I married my high school sweetheart, Alan, after eight years of long-distance dating. I always dreamed of being a mom and of having a career as a college professor. Some of those dreams came true, but my perspective regarding what was really important changed over time.
Today I am a stay-at-home mom who used to work as a Researcher and Lecturer. I have a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in Family Social Science, where I studied family relationships across the life cycle. I worked at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center in Chicago, studying the effects of Alzheimer's Disease on the marital relationship. My research was published in scholarly periodicals and presented at professional conferences. I also taught graduate level courses at the University of Chicago in the Department of Social Service Administration. Now that all seems like a lifetime ago.
When Jaclyn was born, I traded in my professional hat to stay home and care for my daughter. The first few years of Jaclyn's life were difficult, due to her cardiac problems. But we persevered. We adapted when we had to, and somehow we made it through those hard times.
Alan also lived the day-to-day life described in Jaclyn's Journey, and my mom and other family members provided invaluable help and support to us too. However, on a daily basis, Jaclyn's care was primarily my responsibility. I was saddened to witness her struggles and her difficulties. I was challenged and invigorated to help her overcome them. I also reveled with her in her many successes and accomplishments. As her mom, I was fortunate to be with Jaclyn every day. I lived in the hospital every moment she had to be there. I took her to various therapies, dispensed her regime of daily medications, and took her to numerous doctors' appointments. I was also fortunate to be with her for all the "regular" things she did in life that were not related to heart disease. I learned what her "normal" was, given her heart condition. I tried to instill in her ways to deal with others' insensitivities. I witnessed her disappointment when she was excluded from certain events and activities. I encouraged Jaclyn to find activities she could be successful at, instead of dwelling on those she wasn't able to master. I taught her about her heart's anatomy and addressed her many questions over the years. Simply put, as Jaclyn's mom I had the privilege of watching my child dance through life, despite the obstacles she faced.
I am also lucky to be mom to Ryan and Joshua. Our boys provide constant joy, laughter, and entertainment. Our three kids enjoyed a close, caring and affectionate relationship with each other. Despite Jaclyn's heart condition, our family has had incredible experiences and made wonderful memories. When we had to deal with upcoming surgeries or medical crises for Jaclyn, we met these challenges head on. But otherwise we tried to be a family like every other family - taking vacations, living our life, and having fun. Jaclyn wouldn't have wanted it any other way.