Last Wednesday was our Mommie & Me family mixer. James got to come and meet some of the babies and their parents, eat some snacks, and got to participate in a typical “class”. He got to see firsthand something that I had to deal with that very first day…and continue to, actually.
Before I get into “the reason for this post” junk, I’ve got to advertise for Mommie & Me. If you are able, or if your spouse is able, or if a grandparent is able to attend a class like this, please take advantage of it. Eliza has learned so much and loves interacting with the other babies and it’s really helped me meet other parents as well, since I tend to not be very outgoing at first…
I had heard about this once a week little class from friends and I kind of knew what they all did because I used to work upstairs from all the activity… Every week we would hear a loud bunch of women and babies shuffling through the open lobby below and we would look at each other and say, “Mommie and Me.” and just shrug knowing that in a few minutes the place would quiet down again for about 2 hours and we would hear them all exiting the building.
I never planned on being “one of those moms” (whatever that means now) — I planned on having a baby and that baby going to day care and I would go back to work and I would cry at work for like a week and then I would eventually come to find my job as a small refuge from the madness of my home. Well, we all know how to make God laugh, right? Make Plans.
When it became inevitable that I would have to stay at home with Eliza for a while, I decided, “Well, heck, let’s make the most of it and just go Full Mommy–do it all.” (or try to) So we signed up for Mommie & Me. I thought it would be fun for her. I actually had no idea what it would entail but I kind of dreaded it. Because like I said earlier, I’m not one of “those moms”…
The week before class was supposed to start I got sort of panicky. I worried that Eliza wouldn’t be able to do things or we would get singled out and it would just be all awkward and weird for everyone (me). So I messaged a couple of friends who had taken their kids and they both were like, “Oh, she will LOVE it!” So I felt a little better. Then while driving there I panicked again because I was sure that they were going to ask who we were and I was going to have to introduce ourselves and at that point did I really want to tell everyone she has Spina Bifida? …… I had decided I wouldn’t mention it. Because why does it matter, really? It’s not like anyone would really be paying much attention to her and her back was covered and her hair was growing in well over her shunt and her “bow-thing” covers it anyway…why say anything? We will just be a normal mom and a normal baby and just sit down and observe and not draw attention to ourselves, see what it’s all about, and if we (I) liked it, we would go back the next week and THEN maybe we would “mention Spina Bifida”…maybe.
I guess I was just trying to delay the inevitable…because it always happens. It happened the day we told our parents we were having a baby. It would just be a different hurt. Like, “Here’s my cute little baby! Isn’t she a doll?… She’s paralyzed.” Boom. Sometimes you can almost feel it when The Boom hits them. I suppose I just wanted to pick a day that I was feeling stronger. Maybe I just wanted us (me) to feel ‘normal’, just for a day.
The one thing that the director will tell you about Mommie & Me is that there are a lot of “firsts” in this class. Babies who “never have done that before” do it in class sometimes and it’s so sweet to watch the mom’s faces light up and then sometimes their eyes well up with pride and sadness that their baby is growing up and here’s proof of that right in front of them.
They don’t tell you that it’s the mommies that have their “firsts” there sometimes, too.
So we open the door and all these faces look right at us and I hear, “HI MOMMY!, Come on in!” and in the background all these babies are bouncing on a mini trampoline, aided by their singing mommies. (Honestly, I wanted to turn around. I had not signed up for an episode of Barney but crap, they’ve ALL seen me now…”those moms”)
So, with reluctance, I walked in. Eliza was probably just chilling in her car seat.
We all sit on mats and some moms are gathering their stuff up from the class that just ended so it’s organized chaos for about 5 minutes. Then, the instructor introduces herself and proceeds to tell us all that we will go around the room and introduce ourselves and start singing our songs and doing our little dances and otherwise making fools of ourselves for the entertainment and enjoyment of our little ones. It all went by pretty quickly. I remember at the end of class telling the instructor, privately, about Eliza and telling her how much I enjoyed it and how I thought it would be fun for her. I told her we would be back the next week. And we were.
Here’s where the whole “mommy’s first” comes in to play.
So we are all in a big circle and we are going around the room introducing ourselves and our little ones and it gets to us. The instructor sweetly says, “Do you want to tell everyone about Miss Eliza James?” I almost said no. But I said, “Sure!” very confidently. And then my mouth opened and I said, “This is Eliza James and she has Spina Bifida.” And that’s when I started crying in front of a roomful of strangers. (My first “first”)
I went on to explain what it is and her ‘grim prognosis’
and how we found out, how we are dealing with it all…and the whole time I. Am. Bawling. My second “first”– I had never told anyone out loud “our story”. Of course I had paraphrased for friends and family and I had typed about it in length on this blog and in discussion groups online but I had never said it all out loud.
When I stopped talking and wiped my tears, I looked around for the Boom… I saw a room full of moms wiping tears off their faces too and I knew we (I) would be ok. I’m fine being one of “those moms”…because they could all feel on some level just how much it took out of me to say all those things and didn’t pity me. Because there’s a difference between sympathy/empathy and pity if you didn’t know that–It’s like the first thing you learn when you find out your child will have special needs. It’s almost like that part in your ear that you can hear the slightest noise your kid, and only your kid, makes…like you get your own Spidey-sense on how to immediately differentiate between pity and sympathy. And outright hurtful…but that’s a different blog for a different time.
So the weeks after that weren’t that bad. I only teared up a few times in class and only cried in my car after class a couple of times that first month.
You see, it’s bad to be told what your baby will NEVER be able to do, but it’s downright tragic to be around a room full of babies that CAN.
I remember staring at one baby’s flailing legs and wondering what that must be like. I watched in amazement at a baby just taking her first couple of steps. I watched them crawl and roll… Every week I wondered why I came back. Was I torturing myself? Was it normal to feel this way?
Then one day something amazing happened. I can’t remember exactly what her baby did, but I remember her mommy saying, “Oh my gosh–she’s never done that before!” I don’t remember what her baby was doing because I was looking at her. I can still see her face in my head while I write this…It was elation. Pure elation and pride. Her eyes welled up just taking in that moment. And from that day on I haven’t cried over something I’ve seen another baby doing. Why? Because I am so proud of what those little critters CAN do– all of them, Eliza included. It’s hard work reaching out your hands if you don’t know how. It’s even harder wanting your body to be on the other side and not knowing how to rollllll over to get there. And sitting up? Oh my gosh, how do you EVEN sit up, using your arms for support when all you want to do with that arm is put your fist in your mouth???
Being a baby is hard, y’all.
Eliza already does things I didn’t think she would be able to do. I’m supposed to be her biggest cheerleader and here I am thinking she WON’T ever be able to sit up on her own, much less walk one day. Will it take time? Yes. Will she need assistance? Yes. Will her legs be her primary mode of transportation? Probably not… But I’m never ever going to say she won’t be able to do something.
Because that child likes to prove me wrong already.
Eliza and her buddies at Mommie & Me. They were all looking the other way but it’s still so cute to see them all sitting up so good.