When My Daughter Was Born With Health Issues, I Just Loved on Her Even More

Opinion   Melissa Ohden   Sep 18, 2020   |   7:00PM    Washington, DC

Life happens. Unexpected things occur, circumstances continuously change.

Our children grow, we age, we lose people we love, we leave places where we had laid down roots. The list of how life happens and seemingly at breakneck speed, could go on and on.

It seems like just when I get a stage of my life down pat, life happens again. I change jobs or even careers. We have another child. We move to a new house or a new city. Our parents move. They retire. Our kids start school.

Something and everything can change in the blink of an eye. And these are the “little” things, right? We know there are much bigger, greater life changes that impact us—losing a child, a spouse, a family member. Accidents, disasters, losing a home or a job. We never know what tomorrow may bring.

When our Ava was born with health issues, something in me changed. For the better. Not only did I experience the fiercest love that I’ve ever known and develop a laser-like focus on what life’s priorities really are, but a switch flipped on within me that allowed me to readjust what I had known before as “normal” life.

The visions that I had carried throughout my pregnancy and even before that about what our lives would be like with another child were quickly replaced with real life.

Messy, difficult real life.

The reflux, the feeding issues, the tests, the surgeries, the occupational and physical therapy….nowhere in my visions about life with Ava had these things even been considered. And I’ll be brutally honest. I had no clue just how many families experience them in their own lives.

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As unprepared as I really was for all that we faced with Ava, it was strangely enough pretty easy to deal with. Why? How? First of all, my faith reminded me every day that God has a plan for her, for me as her mother, and our family. Secondly, though, readjusting my normal was a huge piece of my successful transition into this uncharted territory with Ava, and really, our entire family’s transition.

We didn’t spend a lot of time focused on how we thought life was going to be, or how we thought it should have been. We didn’t spend much of our time and energy comparing our lives or Ava’s to that of others. Were there moments we let ourselves slip into those places? Absolutely. I think anyone would given the circumstances. But we certainly didn’t stay in those places for very long when we did.

Once we accepted and appreciated the gift that she is to us, exactly as she was made to be, there was no need to compare ourselves to others and their experiences. Life and love are not a contest.

I’ve also come to recognize, though, that “readjusting your normal” is probably one of the most important things that you can do in your journey throughout life. Unplanned and unexpected things happen every day, including pregnancy.

In order to accept the new and unexpected, especially when it isn’t something we wanted or at least don’t want at a particular moment in time, we have to readjust our normal. Whether it’s plans for education, our jobs, even the financial stability of our family in the midst of another child or in the circumstances of a child being born with health issues, life will not stay the same. Once we accept that and are willing to readjust what we knew as normal, I believe that coping with the unplanned situation is possible. And maybe, like our family, you will find great joy in the midst of it.

Is it always easy? No. But the good news is that you don’t have to go through it alone. If you’re facing an unexpected pregnancy situation, there are thousands of Pregnancy Centers across the U.S. who can support you as you learn to adjust your normal. If you’re facing a pregnancy in which your child has health issues, ministries like Be Not Afraid are a great support.

Maybe the very thing you’re afraid of or trying to avoid isn’t the greatest difficulty or obstacle you’re facing. Maybe it’s you and your definition of what’s normal. Do yourself a favor and readjust your normal.