In my two years as a mom to a child with cystic fibrosis, I have me many other parents of children with special health care needs. Each child’s need has been different, from cerebral palsy to epilepsy and spina bifida to Down syndrome. One thing seems to remain the same between these parents, their faith. While each one has been given the challenge of raising a child with a disability, each one also has had the strength and the faith to endure, and to create a safe and happy life for their child.
So what came first, the child or the faith? I’d imagine it’s different for each parent. In some cases, the faith had always been there. This hidden under the skin knowledge that everything happens for a reason and that all will work out for the best. It’s a peace of mind that comes from within and cannot be erased. When the child is diagnosed, there may be a period of grief, but it is quickly washed away by the strong belief that all will be okay. Their marriage stays strong and intact and their children benefit in numerous ways from this “all is possible with God” attitude.
This is pretty much how it happened with me. I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason and that God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle. The trick is finding a way to handle it. Maggie’s diagnosis devastated me, but I was able to gather my thoughts and move forward with her care pretty quickly. I’m not bragging, believe me. I cried and screamed ‘why me’ just as loud as the next guy. But, basically, I knew what I had to do and accepted it as best as I could. I still have my bad days where I doubt God’s plan or even the existence of God, but overall I keep the faith that there is a bigger picture and a method to the madness.
For other parents, the faith comes after the diagnosis of their child. The day-to-day care of a child with special needs is difficult. The worries, the stresses, the medications and the doctor appointments are overwhelming and can push a person to their breaking point. Often times, the breaking point is much needed, however, in order to move forward with faith. When you hit that wall and you wonder ‘why me’, ‘why my child’, ‘what is the point of all of this’, you eventually have to hand that pain over to a higher power. You have to let go, or you won’t be able to function. So you dig deep and you find faith.
I imagine it to have been this way for my husband. He fought the diagnosis of our daughter with all he had. He let the pain build up inside and it ate him alive. But after a while, he had to let it go in order to save his sanity and our marriage and to bond with his daughter. Now he talks a lot about a faith he was lacking in the past.
So how do you find faith when you feel that all is lost? How do you remain happy and strong when faced with the most difficult challenge of your life? It isn’t easy and the answers are different for everyone. I find inspiration in parents who have suffered far greater than I have. If they can pull through, I know that I have to. At least for the benefit of my child, if not for myself.