January marks a million land marks for our family. I knew it was in vain to attempt a blog post anytime before January, because who even cares about pre-January when what happens in January could fill pages and pages of notes.
First, it’s Jane’s birthday in January. This year, Jane turned 3. T-H-R-E-E.
This was a big one because at 3, Jane was allowed to enter school. School.
Three is also the year that marks an end. An end to the previous home therapies we were receiving, which meant saying goodbye to some therapists that were more like family. Like Mr Dan, the greatest physical therapist in the Western world. And an end to the precious “zero to three” window that has been presented to us since the findings of her brain damage.
“Zero to 3 is a crucial time of growth”
“No use deciding what she can and cannot do, because she’s not even 3 yet!”
Well, 3 was upon us. Jane does not walk, does not eat on her own, she hardly speaks, she does not sit on her own, crawl, and she can more than likely not see much of anything. While I don’t speak for all special needs families, the 3 land mark is hard.
I decided while it may be a potentially heart wrenching week, we would hype this thing up and enjoy the ride. I did what other parents do and looked back through old photos, and shed a tiny tear over the loss of the past 3 years. We listened to “Butterfly Kisses” and cried because our little girl was getting bigger. And also because there is an uncertainty that she’ll ever do most of the things talked about in that song.
I also decided that while Jane never prefers crowds or loud noises or much attention we would still celebrate in our own way and I would make a cake for myself. Happy Birthing Day to me 🙂 This should, by the way, be standard for every mom throwing her kid a birthday party.
Rich took a few hours off on Jane’s birthday so we were able to drop her off for her first day of school as a family. She had a first day outfit, a small back pack, and one balloon tied to the back of her stroller.
Rich returned to work through the day and night and I tried to tackle as many errands as possible with my new found freedom and only one, easy going child.
Later we encouraged family members to stop by in separate parties so as to not overwhelm Jane. Aunts and Uncle, cousins, and Grandmas and Grandpa came to see Jane and drop off their sweet gifts. Everything was going just fine. I had stayed so busy that I hardly noticed anything was different about the day.
Then my friend Katie showed up. It was clear to me that I started feeling off through the night. I thought it was the Indian food I had for dinner. I was anxious maybe? I don’t remember how I fessed up but I did. When only she and her children were left at our house I told her, “I’m just sad.”
She’s been a friend for over a decade. I didn’t have to explain myself, she knew.
She held me and I cried on her shoulder and I explained anyway, “This is not how I wanted this to happen. I baked myself a cake. On her birthday. She can’t even eat it. And it’s not even good!”
And that was the truth. The cake was super weird.
You and I both know, the tears weren’t about the cake. Although, it definitely contributed. It was about 3 years of expectation, only to find that we were exactly where medical naysayers expected us to be.
I hesitated in even writing this truth because it is not very encouraging.
“There has to be a silver lining!” I thought.
“Give them something to hope for!”
But I think some people’s reality is, even in your best attempts to make yourself a cake, sometimes it just does not turn out good.
Our daughter is here. She has a personality. She is beautiful. She is funny. She knows her Mommy and Daddy’s voices and she loves them. She also knows her sister’s (and that is not going too well). She’s in SCHOOL. We are so thankful. But 3 is hard.
And hard is okay. Because hard develops endurance. Hard develops gratitude for very minute things otherwise overlooked. Hard is the stuff of athletes, students and champions. Easy roads do not often create a good story, or leave a legacy worth talking about. Lastly, hard is seasonal. And while I don’t know how long it lasts, it doesn’t last forever.
It was very hard when Jane almost died. It was very hard when we lived in the hospital. It was very hard watching her undergo difficult procedures. It was very hard hearing devastating diagnosis. But all of those moments ended. And this one will too.
It has not been easy, but we, and she, are still here. We are still standing, and still celebrating birthdays. That much more patient, that much stronger and that much richer in love, character and gratitude.
Things that used to wreck us no longer do. Why? Because we walked through hard. People will often comment on how tough specific situations must be for us, and not knowing how we do it. Sometimes I too am shocked that we have not crumbled. The only explanation can be that we have walked through harder.
So 3, we embrace you, and we embrace your most difficult challenges. You are making us stronger, you are giving us roots, and you are giving us a story that lasts. Here’s to 3!