{Celebrating Beautiful} Not Just a Face Only a Mother Can Love, by Kathy McClelland

In blogging for the last 5 years, I’ve written about many different topics, but one theme that has remained constant has been my focus of sharing about how our family is discovering the beauty in difference and choosing to celebrate the incredible beauty all around us, and how we want to encourage others to do the same. After connecting with and reading about so many amazing people and families doing so many amazing things, I started a guest blog series called Celebrating Beautiful, as it relates to beauty however it can be interpreted: parenthood, faith, your kids, an experience, home, and so much more.
I connected with Kathy McClelland when she joined my book’s launch team. And I was so interested when Kathy came out with her own book, Beauty in Broken Dreams: A Hopeful Handbook for the Early Years as a Special Needs Parent, which details her son’s unexpected special needs diagnosis and provides gentle and affirming guidance for parents of children with special needs. Learning from other parents has been tremendously beneficial to us, and it’s been a pleasure getting to know Kathy and her family’s story.
Here is Kathy McClelland on Celebrating Beautiful…

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 process what she said, let alone respond with something I would’ve said to my then three-year-old like, “That’s not very nice!”

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.

His presence is a gift. It’s not because of what he does or doesn’t do. It’s because of who he is–a very sweet boy buried within a syndrome that entraps his mind and body.

All too often, I think that nurse’s comment reflects a general attitude many people have toward those who are different – oppressed, needy, 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.

Looking back, 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 even though he is different.

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. Her second son was born with a rare (1 in 50,000 births) chromosomal disorder which catapulted her into the world of special needs parenting. A former marketing manager, she now blogs at kathymcclelland.com about finding beauty and hope in the midst of broken dreams. She is also a regular contributor to PreemieBabies101.com and has published on TheMighty.com, EllenStumbo.com and Sparkhouse.org. She lives with her husband and sons in Austin, Texas.

Leaving room for Joyful Monotony

Summer has settled upon us and ushered in a new season lacking in routines and trending in refereeing daily arguments (my go-to line: “figure it out!”)

I resolved a while ago that this summer would be different than last.

I did my best last summer, but it was too much. With the launch of my book in August, a couple of big trips that took us to opposite ends of the country, and a very full season for Evan in his career, most of our days felt like a spinning top that took a long while to slow, finally throwing me out, off balance, somewhere in the middle of the fall.

As the end of school approached this year, I recognized a huge desire to do a little less seeking and striving, and a little more being and growing. And the thing about that is that you need to leave room for it.

It’s not so much a feeling of burnout as it is a heightened awareness about this way of life I’m currently desiring. A simple change: a wanting to feel and think and even write but without the need to consider documenting, capturing, publicizing it all.

It’s not about the calendar season, but a personal season for me right now where I’m finding myself setting comfortably into the middle. Sometimes, the appeal of trying to become the best, the most, the greatest takes over, and it’s easy to forget how wonderful the middle is; it’s really quite freeing.

I’m currently reading the book The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg, and though the title is a bit cliché, the content is stirring and compelling. Ortberg quotes G.K. Chesterton in a section about the joy that resides in the heart of God.

Chesterton reminds us that children have abounding vitality, a free and fierce spirit, and they usually want things repeated and unchanged. ‘Do it again!’ they exclaim over and over. Adults, however, are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But “perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.”

Every day, God says to the sun and to the moon ‘Do it again!’ And they do. And he never tires of marveling at their beauty.

As this new season approaches, a summer filled with opportunity but also repetitiveness, I’ve been making room for joyful monotony.

In Romans 12:2, God invites to be transformed – not to transform ourselves. To do this, we need to allow room in our lives, space in our minds, to let Him in.

I’ll be stepping away from my blog for the next couple of months, to enjoy the middle without striving, to savor the joyful monotony of these summer days.

I only have one summer where my kids are 5 and 7, and each day opens with bouncing excitement about the “adventures” that await us – in between chores and camps, there is the clear blue of the pool and the sweetness of a surprise doughnut treat and the spontaneity of a picnic dinner with friends at the park.

Do it again?

Yes, we will. Yes, we have the space. Yes, we have nowhere else to be but the joy we are experiencing right here.