It was 17 years ago that I received the worst news a pregnant, soon-to-be parent could get—I wasn’t feeling him kick anymore inside my belly and I knew something was wrong.
The ultrasound showed that I had no amniotic fluid surrounding my son, so I was told to pack a bag, head to Boston and begin preparing for the worst. I was 25 weeks pregnant, but my son’s growth had stalled since week 18. The only option was an emergency C-section. The doctors said there was no hope.
Tasked with making a decision that only a mother can make, I weighed my options in private. Despite the lack of confidence the doctors were portraying, for some reason I was overcome with a feeling that my son would be OK. I decided to leave the hospital and make my own plan—to return home still pregnant with a plan to visit Boston three times a week to monitor my son’s progress.
As the nurses were encouraging me to emotionally detach from my unborn child, I was busy making a deal with him—that I would stand behind him every step of the way, whether he was able to make it into this world or not, I respected my son’s choice and ability to fight his own fight, because this was out of my hands.
The prayers came droves as the weeks went slowly by. As the amniotic fluid was slowly returning, I felt as though I actually willed life into my son by believing in him. The doctors and nurses were all amazed. I remember my son began responding to one nurse in particular, as she continued to monitor him through his constant fight for life.
I’ll never forget hitting the 37-week mark. I remember my doctor turning around with a big smile on his face, asking me the details on my requests for the delivery of my son. Obviously my pregnancy was high risk, and the doctors wanted to do a C-section, but I told the doctors that my son wasn’t done proving himself yet.
Apparently word of a “miracle birth” gets around the hospital pretty fast. I remember my delivery room being a busy one. My 4 pound, 2-ounce son’s birth inspired laughter and tears—I don’t know who was crying hard, me or him!
From the moment my son was born, there was an unshakeable bond that was created. I think that’s why I cared so little when the doctors were telling me that my child would be a special needs child due to time he spent without a sufficient supply of oxygen.
He started with early intervention and met his physical milestones on time, but his cognitive functions were delayed. Elementary School gave Zachary the opportunity to receive every type of therapy you can think of.
Through IEP meetings, doctor visits and countless phone calls with teachers and other advocates, I have been my son’s voice all of his life. When I felt the curriculum and resources at school were lacking, I found solutions. The journey forced me to research laws and regulations, and even forced our family to relocate to receive better treatment, but the fight continues to be a winning fight for Zachary and me.
As the years passed, I noticed Zachary’s brain developing in certain areas that were equal to his peers as he learned “life skills” like making excuse to try and get out of doing his homework.
High School brought a whole new set of problems with another department taking shortcuts on my son’s IEP and his grades were suffering because of it. With more research, more advocating and even getting the State Board of Education involved the fight continued, as the high school severely underestimated the amount of fight in Zachary and his mother.
I cannot stress how important it is for parents in situations like mine to know the ins and outs of the laws surrounding your child’s right’s to help safeguard the future of our children. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it is that we have to be our child’s voice.
As the school continued to try and integrate my son into mainstream programs, his behavior began to change drastically. Seeing another battle on the horizon, our family received an enormous blessing when my son was granted the opportunity to attend a 45-day evaluation at a therapeutic school to help him develop properly.
After more red-tape and more fighting with my son’s current high school, it was finally over. My son was able to finish the last two years of his high school career at a therapeutic school where he began to truly thrive in his development for the first time in his life.
The uphill battle that I fought on behalf of my son has taught me so many valuable lessons: how far a mother’s love goes; to never give up, despite what other’s think; and most of all, how to truly love someone.
I look forward to looking back one day to truly realize how much I love my son—to see from an outside perspective how hard I fought for him, even before he was born. But even through the years and years of fighting for him, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
My son knows he’s special—he loves hearing the story of his own birth. He and I have grown together since that time, and now, I don’t see him as any different than the other kids his age. I see a marvelous young man who is intelligent and makes me laugh. I believe in the deepest part of my heart that there are big things in store for my son’s future.
Never stop fighting for your kids. Your child is part of the future of this world. There is a reason why our children were made special. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for my son. No matter where he goes in life, I hope he knows that I’m behind him 100% of the way.