Not One of Those Mothers
Think special-needs kids are only given to special parents? Think again.
image by Emily Walker, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0
I’m going to confess something.
I never thought I could do this. I never wanted to do this. I never, ever would have chosen this for me, for my one and only life, for my son’s one and only life. This? Mentally and physically handicapped? No way.
Before Thomas, my world was largely untouched by disability. I went on with my life, unaffected and unconcerned, and I never had to face my own ignorance.
Then, one beautiful June day, I was forced to face it—and the face it wore looked just like his brother’s, with round cheeks, a tiny nose, and the deepest brown eyes.
Thomas arrived three weeks early on a sunny Friday in June. We made it to the hospital with just enough time to drug me up, something for which in hindsight I am extremely grateful. Not for the pain of delivery—his birth, my second labor, was quick and almost easy—but for the heart-wrenching pain and grief that came after.
Dr. T. is a calm and gentle man. He broke my water, saw meconium, and calmly explained that he would keep the baby from crying until he had suctioned him carefully and thoroughly. So when they rushed our new son (another boy!) across the room and huddled around him, we weren’t alarmed. Dr. T. betrayed nothing while he and the nurses worked to resuscitate my baby. I was too giddy to notice as 10, then 15 minutes passed.
“He’s having trouble breathing, so we’re sending him to the special care nursery,” my doctor said. I remember thinking that it was OK, that these things happen all the time.
Maybe we should have been more concerned in those first minutes and hours. Maybe instead of making giddy phone calls and rejoicing in our new son’s birth, we should have been preparing ourselves. There were warning signs. His initial Apgar score was five. When I briefly held him and said, “He looks just like his big brother,” my obstetrician replied, “He does?” Only much later did I realize why he sounded a little surprised.
Hours passed. I was moved to my postpartum room, and still we waited to see Thomas again.
I have to stop here for a minute, before plunging ahead into the next chapter. It’s vital that I get this right so you don’t do what we all instinctively want to do—put distance between my life and yours.
It’s not personal, I know. But as soon as I say anything, your imagination will stand at the mouth of that dark tunnel, the one my husband and I found ourselves hurtling down when Thomas came into the world. You’ll shake your head to clear the vertigo. Not your path in life. More power to me, but you couldn’t imagine it.
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