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Guest Post: Shally

Shally is my Aunt (it's a complicated genealogical story so just go with it)!  She is a mother I admire and aspire to be like.  Not only has she always been a valuable sounding board for my incessant questions, but her perseverance and unconditional love for her children is so inspiring...

I did not come by motherhood easily. It was such a struggle. I saw people all around me getting pregnant and bringing new babies into the world while I was left empty handed. For years my husband and I went to doctor after doctor. We prayed, we hoped, we cried. It was a long, hard road. It changed who I was-- but not in a bad way. I know this may sound cliché, but I truly look into the eyes of my children now and am so grateful that they are in my life. I will never take them for granted because of all those sad years where I thought that I might never have the chance to be a mom. 

I told you it may sound cliché.   But it’s the truth. I truly love being a mom. 

I always say, “Be careful for what you pray for.” Because after years of wearying God with our prayers, he blessed us with 4 children in 5 years. We adopted our son, Jaxon first. Two years later we did IVF and I became pregnant with twin girls, Braylen and Serae. We thought we were done, but a year later, surprise!! Cambry was our bonus baby. 

Life was good. I was extremely busy with 4 kids under 5, but honestly, I never felt extremely overwhelmed. I didn’t have much time to myself, but I didn’t care. I finally had the family I wanted. I was a mother! That’s all that mattered. 

But life throws you curves…

When Jax started kindergartenm my husband and I started noticing our son was more than just a rambunctious boy. Something was different?  Something was wrong? He was overly angry, and incredibly defiant. He started having complete meltdowns that would literally last for hours on end. We kept telling ourselves that it was us-- that we just needed to parent him differently. We bought all the parenting books we could get our hands on. We researched everything we knew of online. When his behavior continued to escalate, we decided to take him to the doctor. He was tested for ADHD, and ODD…the diagnosis they came back with was "Childhood Depression". We were shocked! Jax was a very outgoing boy- and seemed so self-assured. We decided it was time to start therapy. 

January of 2010 was the first time we were told about RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder). Jaxon's therapist suggested that this may be what Jax was suffering with.  Naturally, we googled it. It talked of abused and neglected children, children adopted from orphanages. That was not our son! He had been placed with us at birth. It was a loving and seamless adoption.  Thinking it just didn’t fit, we dismissed the diagnosis.

But I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. And unfortunately, Jax was getting worse…

I continued to research and immersed myself in as much information as I could find. My sister ended up finding a support group 3 hours north of us for mothers of children with RAD. I put it off for months, but things at home with Jaxon were getting harder by the day. It had reached the point where I decided I could not live the way we were living anymore. In June 2010, I finally made the drive to see what RAD was all about. 

As I sat in a room with 20 other parents who were sharing stories and listening to each other, I remember just sitting there crying. Sobbing. My tears were both tears of sadness for what Jax was dealing with, and tears of utter elation!  I had finally found the diagnosis for my son. 

I could finally help him.

By this time, Jaxon had started running away. He was seven, and had no fear of just leaving our home by himself and not coming back. He was angry and violent. I was angry. I would open my eyes in the morning and cringe at the thought of dealing with him and the frustration of what the day might hold . I wasn’t the mom I wanted to be. I was sad, stressed about him and the effect this was having on my other children, and way out of touch with myself. His actions were destroying our family. It was such a dark time. 

RAD causes his brain to not attach to anyone. He doesn’t know how to feel real love, or how to show it. He can fake it-- really well, actually, but he can’t feel it. He lives in a constant state of fear and anxiety. He masks it well to others, but it shows itself at home through hate and anger.  Because of this, we immersed ourselves in therapy and relied on the love of the support group. It changed our lives to finally know what we were up against. 

It has been over a year since I started down this path of healing and understanding with my son. It has been a roller coaster of emotions, to say the least. My family is not the perfect picture that I had always imagined, but we are also so much stronger than I ever thought we could be.

I am a different person. I am a better person. I am a better mother. 

I have learned so much during these trying times, but I think the biggest thing I have learned is that motherhood isn’t just a title. It is a journey. 

And you can’t do it alone. 

I hear people all the time say that they could never deal with what I deal with on a daily basis. Some days, I can’t believe it either! But do you know what? I feel strong because my Heavenly Father carries me when I need Him to. It was hard to let Him at first. It feels strange to get on your knees and pray when you spent the day getting yelled at, or yelling back for that matter. I felt unworthy. I felt tired and lost. But when I finally did turn to Him, I felt a peace that only He could give. 

I can’t be the mom I need to be without Him.

For me, being a mother means more than having a child. It means loving when you don‘t get love in return. It means embracing when you are pushed away. It means learning to let things go, remembering  the hurt child behind the angry words. I have learned to love a child that doesn’t love me back right now. 

And I do love him. I have seen what Jaxon is like on the inside, once you get past the walls he builds. I have seen his heart. He is stronger than he knows, and I look forward to the day when he can see that for himself. 

In the meantime, I will be the mother he needs, even when he doesn’t want me around. I will take extra hugs and kisses from my girls to make up for the ones he won’t give me. They shower me with them, and it helps me get through the hard days. Oh, how I love them. Their smiles and their giggles are priceless. Their little hands wrapped in mine melt my heart. I smile just thinking about them. There are mornings when the three of them wake up early and crawl into bed with me and snuggle. I smell their hair, and touch their skin. They are all mine. 

I try not to let RAD rule my life. I take it one day at a time-- sometimes one hour at a time. Although there is sadness almost everyday, the happiness far out weighs it. I have learned that it is okay to feel both. 

I will always truly love being a mom--even with the challenge of raising a son with a severe behavior disorder. It may not be the perfect picture I had imagined 12 years ago as a newlywed, but it is my picture. 

And I am going to make it the most colorful, vibrant picture I can.  

(Jaxon with Lilah)

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