It was a pretty normal Tuesday morning. I was on my way to work, dressed in my standard navy business suit with a few snot stains around my knees and some crusty baby food over my left shoulder. The two oldest kids were in school, while our youngest was at home with our nanny. (At the time, we only had three kids.)
I walked into Starbucks, my daily stop before I got to the office. I ordered my usual latte and breakfast sandwich. The morning was running on cruise control and I felt really good about everything.
The line at Starbucks was a little longer than normal, but going to work without caffeine wasn’t an option, so there I stood in line… waiting patiently along with the other pre-caffeinated non-morning people.
In front of me were two women talking. I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. The tall blonde with the cute sundress turned to a shorter brunette version of herself. They talked about a mutual friend.
The tall one said “I feel so bad for her. She wanted just one more baby, although they already had two… and then THIS happens. She gets a baby with severe medical issues. It makes you wonder, if she now regrets having that last baby. I am not sure how I would feel if I were her. How will she ever be truly happy again?!”
(Feel free to pause here and take a few minutes to digest what the girl said!)
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Blondie looked at her brunette friend, waiting for her to agree. The silence hung in the air. The brunette looked up and nodded her head, as her brown curls bounced up and down on her shoulders. “I totally agree, I don’t know what I would of if THAT happened to me.”
There I stood… three feet away from two young women who were out of touch with their friend’s situation, my reality – life with a “medical child.” A simple comment made in passing at a coffee shop turned out to be a pivotal moment for me. Thank goodness we all needed coffee that morning.
Do people pity those of us who are on a medical journey with our kids?
Do they think our lives are less happy because of our kids?
Never once have I thought, our lives were less happy because we travel a road filled with doctor appointments, worries, hand sanitizer, precautions, medications, concerns and uncertainty. It never dawned on me, others view us as a bunch of sad saps because of our child’s health.
We are blessed to have met countless of fellow “medical parents,” families who also have children with chronic medical conditions of varying degrees of severity and rarity. One common message from each and every one of those families has always been, their lives are not any less happy because of their special child. In actuality, they have happiness BECAUSE of their child.
Is life more hectic with a medical child? The answer is: “of course.” Do medical concerns drain you emotionally, financially and eventually put a strain on every relationship in your life? You bet they do. BUT, having a child who requires extra attention makes you appreciate life and teaches you to see things in a whole new way.
We all have our own currency of happiness. What makes me happy, may not make you happy, and it may very well not make the person down the street happy. Happiness is subjective!
We count our pennies, dimes and quarters of happiness until we have whole dollars of “big chunks of pure bliss.”
Some of my friends appreciate material goods, collect them and gather enough to reach a euphoric state of elation after a successful shopping trip. Others revel in success, good old fashion elbow grease until the mission has been accomplished. They proudly display their fancy corporate title, name-drop when telling stories of their latest travels and three course business dinner meetings. But those are not my measures of happiness.
So what is my happiness currency?
Life and happiness with a medical child are no longer measured in big currency. You cannot wait to collect enough happiness coins to make a whole dollar before you smile or celebrate a mile stone.
Our children teach us that every happiness coin, every penny is a cause for celebration. While others wait to praise the Lord until they earn a promotion or can afford a new car, we celebrate each day as if it was a prayer answered – because it is!
Every ounce gained, every quarter of an inch grown is documented. Every smile, swim in the pool, bike ride or completed LEGO project are met with a “high five” and an “atta boy.”
We “medical parents” know how to party and live life.
At the risk of using corporate speak, we “dial life down to a granular level.” We do not live in a “macro” world, our lives are not viewed from the “top down.” Our vantage point is from the “bottom up.”
We enjoy the world on a “micro-level,” taking pleasure from every little tiny morsel of happiness we can scoop into our hands and hold close to our hearts. We are the most thankful, thoughtful and caring people, because we know first hand how frail life is.
When you find yourself talking to your friends about someone with a special child. Please tell the world that they were blessed to become that child’s parent.
Medical parents do not want pity, we may need a hug once in a while, but not pity. When you are ready to live life to its fullest, make friends with someone who has a special child, because our children ARE our happiness – and our happiness IS contagious… our child’s medical condition isn’t!