I never thought I would become a parent of a child with a disability. When people asked, “Are you hoping for a boy or a girl?” Like many expecting parents, I responded with the cliché, “I don’t care, for as long as my baby is healthy.” Healthy, for me, also meant “typical.”

Jennifer Enderlin Blougouras in her essay, “Notes From the Deep End,” says that becoming a parent of a child with a disability feels like being pushed into the deep end of a pool, and you don’t know how to swim. And it’s true. So you kick frantically, gasp for air, and fling your arms hoping to find something — or someone — to hold on to. Suddenly, because your survival depends on it, you figure out how to float.

Parenthood, to me, was like a giant swimming pool. I saw other people in the pool and they looked okay. And, tentatively, I put my foot in the water. Suddenly, someone grabbed me from behind and threw me in the deep end of the pool. In the deep end! How unfair!

Jennifer Enderlin Blougouras

I never thought I would receive my baby with tears rather than joy. Dealing with my child’s diagnosis was difficult. I was heartbroken for my child, for me, for my family.

I never thought I would become an expert on medical terminology, with OT, PT, ASV, biliary atresia, or hypotonia becoming my second language.

I never thought my child would have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) at school. For many parents of children who receive special education, getting the appropriate services for their children at school becomes one of the greatest battles they fight.

I never thought I would lose friends because of my child’s disability.

I didn’t know grief was part of learning to deal with a diagnosis, but after the grief comes acceptance and joy and an abundant life.

I never thought I would become a parent of a child with a disability. But I did. And it can be hard, and it can be exhausting, and it can be lonely… and it can be surprising. And it can be beautiful. Because this is parenting. The diagnosis just becomes part of the equation.

I never thought I had the strength to stand up to professionals to advocate for my child.

I never thought I would indeed become and expert, and that I would be the one educating people about my child’s disability, and their great potential.

I never thought that witnessing my child reaching a milestone, would mean the witnessing of what professionals said my child could “never do.” And those moments have you jumping, and cheering, and laughing because you are so proud of your child.

I never thought I would meet the most giving, compassionate, courageous people in other parents of kids with disabilities.

I never thought that my children with disabilities would inspire me, that they would give me a purpose and fuel me with passion.

I never thought my heart would expand so greatly and love so fiercely.

I never thought that my child with a disability would be the one to teach me about priorities, about what really matters, and about what makes us human, what makes our hearts beat.

I never thought I would become a parent to a child with a disability. But I am. It’s changed me. And I am thankful.

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