Excerpt from Welcome to the Club
by Jess at Diary of a Mom
I am so sorry for your pain.
Don’t worry. No one else sees it, I promise. To the rest of the world, you’re fine. But when you’ve been there, you can’t miss it.
I see it in your eyes. That awful, combustible mixture of heart-wrenching pain and abject fear. I remember that fear.
I see it in the weight of that invisible cloak that you wear. I remember the coarseness of its fabric on my skin. Like raw wool in the middle of the desert. You see, it was mine for a time.
I never would have wanted to pass it on to you. I remember so well suffocating under the weight of it, struggling for breath, fighting to throw it off while wrapping myself in its awful warmth, clutching its worn edges for dear life.
I know that it feels like it’s permanent, fixed. But one day down the line you will wake up and find that you’ve left it next to the bed. Eventually, you’ll hang it in the closet. You’ll visit it now and then. You’ll try it on for size. You’ll run your fingers over the fabric and remember when you lived in it, when it was constant, when you couldn’t take it off and leave it behind. But soon days will go by before you wear it again, then weeks, then months.
I know you are staring up what looks to be an impossibly steep learning curve. I know it looks like an immovable mountain. It’s not.
I know you don’t believe me, but step by step you will climb until suddenly, without warning, you will look down. You will see how far you’ve come. You’ll breathe. I promise. You might even be able to take in the view.
You will doubt yourself. You won’t trust your instincts. You will be afraid that you don’t have the capacity to be what your child will need you to be. Worse, you’ll think that you don’t even know what he needs you to be. You do. I promise. You will.
You are so much stronger than you think you are. Trust me. I know you. I am you.
You will find people in your life who get it and some that don’t. You’ll find a closeness with people you never thought you had anything in common with. You’ll find comfort and relief with friends who speak your new language. You’ll find your village.
You’ll change. One day you’ll notice a shift. You’ll realize that certain words have dropped out of your lexicon. The ones you hadn’t ever thought could be hurtful. “Dude, that’s retarded.” Never again. You won’t laugh at vulnerability. You’ll see the world through a lens of sensitivity. The people around you will notice. You’ll change them too.
You will read more than you can process. You’ll buy books that you can’t handle reading. You’ll feel guilty that they’re sitting by the side of the bed unopened. Take small bites. The information isn’t going anywhere. Let your heart heal. It will. Breathe. You can.
You will blame yourself. You’ll think you missed signs you should have seen. That you could have prevented it. You’ll be convinced that you should have known. That you should have somehow gotten help earlier. It’s not your fault. You couldn’t have known. Don’t let yourself live there for long.
You will question your faith. Or find it. Probably both.
You will never, ever take progress for granted. Every milestone met, no matter what the timing, will be cause for celebration. Every baby step will be a quantum leap. You will find the people who understand that. You will revel in their support and love and shared excitement.
You will encounter people who care for your child in ways that restore your faith in humanity. You will cherish the teachers and therapists and caregivers who see past your child’s challenges and who truly understand her strengths. They will feel like family.
You will examine and re-examine every one of your own insecurities. You will recognize some of your child’s challenges as your own. You will get to know yourself as you get to know your child. You will look to the tools you have used to mitigate your own challenges. You will share them. You will both be better for it.
You will come to understand that there are gifts in all of this. Tolerance, compassion, understanding. Precious, life-altering gifts.
You will worry about your other children. You will feel like you’re not giving them enough time. You will find the time. You will discover that the time that means something to them is not big. It’s fifteen minutes before bed. You will close the door. You will sit on the floor. You’ll play Barbies with your daughter or Legos with your son. You’ll talk. You’ll listen. You’ll listen some more. You’ll start to believe they’ll be okay. And they will. You will be a better parent for all of it.
You will speak hesitantly at first, but you’ll find your voice. You will come to see that no one knows your child better than you do. You will respectfully listen to the experts in each field. You will value their experience and their knowledge. But you will ultimately remember that while they are the experts in science, you are the expert in your child.
You will think you can’t handle it. You will be wrong.
This is not an easy road, but its rewards are tremendous. It’s joys are the very sweetest of life’s nectar. You will drink them in and taste and smell and feel every last drop of them.
You will be okay.
You will help your sweet child be far better than okay. You will show him boundless love. He will know that he is accepted and cherished and celebrated for every last morsel of who he is. He will know that his Mama’s there at every turn. He will believe in himself as you believe in him. He will astound you. Over and over and over again. He will teach you far more than you teach him. He will fly.
You will be okay. I promise.
And I will be here for you. Every step of the way.