Moms with special children show us how it's done

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Abby, 7, and Denise Scott. Abby Scott loves to play soccer and has never let her cerebral palsy slow her down.

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Thirteen years of collective parenting has taught us that motherhood is a journey of the heart. From the very first second we held our babies, we felt utterly responsible for their lives.

Like many new parents, sometimes we let our neuroses get the upper hand. We agonize over everything from germs to developmental milestones to whether our kids will grow up to be good, successful human beings.

For moms like Denise Scott and Kerry Lynch, however, the concerns are on a higher magnitude. Denise's daughter, Abby, age 7, has cerebral palsy. Mary Cate, 8 months, was born with Apert syndrome, a rare genetic disorder characterized by malformations of the skull, face, hands and feet.

On a warm night in July we talked with both moms about their journeys. They were upbeat and gracious, even though they should have been exhausted from their daily routines that include therapist and doctor visits, household and parenting chores - and jobs. Kerry is a nurse; Denise, a special education teacher.

We wondered how they possibly manage it all. While they admit to worrying about some of the same things we do, they don't have time to obsess over little things. Their children's medical situations have put it all in perspective.

Kerry brought us to tears as she recalled Mary Cate's birth and the moment she learned something was wrong with her daughter. She was shocked, overwhelmed and withdrawn but soon she fell in love with Mary Cate's angelic face, and kissed the tiny fingers and toes that were fused together, a condition of the syndrome.

Denise told us about her daughter's triumphant soccer season. Abby may use braces and crutches to walk, but she's one of the feistiest players on her team and knows no limitations. Denise jokingly said she is more worried about the crush Abby has on Justin Bieber and her penchant for clothing and accessories.

Both little girls face unpredictable futures. Denise and Kerry are working hard to provide them all the resources possible. There are skills that need to be imparted to their daughters, attitudes that need to be changed, and empowerment that needs to be actualized.

These moms want their children to find their own benchmark for normal and live up to the best of their potential in a world where they can be respected for who they are.

Sometimes Denise and Kerry laugh when they'd rather cry. Sometimes they cry when their hearts are heaviest. Sometimes they take a breather when it's needed most.

But they never give up or make excuses.

Denise says she wouldn't have things any other way; Kerry believes fate brought Mary Cate and she together.

Abby and Mary Cate will endure challenges most of us couldn't begin to fathom. Their moms are their fiercest advocates. Denise and Kerry are determined that their daughters will achieve independence, acceptance and happiness.

Oftentimes we talk about what we envision for Cat, Gigi and Peter. It's no different for Denise and Kerry. They have similar dreams and aspirations for their kids. Their fears and questions parallel ours.

Their stories have encouraged us to quell the inner voices that cause fruitless worry and to give back. These women are our neighbors, our family, our friends - and their children are our children.

Our great triumph as moms will be the moment our children recognize that connection, too.

Maybe, just maybe, Abby and Mary Cate will show them the way.

Have Fun & Give Good Back

WHAT: My Mary Cate Apert Awareness Benefit

WHEN: 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18

WHERE: 115 Bourbon Street, 3359 W. 115th St., Merrionette Park

COST: $35 adults; $10 kids; food, drinks and entertainment featuring live performance by Katie Quick and Big Fish Music Productions.

INFO: www.mymarycate.org

WHY: Mary Catherine Lynch, diagnosed with Apert syndrome at birth, will need myriad surgeries throughout her life in addition to ongoing therapy. Please join her friends and family as they raise funds to offset medical costs, create awareness around this rare craniofacial condition, and do their part to ensure Mary Cate lives a happy and fulfilled life.

WHAT: Center for Independence Annual Fundraiser

WHEN: 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28

WHERE: Oak Brook Hills Marriott Resort, 3500 Midwest Rd., Oak Brook

COST: $75 per ticket; hors d'oeuvres, cocktails, dinner, auctions, raffles and dancing

INFO: www.center-for-independence.org or (708) 588-0833

WHY: Abby Scott, who has cerebral palsy, could be a poster girl for the Center for Independence. Just 2 when she started therapy there, her growth and development through conductive education have been amazing. She's involved in Brownies, soccer and horseback riding and very determined to live life fully. The benefit raises funds and awareness for more than 150 children with physical disabilities aided by the Center. There are four ways to help: a golf outing; dinner reception; sponsorship or donations.

Jennifer Mifflin and Suzanne Witt are two Chicago-area writers on hiatus from daily assignments. When they aren't chasing terriers and a two-year-old or playing chauffeur to pre-teens, they throw caution to the wind and chronicle their journey as moms, friends and fellow neurotics on ChirpyGirls.com