Friday, December 20, 2013

The Christmas gifts I never knew I wanted

Three years ago my twins arrived completely unexpectedly nine weeks before their due date just three days before Christmas. I was under general anesthesia when they were born by C section and they were whisked away to the NICU to get breathing support.

When I posted that they were born the next morning, I got a lot of messages and comments about what a wonderful Christmas present I had received. The comment struck me as strange. Max and Addie were extremely wanted and so definitely they were a desired present. Having said that, all I wanted for Christmas 3 years ago was for my babies to stay put and for them to be born healthy. It's what all pregnant mommas wish for babies- hence the saying it doesn't matter if it is a boy or a girl, 'just as long as they are healthy'. We want our babies to stay in us growing and then come out all pink and perfect.

So when I gave birth to these little preemies, in a way completely not how I would have planned... well, it really did not feel like a gift. The children, yes OF COURSE. But their arrival just before Christmas, definitely not.

I can tell you now that although it was not on my Christmas list and not what I thought I wanted three years ago, my little Christmas babies are the greatest gift I have received. And their early arrival brought many blessings as well, allowing them to be in a NICU when their kidney disorder was discovered. I can look at it now and say Thank you God for my Christmas presents, my precious gifts. Thank you for when and how they came. You knew better than me what they and I needed.

Three years ago, God also blessed me with another gift I never asked for. He chose me to be a special needs mom, a mom to kids with chronic health issues and developmental delays. Three years ago my life, my role and my purpose radically changed and I am a very different- and BETTER and STRONGER- person for it. The gift of parenting complex children, children with perfect souls in imperfect bodies- has truly been a blessing and a gift to me. But I'll tell you, it was not a gift I asked for. It was not a gift I thought I wanted. And although I honestly thank God for the ways it has changed me and the opportunity, it's also not a gift I would wish on someone else. It's the most important and rewarding role I will ever have in my life, and it is a role I accepted very reluctantly.

There is this saying of sorts that God chooses special parents for special children. It's a nice wonderful idea that special needs children would be born only into the most wonderful and worthy of families. It is truly a lovely concept- if only it were true!! Don't get me wrong- I know some truly phenomenal special needs families. But sadly I also have spent far too much time in hospitals not to know that there are special wonderful fragile children born into families that cannot handle their needs. That abandon them, completely or emotionally. It's horribly sad but it a reality that special needs kids are born into all types of families. I don't think their families are distinctively special before, although I do certainly believe each of those families now has the chance to become an incredibly unique, blessed, special wonderful family because of that addition.

There are some heroic inspiring people out there who will foster or adopt a special needs child because they feel called and led to provide a better life for that/those children. I have the privilege of knowing such an amazing family. My friend Lauren adopted her son who has congenital nephrotic syndrome (Max and Addie's kidney condition), knowing he was sick, desiring to provide him a wonderful chance at a full blessed life. She has gone on to foster another boy on dialysis so that he could live outside the hospital and his life has completely turned around. Lauren is my hero. The world would truly be a better place if there were more people like Lauren. I think she is the most exceptional person I have ever met.

And I know that my calling has been completely different. I did not choose this, it was not out of my noblest intentions that I wanted to take care of these fragile little people. I was just a normal pregnant lady praying for healthy kids. Dreaming of a normal typical future for them. Confident they would be brilliant and advanced and just debating what sports they would play and which medical profession they would enter. I'm not trying to be self deprecating when I say I don't believe I was inherently special. I just mean that I was like every other person I knew getting ready to have kids.

And as I started to find out, in stages, that in fact I was going to be a totally different type of mom, with a different and special calling, I'll admit I did not exactly leap for joy!! I prayed at every step that their medical diagnoses would be wrong, for healing. (And I still pray for healing. Not because I don't embrace my role but because my children do suffer and I will never stop praying for healing for them). The day I found out about their hearing loss I wept for the loss of the 'normal' future I had dreamed up for them. Finding out about Max's brain sent us through all the phases of grief from denial to anger to great sadness. To be where we are now, truly in a state of acceptance, and even more appreciation, has been a long and challenging journey.

I used to go to BSF, a Bible Study that would offer 'principles' which were short applicable truths. One I think about all the time is "God doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called." I don't think I was chosen for Max and Addie because I was able to be an awesome parent for them, because I was special and strong and uniquely qualified for this journey. But I do believe that since blessing with me with Max and Addie, God has been molding me and empowering me to become that special mother. I have become far stronger than I ever thought I could be. I have learned more about medicine than I ever wanted to know and been able to remember things and advocate for my kids. I may have been just a normal pregnant girl but for the last three years I have been on an amazing journey to become a special mom for my special kids.

I do not miss who I used to be, and I do not long to not be a special needs mom. Granted, I may be less carefree and funny and I know I'm more neurotic and well crazy... but at the same time, I am stronger, I am more compassionate, I am more grateful and I am more confident in my purpose in life. I am a better person for this journey God has placed me on.

So this Christmas as I wrap presents for my little 3 year old unexpected Christmas miracles, I thank God that He gives us what he need and not just what we think we want. That he equips us and gives us strength for the adventures he chooses for us and that he works in our hearts when at first we aren't sure we like our Christmas present.