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A new you

November 19, 2015
Maria Smaldino Spencer , MOV Parent

I'm very certain that if you asked any special parent if their child has changed their life, they would all answer "Yes." I feel there are stages of change on this journey we are all on, and they may have different details, but we all experience the same feelings along the way.

When your child first comes into your world, your life changes dramatically. You are trying to figure out this new place you've entered, and it feels like you are lost in a foreign land. It is uncomfortable, and you don't really know how to act. Fear takes up residence inside of you, and you're definitely not the same person that you were before. You sure have changed, but you don't think at this point it is for the better. You are in survival mode twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Most of the time you are running on empty, and you can't see anything else around you. Your focus is only your child. When you are in the midst of this stage, you have no idea you're changing on the inside.

Then as time goes on, it starts to get more comfortable. Even though worry and fear are always lingering in your mind, you are not as scared as you were in the beginning. You have become more familiar with the road ahead, and you are able to take steps forward. Even though you may still be in survival mode, you have found guides and seen light along the way. You start to notice things about yourself that are different than before your child came into your world. You probably speak up more, take charge more, and have learned to be an amazing advocate for your baby girl or boy. Your heart has most definitely changed, and you and others start to take note. This stage can last for months or years, and on some level, this is the plateau we all come to find ourselves on a regular basis. It has taken time to get to this leg of the journey, and you are most certainly not the same as you used to be.

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You realize over time that your child has made a positive impact on the person that you are. Experiences, good and bad, have taken place that positioned you where you are. Experiences take time. It's during these days, months and years that you realize that even though this task is the hardest thing you've ever done, it has altered you as a person.

I know a very special Mom that said profound words to me recently. Her son Joshua was born with a degenerative brain disorder, and she considers it a privilege to be is Mom. She said to me, "He changed my life. He made me a better person."

Now, I'm sure we all could agree with her. All of our kids have changed our lives, right?

The difference between us and this amazing Mom is that Joshua was only here on the earth for sixteen brief months. He lost the fight against his little body in a very short period of time. And in that small amount of time, Joshua took his Mom through these phases, and changed her into the person she is today. She didn't have to tell me details about exactly how he changed her life. She didn't have to describe to me how he made her a better person. I could feel her heart in her words, and see the pride in her eyes. Joshua's life is proof that our children bring hope to those around them that can't be described in words. The effect that takes place from caring for our kids is the same regardless of the time we have to spend with them. They shine their light on all who come in their presenceeven if they are struggling through their days.

My prayer this month is that you will take note of how your child has impacted your life, regardless of how long you've been on your path. Don't ever doubt that you were hand-picked for your unique road-with all the sharp twists, turns and bumps that are only yours. These steps were designed with you in mind-to transform you into the person that you were meant to be.

Maria Smaldino Spencer is a special mom, special needs consultant and a center supervisor administrator at CDI Head Start of Mahoning County in Youngstown. Contact her at



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