We went on a bike ride to the forest. It’s not far from our house but I’d never been there—Ian and the kids always go without me to ride their bikes and play tag. It isn’t the kind of terrain appropriate for my regular set of wheels, however now that I had a bike of my own, I could join them. When the gravel gave way to dirt and fallen branches, I realized the forest was smaller than I imagined it would be—one side clearly visible from the other. The tall trees blocked the cold wind that stung my face on the ride over but the clouds, scattered and heavy, still loomed above us. A network of trails criss-crossed through the trees and I followed Ian around to a clearing in the middle where the kids dropped their bikes in a place that was obviously The Spot.
I shut the bathroom door behind me. My daugher’s voice was in my head saying “take rainbow breaths Mommy. They help you relax”. I attempted to take her advice—which is really my advice—while fumbling with my toothbrush and the seemingly empty tube of toothpaste. But the truth is, sometimes deep breaths achieve absolutely nothing. Nothing that is except momentarily delaying the inevitable which—in this case—was me, sitting alone in the bathroom, crying as I brushed my teeth.
My kids want to go skiing. And my husband wants to take them. Me? I organized the gift cards for Christmas presents and I keep checking our calendar along with the weather to help find a day where our schedule and the environment align in magical harmony. I want them to experience the freedom and beauty of the mountain. I want them to expand on their athletic abilities. I want them to have the opportunity to stand at the top of a run, look around themselves and feel not only the enormity of the world, but also of the privilege it is to be a part of it. But—if I’m being totally honest with you—there is a part of me that wants them to absolutely hate it because I can’t do it with them. I’m Jealous. There, I said it.
This Spinal Cord Injury Journey Isn’t Just About Me—Inside the Trauma and Grief of a Family
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.