by Iris Hardin
“Only the broken heart has the ghost of a chance to grieve, to forgive, to long, to transform.” –Christina Baldwin
I don’t know of anything that has changed me as radically as becoming a parent. When the babies were born, everything changed. Many of the changes were expected – sleepless nights, a focus on the endless cycle of feeding-and-changing, a new identity and priorities, a different relationship with my spouse, and then more sleepless nights. There were unexpected changes, too, and these required more than a modified sleep schedule or a safer car.
As I gained the understanding that my son Adam was developing differently from his twin brother and most children, when I began hearing from medical professionals that his potential and possibilities in life would be “significantly reduced,” I began the process hat would change how I see the world and myself. For a time, all I could do was feel my loss and honor my grief. Moving through that painful time was the only way I could accept and forgive all that my son would experience. I had to attend to my own longing before I could find my strength. I had to develop a new way of looking at life before I could see potential and possibility differently. Transformation was a slow process that required patience and compassion for myself and my son.
Earlier this month, I attended the annual meeting of Adam’s team of teachers. What struck me most after the meeting was the hope we all share for Adam’s future. What a change from those early meetings, when our focus was on what Adam could not or might never do. When Adam was a little boy, I would have been discouraged or unsatisfied by the future we now envision for this young man. When he was a little boy, I saw the world and what it means to live a rich life very differently than I see it now. When Adam was younger, I imagined happiness in very narrow ways. Now, I see my child’s sweet nature, his desire to do a good job, and his genuine interests and affections as proof that possibility and potential cannot be defined once and for all by anyone – not for Adam or anyone else.
Iris Hardin attends Andover Newton Theological School and is a candidate for the Unitarian Universalist ministry. She is married with three stepchildren in their late twenties and nineteen-year-old, twin sons. Her son Adam has autism.