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"To You, My Sisters" by Maureen K. Higgins

A friend I've made recently, her little boy was born with Down Syndrome, because of our special little ones shared this with with me recently. The poem spoke to my heart, because it is so true.

To You, My Sisters

by Maureen K. Higgins -

Many of you I have never even met face to face, but
I've searched you out every day. I've looked for you
on the Internet, on playgrounds and in grocery stores.

I've become an expert at identifying you. You are well
worn. You are stronger than you ever wanted to be.
Your words ring experience, experience you culled with
your very heart and soul. You are compassionate beyond
the expectations of this world. You are my "sisters."

Yes, you and I, my friend, are sisters in a sorority.
A very elite sorority. We are special. Just like any
other sorority, we were chosen to be members. Some of
us were invited to join immediately, some not for
months or even years. Some of us even tried to refuse
membership, but to no avail.

We were initiated in neurologist's offices and NICUs, in
obstetrician's offices, in emergency rooms,
and during ultrasounds. We were initiated with somber
telephone calls, consultations, evaluations, blood
tests, x-rays, MRI films, and heart surgeries.

All of us have one thing in common. One day things
were fine. We were pregnant, or we had just given
birth, or we were nursing our newborn, or we were
playing with our toddler. Yes, one minute everything
was fine. Then, whether it happened in an instant, as
it often does, or over the course of a few weeks or
months, our entire lives changed. Something wasn't
quite right. Then we found ourselves mothers of
children with special needs.

We are united, we sisters, regardless of the diversity
of our children's special needs. Some of our children
undergo chemotherapy. Some need respirators and
ventilators. Some are unable to talk, some are unable
to walk. Some eat through feeding tubes. Some live in
a different world. We do not discriminate against
those mothers whose children's needs are not as
"special" as our child's. We have mutual respect and
empathy for all the women who walk in our shoes.

We are knowledgeable. We have educated ourselves with
whatever materials we could find. We know "the"
specialists in the field. We know "the" neurologists,
"the" hospitals, "the" wonder drugs, "the" treatments.
We know "the" tests that need to be done, we know
"the" degenerative and progressive diseases and we
hold our breath while our children are tested for
them. Without formal education, we could become board
certified in neurology, endocrinology, and psychology.

We have taken on our insurance companies and school
boards to get what our children need to survive, and
to flourish. We have prevailed upon the State to
include augmentative communication devices in special
education classes and mainstream schools for our
children with cerebral palsy. We have labored to prove
to insurance companies the medical necessity of gait
trainers and other adaptive equipment for our children
with spinal cord defects. We have sued municipalities
to have our children properly classified so they could
receive education and evaluation commensurate with
their diagnosis. We have learned to deal with the rest
of the world, even if that means walking away from it.

We have tolerated scorn in supermarkets during
"tantrums" and gritted our teeth while discipline was
advocated by the person behind us on line. We have
tolerated inane suggestions and home remedies from
well-meaning strangers. We have tolerated mothers of
children without special needs complaining about
chicken pox and ear infections. We have learned that
many of our closest friends can't understand what it's
like to be in our sorority, and don't even want to
try.

We have our own personal copies of Emily Perl
Kingsley's "A Trip To Holland " and Erma Bombeck's "The
Special Mother". We keep them by our bedside and read
and reread them during our toughest hours. We have
coped with holidays. We have found ways to get our
physically handicapped children to the neighbors'
front doors on Halloween, and we have found ways to
help our deaf children form the words, "trick or
treat." We have accepted that our children with
sensory dysfunction will never wear velvet or lace on
Christmas. We have painted a canvas of lights and a
blazing Yule log with our words for our blind
children. We have pureed turkey on Thanksgiving. We
have bought white chocolate bunnies for Easter. And
all the while, we have tried to create a festive
atmosphere for the rest of our family. We've gotten up
every morning since our journey began wondering how
we'd make it through another day, and gone to bed
every evening not sure how we did it.

We've mourned the fact that we never got to relax and
sip red wine in Italy . We've mourned the fact that our
trip to Holland has required much more baggage than we
ever imagined when we first visited the travel agent.
And we've mourned because we left for the airport
without most of the things we needed for the trip.

But we, sisters, we keep the faith always. We never
stop believing. Our love for our special children and
our belief in all that they will achieve in life knows
no bounds. We dream of them scoring touchdowns and
extra points and home runs.

We visualize them running sprints and marathons. We
dream of them planting vegetable seeds, riding horses
and chopping down trees. We hear their angelic voices
singing Christmas carols. We see their palettes
smeared with watercolors, and their fingers flying
over ivory keys in a concert hall. We are amazed at
the grace of their pirouettes. We never, never stop
believing in all they will accomplish as they pass
through this world.

But in the meantime, my sisters, the most important
thing we do, is hold tight to their little hands as
together, we special mothers and our special children,
reach for the stars.        

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