I spent four years trying to act like I was like all of the other Moms. Still, so much of my identity was tied to the fact I was disabled. I felt the need to explain to everyone I met why I limped and carried a cane as a young woman. I assumed I looked so impaired it was what people were wondering about when they met me. At the end of the four years, I found out maybe my disability wasn’t as glaring as I thought.
It seemed when I introduced myself to the moms I met at my son’s preschool, I would always say something like, “My name is Victoria and I had a stroke while I was pregnant with my son who is in your child’s class.” People said some interesting things in response such as “You’re kidding!” When they realized it definitely was not a joke, they were aghast.
Many were quite freaked out to hear that I had been 35 years old, 26 weeks pregnant, had a two year old, and woke up one day completely paralyzed on my left side. I was just like them except for this major fact.
We all had two year olds enrolled in preschool. I was allowed to park in the reserved handicapped parking spaces in the school lot. They could carry their children into school or walk with them and hold their hand. I could not. They could run out to their car and back in if they forgot something. I could not. They carried treats in to school for their child’s birthday. I walked inside to ask for someone to help me or my son had to do it.
When there was an event at school for the moms, I was often asked where my older son was. When I told them he was at home with the nanny, they all thought I was so lucky to have a live in caregiver for my children. They didn’t understand it was less of a luxury and more of a necessity for me than other women in town who had help at home.
It was not easy for me to make friends. I think I at minimum made women uncomfortable and and in some cases scared them.
My son made friends with the other kids. If they had a playdate I got to hang out with his friend’s mother.
I spent some time with Mona who had twins named Katherine and Andrew. When visiting at her house, we spent a good bit of time talking about the usual business of being a mom. She was also curious about the rest of my story. I explained in detail about how I had brain surgery to save my life while I was expecting my son, stayed in the hospital, pregnant and paralyzed for 53 days, and then stayed in a rehab hospital for six weeks to re learn how to walk and take care of myself. Mona asked a lot of questions. She seemed like an intelligent woman who understood everything I said.
Mona and the other mothers at preschool watched me struggle to fit in and get my son through the program.
When our children were four it was time for them to “graduate”. They put on an adorable concert in the church affiliated with the preschool. All the parents were there with video cameras. Little four year olds look like miniature college graduates in caps and gowns. The children were called one at a time to walk to get their “diplomas”.
Even though it was only preschool, I felt proud of everything my son and my family had accomplished to get to this point in his short life. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for living through a life threatening crisis before he was born and watching him grow up and go to school.
There was a reception after the graduation for the children and the parents to socialize. Many parents were surprised by how quickly the last four years seemed to fly past us. It seemed these kids were just babies and now they were headed to kindergarten.
I sat and sipped tea with Mona. She reminisced briefly about how hectic life had been with twins. I said to her, “I can’t believe I’m here watching my son finish preschool after everything that happened.”
She said, “Why, what happened?”
For a few minutes I believed I had fooled Mona and everyone else about being disabled the last four years. She seemed to forget I had any issues that made me different.