I confess..
Happy 59th Birthday Letter

Being a Special Needs Mom

Blog post  www.specialneedsmom.com  Dec.2, 2009

There is a lot about my life that separates me from other moms. Enough that often I feel as different as my special needs child. My husband and I have two children with a rare genetic disease, a disease that is hard to explain-and harder still for  others to understand. It’s called mitochondrial disease and Stephanie Shapiro of Atlanta, a mom with two children severely affected, recently wrote this honest account  for  CNN Health.

I have two beautiful girls, who are in many ways-age appropriate, but in other ways are not. Being their mom, means I have had to learn about generalized epilepsy, renal tubular acidosis, brain abnormalities and strokes, GI issues, anxiety issues, memory and learning issues, acidosis, retinopathies and blindness, even endocrine abnormalities. These are some of the symptoms of mitochondrial disease, the parts of the disease that are easiest to talk about. The every day.

I manage the everyday for my 7 and 9 year olds still, the way that newer mothers take care of their young. What time they awake in the morning, how long they have slept, the time lapse between meals and snacks, their daily energy output how much they have drank- even their bathroom habits- still. I try and determine when Zoe should use her power wheelchair, and when she should be pushed in her wheelchair stroller. I have to weigh the repercussions of letting O, now nine, stay up until 7 to watch a TV special, when I know she had PE today and she usually falls asleep around 6:30. Often I have to cancel an after school activity, a night time event- or   my husband and I must split up- as it is rare that both children can be out after 5 pm at night. I have come to dread declining the social invitations that sometimes are for these late hours at the end of the day, when the girls have run out of energy, and it just won’t work. It is awkward to explain, that we would like to come, but can’t- because whatever hour is appropriate for other kids, just doesn’t work for ours. My husband and I have a limited (non-existent) social life for the same reason.

The future is something I rarely talk about. When others ask me if the disease is progressive, it is like a blow to the stomach- that luckily does not strike too often. I have to focus on the here and now. I pray that our family will continue to thrive and do well. I am thankful that my marriage is not affected by the statistics of divorce that come with the majority of families dealing with chronic illness. Sometimes I am sad for the friends I have lost, the friendships that my lifestyle and the demands of family, I just can’t afford. There are days I am afraid, feel alone and days I am determined, and strong-it has changed who I am, how I manage, what I value, what makes me happy and what makes me cry. It has made me a better mother who does not take life for granted.