Monday, April 16, 2018

The people who knew you back when

I visited an old friend in Chicago this weekend with Sabrina, and saw a couple of people I hadn't seen since my twenties, before I had kids. This sort of thing is both fun and freaky, because part of me still feels twentysomething (it is not my abs), and it's hard to believe so much time has passed. 

I know how these conversations usually go: We talk about where we live, number of kids, ages, who we married, what we do for a living. We reminisce about activities/parties/good times. Sometimes, we get into discussions about where our children go to school, and I note that Max has disabilities and attends a private school in another town. Sometimes, people ask what he has and when I say cerebral palsy they look troubled and I say, "He's doing great!"

I wish I could tell them just how far Max has come and how much I've learned from him about people with disabilities, but there's only so much you can get into when you're standing at a party and catching up . So I show them photos, I look at photos of their kids and we move on. And I end up feeling a little sentimental about how relatively carefree life used to be pre-parenthood, even though it didn't feel like it back then because work drama and boyfriend drama and family drama is still drama. And I'll think about how I never could have imagined I'd have a child with disabilities—and how I couldn't have imagined I'd be lucky to have Max.

A couple of those discussions happened. And then, a woman said something I wasn't expecting.

"I remember how you were always laughing at something," she said. 

I thought back to that neonatologist in the NICU who I'd wailed to on more than one occasion, and who somberly told me that having Max would change my personality, and she meant not in a good way. 

I was definitely a ball of sadness, stress and anxiety early in Max's life. But then, I returned to me. Not completely the old me, because parenthood can mean being more cautious and less spontaneous than you used to be, in part because of the logistics of bringing our brood along and in part because even if we were by ourselves we wouldn't want to do anything risky.  Dave and I were ice-hiking on a glacier in Alaska in the photo above. These days we're more like to be hitting Adventureland at Disney.

"You loved to laugh," that woman added.

"I still do," I said.


  1. Ellen....
    Is that seriously Dave in the above picture?! I had to do a double-take…. He looks just like Max!! {I know, I know…. It is the other way around!! Ha!!} To quote my Dad…. ‘It’s the wonder of genetics!!’ ;)
    Peace out, Mary Lou

    1. Yes, that's Dave! And yes, Max is looking more like him every day.

  2. For several weeks after Daniel was born I was stressed. His diagnosis weighed me down.

    I was constantly wondering whether he was on track compared to his sisters (I had twin babies in 2016). The Internet has saved my sanity over the past 18 months and that is a good thing as far as I'm aware. It was a bit easier for me than for you because you were parenting a SN kid pre Internet. Raising a child with Spina Bifida is not for cowards or weaklings- I've learned that pretty early on when we were in the hospital.

    It takes a online community to bring up a baby or child with spina bifida.

    1. I am so glad you've found community and support online, Leah. Before there were blogs I could read, I had an email loop for parents of babies who'd had strokes, and it was my lifeline.


Thanks for sharing!

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