Tag Archives: coping

I know I’m okay as long as I don’t make pancakes for dinner.

21 Oct

“Close the door Michael. I can still hear them.”

Michael obediently pauses Zelda and walks over to the lightweight door, closing it on the sounds of my parent’s argument.

“Now turn up the sound on the TV and just ignore them.”

Michael again complies without protest, spinning the volume control on the old 32” TV. He picks up the remote control of the Nintendo and scrunches up his little face in concentration.

He is probably about 7 years old.

I am probably about 10.

This is not the first time we have performed this ritual.

It will not be the last time either.

About an hour later my mother knocks softly on our bedroom door.

I get up, reluctantly pausing Link mid stride across his never ending quest through the green maze, and open the door.

Michael looks at me worriedly.

I look up and into my mother’s red rimmed, glassy eyes.

I see the tears still pooling in the corners of them just about ready to spill over. Just about, but not quite.

My mother will rein them in, sparing me from having to wipe them from her cheeks.

My mom will pretend to be strong for me.

Even though I know she’s not.

Even though I know that she has once again been defeated.

“Are you okay?” I ask although I already know what her response will be.

“Yes. I’m fine.” She answers in a voice that is too high, too cheery, to be anything but fake.

It is only now that I notice that she is carrying two plates in her hands. She lifts them up towards my face.

“I’ve made pancakes for dinner!” She says this like someone would announce that they are going to Disneyland.

She says it like she’s just given me exceptional news.

I’VE MADE PANCAKES FOR DINNER!!

“Thanks mom.” I respond quietly. I try to pretend that this is good news. Pancakes. I love pancakes and so does my brother Michael.

I know what those pancakes mean though.

My eyes cast around her to the doorway and towards the silence that sits awkwardly beyond it.

My mother is confused at first by my sad expression. Then she meets my gaze with eyes pooling with tears once again.

She knows that I know.

She knows that even though I am only 10 years old, I now understand that pancakes for dinner is never a good thing.

Pancakes for dinner means that my mother is not okay.

I’ve kept that memory since childhood. I still associate pancakes and dinner as a very bad thing. I’ve had my own children now. Three of them. And guess what?

I’ve made them pancakes for dinner a few times.

Very few times, but I have and I cringe at that memory too.

I told the young child me that I would never do it.

I would never turn those light, fluffy, syrupy plates of deliciousness into a dripping plate of sorrow…but I have.

I have fought against instinct and upbringing and tried to swim against the tide that tries to push me in the direction of my mother’s life.

To no avail.

Points in my life have begun to mirror my mother’s despite my every attempt to fight it.

Of course it doesn’t all look the same. But a lot of it does.

More than I’d probably like to admit.

And so when my life falls apart and the tears stream down my face and my sobs threaten to choke me… I do what feels right. What feels comfortable.

I make pancakes for dinner.

That’s how I’ve come to measure my sadness and my coping skills.

Am I making pancakes for dinner?

If I am?

It’s bad.

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Fine-Garbage, Happy-Lie Vomit

3 Mar

When I reread my old blog sometimes it strikes me as funny and sometimes it just strikes me as sad. I think I honestly believed all of the things I wrote back then. I believed that Oli was learning to walk and talk. I believed that it was still possible for her to just one day catch up to other children her age. Even though by the time she was 2 it was clear that she would not.

I was probably moving into denial at that point. I bounced around the first 3 stages of grief frequently in the beginning of Oli’s life. One moment I would be in denial and isolation and the next I would be angry. And then I would move into bargaining only to be swung back into denial. Most frequently I found myself in depression. Only recently have I moved on to acceptance and haven’t looked back since.

I didn’t know any of this then though. I didn’t consciously realize that I was grieving and nobody told me.

I thought maybe I just had bad coping skills (which I did) or that I was a bad person and a bad mother.

To combat my inner feelings of inadequacy, I told the world that everything was amazing. I tried to convince them that this was my lot in life and I whole heartily embraced it and was moving forward. I tried to convince you so maybe I would begin to convince myself. I thought that the more I tried to sell everyone on my fineness, the more fine I would eventually become.

It didn’t work out that way at all. The more I lied and faked happiness the more alone and miserable I became. By not letting anyone in, I isolated myself so deeply that I became entrenched in the quicksand of grief. Every move I made and word I spoke sucked me down and eventually had me suffocating on my own fine-garbage, happy-lie vomit.

