By Brandy McIntyre
Once you start a journey with a special needs child, you read. You read all you can about their diagnosis. You read what life is like being the parent of a special needs child. You fill your brain with enormous amounts of knowledge. Sometimes you think your head will explode. I remember very early on and very clearly reading an article that marriages fail and you will lose friendships while on this journey. I felt a lump in my throat. How could this happen too on top of everything else that is going to change? I also thought that no way could this happen to me. But just like I thought I could never have a special needs child, my social life has definitely changed.
One thing that I never read about or was never prepared for was the friendships that I HAVE made. Thanks to social media and online support groups, our journey has been beautiful and never lonely. Very early on I made three new and beautiful friendships that I will cherish as long as I live. Because our children were all born around the same time, Rachel, Heather, Kristy and I formed a tight bond. All four of us completely different. Rachel was the godly Southern woman. Heather and I are the two oldest and by far loudest. Kristy is the baby. Heather and I both had two older daughters before having our child with HPE. Kristy and Rachel were both first-time moms. Two lived in Texas, one in Louisiana and the other in Mississippi. We were lucky that geographically we were close. This led to many trips to be together and spend time feeling normal.
A few years ago, we were heartbroken when our sweet friend Rachel passed away completely unexpected. It was devastating. Quickly Charlotte, Rachel’s sister, came into our fold. Her love for her niece, Jane, is undeniable. Even though life gets busy, and we don’t have the late nights to chat anymore since all our kiddos are now 4 years old and mostly behaving, we have a special sisterhood that will always be there. I love them all so much.
Our friendship is special. So special that when you ask your friend to strip naked and lend you her prom dress, she does it without a second thought. The night of the prom, I had a gorgeous dress, but when rumored riots threatened the safety of our families, action took over and I had no time to dress. So I threw on my Families for HoPE board shirt and headed to prom even though my handsome husband and three daughters were dressed to the nines.
Once we were at the prom I became envious of all the families taking pictures in their dressy clothes. I looked over and saw Heather in her huge, blue ball gown. I knew my problem was solved. Without question, Heather went with me into the bathroom, took off her dress and remained naked in a stall until I returned from taking a picture with my beautiful family. I had no makeup on and my hair was a mess, but my dress was PERFECT!
There are so many moms that I have met on this journey from Families for HoPE. My love for them and their children is indescribable. It’s bigger than my heart. Whenever I have the “why me” moments, I know God gave me my beautiful Mary Elizabeth so my life could be blessed by these women.