Meeting the Bean for the first time.

Meeting the Bean for the first time.

Today is the day we celebrate mothers.  Mothers come in all shapes, sizes and varieties.  They are young and old, energetic and tired, busy and relaxed, creative and analytical, serious and silly, biological and otherwise.

In my work as a Music Together teacher, and as the mother of a little girl, I meet a lot of mothers.  Some are married, some are not.  Some are co-parenting with their exes, or totally on on their own.  Some get help from their family members, many are attempting to raise their children without a built-in village to help.

Some long to be mothers, but have not been given that blessing.  Others have been given a child for a short time, only to have their little one taken from them way too soon.  Still others were not planning to become mothers, but have risen to the occasion when it presented itself.  Others have made the difficult decision to give up their children to another person to raise, giving other women the opportunity to become mothers.

Pic of Bean showing off

Look what I can do!

I have the privilege of being Mother to a special little girl.  She has Partial Trisomy 22, and so has been significantly delayed in her development.  Our Bean is 6 years old, but the size of a 3 year old, and with abilities ranging from the 18 month to 4 year levels.  She is, at the same time, the most wonderful and the most challenging part of my life.

With Bean, only a few days old in the NICU.

With Bean, only a few days old in the NICU.

When I imagined being a mother, it didn’t look like changing diapers on a 6 year old, navigating numerous therapies and medical diagnoses, and providing constant supervision because my kindergartener doesn’t understand the concept of personal safety.  It didn’t look like having a C-section and spending weeks in the NICU.  It didn’t look like moving away from my family and doing motherhood without my own mother at my beck and call.

I had no idea, when I imagined my future life as a mother, how much I would need to grow and learn in order to fill that role.  I had no clue how little sleep I’d be getting, or how hard it would be to get out of the house some days.  I was totally in the dark about the life of a Special Needs mother – it hardly occurred to me that my child might not be an A student, that I might not be able to understand what she said a lot of the time, that I would need to advocate for her in order to make sure she has all the help she needs to thrive – or even to survive in society.

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Tantrums tend to be loud and long.

Excited about a cookie Grandma made

Excited about a cookie Grandma made

Also unknown to me prior to motherhood were the depths of maternal love and protection I would experience; the fierce pride I feel in every accomplishment she achieves; the pain when she is not included, and the joy when she fits in; the desperation of numerous night-wakings and the peace of watching her sleep; the darkness of her tantrums and the brightness of her smile; the laughter that often overtakes us because she has done something cute, funny or unexpected.

She had so much fun playing peek a boo in this tree.

She had so much fun playing peek a boo in this tree.

I expected mothering of a 6 year old to include a lot more baking of cookies, dance or piano or swimming lessons, the beginnings of meaningful conversations, non-stop playdates, sleepovers, reading my favourite children’s chapter books together.  And yet, while I mourn some of that, some of the time, I also get to have the best snuggles in the world for years to come.  I get to really notice the new skills she learns because they don’t come rapid-fire.  I get to rediscover the world, slowly and thoughtfully, as my Bean starts to pay attention to more and more of her surroundings.  I get to see the kindness of the world, as both strangers and loved ones respond to Bean’s total innocence and loving heart.

We met a family while we were on vacation, and Bean wanted to sit with the grandparents.  They were totally smitten by her immediately.

We met a family while we were on vacation, and Bean wanted to sit with the grandparents. They were totally smitten by her immediately.

Most days, I think I’m doing a pretty good job.  Some days, I don’t feel like I’m anywhere close to my self-expectations.  On those days, my own mother is there to support me, even though she’s so far away.  If it’s not her actual voice over video chat, it’s the memory of her voice in my head, that tells me that I am a wonderful mother.  And coming from my own wonderful mother, that’s great encouragement.

I know that I will fail as a mother often.  I will make mistakes that hurt my Bean and then I will apologize.  I will cry, I will yell, I will slam a door or two.  I will wonder if I can do this anymore, and sob on my Sweetie’s shoulder.  But those moments will be the exception, not the rule.

Praying before a meal - quite possibly the cutest thing ever.

Praying before a meal – quite possibly the cutest thing ever.

I will also nurture new growth, comfort her after she’s been hurt, challenge her to be her best and do her best, give her a safe place to explore and experiment, and provide boundaries so she knows how the world works.  I will laugh with her, cheer her on, be silly with her, get creative with her, and get dirty with her.  These are the things a mother does.  These are the things I learned from MY mother.  Special Needs or not, all mothers have their own challenges and successes.  All mothers have their sorrows and joys.  All mothers deserve to be celebrated every day.

Mothering is the most difficult and the most rewarding thing I’ve done.  I expect that this will continue to be the case as the Bean grows.  We don’t know what life will look like for the three of us when she becomes an adult.  I don’t know what level of care she will need.  I don’t know if she will fall in love and get married.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be a Grandmother.  But no one truly knows those things.  What I DO know, is that I am blessed beyond measure; that my faith and my loved ones get me through the rough spots; that I wouldn’t trade being a mother for anything in the world.

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