Every little girl has hopes and dreams of being a bride. Every little girl has an imaginary wedding and the most beautiful veil she can fashion from the biggest pillow case her mama keeps in the house. Every little girl takes care of her baby dolls and mothers them with the utmost care. Right?
I remember playing “Bride” as a little girl and daydreaming of what it would be like to be married. And low and behold, it happened. I met my husband in college as a classmate and coworker and after a friendship we began dating and then married. What do you know? – my childhood dream had come true. Just like that.
But you know what little girls don’t dream of? Having their worlds crushed in one brief phrase that changes the entire path of the rest of their life. One spring day in 2007 in a clinic in Austin, Texas, my marriage had a head on collision with reality. No more was the imaginary baby doll I was in charge of caring for a sweet little healthy one whose mouth moved when you held a bottle up to its plastic lips. The new reality was this firstborn child I carried had a neural tube defect and would need immense care after birth and for a lifetime.
And that was the end of the marriage I had known for a handful of newlywed years. Our lives were turned upside down. We were never going to be the couple we were ten minutes before meeting this doctor. No matter what the outcome was for us or our child, each of us, nor our marriage was ever going to be the same. If our baby died: we would be changed. If we terminated this experience: we would be changed. If we had a special needs child for the rest of our lives: we would be changed. There were just no two ways about it.
In those solitary moments, when the doctor shared critical information with us and then stepped away to allow as much time as we needed, my marriage began the first of many morphing stages. Though extremely difficult, it was beautiful. Because in that minute, standing there in each other’s arms and crying, no one else on this planet could explain what each of us felt. That bonds you. It is, literally, like being in a head on collision alongside someone and the two of you survive it and tell everyone this miracle story of how you walked away from the wreckage, not without bruises and cuts, but you walked away. Hand in hand.
I still mourn the marriage I will never have. I miss never getting to know my husband as a dad to only typically developing children – a life where he’s the baseball coach and he has hobbies and he enjoys being with a group of guys for poker night each week. I am often curious about what differences life would offer if we didn’t have to discuss supply orders, private duty nursing staff issues, and conflicting schedules that interfere with the IEP/ARD process at our son’s public school.
Even though I miss him, I know I would have loved him dearly and he would have been fabulous. Because he is fabulous now as a special needs dad. Which is a hard job and an ugly journey to walk oftentimes. But he does it with grace and endurance. And I thank God I have been given the opportunity to walk away from life’s head on collision with this man right by my side.