As I move forward and continue my story I have to read the old blog to A.) remember what the hell happened 3 years ago because so much has happened since and B.) because it reminds me of that grieving process and I can clearly see it now in my writing. I can read a post from back then and see: lies, hope, sadness, fear, optimism, bargaining, pain, denial, anger, and a sense of being lost.

The one thing I don’t see in any of the old posts are real, genuine feelings. I see a bunch of words on a computer screen attempting to fool the world into believing that I was okay.

In the history of humanity, there was probably no bigger untruth.

Seth Was On The Teacups; I Was Still On The Tornado

21 Feb

“Home is where you are loved the most and act the worst.” ― Marjorie Pay Hinckley

I remember that first year of Oli’s life being full of incredible pain and sadness. I remember wishing that she was older so I could just get past all of those feelings. I thought that she would just hit some magical age and all of those feelings would just disappear in an instant.

“If only she was 6 months old…”

Then she turned 6 months. Nope. The pain was still there.

“If only she was 1…” Nope.

I couldn’t understand why I just couldn’t get over it?

Seth made a comment when Oli was about 6 months old that he was so glad the first 6 months were over because he felt so much better. The roar of our wild roller coaster ride had dulled to the excitement of the Teacups.

I looked at him and smiled.

“Yes. Me too. I feel the same way.”

I didn’t feel that way at all. Not one tiny bit. I felt exactly the same as the moment when the doctor said she didn’t have any eyes.

I…was stuck.

I feel like I missed enjoying Oli as a baby because I spent every waking moment worrying about her.

When she turned 1 and it was time for her to get her eyes I thought that, that would be the moment I had been waiting for. She would get eyes and everything would be right with the world again.

Nope. It didn’t happen then either.

Don’t get me wrong, it helped. Once her eyes were painted, I didn’t feel like I had to hide her in her car seat when we went out to avoid the stares and the comments.

It made it a little bit better, but it turned out that it wasn’t her appearance that was bothering me. She was beautiful either way.

The first couple of days after she got her first pair of painted conformers was a mixture of highs and lows.

(Her first pair fit perfectly and were not crooked.) The moment Beverly put them in and turned Oli around to face us was incredible. Suddenly my girl had perfect, beautiful blue eyes.

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She had eyes.

We couldn’t stop staring at her, turning her this way and that. Examining her face from every possible angle. Oli had a funny look on her face, feeling the emotion in the room.

“Oh, Oli. Look at you! Look at your eyes baby! You’re so beautiful!” I gushed over her and cried with emotion.

We got back into the car and started the drive back to Las Vegas. Oli was still in a car seat facing the back seat so I couldn’t see her face when I turned around to check on her. I found myself making up excuses to stop the car. Suddenly I had an attack of the munchies, the thirsties, and needed 10 bathroom breaks on the drive home. Of course I had to take Oli out with me. (Even though Seth was still in the car.) I would get her out of her seat, pick her up, and then spend 5 minutes just staring. It was an amazing day.

The next morning the rush of that high faded and I began my descent to another low.

They had given her a pair of eyes, but she still couldn’t see me with them.

My girl still couldn’t see.

My Special Needs Mother Hat

18 Feb

“A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

I talk a lot about my journey to obtain my special needs mother hat. I don’t know why I use this term. I guess it just gives me a good descriptive picture in my head and explains a major role I play.

To me, this hat looks different than a mother hat. My mother hat fit well the first time I put it on. It was easy to wear, simple, elegant, and light. It was beautiful from the beginning and did not tear easily. When it did, I could take it off at night and stitch up any holes it acquired during the day. My stitching was never loose, came apart or was crooked. It always came back together nicely. It rarely fell off and never seemed heavy. I was proud to wear it and frequently showed it off. I enjoyed this new hat tremendously and was very reluctant to turn it in for my special needs mother hat.

