When becoming a mother, everyone tells you to not let your child become your identity. That advice is a luxury for mothers who have children born with complications that lead to lifelong challenges for their child.
My pregnancy was fairly normal, but I went to the hospital in labor weeks early and quickly had to be taken for emergency surgery. In that moment, everything in my life changed. Things are expected to change when you become a parent, but instead of the excitement of bringing a new bundle of joy home from the hospital, I was faced with the realization that my dream of being a parent might be shattered.
I almost lost my son.
His father and I spent the next year in and out of a variety of appointments with doctors, specialists, therapists, and testing to learn our son’s diagnosis of cerebral palsy. I watched the plans I had for my family and myself dissolve into thin air.
Having a child who relies on me 24/7, I have had to let all things “pre-motherhood” go. I always told myself I needed to work…I never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom…I don’t know how those parents can do it…but here I am. There is little to no time outside of the care for my son. It is no secret that your identity is directly affected by those with whom you spend the most time. This doesn’t only apply to the adults you’re around however; being with my child constantly, it only makes sense how much he has affected who I am.
Any job I have ever had, I have given my all. In my role of mother — specifically mom to a child with special needs — has been no different. I have spent a great deal of time researching and learning all I can about his diagnosis and what the very uncertain future could look like. I have spent what little free time I have being an advocate for those who don’t have a voice. I have worked to help create a more inclusive environment. I have written and illustrated a children’s book based on my son’s life and imagination with cerebral palsy to show that children with disabilities can be main characters in stories.
I have seen a need and felt a calling that has led me into the world of social work. Wanting to take the experiences I have had in the last few years to help others through tough situations. It is my mission to make those going through what we went through not feel so alone. As I work to make this dream a reality, I can’t help but think this wouldn’t be happening without our family who went through the hard time alongside us.
I don’t know many moms who would say they are the same person they were before kids. Being a mom or caregiver truly changes you. It forces you through experiences. And who are we, if not what our experiences have made us? I can also say with complete certainty that my child has changed me for the better. I joke that I was borderline cynical before he came along. He has without a doubt softened my heart. I cannot be ashamed of the mom, woman, and person he has helped me become.
How is this not letting your child become your identity? If that is not what this is, it is my child directly affecting my identity. If some people think it is a mistake to let your child become your identity, it is a mistake I am willing to make.