From the beginning of this injury, it was never just my journey I had to concentrate on. It was never just my grief, my trauma or my transition to a new life. My accident happened to my entire family. All five of us—myself, my husband and our three children—were there as our life took a sharp turn in an unexpected direction; we were the only ones there. Our daughter—too young to understand what was happening—has no memory of it. Our boys however, can vividly recall their versions of the story and it breaks my heart. No, it was never just my journey I was worried about.
It’s the end of January—the month so many people feel is never-ending. While I’m fairly certain it’s rare for anyone to be living their best life in any given January or February, these two months carry weight for me. This is the time of year I reflect on what were my final weeks before my accident. They weren’t extraordinary by any means, but they were real, simple and honest moments of our everyday lives.
Bathing suits. The worst, right? I loved them as a teenager – I had a borderline obsessive collection of bikinis all meant to show off my adolescent figure untouched by pregnancy, breastfeeding, age or the unexpected. But three children – three c-sections – a few too many extra pounds and a whole lot of negative self-talk later, bathing suits became the enemy.
“Wisdom begins in wonder” – Socrates
Every parent celebrates upon hearing their little one’s first words. But parenthood takes a dramatic turn for the wine cabinet when a child learns the word “why”. The relentless questions reveal the outer limits of our patience and, all too soon, our own knowledge. Once children figure out that the answers exist somewhere, “Can you google it then Mommy?” becomes another question in their repertoire. Their stream-of-consciousness method of questioning could be turned into the world’s most lethal drinking game but, I try to remind myself of the quote above that suggests we don’t learn by being complacent, we learn by being curious.
Standing isn’t something I have done much of in the last 2 years. I imagine the shock value in that opening statement is minimal – I am paralyzed after all. But the equipment does exist to make it happen. I recently was able to have a trial standing frame in our home and my boys were incredibly excited to see me vertical (my daughter had been with me on previous occasions when I tried it). However as soon as I was up, I wanted to come down. I was hit with an unexpected and unsettling feeling as I stood next to my sons for the first time in over two years. They of course thought it was “so cool” so I held my smile until the novelty wore off. They retreated to their Rubik’s Cubes and books while I was left standing there without the ability to quickly retreat into anything.
Summer vacation has arrived! With minimal time to catch my breath over the last few weeks of school, I was definitely ready for a little break in the schedule. I’ve always loved summer. I have forever been a big fan of the long days, warm nights and relaxed attitude towards the everyday that comes with the season. But there is now a sense of dread intertwined with the excitement that I feel as summer approaches.
You and me, we are different. In so many ways, we are different. That in itself is not unique to our situation. From Starbucks orders to philosophies on life and everything in-between, finding a fellow female who checks off all the same boxes that you do would be an impossible task. Even so, there is something about our contrasting physical abilities that seems to set apart my mom life from yours. Early on in my injury that rift between your motherhood and mine felt as wide as an ocean. But as time progressed, I realized that rift–and our differences–is actually minor and insignificant. I think that as human beings, and as mothers, we are more alike than you may realize.
I’m holding a grudge against Easter and I’m trying to decide if it is justified or dramatic. Spoiler alert: writing this helped me figure it out. Everyone always says that the firsts will be hard when dealing with grief – especially holidays and traditions. And that first year was definitely quite brutal. Every holiday, birthday and season brought about change in how I could partake in the celebrations and events that have always been highlights in my year. But Easter was significant. Easter came just a couple of weeks after my accident and ‘different’ doesn’t really even begin to describe how that first holiday post-injury went down. And even though this last Sunday was the third Easter since my accident I still had a really hard time planning and preparing for it. I still struggle to find the holiday spirit that, in the past, came so easily.
When you have children, there are a countless number of firsts. As parents, we carefully document every first as though our little ones’ childhoods depend on knowing the exact date that they first smiled. We track everything from their first teeth to their first steps to their first day of school. I find it sort of funny that we tend to document the firsts of things that will continue on for a lifetime but neglect to document the firsts of childhood and parenthood that are more temporary: the first time we hold hands, the first time our child falls asleep in our arms, the first time we carry our child on our hip. Unlike a smile that will (hopefully) last a lifetime, these are the things that will inevitably end. The part that breaks my heart is that most of these “mommy and me” moments end without warning – we never know which time will be the last time. For me, some of these things ended earlier than anticipated.