Monday, April 23, 2007

Back to the Beginning

The end of March punctuates my year like no other occasion. No specific day is marked and no single event, really, is remembered. But still, there is something with me on these quiet days as we move into spring that is real, if not easily definable. It is one part grief, one part contentment, one part optimism, one part shadow. And although I can't find a way to describe it any better I am happy and it seems fitting that this punctuation -- be it period or exclamation point or question mark -- comes in the spring.

In graduate school, where I studied Anthropology, we talked a lot about the concept of liminality, which is just a fancy way to describe a person who is in a state of being that is between two things. You are no longer what you were but not yet what you will be: a boy participating in a rite of passage into adulthood, a bride whose father has just given her away, a pregnant woman. When I started this blog I felt deeply liminal myself. But in contrast to other periods of liminality in my life, this one was prescribed by neither text or ritual. I was completely unmoored. In one of my first entries I wrote: "We're not quite the family we were and we haven't yet found how all of these pieces will fit together to create the family that will see us through. And as individuals: mother, father, brother, we haven't yet learned how to fill those roles in this new context."

I often think about this and wonder if I am yet the special needs mother that I need to be. Oh sure, I am the mother of a special needs child -- and just the fact that I can put those words in a sentence is evidence that I have journeyed far -- but am I through with the becoming part? Just how long is this process supposed to take and how will I know when I have arrived? Really. This is not a rhetorical question. I want to know.

I think I am getting there, I really do. Yet I still feel as though I have so very much to learn. I still have dark moments of doubt and fear and frustration. But there isn't a mother anywhere that doesn't feel the same way, I'm sure. Special needs or not. And maybe, coming to the understanding that there isn't so much difference between me and any other mother, is why I think I'm getting close to the end of my journey of becoming. My journey, it seems, has been circular and I find myself right back at the beginning where I was just a mother and my boy was just a son.

I emerged from my pregnancy with a beautiful, shining boy; I emerged a mother. At first, to be sure, I was a new mother. And let's just say that it took me awhile to learn the ropes. But learn them I did and I grew to love mothering my little guy. It was only a short time later when a whole new vocabulary of adjectives started to be applied to my son -- delayed, autistic, low-functioning, non-verbal -- and I began to believe that the rules had changed, that being a good mother now required more and different things of me. I read Catherine Maurice's "Let Me Hear Your Voice" and wondered if I had all of the stamina and the courage and the persistence that she did. I wondered if I were really up to the task.

Nearly two years has passed now and I've spent a lot of time trying to figure it all out in lieu of the text and ritual. And what I've come up with is this: the rules never did change. I only imagined that they did. I don't have to be anything more or better or different. I don't have to be Catherine Maurice. I just have to be the mother that I set out to be four years ago when all I ever imagined I'd need was love, patience, a bit of creativity and a box or two of band-aids.

I just wish it hadn't taken me quite so long to get this far back to the beginning.


  1. I can completely relate to this post. I also remember reading Catherine Maurice and thinking that I didn't think I had what it takes. I also feel like I have come full circle and am realizing more and more that I just need to be the mother that I always was. When I do and I just follow my instinct and do what feels right, I can see the difference in both of my boys. Sometimes I forget this and hit some bumps still, but I am still more of the mom that I always thought I was instead of the "special needs mom" I thought I had to try harder to be.

    And now that I am ready for my third, I can't wait to just hold her in my arms and love her. I feel much more prepared now. Ready for who ever she will be.

  2. Interesting post.

    I guess I just have taken the perspective that life is about continual growth for all of us humans. I don't think that just because we have children with special needs we have to become superheroes.

    Motherhood is a challenge for "special moms" just have different manuals to learn from...

  3. I, too, can relate to what you've said. Beautiful post. Thank you.

  4. beautiful.

    the thing is, i have a feeling you've been an amazing mom the whole time. ever since i discovered your blog, you've describe such love, patience and creativity in the mothering of both your boys.

  5. Anonymous10:34 AM

    Great post! I've come to realize that the becoming part is ever on-going. The old saying that life is a journey, not a destination is so true. Looking back, I have been able to see different points in my journey when I have been closer to the end of the "becoming part" that you refer to, only to realize later on that it was just a marked point in the continual "becoming" process. You do such nice job of articulating this.

  6. This is one of the most beautifully written posts I've ever read. Thank you for sharing these thoughts.