21 June 2011

Strength in Pain.

taken on my iPhone

Recently, I've been 'chatting' with a reader.  She is a breast cancer survivor.  She told me I'm a wonderful mom.  I suppose I try my best.  I think dealing with a serious illness, and raising a family makes her a far better mother than I.  Funny how that all works!

So, I've been thinking a lot about this idea of drawing strength from pain.  Not only pain in our own lives, but the pain that others are going through.  At first, the idea seems a bit wrong.  To find encouragement in the crap that someone else is enduring.  Talk about guilt.  Of which, I think is such a wasted emotion.  But, isn't this idea sort of human nature?

Let me give you an example.  When Betsy was in the process of trying to be diagnosed, she underwent numerous tests and procedures at St.Louis Children's Hospital.  When you sit for hours in the lobby and waiting rooms of such a place, you see things.  Things that rock you to your core.  Sick children.  Parents of sick children.  Children with multiple & severe physical and mental handicaps.  Much worse than Betsy.  Blind and deaf children.  Children with no hair, amputated limbs, burn scars.  Your heart aches for them and their families.  Then, you feel foolish.  Almost all of them are smiling or laughing.  Hugging and kissing.

No matter how happy they seem, you can't help but draw strength from the hell that is their inner pain.  You can't help but count your own blessings.  While in the hospital, I found myself saying silent prayers of thanksgiving that Betsy was healthy.  The worst of the possible diagnosis behind us, she would have a long life ahead of her.  Sure it would be fraught with challenges because of her physical and mental disabilities, but she was happy, healthy, and strong.

Likewise, I've been told that people draw strength from our own story.  I have to giggle at that thought.  For us, it's not a big deal anymore.  At least, not like it used to be.  When you're knee deep in it, it consumes you. Then, as the days goes by, it becomes normal.  Or, at least, a new normal.  I don't think I'm a hero.  I don't think what we do makes us special.  If changing my almost-7-year-old's poo diaper makes me awesome, well, then, maybe I am.  But, I think it just makes me a mom.  Any of you would do it, too.

I wonder if parents of terminally ill children feel this way, too?  If they get to a point where all of the turmoil becomes normal?  Expected?  I pray I never, ever find out.

I do know this...the answer to the question, "How do you do it?".  You just do.  Just like I imagine parents of sick children do it.  Or kids with parents that are sick.  Or families that lost everything in the Joplin tornado.  You just do.  I can't speak for them, but I know we aren't extraordinary.  We don't deserve a medal or trophy.  Sure, I still fall apart every now and then.  Doesn't everyone over something at some point?  

The human condition is a funny thing. I suspect we will never understand it.  But, I think we all sell ourselves short.  I think we all have the possibility to amaze ourselves when faced with challenges.  To rise to the occasion.  

Perspective is essential.  Sometimes I wake up and think meeting the basic needs of my brood is a challenge because all I want to do is get back in bed, or go shopping, or veg out and watch movies and eat junk, or read a book ALL day.  But, I can't.  So, you just do it.  The best you can.  That's all any of us can do.

And, now, I will try my best to clean under the couches and beds.  It's been weeks.  Ewwww!


  1. Thank you for this post. As a parent of a child with developmental disabilities, I can relate. One thing I hate to hear is, "I don't know how you do it." What are my other options? As a good parent, we do the best we can and move on. We don't have the luxury of curling up into a ball and shutting the world out. I'm not always good at it--today's a prime example. I don't let the rough days get my down and I try harder the next day. My son's had significant health issues and I've spent more than my share of time in hospitals and clinics. I always see people who have a tougher situation than ours --no matter how bad things may be for us. I say a prayer for them and one of gratitude for us. I think God uses our pain and struggles to strengthen us and help us grow. I know that having our son in our lives has made us a better family, better individuals and better Christians.

  2. Completely agree. When Benjamin was still small and toddler-y, loooong before his secondary dx of autism, I belonged to a group of online friends who had children with Down syndrome. A few of them were older and one or two were still in diapers. I felt that SURELY Ben will be out of diapers before he turns THAT old, and I felt kind of sorry for those mothers, the ones that STILL had to change their 10 year-old's poopy diapers. It seemed so far away to me.

    Well, guess what? I am now that mother. Ben turns 10 next month. And I am still wiping his booty and changing his Goodnights that are getting too small. I will probably STILL be changing his booty when he is 40. Moms do that kind of thing for their children. Bottom line. It doesn't make us heros, martyrs, or saints. God knows I have sworn some doozies, had my random moments of being pissed off at the world, but you get back up and march right along again and things are no big deal again. After all, lunches have to be made, appointments need to be kept, children need to be washed, husbands have to be coddled...(just kidding on that last one. Not really.)

  3. This is so perfectly written and it describes how I feel to the core. I don't like when people say to me that they could never do what I do, or ask how I manage. You just do, you love your chilren and do what they need you to do. Having Gracie has been such a blessing in our lives, and she has taught us so much.

  4. This is absolutely amazing! All of you parents with children with any type of disability. Betsy has been a huge inspiration in my life. There really are no words on how to explain. She may not be able to speak, but I can understand. Bets can put a smile on anybody's face. The way she is with my baby fathoms me. She knows to feed her,change her, and my personal tac is to pat her bottom when she is sad. That little girl is just more than words could say.


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