In my "Former Life"

Jodi Shenal by Jodi Shenal Additional Needs

Jodi Shenal

Jodi Shenal

I'm a stay-at-home mom with two amazing children. My son is on the Autism spectrum and my daughter has a rare genetic disorder and multiple disabil...

When I was in High School, I aspired to someday become a Special Education Teacher. As part of the curriculum of my 11th grade Psychology class, we spent time assisting in a Special Ed. classroom.

As much as interacting with those amazing children fed my soul, and left a lasting impact on my heart, I realized quickly that it probably wasn’t my true calling.

I felt that I lacked the patience to be an effective teacher/caregiver. I feared that I was without the fortitude to teach such vulnerable and completely wonderful individuals with disabilities.

As much as I treasured my time volunteering each week, as a career, I knew I wasn’t going to be cut out for it.

After college, I loved my job in the field of Human Resources. I always found satisfaction in advocating for employees.

A day’s work included contacting insurance companies and assisting employees in their battles to have medical claims approved.

I was well-versed in FMLA, HIPAA, 401k, and EOBs. I distinctly remember a situation in which an employee needed help acquiring vital Durable Medical Equipment; we fought together to ensure that he received it.

Who would’ve predicted that in ten years, I’d be living out the same frustrations on a very personal level?

In that former life of mine, I never could have envisioned that I would someday be an Autism mom or the caregiver of my own child with disabilities and complex health care needs.

Suddenly, I found myself knowledgeable on a whole new list of acronyms: PT, OT, IEP, 504, MRI, IDEA, KAFOs, SLT, FAPE, and so many more.

Autism and genetic disorders were never on my radar and I thought I had my life’s plan all mapped out.

There was no crystal ball. I could not foresee that I’d be trading in insurance arguments from my office desk to hashing out similar conversations from my own kitchen table.

I couldn’t have anticipated that I would someday be pleading with insurance companies and DME providers over necessary medical equipment, and advocating on every front, for my OWN children.

Becoming a Stay-at-home Mom wasn’t ever part of my plan. I hadn’t prepared myself for a future that included becoming an expert on my son’s Autism Spectrum Disorder or an authority on my daughter’s rare chromosomal disorder.

But, I also never knew that my heart could hold SO MUCH LOVE and dedication for the little people that mattered most in my life.

Looking back, there were various moments, snapshots from my former life, that were actually stepping stones. They helped paved the way a bit for the uncharted road ahead.

It’s hard to remember exactly who I was back then.

Parts of that girl are still in me; I’ve retained my drive and fire to help others, and I wholeheartedly use them to try to be the mother that my children deserve.

I wouldn’t trade the life I have now for my past, or for any other life.

Sometimes when your path veers drastically in a different direction, and you feel you’ve gone off course, your eyes become open to what is TRULY important and meaningful.

Life throws you curves that reveal to you how strong and patient you really are.

I have a beautiful son and daughter; they are my life’s greatest work.

I’ll pour my heart and soul into fighting for them, as long as there is breath in my lungs.

This role is harder than any other that I’ve ever taken on. Yet, it is hands-down the most rewarding and fulfilling. I wouldn’t want to go back to my former life.

I count my blessings in this life that I lead now and know greater joy than I ever thought possible.



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