By Uche Amunike
One of the most painful things that can happen to any parent is having to cope with the burden of managing a child with special needs. It is an ordeal better not experienced. I remember years ago when my bosom friend gave birth to twin girls. They were so pretty and grew up to be so bright and smart like I have never seen.
Four years after her twin girls came, she gave birth, this time to twin boys. They were healthy, very handsome and super intelligent. We all thought she was done with childbirth. As a matter of fact, her their husband insisted that four children were more than enough for him, considering the present day Nigeria. Yet my friend was adamant about having a fifth child.
Her husband refused to support the idea and our circle of friends told her to let it go and take care of the four kids she already had. So on this particular day, I paid her a visit and we got talking as always. She put up the topic of wanting to have another child. I advised her to stop since her husband didn’t want to have more kids and she told me something I will never forget.
She said, Uche, I just want to experience what it means to carry one baby. I have carried two sets of twins. I want to carry one baby and see what it feels like. Secondly the twins will all be gone some day. I don’t want to be by myself. The girls will get admitted into the university and so will the boys. When they all leave for the university, I will have the last one with me for companionship sake. I just looked at her and I felt for her. She was so innocent in her reasoning, so I wished her luck. Oh well, she eventually got pregnant about two years after that and it was a beautiful baby boy with dark curly hair. She was so happy and I was happy for her, seeing that her dream had come true.
Unfortunately the baby died a few days after. One would think she would stop there. She went ahead and had another baby and it was another boy. This time, he lived. We were ecstatic and my friend was the happiest person in the world. Her dear husband was also super elated. He also fell in love with the boy because he was his miniature version.
Life was good. Unfortunately, months after, certain things about the boy made them go back to the hospital and series of tests were carried out, only for them to find out that he had Cerebral Palsy. This means, injury to the brain. To cut the long story short, it hasn’t been easy but with determination, lots of love and lots of money they were able to manage the young boy.
As a matter of fact, he was always a step ahead of other children who had that sort of medical condition. Did you just ask why? The answer is love. She kept showing him love, support and encouragement. It makes challenged children have hope and accept their medical or physical imperfections better. It makes them have remarkable progress in their journey through life.
I remember my friend Agnes who waited on the lord for the fruit of the womb for seven years. In that seven years, her husband remained loving, faithful and committed to the union. When she finally became pregnant, my entire neighborhood became very excited for the happy couple.
Unfortunately, on one fateful Saturday afternoon her husband went to their hometown for a burial. He never came back from that trip. He died in a car accident on the day he was returning back to base and his wife, Agnes was about seven months gone in her pregnancy.
To cut this long story short, she gave birth two months after burying her husband. She put to bed, a very handsome baby boy and everyone was happy for her. Unfortunately, it turned out the boy had Down Syndrome. That’s what we popularly call imbecile. It shattered her. You know that feeling of wanting something so badly and when you have it, you lose it halfway, realizing that your joy is incomplete.
Life! Oh well, she resigned herself to fate and settled down to taking care of her son. She had no choice than to build a wall around the boy, not withstanding his status. Love heals. It really does.
I have a daughter with special needs too. She was born with a congenital thyroid deficiency syndrome. I have showered her with all the love and support I can muster over the years. It isn’t my fault. It isn’t her fault, either. It’s just destiny. Nature. You can never cheat nature.
When I saw that sending her to the university like her siblings will not be possible, I sent her to a vocational school where she’s doing pretty well presently in baking, bead making and what have you. I make sure she is sounded with a large dose of love always. You know, love heals. It inspires. It motivates. It completes. I’m not angry at the world or with God. Far from it. I’m thankful for God’s mercy, instead.
I love her as my first fruit and I will forever cherish the gift of her in my life. I want to encourage all parents especially mothers never to turn their backs on such children. It’s not an easy load to carry but God will always be there to strengthen us while we carry the burden of raising children with special needs. They say that there’s ability in every disability.
Let’s play our parts as parents, friends, neighbours or even relatives. It puts a smile on their faces and love makes every deficiency easy to manage!