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Less Than Infinite Possibilities

When a baby is born, her life is so full of promise.  She could grow up to become anything.  She could be a teacher, a scientist, or even president.  She could lead the UN or the next Apple.  There are no limits on her potential.

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As that child ages, it becomes clear that she is better at some things than others.  As she enters school and perhaps struggles to read or grasp subtraction, the infinite possibilities of her future narrow.  Now maybe she’ll be an engineer or social worker.

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All children follow a path through life.  Little by little, without us parents realizing it, the infiniteness of the possibilities open to our child begins to narrow until the child is an adult and somehow they find themselves grown and in a career, a relationship, a life path.  It is a process of gently pruning into the shape of a life.

But what happens when a hand grenade blows a hole in that gentle process of pruning life’s infinite possibilities into a life path?  What happens when your child doesn’t just struggle with multiplication or grammar but has been diagnosed with a medical condition that will significantly limit her life or even end it early?

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Being in the world of special needs adoption, I often wonder how a family could choose to adopt a child with a life limiting or life threatening illness.  How does a parent make that choice? How do you raise your hand and say, “I’ll do it”?  How do you make your peace with your child NOT having infinite possibilities just like all the other kids in the neighborhood?

I didn’t understand it until our family received a life-limiting diagnosis for one of our children.  First you’re numb.  Then you are incredulous and doubt it.  Then you become angry over the unfairness of it all because your child is special and deserves so much to grow and run and reach her ultimate potential.  And then you wake up and realize that you have to find a way forward, together.

After my numbness, incredulity and anger, I remembered the red thread.

An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break.  ~Ancient Chinese Proverb

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Maybe the red thread governs more than just the people and relationships in our lives.  Maybe the red thread governs our destiny.  Maybe when my child was born, she didn’t really have infinite possibilities sitting before her; she had a single destiny which included this diagnosis.  Maybe it was only I who saw infinite possibilities because the one true destiny was not yet clear.

And every day that destiny becomes a little more clear.

It is not less, it is just different.

Maybe not only did the red thread mean for us to be family but for me to guide her through this challenge in her life.   It is part of both her destiny and mine.

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So how do you go on?  How do you choose to parent a child with a life-limiting diagnosis?

You just do.

Laundry still needs to be washed, dinners need to be served and children tucked into bed.  You just go on, but not the same as before. There are also birthdays, victorious games and climbing to the top for the first time.

Now you see each good day as a gift and try to savor it just a little more than before.  Knowing your child’s possibilities are no longer endless makes you treasure the little things even more.  And it makes you teach that to your children…to all of them.

~Just another mom

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