villageBecoming a parent is a self-affirming experience. When I became a parent not only did my priorities become apparent but I strived  to become the best possible version of myself. I believe this process was aptly described by Hillary Clinton in It Takes a Village, “Parenthood has the power to redefine every aspect of life – marriage, work, relationships with family and friends. Those helpless bundles of power and promise that come into our world show us our true selves- who we are, who we are not, who we wish we could be.” However, when one becomes the parent of a special needs child there is a parallel transformational process that occurs. For me this process, involved accepting that Caroline was medically involved and has special needs, learning that Caroline was “different but not less,” and trusting myself and others enough to ask for help.

Asking for help has always been a challenge for me but during some of the darker moments in my personal life I have been overwhelmed by the support and comfort offered from others.  It is not my first inclination to ask for help but I have learned that the collective capacity of my village far surpasses my individual capacity, especially during a difficult situation.  When I learned that the insurance policy offered by employer specifically excluded any services under the diagnosis code of Autism, I was red with fury. But as a parent of a child on the spectrum I did not have the luxury to wallow in my fury instead I had to focus on solutions that would provide care for my daughter now.  I decided that I would use crowd-sourcing to try and raise the funds. I discussed this idea with my husband, John.  “If you think that is the best way to provide Caroline with the therapy she needs, let’s do it.” But just as happened when I started this blog his reaction was the same, “I did not realize how much of ourselves we are sharing with others.” John is a very private person and when we met I was, too. But overtime I have found comfort in sharing my story my others just as I found comfort in learning how others navigate challenging life situations.  John understands the therapeutic value of this to me and therefore is willing to give up a little bit of privacy for may sanity.

When we decided we would use crowdfunding, Giveforward to raising funds for Caroline’s therapy, we knew the fundraiser had to be short because we needed the funds to start the therapy. Two weeks. We figured a short break from therapy would not be the end of the world and if we raised for funds for two weeks, we would receive the funds within a month and could start therapy soon after.  I cannot tell you how overwhelmed we were by the kind and generous support of our village. So many people donated funds and even more helped us spread the word about Caroline’s fund.  Not only will the funds raised help provide Caroline with the much needed therapy but it also reminded me of the kindness and generosity that surrounds me on a daily basis.  It also demonstrated what a lasting impacting John has had on the life of so many of his students–their kinds words brought me to tears. I know my husband is an amazing man but to see what he means to so many students warmed my heart.  I honestly do not think there are words to express how humbled and thankful John and I are for the outpouring of support.

And while, I have spent a lot of time speaking about the support we received during our recent fundraiser, I want to be clear our village is much larger.  To Chris, Michelle, Dawn, and my parents all who dropped everything on at least one occasion to watch Vivian while we rushed Caroline to the hospital; to my dad for spending nearly 7 months in Chicago caring for Caroline because no schools we could afford would accept a child with a feeding tube, to Lizzie for being a wonderful and amazing date night babysitter for our ladies, to all the therapists who have helped Caroline develop the skills she needs to manage or overcome some of her challenges and to those same therapists for providing me with the encouragement that I needed during some of the difficult days; to Montessori Learning Center of Edison Park for not only accepting Caroline as a student but as a person and for working with us to provide Caroline with an education that was appropriate for her; Caroline’s first teacher who knew how to challenge Caroline with overwhelming her; to John’s mom for caring for the ladies during two cross country moves and for always looking for ways to be helpful, to Kristen for being the MOST amazing nanny, teacher, therapist, friend, and new member of our family (our Howie); and again to Dawn–for everything. I know I have missed many, many people.  But please know we appreciate everyone who has helped us along the way. And to those who I have been short with please accept my apologizes, l try every day to give everyone the consideration I would like but some days I fall short.

So I started with thoughts about parenting from Hillary Clinton and I would like to end with thoughts about life and seeing the good in every situation from Mr. Rogers, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” Thank you all the helpers.

Thank you to everyone who is part of our village.