Special needs

Why Thanksgiving means more after having a child

Anchel Krishna reflects on everything her family has to be thankful for as they come up to the holiday.

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Anchel is thankful for her daughter, Syona, and husband, Dilip.

Follow along as Anchel Krishna shares her experiences as mother to Syona, an extraordinary toddler with cerebral palsy.

Syona is now officially a three-year-old. Three years ago, Syona was lying in a NICU incubator, desperately trying to learn how to drink from a bottle so we could remove the feeding tube and bring her home. We would meticulously measure out 37ml of milk, bring the tiny infant bottle to her mouth and hope that she would finish that 1 oz of milk so the nurses could put a checkmark next to that feeding time and we would be one feed closer to bringing her home.

Syona’s hard work paid off and I was so grateful we brought her home on October 11, 2010. Since that time, Thanksgiving has held a very special place in our hearts (my mom, my uncle and me celebrate our birthdays over the weekend as well, but Syona’s homecoming trumped all of those milestones).

I always say that our perspective is different because of Syona’s birth and her subsequent diagnosis. But the one thing I don’t know for certain is whether having a child, becoming a parent and having that part of your heart opened up for the world automatically makes you a more thankful and gracious person.

I know that the years I spent before Syona was born were great. But I certainly wasn’t as thankful for the things I had. I didn’t express gratitude as much as I do now. I was often looking at what was missing so I would know where to go next — both personally and professionally.

Since I’ve had Syona, that has all changed. I still want to do more and make things better, but that desire doesn’t come from a place of looking around and seeing what’s missing. It actually comes from looking around at what is in front of me and jumping on opportunities to be happy with things just as they are.

I’ve also learned to let go of the things I can’t control and accept the fact that I won’t have answers to all my questions. The impact that has made in our lives is enormous. I don’t often look at what’s lacking or wonder what is around the corner. That frees up my mind and my heart to just enjoy what’s happening in front of me.

Do I still plan things and try to anticipate some of the challenges that I know will come our way? Yes. (Uhm, has anyone successfully found appropriate childcare? It seems as though that requires decades of planning, especially when you have a child with special needs). But I don’t miss the little moments — like Syona squealing with excitement after I walk in the door after a day at work.

Most of us have heard of the power of keeping a gratitude journal. I don’t often write down what I’m grateful for, but I do take a moment on a daily basis to reflect — and that has made me a happier person.

So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my family and, especially, for Syona.

What are you thankful for?