When I was in middle school, I remember there was this girl on the school bus I took who used forearm crutches to walk. I remember staring at her through the window of the bus as she walked to get onto the bus. She had to cross over one lane of traffic to get to the bus. It took her a long time, and it didn't look easy for her. She always seemed happy, though. That was one thing I couldn't understand then, how she could be happy when she had to walk like that. She was very friendly and would talk to people, but most people would just ignore her. Including me. I feel so guilty and terrible now as I remember that I would think to myself, "Please don't let her talk to me." Because then I'd be obligated to talk to her, and someone might see me talking to her. I didn't have many friends. I wasn't popular at all. Yet I didn't want to be seen talking to the girl who walked like that.
Then what, 20 years later, first, I had a miscarriage in May of 2002. That happened the same week I got fired from my job. Fired, then found out I was pregnant a few days later, then went to the doctor a few days after that, who sent me right in for an ultrasound, and there on the screen: a sac with nothing in it. Or nothing we could see. Nothing every bled out, and I had to have it surgically removed. I spent the whole summer at home, jobless, mourning. Luckily, we had just gotten our dog, Kahlua, a chocolate Lab, in January of that year. She was with me all the time. When I laid in bed depressed, she'd come up and lie back to back with me. It was better than a person, really, because I didn't have to say a word.
The next year, in November of 2003, I got pregnant again. Within weeks, I started bleeding. It was heavy period-like bleeding that lasted 6 weeks straight. It was the most frightening thing to me in the world at the time--going to the bathroom so many times a day, never knowing what I'd find.
I went on bedrest for 3 weeks, but I continued to bleed. The doctor said what will happen will happen, and bedrest really wasn't going to do anything. I went back to work, still bleeding. It stopped on January 18, 2004. I don't usually remember dates too well, but that one I do. The baby was fine. But it wasn't until March that I bought one thing for the baby. I was 5 months' pregnant by that time, and my husband and I went to Target and got a few little outfits and stuff. I remember these little light green onesies we bought. They had palm trees on them and giraffes. They were sooo cute. I let myself trust that the baby was going to be okay. Finally, I let myself believe it.
After Target, we went out to eat that night, to celebrate. I saw an ex-coworker there. She was from the job I got fired from. So that brought all of that back. We liked the restaurant--they had freshly baked, hot chocolate chip cookies with cold milk for dessert! So a few weeks later, we went back to the same restaurant with some friends. I remember waiting for our table and seeing this group of two couples with their kids. One of the kids used those forearm crutches. He was about 5 years old. I remember looking at the parents, noticing how they talked so nonchalantly to each other, laughing, chatting with each other, barely watching their son as he basically ran around on those crutches. I wondered how they could be so casual about it, seemingly not even thinking about how their son was getting around.
Now when people stare at my 2-year-old son when he is using a walker, I am the one acting casual. I am the one who thinks it's great that he can get around on his own. I am not the one staring, wondering how those parents do it. I am not the kid staring at another kid using crutches. He's my kid now. And I can see why that little girl on the school bus was so happy, why those parents were laughing and nonchalant. They probably went through a lot to get to that point, and they were glad for the walking, even if it was with a "device." The independence that that walker gives my son and those crutches gave those other kids is what is important--not that they do it in the way people are used to seeing. So when people stare at my son now, I have to try to remember that I was once one of the starers, not understanding what it's like, not understanding that it's a triumph and progress rather than something to be scared of.