With a Little Help From … Wherever We Can Get It

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by Helen Baldwin |

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yo-yoing | SMA News Today | main graphic for column titled "We're Not in Kansas Anymore," by Helen Baldwin, depicting a blue wave offset by green nature scenes

My 3-year-old grandson, James, adores his MomMom (me!) and treats me like royalty. He gently places a pillow behind my back on the couch and insists on propping up the footrest before covering me with a blanket so I’ll be cozy. He makes sure I’m fed well and safely, licking forbidden peanut butter off his banana or bread before generously offering it to me.

James worries on cloudy, late afternoons that I “might get soaked” going back home. Like his big sis, Clara, he hugs me and tells me that he loves me throughout the day. I know they both mean it.

After eating something sticky the other day, James announced that he needed to wash his hands. As I always do, I got up to follow him into the bathroom to help, mostly with dispensing the soap and making sure at least some of the water makes it to his hands.

But then he turned to me, straightened his arm like a school crossing guard, and declared confidently, “No, MomMom. I can do it myself!”

Two steps later, he turned around again and added, with equal confidence, “But I need a little help.”


My husband, Randy, and I each returned to school for teacher certification when a miscarriage shifted our plans for the future. During that time, I also signed on as a substitute teacher for all areas of special education classes. My plan was to make sure that teaching special ed was what I wanted to do; God’s plan was to prepare me for something big.

Once certification was out of the way, Randy accepted a teaching and football coaching job in Columbia, South Carolina. Leaving our native Fort Worth, Texas, had never been a topic of conversation, but we did just that and never looked back.

I didn’t know it at the time, but my assignment as a kindergarten teacher in a self-contained school for students with orthopedic and multiple conditions was perfectly planned. I hoped I knew enough to teach children with myriad challenges, such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and Noonan syndrome, on top of a wide range of cognitive abilities.

Alas, my teaching assistant was a pro, and the students were adorable. And help from my seasoned fellow teachers was readily available.


Randy and I had been married 12 years when our first baby, Matthew, was born. It wasn’t our plan to wait that long, but it was God’s, and in typical God’s Plan fashion, it ended up working out for our own good.

I think it’s safe to say that most new parents are understandably a bit terrified about caring for a newborn. Life takes a surreal twist after the delivery, generally proceeding without too much difficulty, at least for a while. Keeping the baby contented tends to come naturally to most, and new parents learn that sleep is overrated. (Just kidding.)

Speaking from experience, many new parents, especially older ones, are eager to prove that we can do it ourselves, after poring over countless baby books and Googling until our eyeballs cross. Grandparents are often ready and eager to share what worked in the old days, if we’ll just listen, but we yearn to think we somehow know what we’re doing.

It’s a boost for all, however, if we determine that we can use a little help and ask for it.


After our third baby, Jeffrey, was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, Randy and I regrouped as quickly as possible. We made phone calls to anyone we thought might be able to help in some way. We mailed a letter explaining our new assignment and asking for prayers and information about SMA to folks on any of our contacts lists.

We prayed and trusted God more than ever, relied on family and friends for support in all ways, and connected with other SMA families on message boards. I drew on my teaching experience for some of what Jeffrey needed (such as suctioning). It would have been significantly more overwhelming had I not practiced on other children.

Randy and I needed more than a little help with this assignment, and we weren’t afraid to seek it.


As I washed dishes this past weekend, I gazed at the rain hitting the pond. I couldn’t help but also gaze at my beekeeper husband’s hive boxes hogging up the deck right outside the window. The hive boxes on the right side of the deck were stacked neatly, but on the left side, it looked like rowdy, drunken bears had come calling. In addition, the ongoing honey shed project mess was rendered even worse because our mower is temporarily sidelined.

My attitude crept into adjustment needed range, and I asked for a bit of help.

It came almost instantly in the form of a double rainbow.

Need help? Ask. It’ll come from somewhere.

A double rainbow (look closely) arcs beyond the “projects.” (Photo by Helen Baldwin)


Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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