Monday, 4 January 2016

How my child's brain cancer made me a better mom

It was the first of two days I will never forgot. 
May 31, 2009. 

For some, you may recognize this date. It was an eruption of joy and euphoric exhaustion. 

It was the day I became a mother. A mom of twins.  I can still feel the soothing heat swell in my heart as I held my baby girl and baby boy in my arms on the operating table for the first time. As I recall that day I feel a sense of pride and purpose. 

It was the beginning of a new me. I was evolving inside and out as I began my journey into motherhood. It was going to be glorious. 

But it wasn't easy. There were nights I wished I could just turn off the monitor and go back to sleep (of course I never did that!). And to be honest, there were days I hated being a mom. I didn't know what I was doing half the time and when I did get something right, it never worked out the same the next time. Twins were exhausting. 

But just as I was settling into what I felt was the monotonous life of parenthood, the second life-changing day stopped me in my tracks. 

I was physically and emotionally derailed by the news that my then 9-month-old son had a brain tumour. 

Feb. 1, 2010. 

Fast forward six years. Now I sit on my couch writing this blog while my two beautiful children peacefully sleep in my bed. Despite our difficult path of dealing with childhood cancer, my children are thriving. 

And I truly believe that had it not been for my son's diagnosis they would not be the beautiful souls they are today. 

If it hadn't been for his diagnosis, I would likely not have been exposed to the fascinating world of neuroscience and psychology. I would not have forged a new way of parenting, but relied on how it was done in the past from my and my husband's experiences. 

Yet again I find a silver lining in a tragedy that has been forced unto our family by our loving Father. It was not by accident, nor a punishment. It was an opportunity to evolve and grow. To gain a new appreciation for motherhood and nurture my children's developing minds in ways I never knew existed. 

I have heard it said that babies don't come with instructions. But in fact, I have found some powerful guides to help every parent truly understand and appreciate the inner workings of their child's brain. If only parents-to-be researched childhood brain development as much as what car to buy. 

The brain is a wonder upon itself. It is incredibly complex and scientists have yet to unlock the true genius of the mass of neurons housed within our skull. 

It's not how you hold the bottle or change a diaper that makes the difference. Had I only known that six years ago!

From the physical to the psychological, I have been schooled on the brain - at least to a degree that I can understand more of what makes my children tick. I know now how resilient brain tissue is and how the meninges lining of our brains is the only layer that feels pain (ie. why meningitis is so painful). I know how new pathways can be made in our brains over time and how the brain changes shape even into adulthood by life experiences. 

So how did my son's brain cancer make me a better mom? 

It introduced me to integration; how I can help develop my childrens' whole brain, teach them self-revelation and know them more deeply "and intentionally build a foundation for a lifetime of love and happiness." (The Whole-Brain Child, Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson)

That's what it's all about, isn't it? 

I have always strived to do my best at whatever I may be doing. And the only way to do that is to continuously learn from the best of the best.  It is only natural that I would do the same as a parent. 

My son's cancer pointed this out. It led me in a more positive direction in my struggle to find and appreciate the joy of being a mom. 

God knew what I needed in my heart and he provided. He always does. 

Thank you for my blessed family. 

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