My heart has been heavy for some moms who walk a special path, one that seems mostly up hill, and one that often feels lonely. I am thinking of my friend who has a child with muscular dystrophy and my friend up in New York whose little guy has cerebral palsy. I am thinking of a sweet friend nearby whose son has autism and my other friend whose adopted son struggles with Sensory Processing Disorder. Do you know my friends? Moms of special needs children. Moms who we look at and say, “Wow. She is so strong.”

I wonder if she really feels strong. I wonder if, instead, she feels worried and burdened. Maybe she is overwhelmed, hanging on by a thread today but trying so hard to keep a good attitude. Without a little bit of hope, it’s so easy to slide into a pit of discouragement.  Maybe she prays, pleading for healing and relief.

I wonder if she wishes she could let you into her world for a day, so that you could understand what she faces each day. We all want to be known. She might even feel left out of conversations when other moms speak of awards day, football practice, and college tuition.

Perhaps these moms, as I have heard it described once, felt much like someone planning a dream vacation. She bought travel guides, learned some of the language, bought her airline tickets, but when she stepped off the plane she found herself in a completely different destination. The language was strange, the sights unfamiliar and almost frightening. She planned for one trip, a dream vacation but arrived somewhere else.

We all plan for a healthy child. We hope, we dream of a normal child, a little one who doesn’t have to face handicaps, pain, and struggles. I think that we may at times believe that mothers of children with special needs are created different, have special abilities or a greater tolerance for loss and struggle.

Maybe they are just like you and I. Maybe when they received a diagnosis they lay on their bathroom floor with the door closed, sobbing. Perhaps they can walk through the grocery store feeling the stares of strangers ten times and be okay, but the eleventh time is too much and tears well up as the cart fills up.

I was so happy that one of my friends posted the real stuff recently- a typical morning getting her autistic child to school on time. I admit that previously I thought she was a super hero, always smiling, always patient. I had no idea how hard it was for her. She wanted us to understand, to know what life is like in her world, to see her normal.

These sweet mamas have endured stares, questions, and insensitive comments from well-meaning but ignorant strangers. Many have listened to advice from friends and family members who don’t have a clue and should just offer love and support instead.

With all the controversy over bathrooms in our country, I cried as I saw a post from a mother of a handicapped child who was begging America to let the real bathroom discussion be about  improving handicapped restrooms for children like her son. Going to a public restroom with her son is almost impossible. He is too big for a baby changing table, so she must spread out a cloth on the floor inside the small handicap stall to clean and change him.

If you know a mother of a child with special needs, please refrain from judging. Instead, reach out to her for some adult conversation. Take time to hear her normal and offer her a break if that’s possible. Find out what would truly bless her and do it! If nothing else, let her know that you see her.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15