So many people know us for who we are on the surface — what we look like, what we do, where we live, what we drive, and the fact that we appear to be a "normal" family. Our goal is to go beyond the surface and show you who we are beneath it all — not for sympathy or applauds but so that others may find comfort in knowing that they are not alone in their journeys. We want to break the stereotypical ideologies of what normal families should look like and are.
Today's honest ugly truth about me, Michelle, aka Mama Llama is that I didn't want to hold two-year-old, Bub. And not because I flat out dislike holding him but because I was busy with chores and needed some space to myself. I tried redirecting him several times before we got to this point (see photo). But almost immediately after I picked him in my arms, the built-up tension in his body disappeared and I instantly felt convicted. Because right away, I knew that's what was needed of me at the moment.
Here's a beneath-the-surface capture of us...
The past couple of days have been filled with many emotions — some happy, some prideful ones (the boys are going to the potty), but mostly those of frustration. For one, there's been a hell of a lot more crying than laughter lately. Two, my 'me time' has been somewhat nonexistent. Lastly, and certainly the biggest of the three, it's been the frustration of dealing with two kids with extraordinary needs and knowing that no matter how much of a fixer I want to be, there will always be things beyond me. Because ever since we brought a beautiful 7 lb. 2 oz hazel-eyed baby girl home, our definition of normal completely changed, and what we thought would be a world of mostly bliss soon became a world of confusion.
See, before Sis was born, Blake and I thought we had experienced every emotion available to us on this Earth, but what we did not know was that we were getting ready to tap into new ones we never knew existed. Our expectations vs. realities were flipped upside-down.
We knew we would have sleepless nights having a toddler and newborn, but we didn't know was that we would be dealing with a restless baby and nonstop crying. We were told, "Oh she's just colicky". We knew some babies could be indifferent to strangers, but we didn't know that our daughter would have full-blown panic attacks if a stranger so much looked her way. We were told, "You just need to get out more". But the more we did, the outings began to feel more like punishment than anything else. Because no matter how much we tried to get and have a good time, we were quickly reminded that no one appreciates an unfriendly, screaming baby.
We knew that toddlers didn't always like change, but what we didn't know is that our girl would have a preference for the way she walked down the stairs, how her cereal was poured, the way her hair was placed on her face, that she would screech like a vampiress if sunlight skimmed her eyes, her clothes would need to be a certain color and texture, water could not come close to her eyes, some noises would be too loud or annoying, or that she wouldn't enjoy birthday parties, people outside of her household, or group activities until well after the age of four and that was only if Blake and I were around.
I always knew there was something different about our girl but when we voiced our concerns at her 36-month checkup, we were told, "This is what happens when kids get their way" by the primary care physician who didn't know anything about us other than our names and the information we filled out on the milestone checklist. Talk about a slap in the face...
For years, we did our best to appear normal on the surface, but we were struggling so much internally. There was a time that we couldn't leave our home without Maci having a meltdown and I was so depressed that I barely left my bedroom each day. Blake and I's marriage was also extremely strained due to the additional stress/frustration of raising a "difficult child" with zero support in terms of healthcare which also affected her education (we were denied a referral to the appropriate specialist since she only appeared to be a spoiled child in the eyes of an ignorant medical provider). We almost lost our way as a family until we realized that maybe just maybe we were right about her and became unselfish in our desires. We had to completely change our perspective of what normal looked like to fit our family's needs.
Today, we are in a much better place. Not because we got it in the bag (because we definitely need continued support), but because we make it our agenda to do our best at meeting our kids' needs in their way. And no, we are not perfect. We still get frustrated and overwhelmed at times. However, we find hope and encouragement in knowing that the same little girl I told you about above is now the big girl who gets in front of crowds to recite verses, looks forward to attending social settings, and enjoys making friends.
Today, people see our girl for the beautiful soul she is and not the difficulties she faces. Though we know there's a long road ahead, we find peace in knowing many others are walking this journey with us. And if there is anything I wished I did differently, I wish I wouldn't have been afraid to be called ignorant one more time for suggesting that our real concerns needed real intervention. I wish I would have been a louder advocate like I am for her and her brother today. But with all things in life, know better, do better. And I'm thankful I'm better for them today.
Never be afraid to advocate for yourself/your babies, get help, or be true to who you are.
- Mama Llama Michelle