Tag Archives: reality

What if she never speaks?

20 Jul

As I stood in the hallway, talking and listening to this Italian mother speak about her 14 year old, blind, autistic daughter Eliza, one thought kept racing relentlessly through my mind. I had one question that I needed to ask this mom about the daughter that looked, and acted so much like my own. I wanted a tiny glimpse into the future of this Italian world that seemed to mirror my own.

“Does your daughter speak now?” I asked her quietly, trying to hide the desperation from my voice.

“No. No she doesn’t.” She replied, quite clearly seeing the pain seep into my eyes.

In that moment, in those brief few seconds that passed between us, the reality of what we both were feeling, the dreams that we had for our girls, were spoken without any words from our lips. They were spoken between the souls of one heartbroken mother to another.

She knew that when she reveled that truth and her reality to me, that she was giving me an answer that I didn’t want to hear.

I didn’t want to hear it.

Do you know what I wanted to hear? Of course you do.

I wanted to hear that her daughter had learned to talk. I wanted to hear that after years of silence, 14 years of silence…that she could now talk about what was going through her mind.

I desperately wanted to hear that one day my daughter would learn how to talk to me.

But that wasn’t what had happened.

As she began telling me the story of her daughter’s communication struggles, I began to feel more and more uncomfortable. I began to feel more and more angry. I began to see more and more similarities between our children.

And I didn’t like what I heard.

Her daughter had also learned to talk when she was 2. She had also stopped when she was 3. She had started speaking again right about the age that Oli is now…

And then she stopped.

She just simply quit speaking.

One day it was there, and the next day it just wasn’t.

Poof.

BOOM!

There it was.

One of my biggest fears had once again been dropped at my feet.

When Oli began speaking again a few months ago I couldn’t believe it. After 3 long years of complete silence I couldn’t believe my ears when she started to say a few words again. With every new word she spoke the fear of what she wouldn’t say the next day crept in the back of my mind. The questions of “What if she doesn’t talk today?” came with each morning sunrise. The fear of “Will today be the last day that I hear her speak?” came with each nightfall.

And here stood this mother telling me that all of my fears that I so successfully banished to the back of mind, might one day come true.

What now? What do I do with this information?

After a few days of living within that fear and those terrible alternate realities that my mind likes to create; the ones where everything goes wrong and I am helpless again struggling against a monster that I could never hope to defeat, I realized that I was projecting a future upon Oli that I have no control over. I was sentencing her to a life of silence without any knowledge or proof that this is what would happen. I was letting myself believe once again in a hopeless situation that has absolutely no reason to be hopeless.

Oli is not Eliza. Oli is Oli.

What she will or won’t do has nothing to do with what another child has or has not done. Even though that other child is so similar to her. She still is an individual. One capable of fulfilling any potential, achieving any goal and overcoming any obstacle that lies before her.

Oli is Oli.

I have said it before, she will do what she will do regardless of how much time I spend worrying about it. Regardless of how much time I spend crying over it.

So I took my own advice.

I spoke the words to myself that I have spoken to other parents about their children.

As her mother, one of my most important jobs is to never stop believing in her.

This One’s Broken

10 Feb

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” -Ernest Hemingway

The geneticist we saw was a large, friendly woman with a warm smile and a gentle nature. I was not quite as nervous when she asked if she could now perform a physical examination of Oli. I thought, “This woman is so nice she can’t possibly give me any more bad news.”

She started examining every inch of Oli’s little body and then offering phrases to her assistant. I was listening intently as she rattled off terminology to describe my Oli for her chart. Terminology that I was familiar with. I was starting to think that this woman wasn’t so nice.

“Extremely small eye sockets characteristic of microphthalmia and anophthalmia, hypotonia exhibited in all major muscles, microcephaly, congenital mid line defect, dysmorphic facial features.”

These words cut me to my core and left a painful gaping hole in my heart.

Dysmorphic facial features.

What? Are you trying to hurt my feelings?

I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. How could she describe my beautiful daughter as dysmorphic?

Hypotonia in all major muscles.

So what if she was a little weaker than other babies? She could still catch up and get stronger.

Congenital mid line defect.

Mid line defect refers to the abnormalities associated with the fact that the neural tube failed to close properly when the baby was developing during the first trimester of pregnancy.

I hate that term. Mid line defect. I guess because it has the word defect in it and in turn implies that my girl was born defective. Like some sort of toy or kitchen gadget that fails to work properly when you plug it in. I couldn’t just return my girl to the factory and demand a refund. I couldn’t look at God and say “Sorry. This one’s broken. Send me a new one.”

Satisfaction is not guaranteed with children and I refuse to view my daughter as defective.

I told you I was sensitive.

Microcephaly.

She has an unusually small head. I pointed out to the doctor that I seem to also have a small head. I told her that I was able to wear my 9 year old step daughter’s bike helmet. Although, my husband has a huge melon (sorry honey) and I would think that between the two of us it would have balanced her out genetically.

She explained that while Oli was probably prone to having a smaller head because of me, it was more than that. Oli’s head measured below the 5th percentile on the growth chart.

“What does that mean in terms of her development?” I asked quietly.

“It can mean any number of things. She could develop normally or it could mean some mental retardation. Usually with microcephaly we tend to see some form of MR.” She replied honestly with sympathy in her voice.

That was when the fear for Oli’s future really took hold. I was already terrified of her facing the world without any sight but, now I had to think about her learning capacities as well.

Combined with all of the other things we had learned about her, it was starting to look like my girl was not just blind.

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