When your child is given a diagnosis, a mom's life changes. I have found through my personal life and my work as a pediatric speech-language pathologist, any identified problem impacts a mom. Everything from a late talking toddler who needs speech therapy to a child with very obvious developmental delays needing lots of support, a mom worries about their child. I thought I would share some things I have felt and observed over the years.
-After a diagnosis, you feel all sorts of feelings.
You might feel relief to finally know what is wrong. You might be upset, sad, depressed, guilty, ashamed, lonely, worried, etc. I don't know anyone who does cartwheels when their child is given a diagnosis. Let's face it, it's hard. That diagnosis comes with labels, possible limitations, potential problems, and changes to your routine. These are real and it is not easy. As a mom, you love your child. You wish you could spare them from this pain and difficulty.
-It's common to worry about your child's future.
As soon as Jaycee was born, I was immediately thinking about how she may not marry, have a child, and live independently. I worried about things that were days away, months away, and years away. The future seems so hazy and questionable when there is a diagnosis given. Concern for the future is understandable but it doesn't do much good. I wasted too much time grieving things that were years and years away. On the other hand, maybe I have already worked through some of that pain. Remember to take it one day at time because only time will reveal your child's future and abilities.
-Family members are all on their own time table with the diagnosis.
Some people can stay in denial longer than others. You can't rush people into accepting something they are not ready for. Sometimes one parent is ready to get a diagnosis while one is refusing to believe there could be anything wrong. Other times, the parents are both on the same page but a vocal grandparent is not. Provide information, allow people to ask questions, and try to be patient with people. If someone is not ready to accept information, then you aren't going to convince them. Keep the lines of communication open but don't get frustrated with people you can't help.
-People will upset you.
This is a fact! There will be many, many people who will say the wrong thing. They will trigger many emotions ranging from sadness to anger. People don't always know what to say to you. They may end up saying something insensitive, ignorant (from lack of knowledge), or negative that will hurt you. The sooner you learn to forgive and ignore, the better. I have found that I can choose to let things go and not hold hurts, but it is very hard to do, especially in a traumatic time. For all the people that will say hurtful things, there will be a few gems that go above and beyond your expectations for kindness. Hold on to these relationships and cherish these instead!!
-If you are overwhelmed, get help!
The time after a diagnosis is a time of adjustment. It's normal to be upset and even sad. But if you are really struggling with depression or anxiety, seek help from a friend, a prayer partner, or even a doctor. You have to be strong and in a good mental state as the mom, so take care of yourself.
-With everything your child's diagnosis demands, keep the parent-child relationship sacred.
There are many decisions you will have to make for your child's care. It took me years to understand that I'm Jaycee's mom first and not her nurse, teacher, or therapist. Sure, I need to help her learn skills but if all of that learning and work is getting in the way of our relationship, then it's a problem.
-It gets better!
The first 3 years of Jaycee's were the hardest and busiest for me. Having early intervention in the home was extremely awesome, but some days the home therapists was annoying. The multiple appointments each week and people coming in and out was overwhelming some days. Developmental milestones are extremely important those first few years. When your child isn't meeting them at their intended time, it is high lighted by doctors, friends, and therapists. An innocent "Is she walking yet?" from a stranger would make me want to cry when Jaycee was over 12 months. I found that when Jaycee started pre-school and was measured against her own progress, things were easy for me to manage emotionally and physically.
-Understand that love is powerful!
You will have times when you question if you are capable enough. You will wonder if you are strong enough to make it through different trials. Trust me, you will!! Remember your strong mother-child relationship....love will grow and grow from it. You will make it because love is the ultimate motivator for everything you do. The love you have for your child will get you through the hard days and help you look forward to better days.
So, if you are just getting a diagnosis for your child, stop. Take a breath. Look into your child's eyes. Refocus. Every time you feel overwhelmed, look into that sweet face, and know one day you'll have a story to tell just like me. It will be a story full of twists and turns but one that centers around love, hope, and family.