When I got this hat it was WAY too big. It fell off all of the time. Sometimes it just blew right off my head. In the beginning I forgot that I had it and a big gust of wind would come along and POOF! Gone. I would have to go chasing it down the street. Sometimes I threw it to the floor in a moment of rage, frustration, or grief. And sometimes I just tried to leave it on the counter at home. I tried to pretend that I didn’t have it and that it wasn’t sitting there waiting to adorn my head like a 1000lb weight. It was extremely heavy. It had all kinds of straps, buckles, and ties attached to it that I couldn’t figure out. It had random flowers on it with names that I couldn’t pronounce. It was uncomfortable and became worn out looking. Rips and tears began to decorate the sides and no matter how hard I tried to stitch it up, my stitching never fixed the holes. They were loose, crooked and simply came apart by an unexpected tug in the wrong way. The whole hat would just fall apart. I would carry my hat in pieces back home and painstakingly try to put it all back together. At first it seemed destined to be big, ugly, uncomfortable, and prone to making me feel like an outsider. It seemed nobody had a hat that looked like mine.

After I wore it for a while, I began to notice other mothers whose hats looked like mine. They were worn and tattered, but had been repaired with beautiful hand crafted stitching and appeared loved and cherished. These mothers looked at me in my hat and smiled a knowing smile and pointed to their heads. “See. I’m proud of my hat. It may appear complicated and worn out to you, but to me it’s beautiful. Your hat will be beautiful too one day.”

Slowly I began to notice new things about this hat that I hated at first. I was learning to pronounce the names of the flowers on it and figuring out the buckles and straps. It wasn’t so big anymore and no longer blew unexpectedly off my head. It began to fit better as each day I grew a little more confident in my role. Every once in a while I still throw it to the floor, but now my reasons are different. It still gets ripped and torn, but I am learning to sew it back up and now my stitches hold it together. It doesn’t fall apart so easily and my stitches are straighter and stronger. I’ve learned to love each and every rip, tear, crease, and stain on my hat because each one has a story. A moment in time and a memory of where I have been and what I have gone through. It isn’t so uncomfortable now and it doesn’t make me feel like an outsider. Now it makes me feel like part of a group. A group of mothers with special hats and special roles that we love and feel honored to have. Now I’m not ashamed of my hat and I never try to forget it on the counter. I walk out of my house each day with my head held up high. Proud to show off my journey with my special needs mother hat.

I Still Remember How You Made Me Feel

14 Feb

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Despite my negative experience with some of the doctors when Oli was born there was one more nurse who would make a profound impact on my memories of those 4 days in the hospital.

Her name was Sharon and she was my labor and delivery nurse.

She was a little bit older than me with exceptionally long, dark blond hair. She seemed to be just a step out of time with today and wore her bangs in a feathered style around her face. She was very sweet and one of those warm, compassionate people who make you feel like you’ve known them forever.

She encouraged me through out my labor and didn’t even bat an eye when I threw up moments before Oli’s birth.

“It’s okay. Happens all the time.” She reassures me, even though I am completely mortified having displayed my dinner to her and my OB/Gyn not to mention the NICU doctor I worked with.

After Oli was born she let me spend a considerable amount of time with her before taking her to the

nursery. She even apologized when she finally laid her in the bassinet to wheel her down the hall.

“I probably should have taken her down 20 minutes ago since she’s a little early, but it’s so important to bond with your new baby. Besides, she looks perfect.”

Two nights later as I’m sitting on the hospital bed I hear a faint knock at the door. Sharon peeks her head inside.

“Mind if I come in?”

“No. Please, come in.” I’m nervous as she sits down on the end of the bed and am wondering if she heard about Oli. It quickly becomes apparent that she has when I see her eyes fill with tears.

“Oh Shannon. I’m so sorry. One of the other nurses told me about your baby. I just couldn’t believe it.”

“I know. I’m still in shock. Thank you for visiting us.”

I’m trying to control my own tears now. Not just because I am again reminded of all that has transpired in less than 48 hours, but because I’m overwhelmed by the amount of empathy radiating from this woman who was a stranger to me two days ago.

“Do you need anything? Can I help you in some way?”

I just gave her a hug, told her thank you and assured her that it was okay and I would be fine.

I should have told her that the simple act of having the courage to walk into my room, cry with me and tell me she was sorry had done more for me than she will ever know.

I wish I would have known then, how that moment would make me feel 5 years later.

I Thought I Was The Only One

12 Feb

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I began to think that all of the feelings in my heart about my daughter were terribly wrong. I was a loathsome, despicable mother for not just accepting who she was and continuing to battle with thoughts of alternate realities.

