Monday, January 7, 2013

What No Pictures?

What we can't post pics Blogger?Hmmm, maybe a story.

Many years ago when I first started working with mentally challenged individuals one of the things I talked to the parents about was to think about their children’s future and consider a transition into placement. Since I hadn’t ever been personally involved with this issue, I never thought about the emotions that surround this move. I had been on the other side where a parent had left a helpless adult child and saw the disparities in the adjustment time with many individuals. It is hard when we as parents devote our lives to raising a child, and have to face these facts.

Our lives do not last forever, as much as we want them to. As a parent we want our children to have the best we can offer during both of our lives. An equally despairing feature is losing a child to an untimely death, a plan none would ever plan for. This is similar to what a parent feels to have to find a suitable home for their child, losing touch with someone our lives have rotated around for many years.

When I first started building my family many would ask me if I wanted a boy or girl. It didn’t matter to me a whole lot; I never gave it much thought. I wanted a healthy child I would say, and that I felt was all I could really ask for. With my first child, a daughter, that was what I was blessed with. I bragged about my new baby girl, a nice little ten pound package. Finally someone pointed out to me a baby that size wasn’t little, but she still was to me. We showered her with all the love and devotion a parent could offer. The thought of any other lifestyle seemed oblivious to us.

With my second child four years later we were asked if we wanted tests done to insure a healthy baby and we declined. One thought was toward how one could halt a new life. Another thought was it could never happen to us, we were so scientific with staying healthy nothing could ever happen to this new child. We had watched that first baby grow above and beyond normal standards.

One night in the fifth month of my wife’s pregnancy I woke up feeling wet and uncomfortable. I got up and to my horror we were laying in a large pool of blood and huge blood clots. I woke her up and had her go and get cleaned up so we could go to the hospital, calling her mother to come over and babysit. I went through the large clots feeling for a baby, almost expecting to find our child. I was glad when I didn’t, but kept this to myself. It was already alarming with what was already going on.

When we got to the hospital we found out the placenta had torn loose from the abdominal wall. It had not terminated the pregnancy, but would require bed rest for the duration. This was the first time I worried about what kind of child I might have. I felt we were educated individuals with good careers who could face any challenge. Then I remembered talking with a few parents with special needs children, who had let the stress disrupt their relationship. While this seemed a bit selfish to me, my reaction was what they felt this child was supposed to feel and understand. Even with normally developed children, too many people give up on a beautiful life together, unable to see how they could solve a problem they feel can’t be repaired.

When the time came for the birth I was too excited to even worry about the child’s health. It was a magic moment many are blessed to be part of. I had driven the route to the hospital many times, wanting to know how long it was going to take me at different times of the day. The hours to wait were similar to my first time and I made sure comfort was offered the best I could. As that magic moment neared I was more concerned with the fact we had chosen a girl’s name, but not one for a boy. I kept shouting it past my wife until I could see I wasn’t scoring any points. Later one of the most beautiful little girls was born, complete with ten toes and fingers. She was the charm in my life and I quickly forgot about all the stress we had went through to approach this moment. I had another beautiful daughter, and was a very proud parent.

All of us have approached this part of our life becoming a parent. As a caretaker and teacher of mentally challenged children and adults, I often was given a variety of family problems to negotiate with.  It hasn’t been until this last decade of seeing so many failing families that I began questioning if divorce was just giving up or an easy way out of a situation one had tired of. Many states have even developed a buffer period to make sure both parties really wanted to go through with the proceedings. I know problems would arise that are hard to solve. I feel if love was really there we should try our hardest to use it and make our relationship stronger not weaker. There really isn’t a problem that we can’t resolve and solve if we use all of our means available. This doesn’t seem to work with many marriages. The problem is did we think of our children when we made these decisions, or just ourselves?

When other problems arise, how do we cope with it? Is it always going to be our best directive to maintain our role as a parent or can we allow our children to become adults on their own? After devoting our lives to our children’s welfare when do we stop? This is hard decision for any parent, but even harder for one with a special needs child.  After giving it all you can do for them it has to be hard to choose another group to do the same. For many it has been hard to let go of that relationship where you have always been in charge. I know the feeling when still wanting to be a big part of my adult children’s life. I can still hear my oldest telling me someone was only treating her as a child, but in my heart she always will be.

So now I look around me and think back when I first told parents they needed to look at their child’s future. I laugh at how I sometimes bristled when I was first met with negativity. I felt as if I was doing as I should, as perhaps the parents I was addressing were feeling the same. How could a person who had only experienced a part of their lives be able to tell them how it should be? For those who listened and made the decisions I applaud them. Now at this point of my life I hope I don’t step on too many feelings. Working with a number of sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, I see the love that is still there. They are still within a family, an extended family, one with many unrelated participants helping to maintain their child’s needs and aspirations. Care is taken to ensure the best for these individuals and they live a quality life as their parents would always want. This makes me very happy to enrich and enjoy the lives of others.


  1. Steve, this is heartfelt and beautifully written. I'm not a parent, so I can't pretend to know the anguish parents must feel when faced with such a decision. But I'm sure it means a great deal to them to know that the person to whom they are entrusting their loved one truly cares, as you seem to do.

