Like any kid, I had a normal childhood; well, except for the fact that I was born with spina bifida. My parents tried to ensure it was as normal a childhood as possible, despite the number of surgeries, countless doctor visits, and many adjustments made in order for me to get around and live my life. I took piano lessons, went to my church’s girls’ camp, learned to swim, participated in various school and church choirs, and frequently went out with friends to movies and other places.
That isn't to say that there weren't many times throughout my childhood, especially during elementary school, when I was reminded just how different I really was. Being in a wheelchair made it difficult to participate in a lot of physical activities. I remember sitting at the playground during recess, watching my friends play kickball, wishing I could join them. I also remember daydreaming about being a dancer, especially ballroom and ballet. I knew I wouldn't get to do those things in this life, but my faith helped me believe that one day my body would be resurrected and perfect, and I could at least dream about what it would be like then.
Despite these differences, it wasn't until college that I started to worry that my disability might get in the way of some of my life’s goals. Probably like most little girls, I had always dreamed of finding a husband and having a family of my own. I felt blessed when in the fall of 2002 I met a man that would later become my husband. We were married in July of 2004, and I was excited about being a wife and already dreaming about being a mother. Not long after our marriage we found out we were expecting and I was thrilled.
I’ll admit that I was naive about the hardships that come with motherhood; I was just so excited at the prospect of having a baby. When our son Will was born in 2005, I learned very quickly that being a mother was harder than anything I had ever done.
Ask any mother and they will probably tell you that motherhood is one of the most demanding jobs they have ever had. Once that little baby is put in your arms not only are you a mother, you are a chef, a nurse, a chauffeur, a therapist, a maid, a referee, and countless other positions rolled into one person. And if you have children with special needs, you are given a whole new set of challenges. Now imagine being the MOTHER with the special needs. There were, of course, the usual challenges that any mother faces: late night feedings, endless amounts of diapers, finding babysitters for a quick night out, etc. But for me the challenges were often a bit more unusual. For example, I had to figure out a way to carry my son around the house while pushing my wheelchair at the same time, or how I was going to get across the rocky terrain at the park to push him in the swings. I had to be creative, and to work around my limitations.
For the first couple of years of Will's life, I was able to manage things fairly well, mostly due to my wonderful family. Then in the summer of 2007 my faith was tested when we moved about 1500 miles away from most of our family so my husband could continue his schooling. We were now virtually on our own, and I was terrified. There were many days when I would cry on my husband's shoulder when he got home from school, complaining that I was tired and overwhelmed with everything I had to do.
I think it was this point in my life when I really felt like I just couldn't do it; it was too much and I wasn't enough. Fortunately for me, I had my faith and my testimony of the Atonement to help me. Through my wonderful husband (the Lord knew exactly the type of person that I needed as my eternal companion) I learned how to rely on my Savior who knows exactly what I am going through. There were many late night talks, phone conversations, and beautiful priesthood blessings that taught me and reminded me that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me, and of my sacred role as a mother. I learned that if I can trust in my Savior, I will be comforted, lifted up and strengthened to accomplish the things that I have been sent here to do.
8 years and 2 more children later, my life is still hectic and challenging. But I have learned to look into the faces of my beautiful family and realize that I am doing okay, and I can do anything with the Savior's help.
And I am trying to give them a normal childhood too.