I began to hate myself.

I no longer believed that God had given her to me for a reason. Why didn’t He give her to an extraordinary mother who could just deal with this unexpected twist and not ritually beat herself up about what was wrong.

I felt small and worthless. Tired and overwhelmed. I felt like I was sinking on a slow leaking ship. I watched all of the other passengers confidently leap to safety while I remained steadfast, determined to somehow repair the damage or die trying. Everyone else was moving on, but I just couldn’t.

I loved her. I knew that I loved this little girl with all of my heart, but hated the fact that she had a disability. More importantly I hated that I hated that she was different.

I felt like I was all alone and that I was the only mother in the world with a special needs child who had experienced this sense of loss. I felt like I was the only one who grieved what might have been. Although I had all of these feelings in the beginning, as she got older they only intensified.

The weight of this emotional load began to get heavier and I grew weaker.

What did I do before Facebook?

4 Feb

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

― C.S. Lewis

As I struggled to understand what the doctors were telling me, looking up every unfamiliar word, phrase, and condition, I was also furiously searching the Internet for other families who had kids with Oli’s condition.

There had to be more of us out there! Where were they? This was pre-facebook when it was not as easy to find people or support.

Finally I stumbled across a Yahoo online support group for families of anophthalmic/microphthalmic children. I submitted a request to join the group explaining that I had a one month old daughter with the condition.

I was silently begging this woman on the other side of the country….

Please, please accept me. Please tell me that you can help and that you understand.

I received an email the next day telling me to follow the link to the online forum. I waited until everyone in the house was sleeping before I went back online.

With the darkness of the house surrounding me I was looking into a new light, a new hope via my small computer screen.

I clicked on the link and walked into a whole new world. A world in which my child was no longer a small minority with a strange condition. A place where I was no longer just one mom alone on this foreign voyage. I had found the hope and the sense of community that I had been looking for.

I read through numerous conversation links and looked at handfuls of photographs of children who looked like my Oli. Beautiful children with positive and inspirational parents who told me not to be discouraged. They told me that they too lived my story. My life, her life, her future was not to be without hope. I could be myself with them. I could be angry, express my grief, my sense of loss. I could tell them about the strange looks that people gave my daughter. I could tell them how annoyed I was when people thought Oli was sleeping because she couldn’t really open her eyes. They understood because they too had the same experiences.

They knew me and they knew my struggles. I never had to pretend with these women. In the months to come I clung to my computer screen in the darkness and welcomed that light. I asked many questions and always received honest and compassionate answers. I found friendship in a most unlikely place. With women I would never meet. Most of them have never heard the sound of my voice, invited me over for coffee or out to lunch. Most of them were just names on the computer screen. But, those women knew me in those early days. They knew me better than some of my closest friends because I told them how I really felt.

I never told them that I was fine.

25 Reasons You Know You’re A Special Needs Parent

31 Jan

I recently read a post on the Scary Mommy blog entitled 25 reasons why you know you’re a parent.

I would to like to add a list of 25 reasons you know you’re a special needs parent:

1.You invite random strangers (new therapists) into your house and before they get there, tell your children to quickly throw their crap around the room so it doesn’t appear “too clean” because you don’t want the therapists to expect a clean house every time they visit.

2.Meeting a great therapist is like a 12 year old girl meeting a celebrity. There are tears, lots of hugs and phrases spoken like “you’re so cool”. You also make sure you to tell them multiple times throughout a session how amazing they are and you are thrilled to have finally met one.

3.Racing through the grocery store, hollering please stop biting my face, pushing a big stroller and a little cart, shoving gluten free snacks in your child’s hands, while you watch them slowly go from quiet whining to total combustion, still managing to remember to grab deodorant (since you’ve been out for two days and have been using your husbands), and NOT cry when the checkout lady insists on talking to you about her grandson and how well behaved he is.

4.Sitting in a doctor’s office for 3 hours at least a few times a month doesn’t seem abnormal at all and now you just remember to pack every single portable electronic device in your house, a picnic basket full of snacks and also a full meal because you never know when 3 hours may turn into 5 or 6.

5.When you have to wait anywhere else with your other kids they are always the best behaved.

