Today is my birthday. Sixty-one years ago on September 8, I was born missing 2 legs and one arm. The doctors told my parents that my internal organs were probably reversed and that I was blind and deaf. They predicted quickly that I would not live. Then, after I was still alive after an entire month in the hospital, they recommended that I be put in a home. Thankfully, doctor advice has advanced significantly since 1954.
It was a lot to consider for my 19-year-old, shell-shocked parents. Despite the advice and predictions, however, they took me home. They were given no instructions or playbook on how to raise a disabled child. Since they truly had no clue what to do, they just acted like I was a “normal” baby. I asked my mom once about their “strategy.” She said, “We really didn’t have one. When you were a few months old, we just put you on the floor to see what you would do, and you took off.” Sounds a lot like an experiment to me!
Turns out, as a kid I was given no special considerations because of my disability. I simply had a very ordinary life with the very same expectations as a child with 4 limbs. I lived with the mantra spoken early by my dad, “Try it first and if you need help, then ask.” I’m told that I did have a bit of a stubborn streak, so sometimes I would intentionally NOT ask for help, just because. In hindsight, it was an almost flawless strategy which inadvertently helped me reach my full potential!
There have definitely been, and continue to be, highs and lows on my journey. Indeed there were many times when I marveled wow and questioned why.
But… today is my birthday, a day that holds special significance to me every year. I am reminded of my frightened, yet strong, parents, grandparents and extended family. I am so thankful that I was not put in a home. I am grateful for my full life and that my one arm is still strong. I have proven convincingly that the doctors were wrong in 1954. I do like to prove a point.
Happy Birthday to Me!