Bringing Mom Shame into the Light
Let me rip off the emotional bandaid here: today my two-year-old daughter was fitted for her wheelchair and it was really hard for me. This is an assistive device which, when used appropriately will enrich and improve her life all-around. She’ll be more involved in what’s happening in every room she’s in, she’ll be getting the proper trunk support without the help of an adult, and she will be more stimulated by her surroundings and able to learn to play (yes, I said learn to play).
Rosie’s therapy goals and our hopes for her mobility will remain business as usual. She will continue to be pushed and challenged to sit independently, push up to all fours, stand on her own, and ultimately move her own body. The device we brought home is just as much stroller as wheelchair and that truly gives me some peace-of-mind. But I can’t deny that it’s wheelchair. It’s on all the paperwork I signed at our appointment today. And it’s really hard to admit to myself.
If I were to allow the shameful voices in my head (or as Brene Brown calls them, shame gremlins) to speak for me right now, they would tell you that I’m a horrible mother who is giving up on her child ever being able to walk. They would tell you that if I were enough for Rosie, I’d be able to carry her from room to room and assist her with my own hands until she is able to do these things for herself. They would tell you that I’m crazy for choosing to adopt another child who is not yet walking when Rosie has so far to come in terms of her own mobility.
I say these hard, vulnerable things because I want them in the light. These things aren’t true.These thoughts are lurking, wanting to breed shame and sadness within me, but I’m bringing them to the light. It’s not enough for me to have these thoughts and then immediately say to myself, “But that’s not true!” How often do I live in light of the untrue? How often do I walk in unworthiness? How often do I live as though I’m not a redeemed daughter of a King who loves me and will never leave me? I guess I’m convinced that bringing shame into the light will help me be more resilient to it. I think Brene also says that shame cant survive being talked about. Shame thrives in darkness. Well this is me suffocating it with light.
I also know that this is a trigger for me, given that my own father was wheelchair-bound for my whole life. I almost cant utter the word without choking up and I know that has a lot to do with my experiences with disability related to him, not Rosie. But of course, it’s all wrapped up. I know that I need to give myself extra grace and space to feel everything right now.
When I left the appointment today with Rosie and her new chair, I got a call from a friend who I knew would get it. I knew she’d say something along the lines of, “Been there, felt that,” and she did. It was truly life-giving.
Let me address the parents who are relating to me right now: I know myself and this one friend aren’t the only ones with these feelings. If you, exceptional parent of your exceptional child, have ever felt similarly, don’t keep it in. You’re not alone. It’s okay to be not okay. The truth is, no one hopes for a wheelchair for their child. No one celebrates these things. Sure, I’m thankful for the opportunity and gains it will afford her, but damnit, I wish she could walk now. Both of these things can be true at the exact same time and you have to feel them both as they come. Gratefulness and the twinge of sadness. I’d be the worst kind of liar if I didn’t say that to other moms of kids with special needs, because I need you to know that these feelings are not only natural, but necessary. I won’t hold so tightly to my gift of positivity (just ask every personality test I’ve ever taken) that I sacrifice the authentic story given to me by God. It’s important that you know the whole truth, fellow exceptional parent of your exceptional child. To be sure, moms of all kids shame themselves, but all moms don’t experience moments like I just described, and it is a particularly debilitating experience. Bring it into light and let the light do it’s work.