6.The sentence “Her eye is crooked again” is not spoken by the sci-fi character in the TV.

7.The sentence “Her eye fell out” is not from the horror movie.

8.A diaper bag is required for at least 5 years. It’s probably the same bag purchased when your child was born.

9.The medicine cabinet in your house full of syringes, liquids, and pills does not belong to a drug addict or your 90 year old grandmother.

10.You have strange swinging contraptions hanging from the ceiling and huge jungle gym equipment in your living room.

11.You go to the gym not to get fit, but simply to get out of the house. Then spend the entire time you are there checking your Facebook and bursting into fits of crazed laughter because you have “escaped”.

12.You believe that all baby items should come super-sized so you don’t have to spend a gazillion dollars on special order items that are the same ones they sell at Walmart only bigger.

13.Driving an hour and a half for a 25 minute appointment does not seem like a waste of time.

14.An hour and a half drive is actually like a mini vacation.

15.You start to actually love driving because when your kids are crying you can say “Sorry can’t get to you. Mommy’s driving” and not feel bad.

16.You celebrate pooping on the potty and reward it with high fives, good jobs, kisses, and candy. (Oh wait. That was also my 2 year old)

17.You don’t even bat an eye anymore when you check out at the pharmacy and the bill is $400. You just smile sweetly at the cashier and say “Of course. Do you accept credit?”

18.The wrong look from a stranger in the direction of your child causes you to snort, snarl, and foam at the mouth. You have the world’s best stink eye.

19.Sometimes punching people in the face just makes sense to you.

20.If someone overheard your conversation with your husband while on a dinner date they would think you were from the CIA and speaking in code. blah blah… IEP. . . blah blah. . .ARD. . .blah blah… MMHR. . .blah blah. . . DARS. . .

21.LOL! That last one was a joke. You don’t go to restaurants!! And you definitely don’t go there with your husband!

22.Dates include wearing your best flannel pajamas, renting a movie on TV and falling asleep during the opening credits.

23.Poop on the walls is not an emergency.

24.You are somewhat proud of the title “that mom”.

25.You absolutely hate it when people ask you “what is your child’s diagnosis?” and are thinking of just handing out laminated business cards because it would just be so much easier than explaining it. And you forget how to spell the damn word half the time so having it written down would be nice. Plus they’d be handy in those time when someone has the nerve to look at your child wrong. While snarling, spitting and growling you could also hand them a business card.

My booger awards.

30 Jan

“Sometimes crying or laughing are the only options left, and laughing feels better right now.”

― Veronica Roth, Divergent

So since I’ve recently been entered into the top 25 blog contestant on Circle of Moms (for my other blog. I am in the process of transferring all of the content from there to here.) I have been reading some of the top blogs. Seriously, there is a reason why the number one blog on there has like 8 million votes. It is hilarious!! I have absolutely no chance when it comes to these women and their humor.

But, I still really appreciate everyone who has voted for me. Keep voting!!! You never know, I could get 8 million votes too 🙂 Plus, I just like the thought of winning something other than the booger off my 2 year olds finger. Seriously…she presents it to me like an award. “Here mommy! Look what I have for you!” She hands it to me like it’s one of her prized possessions.

These mom blogs are about how funny it is raising kids. How, ultimately, you do get a little crazy and find yourself doing things that you never thought you’d do. Like responding “Thank you” when someone hands you a booger.

I find it interesting that there are not many funny blogs about raising a special needs child. Oh, they’re out there I’m sure and if you know of one please list it in the comments below or on facebook because I would love to read it.

I wonder if it is because no one wants to associate humor with special needs.

There is nothing funny about a child or an adult that has a disability.

And it’s really not funny in the beginning when you can’t even seem to drag yourself out of bed in the morning because the very thought of the weight now on your shoulders seems like it will crush you.

I don’t think I really truly laughed until about a year ago. I was so caught up in all that I couldn’t do and all that she wouldn’t do that I forgot to laugh and ultimately I forgot to live.

Now I see that those thoughts and sorrow were slowly killing me and if I kept on the path that I was on I was going to die a slow and agonizing death.

Now I see that I just took it all for granted and was so deeply entrenched in self pity that I couldn’t appreciate the wonderful life that I had been given.

