For the first time in several weeks Andrew showed a renewed interest and eagerness in using his medical walker last night and was quickly cruising through the house. Every so often he would stop and flash that dimple over his shoulder to make sure I was watching him and I could just see the pride glowing in his expressions. I'm not sure what has sparked him to try the walker again, I guess he had gotten frustrated with it in the past and felt crawling was faster. But now probably seeing his brother walking all over the place helped motivate him.
As I stood there watching him I was caught off guard by the depth of emotions that welled up within in me and my eyes filled with tears. I too was so very proud of him. Proud that he was making himself mobile, proud that he was so determined. But if I'm perfectly honest, mixed in with my tears of joy was a sadness that I carry with me. Sad because a lifetime ago when I pictured my precious little ones taking their first steps, that sweet vision was never bombarded by a bulky metal medical device. I was so blissfully naive. I could never have imagined my child would not be close to walking at 18 months old. Never did I expect that the little ones in my life would have to fight so hard for everything we so typically take for granted.
Please don't mistake my words here. I know how blessed we are, how blessed Andrew is. He's alive, he's happy, he's making such progress. I know so many others have it a lot worse. I know God has a perfect plan, I know that He loves Andrew so much more than even I do. But just because I know these things are true doesn't mean Andrew's life is easy. It doesn't mean that I don't mourn the "normal" life I once pictured long ago or that I see my friends and family lead. For me to pretend like Andrew's life is totally normal and easy and that we never feel sorrow or fear the future is just not accurate and it minimizes the trauma that Andrew has been through in his short life. That's just not fair to him. And I don't think it lessens our faith and love any either, it's just reality. Can't I be both overjoyed and sorrowful at the same time? Just because he "looks fine to me" doesn't mean that his life isn't impacted every day by his tough start in this world.
You may be thinking "get over it already". Believe me when I say that I would like nothing more than to put this all behind us. But it's easier said than done. Not a day goes by that I'm not constantly reminded of what we've been through and the challenges Andrew has faced, it's hard to put it in the past when every single week day we attend some sort of therapy session or doctors appt. It's hard to forget that I have a DVD in my safe that's full of thousands of images of my son's brain and nothing I can do will change the fact that his brain doesn't look like it should.
Yes, he is a living miracle! Yes, I'm SO proud of him. Yes, I wouldn't trade him for any other. But just because I feel this way doesn't mean there is no pain. I hurt when I know that he wants to get down and play like his brother but he can't because the ground will tear up his knees as he crawls. I hurt when people say things that sting, even though I know their intentions weren't to cause pain. A month or so ago we were waiting for our therapist at the rehab pool when a group of old ladies asked what he was doing there and what was wrong with him. When I tried to give a brief explanation they replied "Well at least he's cute" and walked away. I know they weren't trying to be ugly, but it still stung. I'm so proud to be the mother of twins and so recently when someone asked if they were twins and I proudly said yes, I was totally caught off guard when their reply was "Well then why can't that one walk?" I'm sorry but "that one" is my son and he's perfect, who cares if he's not walking!!
Today I took Andrew's walker to rehab so that his trainer could help him use it most effectively and my heart was swelling with excitement as he walked with it all by himself up and down a very long corridor over and over. His therapist and I were cheering him on and he was grinning from ear to ear when this old man walked by and stopped to stare. His only comment in the most dismissive tone was "At least he can smile about it". The therapist was actually more upset then I was so I know that I wasn't just being overly sensitive to the situation.
Right now Andrew is blissfully unaware of other's perceptions of him but he's only going to keep getting older and how will I as his mother protect him? How can I guard his heart from this cruel world? Yes I know he will have a great character because of this. I know he is tough and will handle it and overcome it. Yes, I know he will do great things in this world.
But that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt . . . . .
My precious son. I love you, I love you, I love you with all that I have and all that I am. No one has inspired me, taught me, or shown me God's awesome power more than I've seen in you. You have been through more in your short life than most adults I know and you've handled it with an amazing attitude and strength. No one has the right to diminish you or your accomplishments. No one has the right to judge your worth to this world. I am so grateful that God allowed me to be your mother, so grateful that I've witnessed His grace in your life. You are such a gift to our family.