When I was a kid we had a special needs school next to my elementary school. During grade five and six I spent an hour every day at the school helping out. I fell in love with those kids. They were so happy and loveable. My experience there has stayed with me all these years. I remember my dad telling me once back then that if any of his kids could handle being a mom to a special needs kid it would be me. I gave it no thought at the time, but with every pregnancy I had freak out moments wondering if he had jinxed me. As an adult, I was sure that I did not have the intestinal fortitude to deal with the trials that were sure to come along with that.
And then came Jenna.
Jenna is the sweetest girl you could meet. She loves to snuggle and used to crawl off the couch to come and climb up on my lap just to snuggle. If she was mad at me, she would crawl across the floor and begin pulling books out of the bookcase one by one. She would look at me and make sure I noticed her, then pull the books onto the floor. She normally did this if I were trying to do dishes, or vacuum or something other than snuggle with her. If she wanted something on the kitchen table or counters, she could pull herself up to a standing position to try and reach it, but had balance issues so she couldn’t stay up for very long without falling. We had to watch her like a hawk because she could get around pretty fast.
She taught me a lot about unconditional love. She taught me that you don’t have to give birth to a child to love that child like only a mother can. She taught me that you can be happy no matter what your situation in life is. She always had the hugest, crookedest (yes, I know that’s not a word) smile for me. I knew that she loved me. She knew that I loved her.
The emotional turmoil and angst that came with realizing that her medical issues were more than we were able to handle was unbearable. Many tears were shed as we fought for her life and searched for a suitable place for her to spend her adult life. Feeling like I had failed this child by not being able to meet her needs was soul-crushing. Coming to terms with knowing that I did the best thing that I could for her was freeing.
She is still the sweetest, snuggliest girl you’ll ever run across. I’m grateful for the lessons that I learned from her and grateful that I had the opportunity to have her in my life and in my home.