“Parenthood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you’d have. It’s about understanding your child is exactly the person they are supposed to be. And, if you’re lucky, they might be the teacher who turns you into the person you’re supposed to be.”

I came across this quote a few weeks before Cooper’s official diagnosis. It had no reason to speak to me at that point, but it did anyway. I knew, on some level, that we would be facing some unexpected circumstances with Cooper. Call it mother’s intuition, call it coincidence, it doesn’t matter. I knew. And I knew this quote would grow to be near and dear to my heart — and it has.

Here’s the thing: when Cooper was diagnosed as deaf, I was pissed. I refused to even say the word for a few weeks. I hated it, as if hating a word had any effect on what we were going through. I was mad that he was deaf, yes. But it was more than that.

Honestly, I was so pissed off that we hadn’t gotten the child we’d planned for. I can admit that now, knowing that it’s a fairly normal way to feel after an unexpected diagnosis. But at the time, acknowledging that I felt that way made me feel guilty, as if I was saying Cooper wasn’t the baby I wanted. But that wasn’t the case at all. Those first few weeks, I loved him so much, but I also spent time mourning what I thought parenthood would look like. It’s a difficult series of emotions to explain, and one that probably only other special needs parents truly understand.

When you have a baby, you have this vision for their life, as well as yours. For me, that vision was filled with Coop speaking his first words, reading him books, having conversations with him as he grew.

That vision didn’t include making sure he could see my mouth when I speak to him, learning sign language, driving to appointments weekly, learning about different brands of cochlear implants, picking out the colors for my baby’s hearing aids. Not of that is normal, happy parenthood. And it fucking sucks sometimes, to put it bluntly.

Those first days, I spent plenty of time feeling sorry for Cooper, knowing he can’t hear the sounds of the world. But I also felt sorry for us, as first-time parents who weren’t even ready to be parents in the first place…and then this. Baptism by fire, I believe they call it.

Is it fair? No. Does it make any sense to me, even now? No. But do I still feel sorry for me, for Cooper, for Brandon? No. I don’t.

Because here’s the thing…the world of parenthood is beautiful in itself. But when you’re thrown into the world of special needs parenting, you learn quickly how much good there is in people. You see things, hear things, experience things in a new light, one that teaches you more than you ever imagined. You have a connection to these other parents, even if what their child is facing is different than what you may be facing. There’s still an invisible thread connecting you, an inaudible voice screaming, “I see you. I’m here with you. Your feelings are valid. You are never alone.”

And if I can ask for anything in life for Cooper, it’s that he’s never, ever alone.