I'm Kristen, single mom to one very incredible boy, Jack, who is six years old and lives with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) type 1. Until you're a parent to a child with a medical condition, it may be hard to know the depth of your strength, determination, and resourcefulness.
I gave birth to the most precious boy, Jack, in August of 2015. I often found myself daydreaming of a life with just my little boy and me. I dreamt about adventures with him at the beach, riding roller coasters, going to soccer practice, and traveling, just the two of us. Jack and I have lived with my parents since his birth. I'm so glad we do, because I didn't know what the future held. When Jack turned a month old, we noticed something different about his body. Our pediatrician also took note of Jack's lack of head control and the changes in the movement of his arms and legs. The next day, we were sent to a neurologist, who immediately thought he had SMA. Two weeks later, Jack received his official SMA type 1 diagnosis.
As SMA started to show in Jack's little body, I quickly realized the power of educating myself. The experienced SMA community shared real-life stories with me and others in my shoes. Virtually, they taught me ways to fit physical therapy and the tips we got into our lives. They told me what toys were best for someone with little movement. I learned how to make our house accessible. The community is a wealth of knowledge and support. I felt strongly that I needed both. I quickly made close bonds with lots of parents; after all, we had so much in common. They have provided so much insight into my motherhood and parenting journey.
As a single parent, I've needed to build a village of family, friends, doctors, nurses, therapists, SMA families, and use online resources. I am so grateful for my parents' help that I have labeled them "co-parents" of Jack. I love them so much, I wouldn't have it any other way.
“Diagnosis was a shocking experience. Experiencing grief is normal, but parenting Jack has been the highlight of my life. I love who he's made me.”
I've made myself a person of service to the community, which has brought me so much happiness. Community events are my happy place. Just seeing everyone together (SMA-affected, unaffected, parents, family, and friends), it's an emotional experience.
My parenting journey has been all over the place. We went from being told Jack may have a shorter life expectancy to realizing that there is so much hope for those with SMA. I do my best to make sure that Jack is happy and comfortable. I find power in focusing on the things he can do, instead of the things that are difficult. Then finding solutions for things that seem difficult. Jack has been on some scary roller coasters, walked the beach in a hiking backpack, and has been on many vacation adventures. Jack and I even went on our first solo trip earlier this year! So far, we're doing pretty well at accomplishing all the daydreams I used to have and creating new ones.
All lives are special, but I like to think that we are some of the lucky ones. We are lucky to know the value of every single day and every little and big milestone. I get by with a lot of help from my family and friends in the SMA community. How do you get by?