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An encounter with God: Motherhood and children with additional needs

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Motherhood - The Catholic Weekly
Carla with her husband and son. Photo: Supplied.

In 2016 after almost five years of being married and trying to fall pregnant, many interventions failing, a surgery and two miscarriages, we eventually held a baby in our arms—our first-born son, who we called Moses.

The first 10 months with him were beautiful, gosh I loved him so much it hurt!

We were living onsite at a boarding school in far North Queensland at the time and my days were all with him, while my husband worked with the students.

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I had no other mothers to journey with but I didn’t mind, nor desire it at the time. My husband and I enjoyed this sweet child, his gorgeous temperament and the new life he brought us.

It wasn’t until he was about three years old that I realised something was going on.

Moses is autistic, with global developmental delays, intellectual disability and ADHD and is not developing typically.

The day I found out I drove from the hospital in a daze.

With Moses in the car with me, I drove to Snapper Rocks to stare at the ocean for as long as Moses would let me sit still— and backed the car into a six-foot stone retaining wall, crunching the spare tire into the back door of the car.

Moses is now seven years old, currently he is at home with me full time. We spend our days going to his various therapies and activities, and on adventures out in the community and in nature.

Moses. Photo: Supplied.

St Maximilian Kolbe said the cross is “the school of love”.

It might sound clichéd but my hope is in the Lord.

In all this Jesus has been closer than ever and I have drawn inspiration from Mary his mother as well. I take her as my mother too.

She is powerful and the grace of her love and intercession is very real for me. It’s deeply stirring how she powerfully gave her humble “fiat”.

This Latin word meaning ‘Let it be done’ reminds me of the fierce surrender and impact one ‘yes’ can mean.

When she accepted the mission to be the mother of Jesus, who was to become the saviour of the world, she set the world ablaze. To call her ‘brave’ is an understatement.

Jesus is now accessible to every man, woman and child because of her cooperation with the Holy Spirit.

So I ask myself, how can I say ‘yes’ to Christ and let his plan for me play out the way that he knows best? Trusting that he does know best.

A World With Jesus Christ Verses a world without Jesus Christ

That’s how I look at my daily life now. I can struggle along without Jesus or with him. I can attempt to let his will be done with him in my heart, my mind, my home, my family, my maternal life and duties, or I can exclude him and not make him welcome .

I’ve found that with him is better. With him the pains and tests and quests for more understanding in the midst of the chaotic moments have meaning and I can learn. With him there is transformation, depth, Insights and real help. He is creative when my mind is blank. He can, I can’t. He’s God, I am not. I try, I fail. I am harsh, he is merciful and compassionate.

There is a hidden grace in this life when I really think about it, what else would I be doing? Who else would I be serving, and where would I be serving Christ? After all we are all called to serve Christ in some capacity if we are Christians. So What is my vocation? What is God calling me to? I don’t have to guess or wonder anymore. It’s right in front of me, my own child is who and where I serve, and ultimately my family.

And at the same time I don’t have a choice. God hasn’t kept me guessing what he wants me do. I’m a carer, a mum. So the question, to do paid work or not, or to dive into ministry interests no longer matters for now, or maybe ever. I’m right where I’m supposed to be, and from where I stand, I see what Mary, our heavenly mother was showing us. I accept. Let it be done.

As I write this I am reminded of St Therese of Lisieux’s quote “My vocation is Love“ every other vocation falls under this. Our identity, our roles, tiles, and callings might be good, yet Love first.

And indeed love seems to be the glue, God gives us glimpses of heaven through this child, and I mean this in the truest way, I couldn’t possibly explain it in words, but I will say that I tear up sometimes as heaven meets earth. It’s like this secret world that I have front row seats to, for but a moment.

When when Moses looks deeply straight into my eyes, intense joy explodes in my heart, as the silent communication is allowed to pass through us. Thank you God. Just thank you. The light is so bright in that moment and then immediately met with heartbreak.

God let me in to his world and it hurts so bad. Maybe I haven’t accepted this. Lord give me strength, the humility that’s needed here. Jesus comes in so close in these moments, it’s tangible, it’s beautiful and painful all at once. And I am reminded again that I don’t need to understand what’s going on to trust Christ.

I have become convinced that the ultimate encounter with God is through suffering. It has given me something precious that nothing else can and the intimacy with Christ this experience of being a mum has gifted me with, I wouldn’t trade.

Some quotes and writings that have stuck with me I have posted around the house and some are mantras that fly through my mind inspiring me to remember the truths of God during a challenging day.

This, from the book I read last year, Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe:

“The most painful suffering is the suffering we reject.”

“What really hurts is not so much suffering itself as the fear of suffering. If welcomed trustingly and peacefully, suffering makes us grow.”

“When I don’t think about myself I am happy” said Blessed Chiara Petrillo, a young Italian mother who died in 2012 (it’s worth looking up her story if you haven’t already).

“Oh Jesus, I surrender myself to you, take care of everything,” from the surrender prayer novena given to Don Dolindo.

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me,” Matthew 25:40

And from St Faustina’s Divine Mercy Devotion, “Jesus I trust in You”.

I love my son for who he is not what he can do, but he can do some pretty amazing things! He surprises us daily.

He glorifies God by just existing, and I’m reminded through him that I am also called to glorify God.

The gift these children are to the world and our church is unquestionable.

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