Dear new parents of a child with special needs,
I saw your birth announcement. Congratulations! The way I see it, you had two deliveries yesterday. One was bringing your baby into this world. The other was publically sharing about your baby’s extra needs. Both required deep courage. You delivered graciously and with joy.
I’ve been thinking of you all night. I got up to nurse my baby at 3:40 A.M., and I can’t go back to sleep without writing you. I’ve been a parent for a total of seven years, but my experience in this new world of special needs is small. I’ve been doing this for almost eight months, and I’m still struggling to understand my own feelings about my baby’s diagnosis. But I have learned a few secrets—the kind you write each other about at four in the morning. (You’re parents of a newborn. You’re up anyway, right?)
Here’s what I want you to know:
You’re Going to Weep
When my child was born, I wept. Some of my tears came from a place of love, and some from a place of fear. And I’ve learned I don’t have to categorize those tears. Parenting my child with special needs will mirror the human experience. It will be wonderful, and it will be painful.
I’ve learned to think of my grief and my deep love for my baby as a braid woven through my chest, pulled tight. I don’t have to know where the love ends and the sorrow begins, only that they wrap around one another. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish my anxiety from my joy, my love for my child from dreams that have been lost.1