On Gratitude, Despite Circumstances
Unless you adopted a child knowing that they had developmental or medical needs, it is safe to say that most of us have not chosen our current circumstances. The dreams we had for our children seemed to be shattered at the moment we were told, "it's autism" or "_____________" (fill in the label your child has been given). Our emotions can range from frustration and anger to fear and disappointment. My journey actually began when I had an early second trimester miscarriage. Not only was the pregnancy lost, but my life was seriously threatened in the process by a major blood clot in my lungs. Family and friends tried to find consolation, believing that the baby must have somehow been defective or damaged, and therefore, it was a blessing in disguise that God had ended it with a natural death in the womb.
How do you feel when people try to comfort you by saying, "it could always be worse..."?
Well, at that moment, I said a silent prayer to God that I would take any baby he gave me; perfection was not required. I prayed for health for myself and my future child, but I didn't care if it was a boy or girl and perfection didn't matter.
It took two years, but I was indeed blessed. My healthy baby boy was born just after Thanksgiving 1998. We dubbed him our "early Christmas present" and sent season's greeting cards that doubled as birth announcements. A year later, we had already lost him. We experienced that now familiar story of regression, where a beautiful baby boy who was engaged and talking just slipped away.
Over the next several years, I asked myself, "Why?" too many times to count. Superstitious people offered many reasons, none of which I believed. I would look out the window and see my neighbors with their beautiful, normal children, playing outside, while inside, I was struggling to survive each day with a child who couldn't talk, couldn't cope, couldn't sleep, yet it was obvious that he loved me. Life with a team of professionals around became all about goals and objectives and what was lacking in my child. It was all about what was missing.
I made a critical decision. It was time to see him for who he was and stop looking at what wasn't. It was time to be grateful. I didn't figure this out on my own. It took going to a small town in western Massachusetts where the Son-Rise Program is taught. The truth they taught wasn't biblical, but it was in perfect harmony with all that I knew about the love of God.
With eyes opened, I began to be thankful for every small thing in my life. The most fleeting look, a brief interaction, a nano-second where my son paid attention to what I was doing, were all reasons for celebration! Absolutely nothing had changed about my circumstances, but what had changed dramatically was my attitude, my approach, ME! And that changed person became the most powerful force in the world for my son's recovery.
I stopped looking out the window at what my neighbors were doing and made it my business to be grateful for life, for breath, for smiles, for laughter. I became a magnet for my son. He loved to be with me. I was present and in the moment, and fun.
I know that many of you who read this message are experiencing some of the worst challenges of your life. Some of you barely make it through the day and fall into bed exhausted, only to do it all again tomorrow.
Can I invite you to pause and just look at all there is to be thankful for? If your child looks your way, even if not directly, would you try saying from your heart, "thank you for looking at me"? If he can say only one word, even repetitively, can you tell him, "I love when you talk to me"? When your spouse comes home, can you tell him or her how much it means to you that you're in this together?
Life is not and will never be perfect. It doesn't look like the Pottery Barn Kids catalog. Happiness lives right next door to gratitude, and I think that without gratitude, there can be no real happiness.
So love big, give thanks, and most of all, don't ever give up hope. There is a child in there waiting for you and hoping you'll meet them where they are, take them by the hand and lead their way to health and wholeness.