Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Many Different Reactions of People

I find it amusing watching how people react upon mentioning that my daughter has a disability. Well at first I felt very defensive, sometimes ashamed… but now, even if I still lie about her age to most people, I take no offense in the oftentimes off reactions of people. Its sort of like being a part of a social experiment... sometimes shocking, sometimes dumbfounding, sometimes awkward, but most times amusing. Here are some of my classic experiences…

The Awkward Silence

Lady: Oh, look a tiny baby. How old is she?
Me: She’s 10 months.
Lady: No! She can’t be 10 months. She’s too small. Is she a preemie?
Me: No… she has a syndrome
Lady: Silence…. A really long and awkward silence.

The That’s Lucky

Most of the people in our church community are aware that many daughter has special needs. They may not know exactly the name of the syndrome she has, or the many complications that came with my Isabella having the WHS, but they know that my daughter has special needs. So it’s not really a surprise is a curiosity will propel someone to actually approach me to ask about details….

Lady: So you’re daughter has a disability?
Me: Yes. She has a syndrome.
Lady: I heard she was just at the hospital and was in the emergency room.
Me: Yeah, she had a seizure.
Lady: Oh, I’m sorry…We prayed for you.
Me: Oh thank you for all your paryers.
Lady: You’re lucky do you know that?
Me: I guess so.
Lady: Watch it. You’re going to win something big.
Me: Like in the lottery or at the casino?
Lady: Yeah. Cause having a baby like that is lucky.
Me: Oh I hope you’re right.
Lady: Watch it and you’ll see. That’s lucky.

The Is Something Wrong With Her

Lady: Oh, look at this small baby. Is she a preemie?
Me: No… she’s just small.
Lady: Is something wrong with her?
Me: No, nothing wrong with her…. She has a syndrome, but nothing is wrong with her.

The lady then, with that pity look in her eyes and a small smile on her lips, touches me on the shoulder, touches the baby’s head, then walks away.

The What’s Up With Her Eyes

I was at the photo store picking up a set of pictures. I was reviewing them on the counter when the lady behind me goes

Lady: Oh look at those baby pictures.
Me: Smiled
Lady: Who’s baby is that? What’s up with her eyes?
Me: She’s mine. What do you mean what’s up with her eyes?
Lady: Oh, I’m sorry…. Then she immediately walked away.

What I really wanted to say was…

Me: What?!? Her eyes are not proportionally spaced enough for you !?!

The She Looks Like an Elf

I brought the baby with me to work one time. Most everyone at work know that my baby has a syndrome. Not everyone know the details, but nonetheless its common knowledge at work that my baby is a special needs baby.

Co teacher 1: Oh look at her. She’s looking around.
Co Teacher 2: She seems aware of what’s around her

Isabella then smiles, moves her hands around and kicks

Co teacher 3: Oh look she’s smiling.
Co teacher 4: And she’s looking at you
Co Teacher 5: It seems like she knows you.

(Duh? I’m her mom?)

Co Teacher 6: She’s just really happy and smiling.
Co Teacher 7: Yes she does.
Co teacher 8: She’s so cute.
Co teacher: 9 She looks like an elf!

I know they all mean well and most of them just probably don’t know what to say, or how to react but wanted to say something. I’m sure when they saw my Isabella, she was not what they were expecting her to be. They were probably thinking that my baby is a non responsive vegetable, and while I do respect all that, and honestly take no offense at it, I was surprised with the “elf” comment.

The She’s Not 15 months

So, this follows the story of when I brought my daughter to work…

Co teacher 1: So, how old is she now?
Me: She’s 15 months.
Co teacher 2: No, she’s not 15 months?
Me: (I’m thinking, Are you seriously saying this?)
Co Teacher 3: Is she really 15 months?
Me: Yes. I’m sure. (Are they doubting me… the mommy? )
Co teacher 4: She looks more like 4 months.
Me: Yeah… she’s the size of a 4 month old. But I’m sure she’s 15 months now.

What I really wanted to say was…

Me: Yeah… remember? About 4 months ago I had a baby? Remember that?

This whole conversation with my co teachers kinda surprised me really coz I what thought was common knowledge, I guess isn’t really “common”.

The Don’t be Frustrated

We work with many doctors/specialists. Out of the many doctors we work with, we only met one who has actually met or seen another child with WHS. This one time that we had an appointment with him, our conversation went like this...

Doctor: Tell me the things she can do now.
Me: She rolls, she puts her hands together, she outs her thumb in her mouth, and she can sit supporting herself with her hands.
Doctor: Does she smile?
Me: Yes she does… she smiles a lot and at everyone.
Doctor: (To Isabella) Are you going to smile for me little princess?
Me: Go Isabella, smile for the doctor, come on… come on.

Isabella does not smile.

Doctor: That’s okay. She’s probably smiling and you just don’t know it because of the down turned mouth that WHS kids have.

Me: Oh, but she does smile and you can really see it. Come on Isabella, smile for the doctor.
Doctor: That’s okay. You don’t need to be frustrated. I’m sure she’s smiling right now, but we just can’t see it.
Me: (I’m thinking… but I really do see it and its an obvious smile, and I’m not frustrated because she does smile and, no… I don’t think she has a prominent “downturned mouth” that I can’t tell if my own daughter is smiling).

And this is my most favorite…
The My Condolences

I have not spoken with this friend for a loooong time. I was busy with my pregnancy with Isabella, and then dealing with complications towards the later part of the pregnancy and then the long list of things right after she was born… when we finally got the chance to talk, here is how our conversation went…

Friend: Hey. I have not spoken to you in a while. I hear all these things through the grapevine about what’s going on with your daughter, but I was not really sure until I actually get to talk to you. So how is your daughter?
Me: It’s a long story. (Then I started choking on tears). She has a syndrome and she has all these complications. Underdeveloped brain structures, fluid in the brain, brain cysts, liver cysts, hearing loss, small kidneys, acid reflux, kidney reflux, cleft palate…. It just seems to go on and on…=
Friend: So how are you?
Me: I’m coping… I’m trying my best.
Friend: Well… my condolences.

Now this got me thinking…. Is my condolences something you say when you send your sympathy in general, not necessarily, specific to someone passing away?... I’m confused.


Mihaela said...

OMG. I guess we're lucky with the reaction of a lot of "friends". They stopped calling. I moved to saying Denise was 2 years old (she's 26 months) and I'm entertaining myself when I see people's jaw drop when they hear that. I'll stick to it until she's 3, so I'm thinking somewhere down the line it will get more realistic.
I'm sorry about those experiences. Even the doctor, WTH???? Unbelievable.

Kristy said...

Oh Madonna, I know all these comments too well. I have heard them all. I still am shocked by what some people say and I am so sorry that you have to go through it. My favorite is the smile comment - "Does he ever smile?" I want to shout out "YES YES ALL THE TIME, HE JUST DOESN'T WANT TO SMILE AT YOU"! Hang in there. Hugs to you. :)

Min said...

we have the same story... tq for putting this into a very good way... but just remember, 'special children will also need a special parents like us...'

Kenzie said...

I love this. It is exactly right. People say the weirdest things sometimes. The elf one was new though.

Hilary said...

Madonna, I read this post (along with many others) right after Magnolia was born. You are an incredible writer and painted a perfect picture. Magnolia is now 9 months and weighing 10lbs. When I get similar reactions to her I think of this post!! Thanks!