Before was sleeping in an un-airconditioned dormitory with old friends, drinking cheap beer and reminiscing muddled stories from years past. Before was wearing last night’s makeup and ratty sweatpants, eating runny eggs in the dining hall and recounting the jokes from the night before. Before was running into an old boyfriend and remembering
how it used to feel being 19 and obsessed with an old love. It was Before.
Before marriage and mortgages.
Before three stressful pregnancies.
Before the in-utero diagnosis.
Before cerebral palsy.
Before multiple online support groups.
Before the calendar full of doctors appointments knowing there would be lots of questions answered by blank stares.
Before IEPs and four different therapists.
Before hours on hold with health insurance companies and doctors offices.
Before a plateaued, dangling-by-a-thread, career.
Before constant worrying, insomnia, and chronic headaches.
Before watching a friend lose her baby with the same diagnosis, knowing it could
have been mine.
It was Before.
I cried on the drive home. I missed Before. Why did I not understand how amazing Before was when I was actually living it? When broken hearts and midterm papers were my biggest problems, but easily solved? I wanted to strangle naïve and ignorant Before. I missed my exit. I nearly missed my flight.
And then I got home, and was greeted by After. After is raw and relentless. After doesn’t allow for sleeping in, has no sick days and gives no time outs. After cries in the car. After is constantly threatening to add on more complications. After has changed me so much that it is hard to remember Before. How can Before and After be the same person?
And then I realized…
After is three beautiful children, who by some miracle are here today and have chosen me to be their mother. After is achieving hard earned baby milestones that make me want to simulatenously cry hysterically while doing a cartwheel. After is a marriage
that could have been broken by pain but has held its cracks together with industrial strength super glue of love and trust. After is knowing a happy ending may not be guaranteed but making the best of a situation and living here and now. I love After. I am so lucky to have After! On some lonely nights, I long for Before. But there are so many people out there jealous of my After.