From the time I was in my teens, I have always been "drawn to" and worked with special needs kids in some capacity. From Down syndrome to cerebral palsy to muscular dystrophy and everything in between. I took sign language as my foreign language in college, spent a week at MDA camp the summer after my senior year with a good friend of mine. It was just part of who I was.
Then I grew up. Hit my late teens/early twenties and became very self absorbed, as most do. Life was all about me and it didn't fit any of my special friends or the kids I'd help take care of. I'd let myself be talked out of a career in special education or some other position that would put me in the lives of children with special needs.
And then 2011 came. I found myself unexpectedly pregnant and, boy, was it shocking and hard. I think I knew about halfway through my pregnancy that something wasn't "right" - but had no idea what. I sure didn't expect to the minority of a syndrome that affects 1 in 15-30,000 kids. Nor did I expect it to rip my heart open the way it did.
The emotional girl who had hardened herself because of life circumstances was quickly darting to the bathroom to cry after reading stories of children struggling with or succumbing to rare diseases and disorders. Imaging my life without my amazing son just is too much to bear - how do these mothers do it? Angelman Syndrome will not kill my son, thank God. But it definitely broke down his mother. Humbled me. Opened my eyes to the simple beauty of this life and this world and people. And opened my eyes to the fact that I was wasting my time on things I shouldn't have.
February 29 is Rare Disease day. While Angelman Syndrome isn't a disease, it is a syndrome, it is rare. I will be wearing shirts and talking about awareness of rare diseases and syndromes. Because the autisms of the world are horrible, but there are so many heavy crosses children bear every day that don't get the airtime that some diseases/syndromes get. Children earning their wings every day. Energy that needs to be spend stopping the mindless suffering.
I never thought I'd feel so much so strongly again. Thank you Will, for opening my heart, my eyes and forcing Mommy to stop and smell the roses. I'm forever in your debt.
On a happy note, my little guy FINALLY clapped his hands himself at dinner last night. Joining at midline is not easy, which is hard to imagine for able bodied individuals. I was so excited I startled him causing him to stop but he kept right on going. I don't know if he'll ever do it again, like most things, but I was so happy I cried!
Enjoy your children, hug them, kiss them, watch them sleep. It is worth it.