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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Acceptance

We didn't choose this path, Mark and I aren't saints who took on a special needs child because she was alone in an orphanage in a far off place in the world. I know families like that, several actually, and I admire their love immensely. Those parents purposely picked their children and opened their hearts and their homes, knowing there would be challenges beyond the normal ones we face in parenting. Mark and I are not one of those families. Truth is, if given the choice, I'm not sure I would be here, in this family. Some of you may be cringing at my honesty in that statement, but I am human and life with Teale has been tough! Teale happened to us by chance and here we are. We aren't perfect, we have made many mistakes, we have snapped in times of turmoil. We have even wondered if we can keep going? In times of Teale's extreme behavior/mood cycles doctors have presented the possibility of giving Teale up to a group home setting. There have been times I have wondered if they are right? Those thoughts hurt like nothing else I have experienced. Giving up care of your child is never part of your dream when you decide to have a baby in a loving marriage. No one thinks this can happen to them, no one plans to have a child who is so violent and dangerous to their other children and themselves, but it happens. It has been a long time since the days that the possibility of having to give up care of Teale pervaded my thoughts constantly. I only wonder occasionally now if we will be able to keep this up. She is bigger than me and I am often at risk when things don't go her way. She can snap and attack, I live life on my guard, always. She's much more stable these days though, the explosions are fewer and farther apart. We're not living in constant fear and exhaustion as we have in past cycles that seemed endless and hopeless. The days of her constant explosions have mostly passed and in many ways we aren't that much different from other families. But we are different, we will never be the typical family who worries about which college Teale will go to, who she will meet, if she will marry and move far away? Our future for Teale is filled with the hope of happiness and independence, but it is not the same dream I have for our other children. Without sounding callous, it is tough to say this, but my dreams are more simple when it comes to Teale. At this time, Mark and I would prefer she stay under our roof throughout much of her life. We have a plan of having her live here with us, in our care, but with support and possibly even a housemate for her. Plans change though and if Teale has taught me anything, it is to not count on anything. When Teale was born we knew our marriage and our family was suddenly completely different from most others we knew. It was a slow process into this life we have now. I remember the beginning of the journey and the thoughts and dreams I had. I remember thinking we could overcome what the doctors were telling us. I remember thinking they were wrong and with much work Teale would use her right arm, we would win and show them they were wrong. She doesn't use her right arm or hand, we never could get her brain to connect those "dots." We "won" other battles though and for those we celebrate what Teale has and is. It happens slowly though, the changes of acceptance. There was a time I never would have believed she would graduate from any high school but the same one I graduated from. I pictured her walking across that stage, cheers filling the room, because against all odds, Teale had done it. We live in the home I grew up in, Beau graduated from the same high school I did. Mark grew up in the same town, graduating from the other high school and living just miles from me as a kid. We are entrenched in this community. I believed in Teale's being accepted here, embraced and loved. When we first started the journey of public education, I was sure our district could teach Teale. I wanted her in our community, after all she was already such a huge part of it and loved by so many. Even as a five year old, heading into kindergarten, I was sure she was teachable, I was sure she would grow with her peers and walk across that graduation stage with them. I knew she was special, but I had not accepted lower expectations for her. That came with time for me, maybe it comes with time for every parent? Our dreams change and our journey becomes something we did not expect. I was naive in the beginning, I believed love and hard work could cure all the birth injuries Teale sustained. I believed Mark and my love was more powerful than anything the doctors diagnosed. I did not choose this journey. I probably would not have. The pain is great and the loss of dreams of a normalcy for my daughter has been at times more than my heart could bare. She won't ever walk across the stage at the high school I graduated from. The kids who knew her back in her elementary days at public school may not even think about her anymore. They may not remember the lessons she taught them by just living her very challenging life. The dreams for Teale are not less, they are just different than they are for Beau and Gwenn. My heart hasn't hardened with this challenge, my heart has grown and accepted the life we live. I no longer think I can change Teale's destiny completely, but I do know Teale has changed mine. 

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