Real Moms Share: Geri Booth “Hurricane Taylor”
Geri Booth is a special mother who contributed to this issue’s “Real Moms Share” section. We asked her to give us an insight into herself, as well as into her life raising her daughter Taylor. We asked her a series of questions; some serious and some “just for fun”. See what she said…
PARENTING SPECIAL NEEDS: Tell us a little bit about yourself and family.
Geri Booth: I really have no claim to fame. I’m just like the rest of you: just an “average Joe” (or average G, if you will). I’m married (second time around) and I have three very wonderful (and very different) children: my oldest daughter, 23, is in grad school; a son, 20, is working on finding his way in this thing called life and my youngest daughter, Taylor, is 9. She is the happiest, most lovable child you will ever meet. I try to help others in need. I think we should all do something every day to make someone smile.
PSN: Tell us a little bit more about your child’s diagnosis and personality.
GB: Taylor has a congenital brain malformation. She has epilepsy and is mentally disabled. I really aim to stay positive, no matter what struggles life may throw my way. I feel that the best way to deal with the challenges in life is to turn your focus outward, towards others. I love to make people happy.
PSN: Will you share with us an experience, or lesson, you’ve learned on your journey raising a child with special needs?
GB: We are celebrating Taylor’s 10th birthday soon. I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing lately, since Taylor’s first few years of life were rather chaotic. 2004 was one of the most active hurricane seasons in the Tampa Bay area. It was also the year our daughter Taylor was born. Little did I know that weathering those storms was preparing me and teaching me valuable lessons for handling what life with Taylor would bring.
I was 8 months pregnant when the first storm hit. Hurricane Charley. We were without power for 5 days: 8 months pregnant and no power is not a good combo. I told my husband that I couldn’t take another night of this. As we packed a bag and prepared to leave our home for the comfort of an air-conditioned hotel room, the power came on. First life lesson of the hurricane season – Just when you’re about to give up hope, hang on a little longer: it will get better.
Frances was the next storm to come our way, about a week before Taylor was born. Wind and rain were the only effects of Frances for us, but just as soon as Frances passed us, we started to track Ivan. Second life lesson of the hurricane season – Just when you think the storm has passed, there’s usually another one approaching.
Ivan was on a direct path for our area and was predicted to make landfall on September 13th, Taylor’s due date. The phone call arrived on Friday September 10th. I was at work. The call was from my doctor’s office and it was short and sweet. “Be at the hospital at 6:00 tomorrow morning, we’re going to induce labor.” It turns out the hospital was located in the direct path that Ivan was projected to take. I was going to have a baby in less than 24 hours and would be leaving the hospital a day before a direct hit of a category 4 hurricane. I NEEDED SUPPLIES! The next day, September 11, 2004, Taylor was born. Hurricane Ivan ended up completely missing us. Third life lesson of the hurricane season – Do not worry for God is in control.
There were two more storms that year, Frances & Jeanne. But it wasn’t until a couple of months after Taylor was born that the real storms hit. Our first few years with Taylor were consumed with doctors, tests, hospital stays and procedures. She had numerous health issues. By the time Taylor reached her first birthday, she was already seeing an Urologist, Cardiologist, Otolaryngologist (ENT), and a Neurologist. We were also consulting with a Geneticist. Besides treating all of her health problems, we were desperately seeking an elusive diagnosis. To me a diagnosis meant answers, support, and hope. If I could just find a name for what was causing all of her issues, wouldn’t it provide comfort? Ten years later and still no official diagnosis, I can tell you the answer is a resounding “No!” What I know now and what I came to realize after many years of a futile search for answers is that comfort, peace, and hope do not come from answers, they come from acceptance. They come when you stop trying to find answers, stop trying to find something (or someone) to blame, stop searching for reasons; when you start living your life with your precious gift.
A gift – that is what Taylor is; a gift from God. We’ve been told before that we were chosen for Taylor; that she is blessed to have us as her parents. I don’t buy that at all. I say that my husband and I are the blessed ones. Taylor was chosen for us, not the other way around. We needed Taylor in our lives. Looking back, I am amazed at how much my life has changed and how I have changed, all for the better.
Final life lesson of the hurricane season – Storms may cause damage, darkness, despair but storms pass and are usually followed by rainbows: the most beautiful of God’s creations.
PSN: What has therapy, early intervention, pre-school or school been like for your daughter?
GB: Taylor loves school. She loves being around her teachers and other kids. My husband and I both work and she has gotten used to being around a lot of kids. We’ve had challenges: Taylor seems to fall through the cracks. Because of her intellectual disabilities, she is placed in a classroom with very low functioning children. The other classes in her school’s ESE program are for much higher functioning children. Taylor may not be able to function as well as those children, but she loves the interaction with other kids and does have the ability to learn. This school year she has been spending about an hour a day in a higher functioning ESE class and she loves it. We’ve found that we have had to fight for everything for her, but as all special needs parents know, we are our children’s best advocates and we won’t stop fighting for them.
PSN: What do you most want for your child?
GB: I want her to always be happy. I want to be able to give her a life full of love and fun experiences. I want plenty of hugs, tickles and laughter in her life. I want her to know that she will always be loved and cared for. I hope, as she gets older, she will gain the skills she needs to have some independence and be able to enjoy her life as an adult with special needs.
PSN: What do you know now that you wished you had known earlier??
GB: I really struggled early on in Taylor’s life. I had a difficult time dealing with, and accepting the fact that I had, a child that was not “normal”. I wish that there was a “What to Expect When You Have a Special Needs Child” book. Back then, I wish I were at the place I am now: positive, faithful, and happy. I wish that I didn’t have to go through such a dark time. I wish I had someone that would have told me, “You can do this. You are going to be okay.” My hope is to be that person for others.
PSN: Do you have a proud moment about your child that you would like to share?
GB: There have been so many and every accomplishment makes me just beam. I remember when she was starting to walk. It was so awesome to watch her cruise from couch to couch and then finally take a few independent steps. Of course, all parents have that moment; for us it just didn’t come until Taylor was about 5. The thing I am most proud about her now is that she is starting to follow directions. I just love it when I say “Taylor, go bring this to Daddy”, and she carries whatever I gave her over to her Daddy. She has the biggest smile on her face when she does.
PSN: In conclusion, is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers?
GB: Just know that you are not alone in your journey. There are so many wonderful people out there who are raising, and have raised, children with special needs. Find them. To those who have “been there, done that”, find that parent who is new to all of this. Share with them. Know that our children are miracles; gifts from God. Take time to enjoy life with your precious gift. Have fun!
PSN: Geri, thank you so much for sharing your experiences and for inspiring us with the lessons you have learned raising Taylor.
Please visit Gerri at: www.dosomethingproject.blogspot.com/. Gerri says: I hope that, even though we may never meet, we become good friends.
Photos courtesy Geri Booth
Read More: Real Moms Share
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This post originally appeared on our September/October 2014 Magazine