Have you ever had a moment where you suddenly realize you have have come full circle? When you find yourself in the same place you once were, but this time it’s different.
For me, it was the day of a Doctor’s appointment. A very long-awaited appointment for my youngest son. We had waited 6 months to get in with this Doctor. In some cities and states, 6 months is a short wait for an appointment like this! But don’t get me started on that.
At the time this appointment held so much weight. I needed this doctor’s feedback. Without it, we weren’t sure where to turn. Which is why it is so ironic the memory I am about to share that was at the beginning of this “circle.”
5 years ago, I went to this very same doctor’s office, but it was for my other son. At the time I did not know this would be the first of many evaluations he would have in his life. The information I did know at the time, was that he was struggling with Sensory Processing Disorder.
He was only 4, but we needed to be sure that we were supporting him well because his struggles were already impacting his life across all settings. And as his mom, I desperately needed to know that my concerns and the ones that we were receiving from others were being heard and fielded more sufficiently than the anxious bouncing of my heart’s worries and stresses off my husband.
At the end of this evaluation, the Dr. handed me a diagnosis letter and a few referrals for therapy. But it was what she said at the end that never left me.
Yes, I had sought her opinion. Yes, I had brought my child to her for a formal medical evaluation. But I was not ready for her candid evaluation of what she informally witnessed about our family dynamic.
During this appointment, I was trying to share my concerns and answer her questions while managing a 4-year old with undiagnosed ASD and ADHD and a 2-year old with undiagnosed hearing loss. I was doing the best that I could. I mean heck- I was there, wasn’t I?!
But upon leaving she looked at me and said, “This is dysfunctional. This is not just Sensory Processing Disorder. This is not just one child. You need ABA therapy in your home.”
While I left that appointment with a formal diagnosis and a formal referral that I had sought out, I also left with resentment and anger and a feeling of condemnation.
In hindsight I think that I wanted to hear, “You are right mama. He has Sensory Processing Disorder and I will give you a referral for Occupational Therapy and everything will be ok.” That would have felt safe, having grown up the daughter of an OT. But she handed me one piece of paper that said not only Sensory Processing Disorder, but “potential ADHD and Anxiety” and another piece of paper that contained a referral for ABA therapy. The first piece of paper I held with my own anxiety because I associated those diagnoses with medication. The second piece of paper I held with fear because I had always known ABA to be the recommendation for therapy for a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
But of all the words that laid heavy on my heart, it was “dysfunctional” that pressed down hard on me the most.
I rejected her evaluation of us and began to think things like, “she has no bedside manner,” and questioned “what kind of doctor tells a mother this?” In order to maintain self I tucked those heavy words away and justified that it was just a piece of paper, a means to an end, a way to support my son. Like most mama’s, I pushed on. I pursued OT for Sensory Processing Disorder and put the rest of those papers in a “mental drawer” to be opened later, if necessary.
The irony of it all, is that I sought her out because I felt the dysfunction. Even today, the dysfunction is what I struggle with the most. I wanted validation and support. And she actually was giving it to me. She saw my struggle and basically said- “I see you mama. I see all that you carry. This is more than just ‘boys being boys.’ Your struggle is real.”
But at the time, I was offended and I missed it.
Fast forward two years to when I opened up that “mental drawer,” because IT WAS necessary. We were in a place where our hearts knew something else was going on and we were ready to know. Because not knowing was unhealthy. Not knowing was truly dysfunctional.
So we had another formal evaluation, but with a different doctor this time. ADHD and Anxiety were formally diagnosed and the recommendation for medicinal treatment was given… and accepted.
Now here we are, 4 years later. And I find myself back at that original doctor’s office. The one with “no bedside manner,” but this time for an evaluation for our other son. Which brings me back to the beginning of this story, where I found myself full circle.
This time I sat in the chair with what felt like a lifetime of experience behind me. I sat in the chair with the ability to communicate clearly and advocate well. I sat in the chair with the perspective of a mother who has received diagnosis after diagnosis, sat through testing after testing, tried medicine after medicine, school after school, surgery after surgery, therapy after therapy.
But this time I sat there knowing that she was right. Life was dysfunctional. And often still is.
I had no idea that her “calling out” of my reality those years ago would end up being one of the driving forces behind my perseverance for my children and my family.
Do not mishear me, I know that there is no such thing as normal. I know that life is hard and messy. But I also have come to a place where admitting that life for a special needs family has a different kind of stress to it is necessary. A kind of stress that can result in dysfunction that challenges our ability to thrive in society. It impacts everything. From schooling, to friendships, and finances. To attending church, having a pet, or playing a sport. There is no facet of life that special needs or disability does not touch.
So instead of avoiding those areas, I started to learn how to function there. I wanted to learn how we can thrive there. But I could not do that without acceptance of our limitations and asking for help. Both which are humbling to say the least.
I wonder how things might have gone differently if I was humble enough back then to ask , “What do you mean this is dysfunctional? And how can I help us be functional?” I didn’t realize at the time how much my heart ached for that.
But back to the present day, there I was, by God’s grace -much more confident in where I’ve been, confident in what I’ve learned, and willing to keep pursuing support and wisdom to help our family thrive. And her assessment and insight of our son’s needs was spot on. Not only was this doctor completing my sentences, but filling in the gaps.
Motherhood is such a sensitive subject. It’s such a sensitive experience. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. We all have different things to learn and we all find what works for our family. At the time during that first evaluation I had no idea what was coming. All I had was a Mama’s intuition. But it can be difficult at first to recognize AND respect your own intuition.
Where you are in your motherhood journey, what kind of lives are speaking into you, and how well you know yourself can all impact your ability to discern your intuition.
Over the years, I have come to know myself better as a mom. Experience has given me more confidence. Having a supportive community has provided the insight to help me see things more clearly.
I don’t know where you are at in your motherhood journey, but I do know that God chose you to be your child’s mother. I do know that sometimes there will be people speaking into your life with great wisdom, but also sometimes with great criticism.
I challenge you to sift through it all. Some of it will fall away very quickly- like when sifting sand at the beach. Once you lift it out of the water, it drains the tiny grains of sand away. But some of it is a little thicker and does not fall away as easily. And sometimes you may need a minute to look twice before you let it go. You may even be left with precious rocks that you will keep forever!
I understand that not everyone finds beauty in the same “shells.” We are all bent towards our own interpretation of value. And often we can find ourselves on the receiving end of something (like advice) that is unappealing. But like a clamshell that’s value is hidden inside, so unexpected and precious, it is important to note that you can find the most beautiful things in unexpected places.
In today’s world, we receive information from so many places, often more than we can digest. And there is some incredible wisdom out there too! Sometimes it comes invited and sometimes uninvited. It can come from a fellow mom, a family member or a doctor. But we moms do not have to take every piece of feedback or advice that we are given.
But remember that when you are given feedback that is a bit more seasoned with salt than you anticipated, and it stings – God does use all things for your good and HIS glory. Sometimes harsh comments and our most challenging moments can become the catalysts for strength and perseverance that we will need in the future for what life brings our way.
While I still feel that “delivery is everything” when it comes to communication, I am grateful for how the Lord used that doctor’s candid evaluation so many years ago to give me the grit I would need for today. I value the truth spoken in love. And I am grateful that in life the Lord provides mercy and growth, and the grace to allow us to experience a “full circle.”