Reflections from a Special Needs Mom

September 2018
Heather Ford Lark, Tim’s mom

My (now late) husband and I were working in Papua New Guinea with SIL when our youngest child Tim was born. He suffered a lack of oxygen during the birth, resulting in severe cerebral palsy. Whilst Tim is of normal intelligence, he has profound physical needs, and communicates with a ‘computer’ – there are switches embedded in his headrest, which enable him to operate a speech output device. We, and his three older siblings, remained in PNG for 18 months after his birth before going back to continue working from the UK, our home country.

Tim is now 23, and looking back, I would say it took a couple of years to accept the fact that he would not develop as his siblings or as others born at the same time. Having a child with a disability or additional needs is not what we expect to happen to us. It happens to other people, at least that was what I always assumed.

I thought I was going to X and I found myself living in Y. There was a profound sense of loss of what might have been and what could have been, which took a long time to work through. There was a great sense of loss, of bereavement.

After Tim was born, I did not see him until he was a week old as he was in a special care unit in another hospital. When I first saw him, the doctor’s comment was ‘Well, we have kept him alive for a week’. My heart was breaking.

BUT God has been faithful and alongside us in this journey at every turn.

Thankfully, God provided five wonderful friends whilst we were in Papua New Guinea who helped meet our needs. 

One had a child with a disability, one was a wonderful listener and a good cook, and two took time out of their work to take Tim from me for a few hours regularly and give me a much-needed break. The fifth (a couple) spent time praying with us once a week for several months as we worked through everything.

Back in the UK, God brought various people alongside, many of whom knew of someone with additional needs or experienced that within their family or their work. During this journey, we have seen God’s strength and help at every stage.

Here is one illustration:

Five years ago Tim needed major hip reconstruction surgery as his hips had become gradually dislocated over the years due to muscular spasms. The 4-hour operation was successful, but Tim experienced a respiratory collapse and was close to death.

While the medical staff discussed whether to put Tim on life support or not, a doctor and nurse were assigned to us. Their name labels read Nurse Jesus and Dr. Abba. I knew with a certainty that I was not alone and these medical staff were the ones God sent exactly when I needed support. It was a huge encouragement. Looking back over the years, I can see how God has turned something which seemed utterly disastrous, into blessing both for our family and for others. Things that have helped me along this journey are the prayers and practical support of others. We need others and need not be ashamed to admit that. 

The understanding that God is walking alongside me in this is infinitely reassuring. After all, He did not promise us an easy life as believers, but He does promise to be with us.

Getting to know God well when life is easier can help equip us for when times are hard and we don’t understand why He has allowed a particular thing in our lives.

Tim is now writing things ‘to make people think’ wherever he has opportunity, something I could never ever have believed possible 23 years ago. God sees a far bigger picture than we can, and this means I can trust that He means this for good in my life, at every stage, whatever the disability or need.