New couples are formed every night. Two people meet under different circumstances. Giving each couple their own story to tell. It might have been a blind date at the basketball game. Or she needed a ride home from college, then a ride back to college. The greatest things can happen because of a simple road trip. If we’re lucky, those simple activities build into amazing adventures. Soon they’re hanging out every night, spending hours on the phone, learning every little thing about each other. The kind of thing most everyone hopes to experience. A hope that every dream could be coming true. Wedding bells begin to ring inside minds and diamonds are purchased. After planning and forethought…sometimes…the most important question a man can ask is put forth. The answer may lead to more conversations, some pleasant and loving, some maybe not so much. As flower arrangements, dates, and guest lists are contemplated. Then everything falls into place, for one of the most important days. What follows is the building of a life. Two worlds are joined together to form one family.
We probably all have dreams of family life. Thoughts go into where we would ideally live and how our home might look. Couples discuss and dream of the number of children they might have. They think of names, whether they want boys or girls. Maybe one of each. Two people pursue careers of passion, making plans to achieve goals. They talk about how everything will work when kids arrive. The preparation might continue for years. Finally, the time comes, the first child is on the way. A shared celebration insures, as family and friends are told of a growing family. Just like preparing for the wedding, a different kind of preparation begins. Gifts are given, walls are painted, and cribs are assembled. The doctors’ appointments indicate everything is on track, mom and baby appear healthy. After nine months, the bag is packed, as dad explores the fasted route to the hospital. He knows which route to take, based on time and traffic. Everything is prepared, anticipating one of the best days in a couple’s life. But, there are some things we can’t anticipate. Moments that unexpectedly change our lives.
Excitement continues for our couple who arrive safely to the hospital. Family, friends are phoned and begin arriving. Labor for mom continues with excitement rising in everyone gathered. Then, in the blink of an eye everything changes. A new child has entered our world, but something has gone wrong. Somewhere during labor the baby lost oxygen to their brain. It may have been for just a few seconds. Instead of resting in their mom’s arms, our couple’s new born is rushed into the NICU. Fear replaces earlier feelings of excitement in everyone gathered. Tests are performed on a small innocent person and preventative measures are taken. Time crawls by slower than ever. Finally, the couple is informed their new child lost oxygen during birth, causing brain damage. They don’t know the extent or impact of the damage. However, it is possible the child may never walk, talk, or eat independently. They may not realize at the time, but a whole new journey has begun.
The dream of a white picket fence surrounding the picture-perfect family has expired. In those hours, it is being replaced with the call to inspire. Guilt might creep into the minds of mother and father. Asking themselves if they did everything in their power to prevent the situation. Somethings in our world simply can’t be explained, they might tell themselves. A feeling of helplessness and frustration might flash. A simple regret that our child was even born, not because they aren’t perfect, but because of the suffering they could endure because they’re different. It all would seem overwhelming. Life begins with things attached to their baby’s body, leading to beeping machines. Following the function of those machines, the physical therapy will commence, and soon questions will be answered. The life of a fighter is beginning. Not simply for a child, but for an entire family.
A child now requires more attention than anticipated. Doctors’ appointments fill the weekly schedule. Our couple gets to work, researching everything they can find about cerebral palsy. The fear tends to overwhelm at times and answers come slowly. It’s difficult to determine how the child will function moving forward. Improvements may tend to be slow developing. Their baby is hard at work each day. Attempting to perform tasks recommended by physical therapists. But, the work doesn’t end after they walk out of the office. The real work begins at home while no one is looking. This becomes the time for our unsung heroes, mom and dad. Who make sure their new bundle of joy is continuing to work. They work on strengthening movement pathways, which could have been damaged during birth. Mom does research, coming up with new activities to help functionality. Going above and beyond in the attempt to reduce the symptoms of cerebral palsy. The development of those movement pathways is critical early in life. A family moves forward, as the work continues.
Eventually all the hard work begins showing results. The child who was thought to never walk, talk, or eat on their own, can do all three. They find success in riding a tricycle, something never imagined in those first hours. Achieving millstones becomes sweeter due to the challenge of reaching them. Maybe these small milestones are better because they were achieved together. They didn’t come naturally to the child with CP. The achievement was a group effort involving mom and dad, in ways they couldn’t imagine. It brings family closer together when rallying around one another. Cerebral palsy is a challenge not all families endure. But, the disability seems to provide moments not all families get to experience. On the flip side, challenges have also been known to tear families apart. Fear can win, infiltrating minds and causing doubt. It can cause movement in different directions. Before we know it, families become frustrated and divided. Feeling victimized by the weight of cerebral palsy and asking why. Most challenges have negativity and positivity, letting CP bring us together instead of pull us apart causes strength we may never have thought possible.
The new path has been born. They didn’t ask for it, but maybe that’s how we experience the best of life. Gifts of life are found in the imperfection. A challenging journey makes small successes sweeter along the way. Our couple probably didn’t expect the adventure in store when sparks flew. Who knows, maybe they would have reconsidered had they known. In the end though, these challenges always seem worth the struggle. The parents who are filled with guilt and regret hours after birth are different people just a few years later. They view life through an altered lens. Gaining understanding of ideas and emotions that might not have entered their cognition. Those concepts often translate to the opportunity of helping others. A couple who didn’t know much about cerebral palsy going into the experience, can now share knowledge they have gained. Helping people look at the disability from a positive perspective. It might be hard, but CP can make life better. Hopefully they take the time growing together and inspiring other families. Cerebral palsy can be a gift, bringing us closer to people we may have never known otherwise. Maybe they will achieve perfection of another type. The kind that inspires us all to be better people.