… from the bungalow

12 days that amaze, Day 8: The most difficult thing


This is the eighth (we’ll call the beard poll #7) of 12 “amazing” installments of “12 days that amaze.” I am pushing myself to write 12 posts about things that amaze me leading up to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser in Chicago that Karin, Deb and I are participating in. In doing so, I must also be open to the everyday amazing things that happen around me.

I didn’t have a great day yesterday. I figured I’d miss a day out of my 12-day series at some point. Frankly, I’m impressed that I made it halfway through before dropping the ball. So I asked you for your suggestions on Facebook.

There were a few good ones, but I’m going to take the very first one, submitted by Lynda: “What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done on purpose?” Easy.

Deciding to have children

My first wife and I got engaged very quickly, and married very young. We both worked for the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and bought our first house in Ypsilanti, MI. By the time she was finishing up her master’s degree at EMU, I was itching for something more. I got bored. I started to feel like my life was incomplete and lacking in purpose. Sure, we could have adopted a dog, but I had always wanted kids, and even looked forward to being a stay-at-home dad. It was something we talked about before we got married, and I was feeling ready.

We mulled it over for a few weeks. We thought about it, talked about it… We even made a list of pros and cons sitting in a booth at a diner over many cups of coffee. In the end, the pros outweighed the cons (by a narrow margin) and we decided to ditch the birth control.

Fast forward about four months. We were eating out one night (I want to say it was Bennigan’s) and she threw up in the parking lot after dinner. That night, she took a pregnancy test, and it was positive. That was a happy, tearful night, equal parts exciting and terrifying.

The very next day, she was laid off. Within 18 hours of finding out we were going to have our first baby, more than half of our income was cut. F*ck me. I was able to find a better paying job that was drivable from where her parents live, and we moved to be closer to family. We knew we’d need help. What we didn’t know was the extent to which that would be true.

We read the books and knew what to expect (or so we thought). The pregnancy was, for the most part, a breeze for her. When it was time for him to be born, he was in a breech position, and her amniotic fluid was low, so they performed a C-section. There were no other complications, and there he was.

Then everything changed.

He wouldn’t latch on. For hours the lactation specialist tried to help her feed our baby. That was the beginning of what would be the most difficult segment of our lives. Our son (the Little Professor) wasn’t hitting many of the milestones babies are supposed to hit, and the ones he did demonstrate came very late. Many will never happen at all.

When he was 10 months old, she found work and I quit my job to be at home with him. I loved it, mostly. I took hours of video, scheduled EarlyOn visits, took him to doctor appointments, etc. But there was always this underlying, lurking, suffocating feeling that life would never be the same for any of us, and I became very depressed.

There’s a sort of mourning that happens when you have a child with special needs. I mourned the loss of dreams and expectations. I mourned the difficult life that my son would have. I mourned what felt like the loss of my freedom. And it doesn’t just happen once. It cycles and comes in waves, and it can be debilitating.

HOWEVER, this is about the point where The Little Professor post starts off. And throughout all of the difficulty, I grew. I grew because I had to. Do you know why we get depressed, angry, fearful? I think that negative emotions are born out of the dissonance that occurs when, underneath the blanket of conscious thought, we want to move and grow and become something bigger, but our ego resists. An image comes to mind. It’s like a building made of solid rock in an earthquake zone–rigid, immutable. When a shift occurs, the building cracks and collapses. Thank goodness our human brains are capable of much more flexibility. Amazing.

I was itching for something more. I got bored. I started to feel like my life was incomplete and lacking in purpose.

Who says wishes don’t come true?


Author: Chris

Introspection to a fault. College administrator, parent, soapmaker.

17 thoughts on “12 days that amaze, Day 8: The most difficult thing

  1. Wow. The raw, honest, and painful experiences you share in your writing can be felt right in the heart. I worked with special needs kids for 10 years, but never did I get ‘this’ side of the story. Hearing you describe these feelings is eye opening for so many reasons … but it also gives me perspective and newfound appreciation. You are a strong man — but as you said, because you had to be … you were strong and grew as a human being for your son … now that is the definition of a hero in my book.

    Thank you for keeping it so beautifully real here in this space.

    • Thank you, Rachel! A huge compliment coming from you. I was worried that this post lacked polish since I wrote it so quickly, so it’s nice to get positive feedback. And thanks for contributing to the beauty of “this space”!

  2. Well, I’m just feeling all tearful now (in a good way). I could probably write a comment an hour long…but instead…I’m just going to love looking at that super sweet picture of you and your little one. You’re a great dad, Chris; it permeates through your honesty in writing. ♥-SWM

  3. Beautiful! It was very hard to be an observer to all this and unable to do very much to make it better. Love your analogy to a building in an earthquake. That pretty much describes me the past few years. My “house” will never be the same.

    • Mary, I know it was so hard on you and John, and still is in many ways. Thanks for continuing to be a part of their lives and mine.

      I agree that our “houses” will never be the same, but they’re like those houses that are actually built to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes, with rebar and shifting walls. I could have lived in a plain, boring house all my life and would never have known the difference. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to rebuild and redecorate. 🙂

  4. Another wonderful post for your series! I’ve definitely been feeling a lack of purpose lately, and it’s a terrible feeling! I’m not sure having a baby is the answer for us (right now), but I love reading about the experience from your perspective – I know you’re always honest and don’t resort to, “Oh, it’s really not that hard, you’ll love being a parent,” etc. Thank you for that!

    • Oh my God. I would never, ever tell someone thinking about having kids “it’s really not that hard.” But on the other hand, I could never have understood what people meant when they told me pre-parenthood that becoming a parent would change my life. It’s incomprehensible. Now I just smile and nod, and sometimes tell expecting folks that I’m looking forward to welcoming them into the club. There’s really no way to say it without sounding condescending. I know full well how annoying it is to hear that sort of thing before you have kids, but I also know that the parents with advice who had “gone before me” meant well. I guess that’s why I write about my own experiences without advising. It’s about perspective, you know? 🙂

  5. There are almost no words for this. So beautiful. Thank you for providing my eyes, my brain and my soul with such a profound story. Dreams do come true and usually not in the way we expect. That is a wonderful picture of you and your son.

    I hope you have a lovely day,

    • Thanks, Currie! You’re so right. If I think I can see a direct path to a goal, I assume that’s not the actual path I’ll end up walking. Things never play out the way I expect. But it’s so much fun piecing it all together in retrospect!

  6. Thanks for your honest and heartfelt words. There is something special and unique about people just being open about their feelings and experiences. Way to often we pretend things are always cheerful and perfect. Wouldn’t it be great if we were all more honest on how our days are really going and the struggles that we sometimes go through…think of how much more we could support and encourage one another. It would be cool!

    • Yes, I’m all for honesty and connecting with others through words and experiences in a very real way. We need to regain that sense of community as a culture, and I think we’re on the upswing. 🙂

  7. You’re not the only one and neither am I. You truly do mourn the loss of dreams and it doesn’t happen just once. You were so spot on with this post. Parenting absolutely changes you. You grow up. You step up because you have to.
    Someday your boys will see how awesome you are.

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