I have a thing for new beginnings. Or more so fresh perspectives. I appreciate a chance to reflect on the old, but I most enjoy leaning into new experiences. This could just be my inner-curiosity talking. This year we have had the ultimate new beginning in our family. Our sweet Ollie girl was born at the end of December and has been such a welcomed addition to our mass chaos! She has brought new light and life into our home and a whole new perspective on things.
For two years Willa has been our “little” baby. Even as she became a “toddler” by normal standards, I plopped that child on my hip like she was 15 pounds and hauled her around like a baby that is a few months old. With the addition of Ollie (weighing in at ~8 lbs, my tiniest child to date), Willa has suddenly been forced into “toddlerhood”. I know most of you second or third time parents know exactly how this transition feels! For us, the difference is our little toddler just has not toddled yet!
Because I realize it has been several months since our last post (and I blame Mark for that mostly–he’s been off his game), I thought I’d take a moment to add some depth to our last update–A Brief Update: the devil is in the details–so you can get a better sense of Willa’s development.
As parents, we are told from day one, “do not compare your children.” Despite this wisdom, that’s pretty much what all of us do. All the time. We are human after all. This comparison disorder is amplified when your child has to endure a rigorous therapy program like Willa. It’s not just comparing to siblings and children of friends, which is now a basic societal norm. But also, comparison to other children in her age range across the country to prove to some insurance company or the government that she truly needs the types of therapy she is receiving.
Willa had her one year evaluations (one year since she began therapy) at the beginning of December to track her progress against other children her age. In these evaluations, she underwent a series of tests like, rolling over, reaching, stacking blocks, etc. Things a “typical” child at her age should do. Her tests results came back pegging her at a 6 month developmental ability. This is progress…yay!
We are rejoicing in her progress and trying to stay positive. However, when you look at the statistics and see “the bottom 1% for her age,” it is nothing short of a gut check. You’re left with a deep sigh of disbelief. How is that possible? 99% of her peers are able to do more than her?! My precious, adorable, loving child? Even though we know Willa has a debilitating disorder, it’s still hard to hear. And that’s of course because, as I’ve said before, comparison is the thief of joy.
A New Vantage Point
Here is where the new perspective comes into play. I have heard from so many of you about your own personal journeys of being a mother and the struggles and challenges you face. I am learning that we ALL struggle and have our different challenges. I have spent the last 18 months missing out on my friends’ journeys, struggles, and celebrations because I have been so deeply entranced in my own problems. Figuring out what is wrong with my child, worrying about my next child having the same disorder, keeping my older “normal” child actually “normal”, experiencing the raw hardships of marriage, and adjusting to new norms. All of this has all been overwhelming to say the least. But the amazing thing about perspective is that, as it changes, it sheds light on the shadows.
As we begin to fully embrace our new normal, I have realized that God did not make this life for us to be overrun with fear. We are to live it, from a place of joy, and face all challenges head on with confidence in Him. A confidence that says you are part of a story that is much bigger than yourself. A greater good. Without Willa, my life would be very different, perhaps more mundane in some ways and less burdensome in others. With her though, I get to know new people and learn so much about the way our bodies work.
As a side bar, I am so proud to report that Willa is making huge strides in her therapies. And I do mean strides!! She started the year having a strong desire to be more upright, so she stands (with assistance) more and loves being up in an exer-saucer. It’s a pretty hilarious sight to see. She’s a big girl in a tiny toy! It brings to mind the old Tommy Boy quote, “Fat guy in a little coat.” But she doesn’t seem to mind. She’s just happy to be upright and looking at the world from a different point of view.
I have a good friend who told me recently something her mom used to tell her, and I absolutely love it: “If our troubles were hung on a line, you’d take yours and I’d take mine.” That is truth.
We all go through stuff. We all struggle. It looks different for everybody. It doesn’t make one person’s struggles more or less than another’s, just different. As I’ve contemplated this quote in the context of my sweet Willa girl, I’d choose my struggles any day, so long as it means knowing her and having her here.
My goal for this year is simply to hold tightly to this new vantage point. We are facing this life standing up. Fighting for joy (without comparison of course). And living NOW in each and every moment! All the while, knowing that there will be hard days and days when we just want to lay on our backs and get big knots in the back of our hair (a little joke for all of you who know of the terrible web that Willa’s hair frequently becomes!). We also have faith that it will get better, and we will get stronger. Thank you to everyone who loves on our family and helps raise my kids. It definitely takes a village, and I’m thankful for mine.