To the people that say, “It could never happen to me…” I was one of you once. My life was fairly routine. Not particularly spectacular, but certainly never boring.
How could it be? I was the mother of a pre-teen daughter and two rambunctious sons. I enjoyed being a stay at home mom, active in my kids’ lives, so when I discovered I was pregnant again I didn’t even bat an eye. I was a seasoned pro.
When you become pregnant you immerse yourself in the joy of your impending birth. You begin reading books on motherhood, and you begin to take on a glow that could obliterate the sun. Your pregnancy (minus the morning sickness) agrees with you. You are bombarded with well-meaning advice, contemplating baby names, selecting maternity clothes and thinking of baby shower gifts, right?
I did, also. I ate right, didn’t drink or do drugs. I also had three other healthy children. That should give me a guaranteed pass for a brilliantly healthy baby, right?
My daughter was born seemly normal in 1989. An eight-pound, seven-and-a-half-ounce bundle of joy that I named Deborah Ann after my two sisters. My husband and I felt like our little family was complete. Two girls and two boys. We were blessed.
Now, stop and think a moment about your own pregnancy.
We are all guilty of believing nothing will be wrong with our baby. Oh, some of us worry. Maybe we heard something, read something, or even inwardly felt something, but the thoughts are usually fleeting.
It only happens to other people, right? I use to think that, too.
When my daughter had her first seizure and was diagnosed with Tuberous Sclerosis (a rare benign tumor disease), I was in shock. How could I have a baby with some weird disease that I couldn’t even pronounce?
It happened to my baby. It happened to me.
We have a tendency to go through life trying to avoid things or people who make us uncomfortable. It becomes commonplace to talk a good game, donate to a charity, or maybe even defend a kid with special needs in school (which makes you feel great for a few days), but then you fall right back into the routine of taking it all for granted.
I was you once.
When a disease strikes home, even if it is within your family, it changes everything you knew fundamentally. You live it, you eat it, and you breathe it. You really have no clue what to do except cling to your baby and pray to make it not so.
Disease does not discriminate. It affects all races and ages.
You may look at me pushing my daughter in her wheelchair, hear her make noises and frown. You may see me feeding her still at 26 in McDonald’s and talking to her in a singsong manner. You may turn away because you were taught not to stare at “those people.” You may call a friend “retarded” and laugh about it. Never realizing that I walked right past you.
Just remember, it could happen to you. Just as easily as it did to me. Without warning.
So, if you are reading this, please remember to try to be kinder to the next person with a disability you meet. For there goes you or someone you love.
It happened to me. It could happen to you.