You know when you see a picture of yourself and you have to look twice to realize that the person looking back at you is actually you? You say to yourself...who is that tired, overweight, and out of shape woman staring back at me? That exact experience happened to me this weekend. My daughter Molly made her 1st communion this past Saturday. It was a beautiful day. My daughter looked like an angelic princess. My husband was handsome in his suit and wide smile. The party was a fun filled family affair. There was much joy, love and laughter. There were many, many pictures. In those pictures was a woman who slightly resembled myself in many ways. But she did not look like the woman I picture in my head. She was so out of shape. She was hard for me to recognize. But as they say, pictures don't lie.
All mothers are tired. All mothers put their children before any of their own needs. But I do believe, that mothers of children with special needs fall even further down the line of priorities. They have more worries, their children never stop needing them every moment of the day and they have even less time for anything other than their children's special needs. As a mother of child with special needs, I spend each and every day worrying about my son. I worry about his past, because I wonder if we have done enough for him from the start. I worry about his present, because I wonder if I am doing enough for him each and every day. I worry that I am not giving him all the tools he needs to grow, develop and most of all, thrive. I worry about his future. I worry so much about his future, because of the unknown, and the fear of that unknown. Worrying is tough on the body, mind and the spirit. It wears you down and makes you forget about things other than those you spend all your time worrying over.
I am tired each and every day from all that worry and all that running around after my special little boy. I worry too, about all those other important people in my life. I worry that I am not spending enough time, enough energy or giving enough love to my daughter. I worry that I am not making my typically developing daughter feel as special, as my special needs child. I worry about my husband. I worry that I have not been a good friend or listener to him because I spend so much of my waking hours focused on all my child's special needs. I worry about being a good friend. I often feel I have no energy or room in my world for those who are not experiencing all that I am going through as a mother of a child with special needs. I worry about letting my co-workers down, growing apart from my family and not being there for others who need me. All that worry wears you down. All that worry, fear and planning for your child with special needs leaves very little room for you.
Unfortunately, I am a stress eater. I wish I was one of those moms who lost their appetite when life got tough. I wish I was one of those moms who can run miles and miles and wash away life's challenges with each step. I wish I had the time and energy for gyms, cooking healthy meals and making sure my own health was a priority. Instead, when I finally help Molly with her homework, spend a few minutes catching up with my husband and laying my precious little boy down for the night, the worry about my son and his future and all those special needs takes over and I find a little comfort in curling up on the couch with a good television show and a snack. All those snacks, and just "one more" bites add up and before I knew it, the scale started tipping into numbers I had not seen since pregnancy days.
I have tried it all. Weight Watchers (which does work if you really make the commitment), getting up at 5am and walking with a neighbor (which worked for a few weeks, until high blood sugars and my son's own illnesses got in the way) and starting each day counting calories, until a long drive home turns into another trip through the drive thru. I have never been thin. I have always struggled a bit with my weight and self image. But I have been healthy. I have been happy when I have looked in the mirror. The weight gain, the sad eyes, the frumpy clothes and the lack of care for myself as come slowly over the last four years. I have cancelled my own doctor appointments multiple times because Brady's specialist appointments or procedures have come first. I have missed so much work for Brady's special needs, that I have neglected my own needs, for fear of missing more works days. I can't seem to get the energy to wake up early to work out. My head says it is good for me, but my body says a few more minutes of sleep is needed to make it through another day. I snack at night, because the salty and sweet treats dull some of the sting of another day of no "good nights" or "I love yous" or even hearing the word "mommy". I know these are all excuses that people make when they are out of shape or have neglected taking care of themselves. These are my excuses too. I know that if I can't take care of myself, then I can't take care of my family...I can't take care of my Brady.
I recently read an article written by a fellow special needs mom who wrote about the importance of special needs parents taking time to keep themselves fit, because without health, special needs moms, can't give their children the support they need to soar. I want my son to soar. So, this weekend and those pictures of an unrecognizable me, are a wake up call. A call to stop feeling sorry for myself. To stop making excuses. To realize that Brady is who he is suppose to be and that is a gift that I must embrace and encourage. I will make my health a priority. I will make myself a priority. I will once again become recognizable when I look into the mirror. I will take all that worry and use it to power me through an early morning work out. I will take those late nights on the couch and use them to research sign language and learning techniques for children missing their corpus callosum, instead of another excuse for a midnight snack. I will make myself a stronger, fitter, more confidant and healthier mom. A mom who watches what she puts in her body. A mom who will find room to fit in herself, so that her family and all their "special needs" will always have a strong leader fighting for them each step of our journey.