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Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice, a few by social pressures and a couple by habit.

This year 100,000 women will become mothers of handicapped children.

Did you ever wonder how mothers of handicapped children are chosen?

Somehow, I visualise God hovering over earth selecting His instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation.

As He observes, He instructs His angels to make notes in a giant ledger;

"Armstrong, Beth, son. Patron saint, Matthew."

"Forest, Margorie, daughter. Patron saint, Cecilia."

"Rutledge, Carrie, twins. Patron saint, Gerard, he's used to profanity."

Finally, He passes a name to an angel and smiles, "give her a handicapped child."

The angel is curious,"Why this one, God? She's so happy."

"Exactly" smiles God " could I give a handicapped child a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel."

"But does she have patience?" asks the angel.

"I don't want her to have too much patience, or she will drown in a sea of self pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wear off, she'll handle it."

"I watched her today, she has that sense of self and independence that are so rare and so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I am going to give her has his own world. She has to make it live in her world and that's not going to be easy."

"But Lord, I don't think she even believes in you." God smiles "No matter, I can fix that. This one is perfect, she has just enough selfishness."

The angel gasps "Selfishness? Is that a virtue?" God nods "If she can't separate herself from the child occasionally, she'll never survive.Yes here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect, she doesn't realise it yet, but she is to be envied.

She will never take for granted a spoken word, she will never consider a step ordinary. When her child says"mamma" for the first time, she will be witness to a miracle, and know it. When she describes a tree or sunset to her blind child, she will see it as few people ever see my creations.

I will permit her to see clearly the things I see, ignorance, cruelty, prejudice - - - and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life because she is doing my work as surely as she is here by my side."

"And what about her patron saint?" asks the angel, his pen poised mid-air.

God smiles "A mirror will suffice."

ERMA BOMBECK. "MOTHERHOOD" The Second Oldest Profession

This was given to me not long after my son became a 'handicapped' child. I found it such a moving piece that it was quite some time before I could read it all the way through without bursting into tears. I still cannot reach the end without a little moisture. I don't believe I neccesarily had the qualities God was looking for but I have learnt a lot of them over the years. As for my Patron Saint- for me it is not the mirror but the smiling face of my little boy. I do hope God is pleased with the way I am taking care of his gifts though. I dedicate this to all parents who have been blessed with the gift of a 'special child' and all the joy and heartache that go with them. We are blessed and we do have the opportunity to see the world through different eyes. The choice is our's as to how we approach this blessing.