When you are deciding how many children you’re going to have most families take into account things like affordability, size of the home, manageability and other factors central to your capacity to care for the children you bring into the world. A friend of a friend had much more serious factors to consider when deciding to have another baby.
One of my besties shared an amazing story of a friend she recently caught up with who was visiting from Sydney for a weekend with her children and husband.
“I had no idea what she has been going through,” my friend (we’ll call her Carol) said to me.”I’m just in awe of how well she’s handled it and how hard it must have been for her.”
Carol’s friend, (we’ll call her Sue), has two children, 4 and 2. Sue and Carol were friends for a few years in their 20s and were close. But when Carol got married and had her first baby the friendship faded slightly, as these things tend to do when one person enters a new life stage. Then Sue got pregnant and had her first baby, Johnny, (not his real name) and the two women caught up a few times before Carol moved to Brisbane.
On Sue’s recent trip to Brisbane, she and Carol took the kids to the park for a playdate and a catch-up. Carol learned Sue’s firstborn has been diagnosed with global delay, autism and epilepsy. Johnny is four years old and hasn’t reached many of the milestones a four-year-old child is expected to reach.
While at the park Sue revealed: “I really wanted to have a third child but Bill said no way. I can understand why he said no. But my main reason for wanting another baby was so Charlotte (the two year old, who shows no signs of abnormality) doesn’t struggle alone with Johnny in adulthood.”
The enormous weight of that decision is staggering, if you pause for a moment and think about it. To be planning so far ahead, to think about bringing another person in the world not for the sole reason of loving them and having them love you, but so they can share a huge level of responsibility with those already in existence is pretty awe-inspiring.
At the moment Sue doesn’t know what level of functionality Johnny will reach long term. It’s a matter of wait and see. In the meantime, she parents her children with all the love and patience in the world.
“I was in awe of her patience and her clear love for her children. She wasn’t frustrated or frazzled to any large degree,” Carol said. “She’s an amazing mother struggling with a huge load.”
Carol and I commented Sue was doing a much better job than either of us would do under similar duress. Our admiration for Sue’s family is enormous. And over my coffee this morning I realised the enormous decision Sue had been struggling with for her daughter’s future.
Sue can see down the road, in that way that mothers can. One day Sue and her husband will be feeble and unable to care for their handicapped son. The bulk of the burden will fall to Sue’s daughter and Sue doesn’t want the stress of that responsibility to overwhelm her. But I think (meaning I really, really hope) Sue’s daughter will probably cope OK. People have an uncanny ability to rise to the challenge when the need arises. Close-knit families have a strong fabric that binds them together. Sue will probably now be working to strengthen those ties for the rest of her life. Best wishes and best of luck to you, Sue.