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Thursday, May 30, 2024

It’s quite expensive to care for special-needs child -Mum of boy living with cerebral palsy

It wasn’t her beautiful face that attracted me to her. Rather, it was the bond I noticed between her and her son while looking at her Facebook profile picture.

I understand that mothers are naturally close to their sons, but something was intriguing about the picture. While scrolling through her page, I saw a strong woman who is intentional about building a happy home. I also saw a mother who vowed to love her child with special needs instead of grieving about his condition.

In light of the above, it is my pleasure to introduce you to our today’s champion as she shares her motherhood journey so far.

My name is Ifunanya Emmanuela Offordum. I am a native of Anambra, but I was born in Abakakili, Ebonyi State. I am the fifth child in a family of six. The significant thing about my birth is that my mother started having labour contractions just after submitting her exam paper. So, she was rushed to the hospital from the exam hall. After I was delivered, the doctors noticed that I was wrapped in the placenta cord. So they started unwrapping it gradually. It was a miracle that I came out alive and healthy.

Early life
I grew up in a nuclear family. My parents were strict, loving, and kind. They worked as teachers, but they are retired now. As a child, my dad was my first role model. He taught me how to read and write, and I am still grateful for that.

Education
I attended Ebede Primary School in Nri, Anambra State. I was a brilliant pupil who always stood out in all activities done in the school. Since my mother was a teacher in my primary school, I didn’t misbehave at all. I always wanted to make her proud, and each time I passed my examinations, she used to shower me with praise. She also taught me how to be confident.

After my primary education, I attended Lake City Secondary School, Nri, Anambra State; and later went to Loretto Special Science School in Adazi-Nnukwu, in Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State. I also studied Applied Microbiology and Brewing at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.

Motherhood experience
I am passionate about building a career in education and coaching. I wanted to pursue my dreams after marriage, but since I gave birth to my first child, I have been a stay-at-home mom. I had a normal pregnancy and delivery. On the day my child was born, he had birth asphyxia [a condition arising when the body is deprived of oxygen, causing unconsciousness or death; suffocation], and the complications started the next day.

Later on, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. This is a congenital disorder that affects a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. So, since Ikem was born, he has been dependent on me for everything. I have three kids. Ikem is the first and only boy, and he has two sisters.

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Challenges
Seeing my child in this condition is emotionally draining. However, I am always working on being in charge of my emotions, and I thank God for His grace so far.

It is quite expensive to take care of children with special needs, and in Nigeria, the parents bear the whole financial burden with no support from the government.

We go to the hospital weekly for therapies and appointments with doctors. My son is four years old and has grown taller and heavier. So, moving him around is more difficult.

Finding a school for him has been another major challenge. The cost of attending such schools is usually exorbitant, but I have not even seen one close to my location. Since I have not found a school for him, I am his caregiver, mom, and everything. I had to sacrifice my career to take care of him.

Yes, at the initial stage, the emotional trauma was too much. I even asked God to take his life instead of watching him suffer like this. But, that’s all in the past now. My life revolves around him, he is the reason I found my WHY on earth and I am doing great being his mom. I have accepted him, and I am navigating the challenges by God’s grace and using my story to encourage and inspire other parents who have children with disability.

My book project
Some time ago, I started writing a book on how to navigate the challenges of raising a child with special needs. I want other mothers in my situation to learn from my experience. The main effective strategies needed to stay strong and focus on this journey are:
• Forgiving what led to your child’s diagnosis
• Accepting reality
• Belonging to a support group
• Seeking help and taking a break at intervals
• Self-care
• Being emotionally intelligent
• Seeking the support of a Higher Being and
• Accepting that disability is a medical condition with no cure except by a miracle; but it can be managed with the right medical interventions.

Also, every parent of a child with special needs must acquire virtues like patience, consistency, and persistence.

Family
My husband is Sunday Offordum. I call him “Dimanum” (meaning the husband who is marrying me well). I am glad that he is on this journey with me. He loves and accepts Ikem the same way he loves his daughters.

I am also grateful for the kind of family and in-laws that I have. When I count my blessings, I count them a thousand times.

Leisure
I relax by hanging out with my husband, dancing, and exercising. I also enjoy reading and writing. I watch movies once in a while. When it comes to books, I enjoy reading books on self-help.

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One person I look forward to meeting is Michelle Obama. I love her personality so much and can’t wait to read her new book titled, The Light We Carry.

Final word
Having a child with special needs can shake someone’s faith. On several occasions, I cried and asked God questions. However, my perspective about my situation changed after coming across 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says, The only temptation that has come to you is that which everyone has. But you can trust God, who will not permit you to be tempted more than you can stand.

Irrespective of religious background, every parent of a child with a disability needs a Supreme Being on this journey, because there will be times when they will lack the strength to carry on, and it’s only this Higher Being that will give you the strength to keep moving.

I find consolation in the fact that God does not make mistakes. So, that is why I celebrate my son and walk with my head high.

Finally, to every woman in my shoe, I say, keep your hope alive by holding onto God for daily strength. It shall be well with you.

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