Emma turned three last week. Three. It seems impossible that someone so young could change my life so profoundly. One of the best changes is how I look at differences. I had never given differences in people much thought because most of my life I've been surrounded by people very similar to me - something I hadn't realized until I met Emma. Having Emma in my life opened my eyes to a much broader world community.
The way we found out about Emma's medical diagnosis was pretty much a trickle effect. After an uneventful birth we found that she didn't pass her newborn hearing test in one ear. That lead to further testing and when she was 7 weeks old - on the day before Thanksgiving - we found out that she was completely deaf. That diagnosis was just the beginning of the many tests and specialists appointments during her first year of life that seemed to always end with another medical label and me going home to search the internet for more information.
It was my internet searches that led me to others in similar circumstances. Although I had knowledge of what blogs and internet groups were, I had never actually read or been a member of any prior to Emma's diagnosis. I had never felt the desire to call up complete strangers that I found on a blog or chat group and discuss the issues that left me with countless sleepless nights. I had known there were people that looked into alternative medicines and therapy, but I always thought that traditional medicine held all the answers.
It was because of the community that I found online that I started to open my mind to alternative treatments while still embracing some conventional ones. That I met children and families that inspire me. That I became emotionally invested in children I have never met but who I grew to know through personal blogs. That I started participating in events that included children and adults with a variety of disabilities. That I started doing things outside of my comfort zone - like calling up a total stranger and discussing a particularly painful neurologist appointment. I called her up because I read her blog and thought she might be able to relate to what I was going through in a way that my family and friends could not. I am so glad that I made that phone call and am proud to share my monthly posts on Hopeful Parents with the stranger that I now consider my good friend.
It is through the experiences I've had the past few years that I've come to embrace our differences as people and see that being different means that we are each unique and wonderfully made. And I now understand clearly why other parents of special needs children told me that all Emma's challenges are a blessing even when I couldn't understand it at the time we were receiving the news.
Happy Birthday, my sweet Emma. Thank you for broadening my horizons and teaching me to consider each day a gift.