I once was told that some of us are called to be “heavy lifters.” I have no doubt this is my calling and my purpose. Is it easy all the time?? Absolutely not, and if given a chance, would I ask for complete healing?? Absolutely! I do so every single night. For her.
Last week, our beautiful Ashlynn turned one year old. I’d ask myself, “where has the time gone?” But, I know that from the nonstop chaos of this year, it’s just literally flown right by us. We’ve had a wonderful year with Ashlynn and our family. When she was born, we had so many uncertainties. We were told at two weeks old, she may be blind. We were told that her brain damage would be very severe. By the grace of God, neither of those are true. We do struggle from time to time with Ashlynn slowly reaching her milestones. But, the fact that she is reaching them is all that matters. Mommy and Daddy have shed a few tears at some of the more difficult appointments, and equipment sizings but, overall this year has been a huge growth year. We take things day by day and here we are 365 beautiful days later, with a beautiful family.
God is good.
I thought that being a mother of a child with physical disabilities would be a lot more difficult. More painful. Not that it’s easy. It’s absolutely not!! No way!! I also know the road has many more curves ahead…
I thought I would be in constant sadness and heartbreak. Especially when my friends post pictures of their daughters playing soccer, or their first day of dance class, or when I see a little girl jumping and playing with ease. Where I am at in my process, I am able to look past the “comparison game.” I know for many fellow CP mama bears, they have had to remove themselves from social media or unfollow pages that have anything that reminds them of what their child may not be able to do. I wholeheartedly understand that and maybe that day will come for me too? We are all in such different places in our mommy journey and we are all absolutely learning as we go. I recently said it’s been an honor to be a mother of a child with differences, and I wholeheartedly mean that. I have come in contact with some of the strongest, bravest, inspiring mothers I have ever seen. I learn from them. There is a silent nod from parent to parent when you are part of this different world. It reminds me of the phrase from Avatar… “I see you.” Meaning I see, and know what you go through and feel from day to day, and you are safe with me.
For some reason, I don’t know if it’s all the praying I have done to calm my anxiety and my fears, but it doesn’t hurt like I thought it would; like it did at first.
I know there is more for her. I know Ashlynn will find her “sport.” I know Ashlynn will walk in her purpose (Pun absolutely intended). I know Ashlynn, and her testimony will bring so much light.
I absolutely love family pictures… especially of my children. To me, it’s a snapshot of that exact moment in time. A time we will never get back. When we scheduled Ashlynn’s one-year photo shoot, I knew that we had to be thoughtful about her posing. Ashlynn cannot sit up yet completely unassisted for longer than about 20 seconds. So, unless we wanted a whole lot of blurry falling over photos, (which I have plenty of) I knew I had to get creative.
I began to find alternative ways that we could showcase what she CAN do. Instead of focusing on what she couldn’t. I started looking for beautiful chairs and discrete props to hold her up. We discussed strategic camera placement so we can get Ashlynn’s beautiful face and not focus on the fact that she was being propped up.
The cake smash was also something that would weigh heavily on me. Ashlynn doesn’t have free use of both her arms. She has a tightness to them that sometimes doesn’t allow her to move the way she wants to move. (This is referred to as “tone”). I wasn’t sure that she would be able to reach out and grab a cake and then eat it on her own. About a week before her photographs, I decided I was going to test it out. Much to my surprise, Ashlynn showed me she absolutely can eat cake with the best of them!
For her pictures, I decided that I wanted to have a different take on the cake smash. We decided to use her feet in one of the shots and I think it turned out adorable. Very “Ashlynn.” And then I decided to use a smaller cupcake because I knew she could grasp that. It was the first time she had a cupcake like that all on her own and you could just see it in her eyes how much she absolutely loved it.
My favorite shot is of Ashlynn looking at her NICU photo. I have to admit, I borrowed this idea from somebody on Pinterest, but I knew the moment I saw it it was something that I wanted to do. It’s meaningful in so many ways, but I love how Ashlynn studied it. She smiled after a little while and my heart swelled. She showed me that our tough experiences don’t necessarily have to bring tears to our eyes. Although they often do. Sometimes when I’m driving through a quiet road or deep in thought at home when I begin my writing, I can’t help but smile. I reflect on all we have been through – the hard stuff and the good stuff- and I just smile.
I am so unbelievably happy with our sweet, joyful Ashlynn as she is. I remember sitting at our first visit, right after Ashlynn was given her diagnosis, I was asked, “what is your goal for your daughter?” I looked at them and said without hesitation, ” I want her to be happy…” followed by, “I want her to walk.”
I think this whole year has been a lot about finding a different way to achieve our new “normal.” Balance of work and play. Celebrating family and friendship. Giving a nod to the hurt and pain, but focusing on the victories and the growth.
Happy birthday, baby girl!! Thank you for an absolutely amazing year.