This is an article that I wrote recently, and it will be in the December publication of Pentimento; an ad-free literary magazine for the disability community. It is fitting for this time of year, so I thought I’d share it with all of you!
Joy filled my heart when the nurse laid my baby daughter on my chest. As a woman with cerebral palsy, becoming a mother wasn’t something I had allowed myself to dream of.
A few days later, as I tried to change her diaper, I wound up in tears. “How was I ever going to take care of her?” My crippled hands were no match for my wonderful, yet wiggly new born.
The snaps on her sleepers and other clothes were anything but a snap to fasten, so my mother replaced them with Velcro. Little by little I figured out ways to do the things I needed to do.
As she got older, she wanted to be Mommy’s little helper, so I put the unbreakable dishes in cupboards she could reach, so she could help set the table. Unlike most mothers, who are less than thrilled when they catch their kids on top of the cupboards, sometimes I encouraged it.
Early in December when my daughter was about nine, we sat on her bed, snuggled up under a favorite blanket while she read aloud a Christmas story. When we finished, she asked, “When are we going to decorate for Christmas?” I would have loved to have said, “Let’s do it together right now.” When I thought of all my boxes of decorations, I knew it would be too much for us to do by ourselves. So I told her that we needed to wait until someone was here to help us.”
“You stay here” she told me as she walked toward her bedroom door, “and don’t come out until I tell you.”
Sitting on her bed, I wondered what in the world she was doing. Several moments later, she proudly led me into the living room. To my surprise she had dug our small, artificial tree out of the closet and set it up!
Regardless of whether you have physical limitations or not, everyone has time constraints. All too often, we are wound up tighter than a top because of the effort it takes to make the holiday season bright, and it puts the majority of people into a real spin. I only have partial use of one hand, so I have had to figure out how to accomplish everything without driving to stores, finding ways to wrap gifts and fix a nice meal to celebrate the holiday.
It seems that this the time of year is when my limitations have been the most glaring and frustrating. Fortunately for myself and everyone around me, I’ve learned to use what I call, a shortcut to sanity. Nine times out of ten, it’s a matter of my heart instead of the circumstances. The holiday preparations have magnified my unresolved grief due to lack of mobility. Once I figured that out and let go of my expectations, life seemed to flow better because I can think clearly.
I used to have someone come in and spend hours putting out a lot of my Christmas treasures. Now, the majority of those decorations stay in the closet and I get out a few of the very special ones. My nativity set is the first. Over the past years, my Mom has made a few very nice decorations, and they always come out as well. It is so freeing to put up just a few of my favorite things.
Wrapping gifts was another task I always had to pawn off on someone else. Even though it was seconds after the gifts were in someone’s hands that the paper was ripped off and on the floor, it had to be done. Everyone was relieved when I tossed my wrapping paper away and replaced it with gift bags.
Instead of being upset because I can’t cook special foods for our Christmas Eve diner, I selected a menu my caregiver could prepare ahead of time. When Rachael was old enough to drive, one of our favorite things to do was order a nice meal from a nearby restaurant.
I’ve had to learn accepting my limitations and use shortcuts to preserve my sanity before I could enjoy life, especially during the Christmas Season.