When You Start to Doubt Yourself as a Special Needs Parent


If I had been granted the power of seeing the future 20 years ago, I’m not sure I would have believed the life I have today was actually my own.

I wouldn’t have believed it was me standing by the hospital bed of a critically ill child. I wouldn’t have believed it was me substituting my beloved fettucine alfredo with vegetables in attempt to support my child’s gluten intolerance and associated behavioral needs. Heck, as a special needs parent, there are still moments where I don’t feel as if this could really be my life — those moments you feel like you’re floating above yourself looking down, barely recognizing what you are seeing unfold beneath you.

Is this really my life? Do I have what it takes is to live this life?

After those moments pass, we come back down to earth, realizing that indeed this is our life. I think it’s time we also realize that all of us special needs parents undoubtably have what it takes to live it.

I know some days it may not feel like it. I know there are days you wonder how many less tears you would have cried without all the stress and worry. How many fewer minutes you would have spent unable to sleep while consumed with fear for your child. But after these stormy inquiries pass, there is space to think about things in a different light. You start to remember just how different you are now as a person, and as a parent, because of the challenges life has offered you each day.

You remember you are a fighter now.

You remember you need to keep fighting for your child, and when it comes to supporting them, even if it means less sleep and bags under your eyes, you’ll take the bags any day.

You think of how although it may be exhausting, you will go to 1 million appointments and specialists any given day if it helps you to learn more about how your child thinks and learns.

You remember that no matter how many low points or heartbreaking moments you encounter in a day, you need to keep looking for the light — the moments of light that counter the challenges that can be dark. These moments of light shine so much brighter when they are contrasted with the dark.

You recall your child’s accomplishments. You remember to grab a hold of their achievements and gains in your mind, letting them rest and proliferate there because you know that focusing on their strength and resiliency will make you a more positive and effective parent.

You reflect on how parenting has stretched you as a human being. Being a special needs parent has stretched you farther than you would ever have imagined you could reach. Being taught every day by witnessing your child that there are new and fascinating ways to see and interact with the world around you. That just when we think we know it all and have a firm grip or stance, they expand our view to see more — more selflessness, more compassion, more vulnerability, more potential.

More beauty.

You realize your outlook has evolved. You will always see beyond the exterior now. Things aren’t usually as simple as they seem. You see the world and others as the intricate, complex and amazing beings they are, because that is also how you view your child.

In light of these reflections, you realize that not only do you need to keep fighting for your child (and yourself), but that you can and you want to. You realize that although this fighting journey can exhaust us at times, it really is a good fight, isn’t it?

This fight we’ve had entrusted to us is challenging, inspiring and beautiful. And as long as we continue to have the honor of shaping the amazing human being we’ve created, we know deep down that both ourselves and our child are ever so worthy of the fight.

Image via Thinkstock Images


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Other

The author holding her baby with her husband standing next to them

6 Things to Know When We Tell You Our Baby Will Have Special Needs

Our second pregnancy was not met with smiles and congratulations, though we had the same hopes as any expecting couple. Our baby, a giggling little girl, is amazing, but some people had no idea how to respond to the news that we were going to be a special needs family. This is what they needed to know. [...]
Randi and her daughter Sonya who has a rare genetic disorder, CDKL5

To the Special Needs Parent Who Feels They're Not Doing Enough

Dear special needs parent, Maybe you just saw a picture of a child younger than yours achieving a milestone you dream of your child reaching. Your mind fills with a multitude of thoughts; you begin to question your efforts as a parent. The doubt fogs your mind and you can no longer see clearly. You [...]
little girl with backpack on

Dear Preschool Teacher, From a Special Needs Mom

This year my daughter turns 3. She ages out of the comfort and security we’ve come to know with Early Intervention, and enters the world of school. Preschool looms on our horizon, and to me she is still my baby. Because you are a special needs preschool teacher, I know her delays are not foreign to [...]
husband and wife sitting on stairs

My Husband's Simple Advice When Our Child Got Sick

“Look up.” As simple as that. While we were in the midst of this journey, that was the advice my husband gave me. I can’t remember exactly how long we had been living the weird, distant lifestyle, nor where our son was in terms of his recovery. I just know I was having a difficult [...]