Now I see that it is possible to move past all of those things and learn to live again and subsequently learn to laugh again.

I’ve missed that.

I’ve missed being able to laugh at myself.

It really can be funny.

Having children in and of itself is a funny journey, but having a child with special needs has it’s own unique humor. One of my friends on facebook, Jill, posts about the funny things her 6 year old daughter says.

Ella has anophthalmia and makes jokes about her blindness and prosthetic eyes. Her mom posts stories about the humor in their life. Like her whole family panicking in a power outage at night, but little Ella remaining calm and leading her younger brother to the bathroom in the darkness grumbling under her breath that she “doesn’t see what the big deal is?” I love stories like that!! (Jill, I hope you don’t mind me using you and Ella as an example.)

Yes, it can be sad sometimes, but it can also be hilarious and crazy in a good way.

Sometimes it’s okay to laugh and it’s okay to talk about the funny parts. I’m glad I realize that now and I’m glad that I remembered what it’s like to be funny.

Really all that I want to accomplish with this blog is to help the me’s from 5 years ago out there in the world stumbling along in pain trying to figure this whole mess out. If I can reach just one person who knows what I’m talking about and make them feel just a little bit less alone, then I have done the job that I set out to do.

Oh…and somehow writing about my craziness in all it’s glory amuses me.

If you want to share my blog and you feel that it may reach someone and help them, please share it. Or if you just like it and want to share it, please do.

It’s not about the amount of followers I get, or how many likes I get on Facebook or winning any awards (although all of those things are very nice and I do really appreciate them) (Vote for me!:)

It’s just about telling my story, healing through telling it, and maybe helping somebody else.

She asked if she could see my baby.

29 Jan

“When someone is crying, of course, the noble thing to do is to comfort them. But if someone is trying to hide their tears, it may also be noble to pretend you do not notice them.”

― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid

Seth and I decided to go to the Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation open house. I was nervous about taking Oli out anywhere besides the doctor. I didn’t want people staring at her or asking me questions about her eyes. I didn’t want to have to start explaining my baby to people. She was only a week old.

We had to make the trip though. We didn’t have any other place to go. I needed to talk to another parent about what it was like to raise a blind child.

The open house was in Las Vegas. I tried to prepare myself on the hour long drive there. I didn’t want a lot of people looking at her or touching her. She was so small and I felt that fierce need to protect her like I had my son. I brought my baby sling to put her in.

I brought it because I knew that it was the best way to hide her from the world.

If I could only hide her for a little while longer… maybe eventually I would be ready for the world to meet her. Right now, I just wanted to get in, ask my questions, learn the secrete language or hand shake or whatever it was that I needed to learn in order to live this life and function normally.

I really thought that these people would give me the magical keys to my new life. I thought they would open the door for me. After all I was now part of their club. I had a child that was blind. I thought they would just sit me down and explain it all.

It didn’t happen that way.

They were very nice. They told me their son was 3 and had bilateral microphthalmia. I remember that I really wanted to meet him. I wanted to be able to picture what Oli would be like in 3 years. I wanted to see what his eyes looked like. I thought that because Oli had the same condition as him they would be very similar. I thought all kids with the same diagnosis were similar. Obviously there was so much that I didn’t know. I was disappointed when they told me that their son wasn’t there.

The mother of the little boy approached me.

“How are you doing?” she asks me.

Of course I replied, “I’m fine. Thank you.”

“Can I see her?” she startles me with her question.

Oh my God. The moment of truth. Someone wanted to look at her. At least this was someone who was familiar with her condition. I felt a tiny bit more secure as I pulled the fabric back from her face. She peaked inside the sling.

“She’s beautiful. Congratulations.” she smiles.

Congratulations?

I don’t think anyone had said those words since we found out about her eyes.

As tears welled up in my eyes the next words out of my mouth were spoken with complete honesty and appreciation for that one word. Congratulations.

“Thank you.”

Thank you for reminding me that she was a baby. She was my baby despite her disabilities. I should be proud of her and people should not be afraid to congratulate me.

That word was spoken by a woman who, through her own experience, knew exactly what I needed to hear. She could sense that I was frightened about what people would say. Frightened by the way people might look at her.

She knew what I needed and that is exactly what she gave me at the moment when I needed it most.

Comfort.

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