Today is our 12th wedding anniversary. I have heard the saying that when you are a parent the days are long and the years are short. The same could be said for marriage. I truly can’t believe that it has been 12 years since two naive 24 year olds declared to love one another for better or worse until death. Wow. It is a bigger promise than most can comprehend when they make it.
On your wedding day, you rarely know what the future holds. On that day, 12 years ago, we were so young, though it didn’t seem like it at the time. If I had known what our future would look like would I still marry the same person. Yes. I would do it all over again. With that said, I must admit, I didn’t expect to be the parent of a special needs child. I certainly wouldn’t have asked for it. But I wouldn’t trade Owen for the world.
Few things are more frightening than the day you get a diagnosis for your child that says their life is going to be different from the typical life. Some people learn about it when they are expecting, and some, like us, only learn about it months after they take home their child, a child they had every reason to believe was perfectly “healthy”.
The day we got Owen’s diagnosis was scary and unexpected. We were sent home with paperwork explaining what 18q- was and what we could expect. Though the information was pretty confusing because as far as genetic disorders go, Owen’s is pretty variable in outcomes. I felt afraid, and disoriented like a rug had been yanked out from under me. We didn’t have any prenatal testing, and I am glad we didn’t because it wouldn’t have changed anything. We would have had Owen regardless, but it would have ruined what was a very exciting time for us, expecting our first child.
I would like to let you in on a little secret. One thing, no matter how detailed and informative any pamphlet is that is given to parents receiving a diagnosis of special needs for their child, it can never tell them the sheer joy that child will bring them. The pride they will experience when their child accomplishes any task that comes so much more easily to his typical peers is something I can’t fully describe. That moment when for the first time their child signs, “I love you” is priceless. I can only imagine the feeling when he actually speaks those words!
I have tried to express these things to my friends and family. Many have been offended by the idea that a parent of a child with special needs might be more proud of their child. I can understand that would be hurtful but I also don’t think it is easy to comprehend until you spend hundreds of hours in therapy to get your child to walk or talk or hold a pencil. I have some friends who have typical children as well as special needs children and a few have confessed that yes, in fact, they are more proud when the special kiddos reach milestones.
So, while our marriage and parenting don’t look quite how I expected all those years ago, I would do it all over again, in a heartbeat. On your wedding day you think of all those good times, buying your first house, having your first child, promotions, romantic weekends, you don’t focus on the tough times. I think that marriages are truly forged in the tough times, those moments that stretch you each as individuals and draw you closer together. In these last 4 years, watching my husband grow as a father and a man, I have never loved him more. Happy Anniversary, and here’s to many more!