Why Not Me?
A mother shares about coping with disabilities.
People often ask me how we manage to stay sane in our busy household of nine, and my answer is always the same, “It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun!” At this point they usually look at me with a mixture of sympathy and disbelief written across their faces, and I just smile and move on. If the fact that we have seven children between the ages of ten months and twelve years doesn’t shock them first, they are almost always rendered speechless when they realize that all three of our boys have autism.
Long ago I read the infamous poem “Welcome to Holland” which details a new mother’s experience of giving birth to a baby with a disability when she expected a “normal” child. Although it touched me deeply, at the time I couldn’t imagine being that mother. I was nineteen years old, married and already pregnant with my second child. Little did I know that in a few short years my life would change dramatically as one by one my sons were diagnosed with various forms of autism, and my daughters with other neurological disorders. It didn’t feel like “Holland” to me, but more like “Welcome to Mars” instead.
Our oldest daughter Erika was vaccine injured as a toddler and experienced seizures, extremely high fevers, and immune system dysfunctions. As she got older, her symptoms manifested as attention deficit disorder, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive behavior. She’s a bright and lively twelve year old girl who still struggles with these problems, which at times can be all consuming. Elijah is ten now, and although highly intelligent, he has high functioning autism. He is very verbal, but his poor articulation can be hard to understand at times. He also struggles with obsessive-compulsive behavior, and motor tics which he cannot seem to control. Nicolas also has autism, and is the most severely affected. He is eight years old and still non-verbal. Although he tries to say a word or two every now and then, his severe apraxia makes it difficult for him to articulate what is on his mind. Even though communication is tough for him, he is a happy and loving boy with a sharp mind inside!
Leah is our sweet seven year old, and thankfully she doesn’t have the same degree of challenges as the others, but she still deals with a neurological condition called sensory integration dysfunction. People with SI have trouble regulating their responses to incoming sensory input. It is a nervous system condition that makes it hard for the person to regulate their behavior when faced with the everyday things that we all encounter. Lights seem too bright, clothes seem too tight, noises too loud, and regular family chaos can be overwhelming. All of the boys have sensory integration dysfunction also, as it is one of the defining characteristics of autism. Jacob is four years old, and his autism falls into the moderate range, meaning that he is somewhere between Elijah and Nicolas in terms of severity. He speaks well, but his language is often scripted and repetitious. He loves music and has an excellent memory for detail.
We have grown in knowledge over the years, and after a lot of prayer and biomedical detoxification, we are happy to say that our youngest two girls seem to be developing typically thus far. They are natural, unvaccinated, and healthy. Sarah is two years old, and is speaking well above age level already for which we are grateful. Little Trinity is just ten months, but is a calm and happy baby. Like Sarah, she is not suffering from any of the horrible rashes, jitteriness, or uncontrollable fussiness that the others experienced. Sometimes I still cannot believe she sleeps seven or eight hours at this age. The others were not sleeping that well for years.
I have learned that most of the world thinks it is absolutely crazy to do what we are doing. Without fail, people always ask me why on earth I continue to have children when so many things are “wrong” with our other children. There is persecution for homeschooling and home birthing. There is persecution for not vaccinating our children with poisons disguised as “immunizations.” There is persecution for living naturally and organically, which is “different” and costly, and there is definitely persecution for having more than four children in today’s world. Sadly enough though, the persecution we face for continuing to give birth to children with disabilities has been of the worst kind. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth, and reminds me so much of the eugenic attitude that was embraced by many in the past. Unfortunately, that spirit is very much alive today, and people are continually proving it by telling me “how they feel” about us.
If I sound bitter, I don’t mean to be. Serving Jesus Christ is still the main focus of my life although my journey has taken many twists and turns. Long ago I prayed for an answer as to what my ministry should be. I felt called by the Lord to do something great for him, but agonized over what special ministry to become involved with. At the time I believed the Lord was calling me into pro-life work, but the door closed. Although I was heartbroken, I knew that God had something else for me. Right around the time when I realized I couldn’t volunteer at the pregnancy center, Nicolas starting displaying signs of a disability, and the other two children became increasingly sicker. It was all a confirmation that my place was at home.
One by one my first five children were diagnosed with various neurological disorders. It slowly became evident that I was going to be in the disability ministry. Instead of thanking God, I cried and complained that He chose to give me such a heavy load. “Why me Lord?” I asked time and time again. The answer was always the same, “Why NOT you?” Onward I pressed, despite the numerous challenges we faced concerning the children and their treatments. It took some time, but eventually I came to realize God knew I could handle the load. He knew I would grow into a strong advocate with a passion for special needs children.
Despite the tiring days we face, I find my rest in Jesus. I may get little physical sleep, but I remind myself daily that He is carrying my burden and seeing me through. We often deal with hurtful comments from otherwise well meaning individuals, but we have learned to let them roll off of our backs. The most common comment is, “Why don’t you just give yourselves a break and stop having children?” I guess we are overwhelmed from the world’s standard. But we are rich in ways they will never understand. We have the Lord, we always have good food, and there is a lot of love in our house.
The decision to trust God in the area of our fertility was not an easy one. I am only thirty years old; I am usually in pain because I have fibromyalgia, and already we have seven children! I often find myself mentally adding up how many more we may have! The last time I found myself doing these mental calculations, God spoke to my heart and said, “I can do anything, Jodi. I can give you five more healthy baby girls like Sarah and Trinity if I want to.” Yes Lord, I know that You can… “Or, I could give you some more boys, and they may not be autistic this time.” Yes Lord, I know that You can also do that miracle if you choose. And the last thing He said to me was, “These children are my gift to you. No one on earth is perfect, but you can still find happiness if you accept what I have for you, and learn to rest in Me.”
After that small but powerful dialogue with the Lord, my heart wasn’t heavy anymore. I began to believe that He truly is in control. I have found that surrendering to God and having faith in His ability to care for our family is the greatest thing I can do. No longer do I ask, “Why Lord?” Instead, I know that our children are a wonderful blessing despite what the world may think. I am so glad that God chose me to be their mother!
Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Jodi is the founder of www.AutismHelp4u.com
If you have children with autism, this website will be of great value to you.