Guest interview: Rosita Davis
When first introduced to Rose, one is struck by her soft-spoken grace and poise, coupled with her sense of fun. Her genuine interest in others is coloured with compassion and her commitment to her family and friends results in her always being ready and willing to serve; usually with a big bunch of flowers in hand. Rose gently invites us into her world of loving and raising a special needs child.
Briefly give a little context to your family.
I grew up as one of 4 girls in a loving Portuguese family. At the age of 10, my parents were saved and we then started attending church every Sunday. I just assumed I was a Christian because my parents were Christian.
In 1996 I married Gavin and we have 2 boys: Calvin, almost 20 and Jamie, aged 18. Five years ago, we were invited to attend a Bible teaching church by a family member and the Lord graciously opened Gavin’s and my eyes to our sin and need of a Saviour. We both repented and placed our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. [Ephesians 2:8] Looking back on my life, I can trace God’s faithful hand on our marriage and our family.
Please explain the circumstances surrounding Calvin’s diagnosis.
Calvin was born 2 months premature which led to birth complications. His underdeveloped lungs led to pneumonia which caused him to stop breathing. He had to be ventilated and due to lack of oxygen, it caused some brain damage.
It was a long, hard road as he was not diagnosed with anything.
We were told that his milestones would be delayed but that he would eventually catch up.
To help Calvin, we were involved in a myriad of early intervention therapies believing that these would assist his development. However, we become concerned when he did not reach any of his baby and early childhood milestones.
Finally, when Calvin turned 5, we accepted the fact that he had special needs.
We were given so much negative feedback from medical specialists that Gavin and I decided that we would stop trying to ‘fix’ Calvin and just love him for who he is.
Calvin is now almost 20 years old, and despite what the doctors told us, he is able to walk, use the bathroom and generally make his needs known. He still needs assistance with everyday basic needs and his speech is very limited, but we are grateful to the Lord that he is mobile and healthy.
At that time, when you realised Calvin’s special needs, what were your personal and emotional reactions?
As I was not yet saved, I was very fearful.
When Calvin was born I didn’t want him to die, and I pleaded with God to not take him away from us. It was so hard when he was in ICU – I just wanted to take my baby home. Then it became hard to watch other babies crawl, walk, talk and become potty trained when Calvin was not doing any of these things.
It saddened me and I became more fearful and anxious, especially when I thought about how hard Calvin’s life was going to be and doubting whether I would be able to help him and care for him. But once I was saved, I was overcome with hope and a sense of peace that passes understanding. Philippians 3:20-21 has been such a comfort to me.
Practically, how did your Christian faith grow when considering the challenges of raising a special needs child? How did it affect your view of God?
Initially, I did not have a true understanding of God. He was someone to bargain with.
We also had been under some teaching where God’s Word and Truth had been distorted and were told that we did not have enough faith and that was the reason Calvin was not healed. I loved Calvin so much and could not understand why God would not heal him. It was only when Calvin was 14 years old that I truly understood the Gospel. Even though our circumstances did not change, God changed my heart and my perspective and gave me peace and joy in Him, enabling me to rest in His sovereignty. Through prayer and reading and studying God’s Word, my view of God grew and I realised that I am weak and can do nothing without Him.
He is my strength, my comfort, my provider; my everything. He is always good and faithful. Jesus became enough. [Romans 8:18]
How has parenting a special needs child impacted your home and family life?
Amidst the various trials and challenges, Calvin has truly been a blessing in our lives.
As I look back, I can see how God has used Calvin to teach us all patience, kindness, unconditional love and joy in all the little things.
As a family, we have grown to be daily dependent on the Christ. Jamie, Calvin’s younger brother, has learnt compassion and God has given him a gentleness and sensitivity in being a brother to Calvin; always protecting his older brother. God has truly strengthened us as a family.
What surprising joys have come from being a mom to Calvin?
All the little things have brought me such joy.
The big smile on Calvin’s face when he wakes up in the morning.
We call him our ‘little bookworm’ as he has a passion for books, words and letters. He loves his Bible and turns the delicate pages carefully to find words he recognises. Music makes him come alive and it gladdens my heart to watch him get so excited when listening to his favourite songs.
Calvin is truly a joy to be around. I feel so privileged to be his mom and I love him just the way he is.
How has the church and broader community responded to Calvin – positively and negatively?
We have felt so welcome and accepted in the church and have formed special bonds with other families with similar challenges to ours. They have encouraged us and prayed for us.
Our broader family have also been amazing with Calvin, always including him and showering him with love.
The negative side would be people staring at Calvin or avoiding him, but that doesn’t bother me anymore. God has softened my heart to those people as I realise they just have a lack of understanding and don’t mean any harm.
He has provided so many people in our lives who have shown us more love than we deserve.
Please give us some insight as to unique challenges your family faces and are likely to face in the future with regards to Calvin.
The challenge we face right now is keeping Calvin busy during the day so that he is not left at home all day. Calvin is not able to communicate and so just trying to understand how he is feeling, whether he is sad or happy or hungry or if he is ill or has a headache, is often a guessing game.
For me, the biggest challenge is knowing that Calvin will never be able to be independent and care for himself.
We want Calvin to live with us for as long as the Lord enables us to care for him. We have been responsible and put things in place to try to prepare for the future, but ultimately we do not know what the future holds and have to trust in the Lord.
Just taking a day at a time and enjoying the now is better than worrying about the future.
As a mom of a special needs child, what insecurities and fears have you or do you struggle with?
My biggest fear as a mom to Calvin, is that I would die first.
My fear is that he would not cope without me.
I know exactly what he needs without him saying anything, so without me, I am afraid he will not be heard or understood. I have to keep reminding myself of God’s Fatherly love and care for us and that the very hairs of our head are all numbered and that we should not be afraid because we are worth more than sparrows. [Luke 12:7]
What advice can you give to moms and others in how to encourage or engage with families of special needs children and with special needs children themselves?
Kindness is always a good place to start.
Every child who has special needs is unique and so getting to know the family and what interests that child can help with interaction.
Calvin might not be able to have a conversation with you, but you are able to interact with him through a book or music.
My advice for parents with a special needs child would be to try and include them as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to take them to church and to other social activities. Expose them to different experiences. Perseverance is key as new experiences are not always easy for special needs children, but if they are never exposed to new things, how will they grow?
There have been so many times that Calvin has surprised us with what he can do and through it we have beautiful memories shared with the whole family.
Also, asking others you trust for help is something I have learned is vital.
The most important thing, however, is to pray. Pray for courage, wisdom and guidance. God is the only one who can bring true comfort.
Rose was born and raised in a Portuguese family in Johannesburg. She is married to Gavin and they have 2 boys: Calvin, almost 20 and Jamie, aged 18. The Lord graciously saved her 5 years ago.
In between being a mom to Calvin and Jamie, Rose helps Gavin run his Flower Shop.
Her favourite thing is spending time with family and friends.
One of her passions is baking and for exercise, she enjoys jogging.