I immediately connect with this week’s guest when we met. We have both walked the difficult road of parenting a child with special needs. We talked about the joys and the challenges of having children with medical and special needs on Hope for Raising a Special needs Child Kathy is filled with hard-fought wisdom from pressing into God.
I am delighted to introduce you to my new friend, please welcome Kathy McClelland to By His Grace today.
Not Just a Face Only a Mother Can Love
By Kathy McClelland
The night my son Nathan was born he made a sour face.
The labor and delivery nurse said to me, “That’s a face only a mother can love.”
I was too drugged post-surgery to realize what she said, let alone respond with something I would’ve said to my then three-year-old like, “That’s not a kind thing to say!”
Almost four years later her words still sting when I think about them, especially because we were in the midst of discovering our little boy was born with birth defects. Nathan has abnormalities affecting his brain, spine, heart, and kidneys. He was later diagnosed with Cri du chat syndrome, a rare (1 in 50,000 births) chromosomal disorder.
Almost everything about him is different. Aside from his obvious facial differences, he eats with a feeding tube, needs to be catheterized intermittently, and still isn’t walking or talking. Yet these differences are no reason to say he’s a child only a mother can love.
In his short life, Nathan has managed to win his way into the hearts of family members, friends, therapists, caregivers, medical professionals, and teachers. His eye contact is piercing at times. He freely gives his affection to people by making kissing sounds and leaning in for hugs. And although he generally has a flat affect, when he does smile it lights up a room and leads people into sweet, joyful laughter.
All too often I think that L&D nurses comment reflects a general attitude many people have toward those who are different, oppressed, needy, and weak whether they would openly say those things or not. As a society, we are often afraid and put off by other’s differences, rather than in search of their beauty.
That’s not the heart of Jesus though. Our God is a God of compassion. He has great love, care, and concern for the outcasts. He moves toward people on the fringes of society and tells the little children to come to Him.
Now I see how God was working to redeem and heal that nurse’s hurtful words.
Three special friends offered to come to the NICU and hold Nathan when we couldn’t be there. They rotated through a schedule of early morning and late nights shifts. These ladies showed up to love Nathan, proving that he wasn’t just a baby only a mother can love.
It was a beautiful expression of love for a boy who will likely be overlooked and judged by many. NICU nurses would later talk about these three ladies as the “baby holders” and “church ladies” who took such good care of him. Their love for Nathan impacted not only our family but the NICU staff as well. They chose to openly care for him and love him even though he is different, just like Jesus.
From the outside, my son isn’t the typical portrait of beautiful. But on the inside, he offers great beauty. My little boy is teaching me there is beauty in differences and that, he is most definitely not just the face only a mother could love.
Kathy McClelland is the author of Beauty in Broken Dreams: A Hopeful Handbook for the Early Years as a Special Needs Parent. She is dedicated to sharing hope and encouragement with others affected by disability and differences. This became her passion when her second son was born with a rare (1 in 50,000 births) chromosomal disorder. Go to her blog, kathymcclelland.com, and grab a free copy of All Things Beautiful: Finding Beauty and Hope in a Special Needs Diagnosis.
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