14 Feb Brenda’s Corner: Unconditional Love
Written by Brenda Agnew, Client Liaison
What do you think of when the cards with red hearts and boxes of chocolate start popping up in the stores just after Christmas? Most think about love, and cupid’s arrow, and making dinner reservations or picking out the perfect present for their Valentine. In my opinion, either you are a lover of this retail holiday, or you tolerate it waiting for the chocolate to go on sale the next day for 75% off.
Not Always Smiles and Cherrubs
After Maclain was born, for many years, Valentine’s Day always brought up memories of heading to Sick Kids hospital for the very first time, having him all bundled up warmly to have a consult with the Cochlear Implant program. This was the association I made with the day of flying cherubs. It was his very first February the 14th, and we spent it making the anxious drive to Toronto while I focused on the reasons for why we had to be meeting with an ENT surgeon. Because about a month and a half earlier, he had been diagnosed as profoundly deaf, a result of his untreated jaundice. A kick to the gut that still gives me goosebumps to this day. The crazy part is that it should have been a happy memory because the appointment went well, and about a year and a half later Maclain received his first implant. Yet I continued to associate Valentine’s Day with that event and every year it would bring back a flood of sadness and anxiety.
The True Meaning of Any Holiday
It was actually just a few years ago when I was asked to consult on a project to reflect the feelings of special needs parents when it came to celebrating various “holidays” that I started to reshape my perception about Valentine’s Day. It was then that I began to associate it with unconditional love.
Parents love their children unconditionally, above all else, and I know I am not unique in this. I have two children and I would give my life for both of them. But parenting a child with significant disabilities is tough, really tough. The daily challenges, life obstacles that are hard to overcome, frequent hospital visits, the need for multiple therapies, interventions, specialized medications, diets, and equipment… the list goes on. It is beyond exhausting and often leaves us often feeling resentful, sad and overwhelmed, like there is no end in sight.
I have sat in an ER for my birthday, spent Thanksgiving and Easter sleeping on a cot beside Maclain for a hospital admission. Drained bank accounts to pay for therapies and equipment, spent mornings crying in the shower because of challenges at school or failed attempts at mastering a milestone. Feeling most days like I had let Maclain down, haven’t met his needs, not done enough. It makes it really hard some days to love being a parent because of all the heartache that I have experienced, the sorrow I have felt, mourning for a typical second child. I spent a lot of time feeling grief over the child I was expecting and not the child I have. Many days my love for him seemed to be simply overshadowed by everything else.
Despite the Hardships, We Endure and We Love… Unconditionally
Then come those times, many in a day, when I look at him and my heart explodes. I become so overwhelmed with how much I love both of my boys, but my younger son just makes my heart happy in so many ways because of how much we have been through together. I adore having the chance to crawl in with Maclain, and lean in close and just melt because I truly love him for all that he is and all he has taught me. When he asks me for a hug, tells me he loves me, his little sweet voice, his life-changing smile. The things he has accomplished that they said he never would. His sense of humour, his non-stop talking, his love for his brother and for everything Star Wars. His love of adventure, and his classmates, and chocolate. I love him for the things he cannot do that have taught me to be more patient and kind. The world he has opened up to me where I want to be his voice, where I want to make things happen for him, I am a different person than I used to be, and my life has taken a path it never would have without Maclain and his special needs.
Some parts of the path are bumpy, some are treacherous, some are so high and the view is beautiful. He has taught me simply that love isn’t perfect, it is not easy, and it isn’t always fair. But for me it is unconditional.