On February 1, 2008 I was admitted to the hospital at 30 weeks with contractions. After monitoring me they found that my contractions were making baby B’s heart rate go down to a dangerously slow pace. Baby B was Violet. The next day after I was admitted I was talking to my nurse on duty that day and she said that usually the baby is not affected by a heart rate drop unless it last for longer than three minutes. She told me as she was looking over the heart rate print out for Violet that she doesn’t think she experienced any drops that lasted that long. Oh, but wait, here is one, she exclaimed. Great, I thought. Violet may have some sort of brain damage or trauma over these contractions I was having the night before. I put that worrisome little tidbit out of my head as quickly as possible, but I did worry every waking hour about her in the hospital. I worried when they put the heart rate monitor on me that her heart rate would drop and they wouldn’t be able to get it back up again. But I never worried about the three minute heart rate drop and how it could’ve caused her damage in the womb again until now.
Recently, though, worries have been lurking in the back of my mind. My protective self-conscience kicked in and made me forget. Then about two months ago Chris was watching a special on a mom who had quadruplets, two set of identical twins that were four years old. The mom was explaining that one of the girls was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy (CP) and they showed how she exhibited some mild problems in walking and talking that required some therapy. They showed how she walked and had difficulties with certain coordination functions in walking and skipping and jumping. I had watched this special about a month before. When he was done he walked out to the kitchen and asked me if I thought it was possible that Violet had some mild CP. I said yes right away.
I didn’t know much about CP but what I did know seemed familiar to me when I watched Violet. Violet seemed to have a hard time with her left leg. Her feet were definitely turned in, but what concerned me extended beyond that. When she walked her left leg would swing in a circular fashion turning her whole body a little to the right. That seemed strange when I watched her. The other thing that concerned me was the fact that I know Violet is very smart and understands everything I say to her, yet she really couldn’t produce a word. I know that 16 month old children aren’t really required to say words yet – heck, Preston didn’t. I know there are perfectly normal 18 month old kids who don’t walk yet. Yet, something didn’t sit right with me.
When Violet went to the developmental clinic for her routine examination they didn’t mention CP, so I did. I asked if they think she may have CP and they said maybe. They could not confirm or deny that diagnosis. So, I brought her to see a Pediatric Neurologist in Sacramento. The doctor simply observed Violet for a while, grabbing objects, walking, examined what she did when she was lifted into the air. After about a half an hour I asked if Violet has CP and he said yes. He thinks it is a mild case based on her ability to walk, among other things.
I was prepared for this, as prepared as I could be. You see, I had already gone through many emotions and denials up to this point. The first night Chris and I discussed the possibility I cried and cried and I felt so worried for Violet. I thought for sure she had CP. About a week later, after observing Violet closely Chris and I changed our minds. We didn’t think she had CP, but rather just a beginners walking style that had to do wither turned in feet. Then, about a week before the appointment I silently came to terms with my motherly opinion that Violet had a mild version of CP. So, when the doctor told me the news very matter of fact, there wasn’t a jolt of shock, there weren’t tears, there wasn’t a huge sadness that overcame me. I simply wanted to know what to do next. The doctor told me that he thinks by about first grade one would never know that Violet was diagnosed with CP, which was comforting. He said that he thinks Violet is very smart and he enjoyed her contagious laugh, her social nature and her great sense of humor.
I just wanted to know what to do next. Violet is young and her potential is huge. She is a fighter and she is strong. The next day I called Alta, which is a group that will come to your home and provide physical and speech therapy to children. It is unknown how little or how much therapy Violet will need but we will do anything for her.
Although Violet has been diagnosed with this ugly Cerebral Palsy term, I think she is perfect. If you told me five years ago that I would have a child with CP I probably would’ve had a nervous breakdown. Today, I watch Violet and I think, how could I have been given such a perfect and wonderful child as this? It doesn’t matter what kind of label she is given or how hard she has to work to reach her developmental goals because we will do it together and she will succeed.
So, here I am writing this sitting in the airport at the Air France gate and I have tears running down my face and I am surrounded on all sides by French people staring at me like, oh those crazy Americans. Chris and I are literally the only Americans on this entire flight from what I can see. Who knows what they are saying about me since I am not a native speaker.
I am not sad about Violet. I am interested in all the unexpected that life brings and what you can get out of it if you pay attention. I will not let this be a disability for Violet, but instead an opportunity for us to work hard to achieve something great. Violet has taught me that although your child can be faced with challenges or disabilities that do not fall in line with our need and desire to have a “perfect” child, perfection is indeed how we perceive it to be. Violet is perfect in our eyes. CP will never define Violet. Instead, Violet will be judged on her vivacious personality, her awesome laugh and how she loves her family so well.
More from Paris later. . .
Until next time, the mothership is signing off.