by Erika Goyer, mom to Carrick l (born and died in 1990)
I admit it. Support groups scare me. The thought of sitting around talking about my feelings with a group of relative strangers is enough to send me running in the other direction. So how did I end up here, working in parent support? And how did I come to realize the powerful impact it has had on me and my family?
I’ll begin by telling you that I’ve always been a little out of step with my peers. I was only nineteen years old when my first son Carrick was born. I knew a few other teen moms, but none of them were married or going to college like I was. And none of them had gone through what my husband, Robert, and I had. Because our little boy died soon after his birth. Carrick’s birth and death were the most intensely transformative events I had ever gone through. Nothing had prepared us for that. And very little comforted us. But at least we had each other. That made it bearable.
The problem was that – as much as our family and friends loved us and cared for us – no one really understood. How could they?
We did the best we could. And things got better. Slowly, I met other moms – some of them who were old enough to be my mother- who told me stories about their babies. These were parents I could talk to. People who I didn’t have to explain things to. Moms who understood how hard it is to answer the question, “How many kids do you have?”
It’s been 20 years since Carrick was born. We have gone on to have two more high-risk pregnancies and two healthy boys. And peer-to-peer support has continued to play an important role in who I am as a woman and a mother. This is most likely because both my boys have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum.
When you get a new diagnosis, endure another surgery, or face yet another hurdle with your child you grieve. You grieve because you would spare your child all of this if you could and you grieve because this is not what you had planned.
The single greatest source of comfort for me has been talking to other parents who know this hard truth: Life is not fair. Fortunately, I’ve gotten past that expectation. And I’ve decided that the life we have, while it is not the one we planned, is pretty darn cool. I love my kids and know that things are going to turn out okay.
With each new diagnosis or carefully researched intervention it’s been comforting to talk to other parents who have “been there and done that.” I figure that if they can do it, I can do it too. And I’ve promised myself that I will be the person who tells the next mom who comes along that they can make it too. Because someone cared enough to do that for me. And I am truly grateful.
Erika Goyer is the mother of three boys and a family support navigator with Hand to Hold. Her oldest son Carrick Michael was born at 27 weeks gestation and weighed 1 pound, 14 ounces. Carrick died soon after his birth due to complications of prematurity. Erika went on to have two more high-risk pregnancies and two healthy sons, one of whom has developmental delays.