In The Waiting Room
I spend a lot of my time in hospital waiting rooms. Our daughter was born with a number of congenital birth defects, which means we are usually in the hospital anywhere from 1 to 3 times a week. When you are the mother to a special needs child you very quickly learn to put their life ahead of yours. This is normal for any parent – but especially true of a special needs parent. You spend a great deal of your life ‘handling’ their issues. This includes spending hours on the phone dealing with health and government support agencies, traveling to and from appointments, administering care and medication – on top of the regular parenting duties such as feeding, bathing, changing, clothing and napping.
Somewhere in amongst all that, you lose a little piece of yourself. You’re not exactly sure when it happens – it is quiet and unassuming. But one day, you wake up and you aren’t the same person you were yesterday.
This became particularly obvious to me recently when I was watching the other mothers in the waiting room. I saw reflected in them my own exhaustion, fear, guilt, uncertainty and sadness. I watched mothers bounce and calm crying infants as tears silently rolled down their cheeks. I watched an older father gently wipe the saliva from his non-responsive teenager’s chin. Here exists a private club, away from the clamor of everyday life – where under hooded and protected eyes we acknowledge one another with a tired and understanding nod. Where we tentatively ask “What is your child here for?” Where we empathize with one another and bond over shared difficulties and small triumphs. Where milestones such as first steps and first words can be a really big deal. Whether we admit it out loud or not, parenting a special needs child is hard. It demands taxing amounts of your time, patience and money. It wreaks havoc with your emotions. You love these children fiercely and advocate for them like no-one else could. But you also mourn the losses – the things they will never do, the discrimination they will face.
When I look at the other mothers in the waiting room, I see my strength reflected. Determination. Passion. Pride.
And to those nameless mothers, I want you to know that I see you. When you struggle to lift your grown child, I see you. When you gently wipe the saliva from their face, I see you. When you deliver nutrition to your child through a G Tube, I see you. When you push their wheelchair, I see you. When you sigh and stare off into space, I see you. When you fight back the tears, I see you. Together, we face daily challenges and together we climb mountains for our children.
And in the end, it is worth all of it. We are loved unconditionally. Keep going, Mama. I see you.
Alicia Antonio is the resident
wino blogger over at Bottle Poppin Mama. She’s originally from Australia and in a former life hosted intoxicated adults at parties in Hollywood and Las Vegas. She is now a Stay at Home Mommy to one special needs human girl and 2 fur babies – she says it’s much the same thing. Her greatest achievement is being a Vampire on True Blood and she loves the 80’s, Radiohead, and Wine. Obviously. Laugh at her misadventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.