Army Doesn’t Train You To Be A Special Needs Mother- Your Child Does!

Another beautiful guest post from a dear friend and a fellow parent Sonali Barshilia.  Sonali got commissioned into Indian Army in Sep 1999 and took voluntary retirement in Sep 2006 serving for 7 years. She is married to Lt Col Sanjay Barshilia, SM – a pillar of strength. They are blessed with two brats, Tia (10 yrs old who happens to have Down Syndrome) and Arjun (2.5 yrs, her friend, guide and philosopher in everything naughty). Together they make a formidable force that can bring down any enemy! An Army personnel to the core of her heart, she takes life as it comes and faces challenges head on… Her belief … The first casualty in war is the plan! Given an opportunity she would love to pack her bag with books and embark on a journey to explore the world..

Let’s all walk a few steps with Sonali in her special journey into motherhood!

Sonali And Tia

Life couldn’t have been better.

 I was in the profession I had always dreamed of, years before the induction of women in the Indian Army; I had been thoroughly enjoying the highs and lows, perks and challenges, the complementary yin and yang of being in olive greens, married to a decorated Army Officer and pregnant (sans morning sickness)!

 Yes, life couldn’t have been better…

 I had all the feelings of joy, excitement, fear, apprehension and ominous restlessness preceding the birth of a first child, but regular visits to the doctor and ultrasound tests assured me that everything was ‘just fine’. Nine months passed so smoothly and quickly that, but for ‘the tummy’, I almost forgot there was a miracle taking place inside me. I was also grateful to God for my exceptionally good health during those months that never caused any inconvenience to my work in the Unit. And I thought to myself…life couldn’t have been better…

Even before I realised, the D-Day, H-Hour, M-Minute arrived and the miracle was in my arms – a baby girl – with a perfect cute round face, ten fingers and toes, the works. I was elated (obviously), but the doctor and staff were apparently not (a routine thing for them, maybe?). Ignoring that, I enjoyed the moment with my husband, my family. Amidst flowers, greeting cards and phone calls pouring in celebrating the princess’ arrival, I thought…life couldn’t have been better…

tia pics
Tia, The Beautiful Princess!

 The reason for the doctor’s gloomy demeanour was revealed to us the next day with the news that our daughter was born with Down syndrome. She was a ‘special child’. Having what is medically known as Trisomy 21, she has one extra chromosome in each of the trillion cells in her tiny little body. It was just impossible for me to fathom the gravity of the situation then, and I kept looking at her face, hoping that maybe she would just wink at me and say “ha ha ha it was just a joke mommy…where’s your sense of humour?” But she didn’t! Had my world just exploded? Would I ever come out of it alive? Was I even still breathing? Frankly, I didn’t know what to feel.

No sir, the Army doesn’t train you to deal with situations like this. It could only be God’s idea of ‘on the job training’ – putting us in the middle of a mammoth maze with no doors or outlets, not even for a gasp of fresh air, just a little secret vent with instructions to “find it and come out of the maze soon,

before the it caves in on you and sucks you into oblivion.”

 I found that vent when my princess opened her eyes, and I have no doubt to this day that this is what she said to me, “Mom, I hear I have one extra something in my body and I promise I shall always give you just that ‘extra’ and never less. Promise.”

 In that moment I was out of that maze with hope and that ‘special somebody’ in my arms – my princess.

tias pic 3
Sonali With Her Lovely Family!

 Well, maybe it was my Army training that drills in us the capacity to appreciate, deal with and overcome difficult situations and emotions. For me, the training in a way started much earlier being born to an Army officer father. Maybe it equips us to value our duty over our personal grief and that helped me tide over this too, and I thank God for thinking of me as worthy of discharging such a huge responsibility.

I left the Army when my daughter turned one. I had no intentions of being found wanting in this one of the most important duties of my life. It has not been easy…not one bit, I would say. I sometimes lost my temper, my mind, my zest for life on this journey, but never my Faith. Faith in the fact that it wasn’t just a random selection of parent, but that I was Chosen, that SHE chose me because she had faith in me and knew I wasn’t going to fail her. With God’s blessings and various therapies my daughter is now a beautiful ten-year-old doll who goes trotting to school with a heavy bag on her back and water bottle hung around her neck. Every morning when I drop her to school and she waves goodbye, I stand proud and silently salute the little angel for keeping her promise.

 Did I miss something? Oh Yes…Life truly couldn’t have been better…




  1. Sonali you are truly living a courageous life… God bless

  2. The moment i came across the article..i immediately shared it with my wife… you are a true example of how women should wonderfully and more importantly strongly you handled the situation instead of crying and bickering….iam myself an army officer…here my salute to you mam..great job

  3. Being in d Army myself makes me truly proud of u Sonali. Wish you n ur family all d success & hapiness in life. God bless

  4. Couldn’t wait to post, reading this nice piece.
    Move on from strength to strength.
    “May god bless u n sanjay”.
    – Proud of you folks.

  5. Sonali you have shown the world the strength , love , compassion, patience a women possesses .you are women strength personified.
    I am sure the path you took and you have put across to us must have not been so easy as spelled.
    may god keep you and your strength always blessed and you keep inspiring others always and every time.

  6. Avatar Moushumi Mukherjee

    So beautifully written Sonali . You are a true strength of a woman, a Soldier in every sense and a Hero for all of US !!! So so so very proud of you 🙂