Here are some observations I have made about being in the Special Needs Mom Club:
Emotional Rollorcoasters will Happen: Finding out your child is going to be "different" while still in a postpartum hormonal state, fighting sleep deprivation and a medical appointment book with little downtime can make it difficult for a parent to keep their mental health in check. Depression, anxiety, OCD tendencies, burn out, all kinds of strange mannerisms/feelings start to emerge as you question whether you need professional help, have time to seek professional help, or if these quirks are just a figment of your imagination that can be self medicated with coffee. The truth is that there are good weeks and there are bad weeks, good days and bad days, fleeting moments and long drawn out nightmares that will all blur together as you make your way through the journey. Finding a healthy way to deal with this is key!
Embrace your Support Networks: Depending on your situation, finding and fostering a support network can be challenging. Turning to other parents can be helpful, but sometimes it is disheartening to see their children develop normally and it can be hard to sympathize with the more "superficial challenges" they are dealing with. It's not that I don't acknowledge your struggles, I know they are hard for you, it's just that sometimes I would literally give my left leg to be going through your struggles instead of mine. It's all about perspective. Support from family members can also be hit or miss depending on your cultural background, family values and dynamics. I'm fortunate to have a lot of emotional support from my family and they have tried their best to help us out how ever they can. I have also found support through our church. They have provided us with emotional support, meals, gift cards, free babysitting and even a load of firewood that helped us get through the cold winter. Finding professional organizations that you or your child can identify with is also a great idea. These can help you connect with other families going through similar struggles. Isolation is hard in the best of situations. When you are going through challenges in your life, it is even more important to open yourself up to others and find people you can relate to.
Keep your Perspective: This can be one of the most challenging things for me to do. As my life has become more and more revolved around my son, it has become difficult to give the other things in my life the attention they deserve. I have to remember that my life shouldn't revolve around Gideon. I need to spend special time with my other family members and embrace my friendships. I need to find time for myself. Life is too short to be constantly on the move, stressed out and "out of control". I also have to recognize that our situation could be far worse than what it is. My son is not terminal. He survived the pregnancy. I have to acknowledge all the blessings that have come our way. Keeping things in perspective is essential in keeping my mental health in check and bouncing back from burn out.
Being a parent to any child is challenging, whether they have special needs or not. How are you facing/dealing with your challenges?