Laughing As We Go
Giving birth is by far one of the most amazing things I've ever done in my entire life. It wasn't the labor. There was none. It wasn't the pushing. None of that either. It wasn't the sweating, the grunting, the squeezing of hands or the laser beam focus.
It was knowing that every great thing I had ever done in this life, was now staring me in the face. Without judgement. Without fear. Without knowledge of anything I had done in my early college days. She just saw ME. Not gonna lie. It was pretty intense. Intimidating, Unnerving. We didn't immediately get off to the saccharine-y sweet start you see on sitcoms. She screamed, screeched and sqwaked for her first three months of life. I affectionately gave her the brief nickname of "Birdie" because she would open her mouth so wide when she hollered, she looked like a baby bird waiting for its mom to feed it. I struggled with post partum depression in a major way. I guarantee you that if I NEVER own another powder blue house robe, I will be ok. It became my "uniform" if you will, as I shuffled through the house doing only what I NEEDED to do to keep my kiddo from screaming me into an early grave. Then one day, as if she was telling me that she had had it with my ridiculous "weeping for no reason", she looked up at me from the bed as I toweled her off, yes, sobbing again, reached up with her one good hand, touched my face and smiled. It was the first time she had smiled FOR ME. She was all smiles for her father, but with me - we STRUGGLED. And just like that, the spell was broken. I think subconsciously I needed to know that she loved me, before I could allow myself to pour my heart out all over her. And cover her in love is exactly what I did.
When she was ten months old I received her diagnosis of Schizencephaly, and was told she would be mentally retarded. In case you don't know, there are three levels of retardation: mild, moderate, and severe, and there was no way to know where she would fall. I remember looking at her when the doctor said that and a tear rolled down my face. Everything I had ever hoped for her was flashing in my head with rapid fire speed. The cheerleading. The ballet classes. The "playing in Mommy's make up". Whoosh. Gone. Again, as if knowing I was unraveling in my head, she gave me that sweet smile and instantly put me back together. The doctor's voice was a mumble in my ear as I focused on my daughter, and I smiled back at her. I tuned back in just as the doctor was saying that her level of retardation would be greatly affected by how much I put into helping her learn, and how loving and supportive her environment was. Well, I already loved this little munchkin to the ends of the earth and back, and he was telling me I could love her out of her disability? SAY WHAAAAATTTTTT???? Well, ok. That's not what he said. You can't love someone out of a disability. But you can love on them so much that their disability is merely a pain in the ass as opposed to a true DIS-ABILITY (depending on the severity and type, of course). *Sidenote - Please understand that I am in NO WAY stating or implying that parents with severely disabled children do not love their children enough. I would NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS state such an asinine thing. What I'm stating is that our love and support help our kids transcend doctors expectations, in the biggest and smallest of ways.
Anyway, three and a half years later, and I think I've loved this kid out of mental retardation and straight into "I'm a celebrity and thou must love me" mode. She insists on shaking hands with EVERY SINGLE PERSON who enters a room - grown, grumpy old men included. She winks at handsome strangers (which works out nicely for me). She understands English, Spanish, and American Sign Language. She can be in full on meltdown mode and turn it off in two seconds flat to smile for a camera. She has an affinity for Jay-Z, but not Beyonce (only one diva is allowed, and apparently B ain't it), Adele sings her to sleep, sings along to The Lumineers and Alabama Shakes, and cannot sit still if I put on Louis Armstrong, Van Morrison or Celia Cruz. Feeding herself is a must, as well as picking out her outfits (shoes must match), drinking from the "big girl" cup (no bottles or sippy cups allowed), and Lord help me if I change the channel during Elmo's World. Oooooh the looks she gives.... could put me six feet under, without question. This kid is anything BUT mentally retarded. She woke up one day while I was watching Dirty Dancing and I sat her next to me on the couch. I swear when Patrick Swayze stated the now iconic line "Nobody puts Baby in a corner" she nudged me, and gave me a look as if to say "Ya heard that woman? NOBODY."
My kid has proven that she is a force to be reckoned with. She refuses to hide behind her disability - because she has no clue that she has one. Some may say that's poor parenting on my part. That she SHOULD be aware of her limitations so that she can interact with the world in a way that's comfortable for her. But why? So she can NOT try something because she thinks her disability won't allow her to be successful at it? BULL.CRAP. The world ISN'T comfortable. It's hard sometimes. Sometimes people are asshats. But for me, the moxie this kid was born with, and fortifies with each breath is exactly what's going to make her a CONQUEROR in this world. Her willingness to try, and her determination to succeed will take her farther than any doctor could have predicted. She will only ask for my help if she absolutely needs it. When I cry, she smiles and laughs, and then I do too. When she cries I whip out my camera and she shows me her teeth (girl's got a grin to die for). And that's just how we like we it.
Adversity shmadversity. We got this, and we're laughing all the way through it. Disability be damned.