Parenting is hard and beautiful and full of refining moments. With 11 years of parenting my typical kiddos under my belt, I realized that parenting held many challenging moments but it in no way prepared me for the No Man’s Land space of special needs parenting.
When my 3 boys were born I loved charting and comparing their growth and development. There were numerous books and websites I could turn to when I wondered when to introduce solids, when to expect the beginning of language, the best time to introduce potty training, etc.
With my daugher who has multiple disabilities, all of those timelines are replaced with question marks. Even with a diagnosis and more specialists than I have fingers to count, no one can tell me what to expect next. As I have developed friendships with moms of kiddos with a wide range of special needs, from physical disabilities to neuro and genetic abnormalities, the common theme is the unknown. The most consistent thing our doctors can tell us is that they don’t know what comes next for our children
We want to know what to expect and they just don’t have answers. Will my child ever say Momma? Will he ever achieve potty training? Will she ever be able to sit up on her own? Will he always need oxygen? Will she ever feed herself? Will he ever have a girlfriend? Will she be able to live independently? Will I outlive him?
And we enter No Man’s Land.
In wartime the barren tract of land between enemy trenches was referred to as No Man’s Land. The dictionary describes No Man’s Land as 1) an unowned or unclaimed tract of usually barren land and 2) an indefinite or ambiguous area where guidelines and authority are not clear.
This is where we reside. Full of uncertainty and no real answers. This is where fear, loneliness and despair like to claim territory. It can feel isolating, draining and leave us feeling out of control.
We unfortunately can’t escape our time in No Man’s Land. We can’t create answers that don’t exist. We do, however, get to choose how we live out our time in this place of seeming barrenness. We don’t have to accept fear, loneliness and despair as our companions. The good news and reality is that while doctors can’t give us answers, the loving God that created our children uniquely is not surprised or confused by our questions.
He knows what will come next for our children and He is present with us in our No Man’s Land. We are not alone in this place of uncertainty. While we may not receive a clear timeline, He daily offers us the gift of Hope.
We can all certainly share stories of ways our children have amazed and surprised us with their tenacity and joy despite the challenges they face. Ask any parent of a child with special needs and their face will light up as they share story after story of times their child made strides that specialists never thought would happen.
As parents of these tiny warriors we know all about Hope. It is what we white knuckle grip when we walk into IEP meetings, wait for the latest EEG reading and face another hospitalization. The God who loves our child even more than we do is the author of this Hope.
He claims our No Man’s Land as the perfect soil for growing a great harvest of Hope. When we choose to plant our broken dreams and seeds of uncertainty and even pain in the soil; He fertilizes it with our tears and sacrifice. Our brokenness in our search for unfound answers leads us to a choice. We can set up our tent in No Man’s Land and invite loneliness and despair in, or we can plant ourselves under the beautiful branches of the Hope God has grown in this place and choose to Trust.
We have this unique opportunity to surrender our questions and trust Him with all of it: the broken dreams, unmet expectations, fears and unknown future. He knows this hard-fought-for trust is a sacrificial gift. He doesn’t take it lightly. Just as He loves our precious children, He loves and treasures us. Our pain is not wasted. It allows us to enter into His sufferings in ways many others have not experienced. It gives us the platform to comfort and encourage others (2 Cor. 1:4) in a unique way once we have experienced His comfort. And it allows us to know Him as faithful. What a gift to be able to trust in a faithful God (Psalm 33:4) when we face such daily uncertainty as we care for our sweet children. We establish this heritage of Trust and Hope for our children for their own journeys.
I’m choosing my perspective. No Man’s Land is no longer a place of barrenness in my life. I am enjoying a Harvest of Hope and daily gathering what I need to weather whatever challenges I face. I know that I can trust the faithful God that walks with me through this place and knows exactly what I need for whatever we may face next.