  2. Sometimes not having our photos to lean on -- a lovely narrative develops.

    You have a wonderful way with words, my friend.

  3. Ah, parenting is a tough job in any circumstance, but some face more challenges (and opportunities) than others. Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. You've covered a very tough issue. You've looked at the reality of a very tough situation.
    One thing we must always remember is that the handicapped child is always loved in a normal situation. Yes sometimes stress drives people apart. Sadly this can happen because of the death of a child.
    Sometimes we have to look at the very heavy issues in life.
    thoughtful post.

  5. I had to switch browsers to get my pictures to upload on blogger. It's a pain.

    It's a tough line of work, but can be so rewarding during the times that you see you do make a difference.

  6. It's a tough decision to make, to know when it is best to move a special needs child into 'placement'. My cousin was never really diagnosed since his parents could not, would not accept that there was anything different about their son and so never received any kind of therapy. he is 62 now and lived with his parents until they died, his mother passing away only a year or so ago. she took all responsibility, made all the decisions, paid all the bills, basically treated him like a child until the day she died. We think he has Asperger's and he is fairly functional, has a job and seems to be doing all right on his own as long as everything stays the same. since he lives very far from here there is not much we can do but he keeps in close contact with my sister. I can't help but think that his transition would have been so much easier if he had not lived with his mother all his life.

    and re divorce...I think some people get married because that is the next step in any long relationship but that they don't really quit looking. and also, no one is willing to work through the rough spots or the rough years. we have such a me and feel good and disposable culture that if this marriage isn't making them happy at the moment, they toss it out like a piece of furniture.

  7. What a beautiful story of love. The hardest part of being a parent is learning when and how to let go.

  8. Well said, Steve!
    btw my fix for the picture upload problem was to click on the html spot on the new post page, the browse icon them come up, then go back to compose to see the result and continue writing....

  9. Oh My Goodness... this is your best post EVER, Steve. I didn't have a handicapped child --nor have I worked with any.. BUT--I did seek divorce after having 3 wonderful sons. As happy as my life is now --with a tremendous man, the divorce did effect my sons and our relationships. It hasn't been easy. I wonder sometimes if my ex-hubby and I had have tried harder to make things work, would things have been better for my sons??? Was I selfish--thinking of ME? YES--I think so. But--I was miserable and had always been told not to stay together for the sake of the children... SO--did I do the right thing???? I really don't know.

    Thanks for a great post.

  10. A very long time ago I worked with challenged young people for more than ten years. Like you I had no real life experience back then and I gave out advice without understanding the real ramifications of my advice and requests. Love seems to teach us almost everything. If we listen we will learn.

    And although I like your photos I liked this post even more. You write with compassion. Thank you.

  11. A very nice post and heartfelt. Hope you get your Blogger pics working again. Maybe you have reached your free limit.

  12. Beautifully said. Your emotive writing painted a picture beyond what the camera takes. When my hub was on active duty, he had a command that enabled me to work with spouses to set up a lending library for autistic children. I didn't realize until I got into it how expensive these toys are (as there are so many learning and safety requirements). Anyway, we found a way to set up a toy library that's still in operation. Unfortunately, most of the marriages fell apart. *sighs* I've struggled with an answer for this but the complications are so layered it's beyond one who hasn't walked in those shoes.

  13. Steve, words convey so much more than photos despite the adage that a photo might be worth a thousand words. The emotions and feelings conveyed in this post could not have been done otherwise. While also not a parent myself, I have been fortunate to marry a man with daughters and now share grandchildren as well. It is hard for me to imagine the anguish that some parents have faced. Thanks for sharing the story of your own feelings regarding your 2 daughters. They and your grandchildren are fortunate to have you as their dad and grandfather. You apparently care very deeply for those you help care for as well.

  14. Here's how to do it:

    Go to New Post
    Now, INSTEAD of doing anything in Compose (Look to the left side of your posting box...See Compose and HTML??
    Click on HTML
    Now you can upload your photos And write your post...
    hit publish.
    Your photos will appear.
    Love the story!!

  15. That is what I love about our world. There is someone out there for everyone. I so admire the job you have, because I am not patient enough to do it. I instead deal with the naughty children that nobody knows what to do with. Thank you for your part, it is much appreciated.

  16. What a touching reflection of self. And you are very insightful about what the parents go through, I have struggled with letting go since my daughter was born.
    I have been enjoying the photos of nature along with the narratives that convey your enjoyment of the moment shown in the photos. They make me smile and feel relaxed as well, enjoying the beauty of the nature of Iowa from a distance, and often your humor as well.
    When I was making the decision to divorce my first husband, I went to a therapist to give one more effort to try to make it work, the therapist said, we all grow through the years, and sometimes a husband and wife don't grow in the same direction or at the same speed. All we can do is try to make some positive changes and ask them to come along with us and they may chose not to. It takes two people who are willing to work at it to maintain a marriage. I still believe I did the best thing for me, which ultimately is best for my kids, but not without affect. By the time I gave up trying,I really wasn't in love with him anymore and I was tired of being mentally and emotionally abused. Sometimes marriages end for good reason.


Keep it positive and informative,I enjoy hearing from you!