What’s wrong with his eyes? I said looking up at the midwife. She said, ‘its Ok, nothing is wrong, it’s OK'. I knew straight away that there was something wrong. Lifting Matthew out from the water in the birthing pool, looking into his face and noticing something unusual about his eyes. One eyelid opened, but the other didn’t. I can remember it now as if sitting in the bathwater with shear surprise, fear and …yes panic - panic for what had gone wrong! Prodding around in his eye sockets resulted in resistance in one side but no resistance in the other. NO something was definitely wrong and within hours we were taken to Great Ormond street Hospital where we were told that our first born son was born with a disability. What did I do wrong? It was a beautiful pregnancy, no sickness, no illness. What did I do wrong?
Matthew was diagnosed with a condition called Peter Anomaly one in 100,000 people in the UK live with Peters Anomaly and our son was one.
Speaking at church and other community events has led me to revisit this day over and over again until I began to realise that not only was I being healed from the pain of that day, but I was also enabling others to heal.
How did I know that?… after every speaking engagement, I would be approached by so many people who wold share their stories , hidden for so many years. Some shared that they had been living with mental illness and felt ashamed and embarrassed to tell anyone for fear of reproach and judgement.
A mother shared with me instances where other children would stare at her son which she found one of the most difficult things she could cope with from having a child with disabilities.
Another shared how she had a son who at the age of 40 had never been out with her to church community events for fear of ‘how he would be treated at church’. The church, a place where everyone belongs? ….
Matthew has given us a sense of real joy and we experience real love for him and from him. I continue to thank God for the strength and encouragement from others to keep pressing on telling our story and sharing our experiences because there is always someone, following our presentation that will come up and say ‘ thank you for being vulnerable, I felt a real connection with your story.. This is my story ….
When was the last time you were vulnerable with someone? Your partner, spouse, colleague - obviously someone you can trust with your heart.
In her book, Daring Greatly, Brené Brown describes vulnerability as "uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure." It's that feeling of instability we get when we step out of our comfort zone or do something that forces us to loosen control. In her book she describes the difference between vulnerability and shame and the importance of seeing vulnerability as a strength not failure or weakness.
I don’t always know I am being vulnerable until I see the effect it has on others. I think this is a good thing. I think vulnerability is a strong magnet, well placed to bring about connections with others who may be struggling alone thinking they are alone in their challenges or difficulties or pain. I am reminded of the verse in the bible that in summary say’s that God’ power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:5 -10). Wow, when we are weak, then He is strong. As a woman of faith, I depend on this fact everyday. I understand that in the times of my challenges, when I don’t understand or feel hopeless, I am encouraged by this fact, that in my weakness, He is strong and He can be seen through my weakness to encourage others. What a blessing!
Why not find someone you can be open with, share your mistakes, sorrows and hopes. You may be surprised at who you attract into your life and who you help and support along the way as you open up safely, courageously and joyfully.
Be vulnerable, be a magnet to connections in these difficult times. Somebody needs you.