Having a child is an eye opener. When your single, newly married and then pregnant you pretty much know it all. Or you think you do. Then the child comes and BAM! your eyes are opened. What just happened? And then you have another and another and then the expletives come out. Shit! I had no clue it would be this hard!
Most days you convince yourself you can do it alone or with just your husband. I mean, really, one child (or two or three), how hard can this child rearing thing be?
Damn hard. You’re working, your kid gets sick, you get sick, and your husband is working. Maybe you just need a date night where you aren’t feeding and changing while trying to converse during a meal. Or you want to eat your meal hot. I mean the situations are endless and you’re forced to figure out how to make it happen without it falling apart around you. Without even knowing it yet, you start to seek your village.
Sometimes it’s a close friend, a neighbor or your mom or Grandma. They will jump in and save you. It isn’t because you are weak. It is just because raising children (multiple children) can’t be done in a silo, by yourself, or alone all the time. It takes a village.
When my Dad left us when I was just 3 my mom sought her village. My brothers, friends and eventually we moved in with my grandparents. That was what they taught me in school was my “extended family”. My mom took it…she had to and we were fine. Better than fine. And I thought no different. Well, ok, I did think my Dad was an ass but that’s a different blog post. Moving on…
Having a special needs child throws a whole new ball into that child rearing game. You’re constantly trying to meet everyone’s needs, including your own. It is a hard juggling act. I disappointed many at that time as well as myself.
Your attention is constantly on your special child, their medical needs and all others seemed to get short changed. Not because you want that to happen but that’s just how the chips fall.
At that point you seek help beyond your immediate village you’ve called before. Your immediate village is now tired, worn out and needing their own respite. So you search beyond that original list of villagers. You seek paths and people you thought you’d never turn to so you don’t drown.
I did that. When I had Lyd and finally my 3rd. I sought my village in places I never thought I would. Had I not, I would have otherwise failed at getting her everything she needed. I knew that. WE knew that.
When we decided to have a 3rd child we knew we knew we needed a lot of help. We reviewed the numbers, talked it over (A LOT) and did what we knew was best. We hired a live in au pair or as I often called them – caregivers.
GASP!! Yes, that is where you and others start to judge. And we hear….
“Why does she need help?” in the most sarcastic tone was heard.
Wow. I didn’t know so many people were pros at raising a special child, two typical boys and working full time. However, I digress. They were ignorant I now know.
“Wow, they must be rich?” Roll of my eyes. No…the cost was less than if we had 3 in daycare. And it wasn’t always easy to come up with the ‘chunks’ of money all at once to pay the fees.
“So she was like a maid and was your caregiver 24/7? Does she wake up with the baby at night too?” Roll of my eyes again. No, she worked 45 hours a week by law and didn’t clean my house.
“Must be nice?” Yes, it was nice but having a special child was challenging and often not a walk in the park. I mean I could go on with how many times she pooped on the floor but I won’t. I could go on about needing someone to hug my boys while I took Lydia to the hospital in the middle of the night but I won’t. Is NEEDING someone to live with you because of your special needs a luxury? I think not.
I also heard I was “lucky” to have someone live with us. I always was baffled at that one. Luck is winning the lottery, luck is getting everything you ever wanted, luck is never having anything bad happen in your life – luck is living your dreams, ALL of your dreams and we weren’t living our dreams.
I called in the village I never thought I had. Hell, years before Lydia I didn’t even know what an au pair was. But one day while at work a woman who lived states away told me about this type of caregiver. And that was it. I knew this would be my village.
Our caregivers – they watched our kids while Tom and I worked or we were at the hospital. They drove Lydia to her needed therapies 30 minutes away. They picked her up from school. They met me at appointments. They did even more than this to make our life work. Because guess what. Wait for it…
NONE of us are superwoman. And given all of Lydia’s needs as well as my boys I couldn’t go it alone.
And the young women that moved into our home and handled the extent of work were rock stars.
They stepped in and helped me. And Tom. They helped our family. They provided love to the boys when I couldn’t. They changed diaper after diaper while I worked. They hugged me and cried with me when I felt lost.
We weren’t spoiled. We weren’t privileged. What we were however was blessed.
During the 5 years we ended up with 4 wonderful girls who became women before our eyes. They took every challenge head on to help us over every mountain that seemed impossible to climb. They loved, nurtured and cared for my children in every way imaginable. They helped them feel confident, secure and loved.
But as we’ve learned…all good things come to an end. Today is the end of our village.
After 5 years and a few excellent young women we say goodbye…forever. We are more typical now without Lydia. Finding a caregiver to take on all they did with Lyd plus two boys is no longer. I must say goodbye to not only my caregiver but my friend, my sister and my daughter – all wrapped into one.
I’ve faced several goodbyes in the last 5 years. Each girl who weathered something different with us. And all these goodbyes are equally as hard. However, this time there will be no replacement and a certain kind of emptiness will fill our home as we say goodbye to not only the person but our village. Our village we started all because of one little girl with special needs.
And we grieve once again. Another reality Lydia is gone. Too much love equals another loss.
For our current caregiver, Sarah, she handled much more than everyday tasks. She saw death.
She heard the screams of Tom that morning and ran to help.
She was the one who called me crying to try to tell me Lyd was gone.
She stood in front of us and held strong for my boys when we planned a funeral.
She kept our home and schedules running like a smooth oiled machine only crying when she called home to her own mother.
She helped run my household when getting out of bed and working was about all I could do. When cooking, cleaning or laundry sat. She was more than my village.
Sarah could have left after Lydia died – we told her we wouldn’t have blamed her if she wanted to go. I mean who signs up to take care of kids with all the responsibilities Lydia had and then watches her die? But she stayed and held us together. She kept the wheels in motion when all I wanted to do was stop them.
She put smiles on our kid’s faces and made sure we were able to grieve while keeping our sanity with running a household. She was my savior the last year and I’m not afraid to admit it.
I am anxious, sad, and lost with the idea my village is leaving. For so many reasons I could never explain. The era of having our village because of Lydia is over. Another reminder our girl is gone. Or our village picking me up when I couldn’t get up is no longer there. I no longer have a safety net. It is all me…grief and all. On my own.
So to all that were in our village and especially Sarah…thank you. Saying it doesn’t seem like enough but one can try. So here goes.
Thank you for loving us when it seemed impossible.
Thank you for loving and caring for my children to the depths you did.
Thank you for hugging and crying with me when I felt alone.
Thank you for loving Lydia and accepting her for all the challenges and the tough tasks.
Thank you for holding me (us) up in too many ways when grief shoved me down.
Thank you for staying.
Thank you for having faith in us.
Thank you for accepting everyone who we brought into our lives.
Thank you for missing home for us.
Thank you for accepting and loving us even with all our faults, mess and craziness of a life we had going.
Thank you for loving us….all of us. Even when you didn’t want to.
Most of all….
Thank you for being my village….we will always be family.
Your host mom