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Friday, December 4, 2009

When you receive a diagnosis that will impact your child's life forever, how do you react? To say there are mixed emotions is an understatement.

The psychologists speak in very technical terms - but the bottom line is that this past week it was confirmed that my oldest daughter Cathrine has a cognitive disability. It's not an isolated learning disability. It's not a health issue we can fix with the right combination of medications. Nor is it an allergy to something we can avoid.

Yes, there is the question of whether many of the dreams we had for her will ever come true. Due to the level of her disability, she will not go to college. Unless God intervenes with a miracle, she will not have a normal high school experience either. At this point, I don't know whether she will mature enough to get married and have children. There are a lot of unknowns.

However, the biggest emotion I feel at this moment is gratitude. First, I'm so thankful she's alive and healthy. The 4-year-old son of a friend of the family is fighting for his life after an accident this past weekend. That puts everything in perspective for me. (Please pray for Jeremy in California)

Second, I'm relieved to have an answer for her challenges. Now, we can let go of some things we've been trying to get her to learn, and instead explore what she can do. This is a relief for her and us.

Third, I can just enjoy who she is without any pressure. I have felt like I had to help her "catch up" in so many areas. I would worry when she wasn't making gains in emotional maturity, or would act sillier than a child her age "should" act. But the truth is, she is delightful just as she is. This diagnosis helps me accept her that way, and release many expectations.

The other emotion I feel is anger. My daughter would likely be mentally whole if her mother had received proper pre-natal care. Or if Cathrine had received proper nutrition and health care as an infant and child. She also needed pre-school and elementary school education, and mental stimulation beyond playing in the dirt. She needed clean water, not a dirty puddle. Instead she was raised in the poorest of conditions you can imagine.

I'm not mad at anyone in particular, just a holy anger at poverty and neglect.

I believe God weeps when He sees His children neglected around the world. The bottom line is that you and I can actually do something about it. If every Christian in America would step up to care for one child, I wonder what we could do.

Today I'm going to make a blatant request for everyone reading this blog to sponsor a child somewhere in the world. And I can personally recommend Compassion International. I've seen their care of pregnant mothers, and the one-on-one training they give mothers of infants as to how to stimulate a baby's mind. I've seen their care of children from toddlers to teens. It's a holistic approach to caring for every part of a child's life - at all stages of life. And they do it in the name of Jesus.

If you can sponsor a child, please click on the Compassion International link on my blog for an easy connection.

My family already sponsors Luis in Ecuador. Now we are going to sponsor a second child - a little girl somewhere in Africa. Sadly, Compassion International isn't in Liberia, Africa yet. But my prayer is they will be someday.

I'm going to end this post as I sit listening to the joyous laughter of a little girl named Cathrine. And thank God I've been given the opportunity to be her mother.

Christmas blessings,

Glynnis

8 comments:

Karen Nachtigal said...

Hi Glynnis, I always appreciate your articles because I can relate so well to almost everything you say! Today is no exception...almost. First of all, I do sponsor a child with Compassion from Africa currently and several years ago I sponsored a little girl from the Congo for 6 years. Anyway, I understand your righteous indignation from having a child who could have been so much more if it weren't for poverty and neglect. However, I have two children, 20 and 15 who both have disabilities. My daughter has classic Asperger Syndrome, a very high functioning autistic disorder. My son has more of a hazy Pervasive Developmental Disorder diagnosis, but has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, High Anxiety and has a really hard time staying focused on any one thing because the OCD keeps him constantly distracted. And, you know what? They are mine. I loved them both so much from the very first thought that I was pregnant. They were so very wanted. I took my prenatal vitamins, I exercised, I ate the right things, didn't consume the wrong things and I went to birthing classes!! Little did I know what genetic difficulties my children would be born with. I could say that my husband and I should have never had babies together, but what's the point in that? It is what it is and my children are definitely gifts from God.
I agree with you that diagnoses are good because you know what you are dealing with and early intervention can help so much. But, I have cried and grieved for my children over the years because their struggles are absolutely no fault of their own. I am proud of each of them and they both are relatively well adjusted, intelligent, and productive individuals. In fact, my daughter is now married to a wonderful guy who loves her just the way she is. My son, who is a Sophomore in high school this year is being home schooled because socially he was in a disastrous situation.

I don't really have a point, except to share that there is no righteous anger to have, really, when the disabled ones are your own children. You just love your kids and hope that you do a good job of helping them to learn coping strategies to get through life.

I'm glad you have some answers about Catherine. Bless her heart.

Thanks,
Karen

Glynnis Whitwer said...

Karen - I can actually relate to your situation as well. We have two biological children with ADHD (ages 14 & 18), and it has significantly impacted their academic achievements. You are completely right about there being no righteous anger when the child is your own. And I have cried my share of tears too. Your children are truly blessed to have a mother who sees them for the gifts they are. May God continue to equip you in your high calling of motherhood.

Spring Fricks said...

Thank you for this. I'll be looking into it.

Anonymous said...
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Melissa Taylor said...

Glynnis,

I love you so much! How I wish you were way over here instead of way over there, so we could meet for coffee or lunch.

I thank God that Catherine is in your family, right where she belongs! I'm glad you have some answers, although I know they bring new questions, but I know it is a relief to know that you and Catherine can quit trying so hard.

You are a wonderful mother!
Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly.
Love You,
Melissa

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Glynnis -

Thank you for your post. While my child has not been diagnosed with any type of learning challenge, he has just been a challenge lately. I teach middle school & fully understand the importance of learning the basics. He is disorganized and distracted which results in anger & frustration for me. Too many times, that frustration comes out in ways that I know hurt his feelings and leave both of us stressed.

Your story and your devotion have reminded me I need to focus on his strengths and deal with the other with more grace. His presence in our family is a miracle and I know God sent him to us for his greater plan.

I will also take your comments about your daughter with me into my classroom. Having lots of students with various learning disabilities pushes me every day to focus on what they can do. Thanks for the reminder about enjoying them !!

Lastly - we do sponsor a child. Our little girl is in Rwanda and watching her change and grow over the last few years has been a blessing!

sdem69@mac.com

In Christ alone said...

Thank for being a real person to share your struggles. Thanks for the reminder of seeing a child's strength instead of his weaknesses. We are not perfect but God accepts us as who we are. We are all in the process of becoming holy. Everything happening in our lives is for the purpose of glorifying Him.
love,
Josephine