What I am most grateful for
What I thought was going to be the greatest pain in my life turned out to be the thing I am most grateful for
This week, I have been reflecting on all the things I am grateful for. The first thing that came to mind was, naturally, my family. My little family of three that my husband and I built from scratch and my big family, spread around two continents. I am a mommy’s, grandma’s, and auntie’s girl. I grew up in a wonderful, big Latin family surrounded by my aunts and uncles and my cousins. When we get together (the last time was Christmas 2013) it takes 2 minibusses to fit us all, and even then, around 10 other family members were missing. The most cherished memory of my childhood is laying down on my grandma’s (my Obacita) queen bed, along with perhaps 7 or 8 other members of my family, and falling asleep as I heard them talk and talk endlessly. I have never felt more secure, more at ease than at those cozy moments.
This is why I desperately reached to that memory when I heard the words coming out of my gynecologist’s mouth: “I can’t see the left leg”. I was 17 weeks pregnant with my first child when I was told she was going to be born missing her left leg. The news were unbelievable to me. I had several prior ultrasounds showing a “perfect” baby. As my husband and I waited outside the doctor’s office to re-confirm the news that we had already heard at the ultrasound room, I gazed at the wall and began picturing my future life as a mother of an amputee girl: endless hours at rehabilitation centers, medical appointments, even pushing a wheelchair maybe. Goodbye traveling around the world, perhaps even goodbye to my future career as a lawyer. I wondered: “why us? We are not mature or organized enough to take on such responsibiliy, we are just a couple of newlywed kids, Why us?” Oh, how I wished at that very moment to curl up on my grandma’s bed and feel secure again!
Mia was born on a cold Canadian January morning via c-section. As I entered the delivery room and sat down at the edge of the hospital bed, ready for the anesthesiologist, I suddenly felt the urgency to ran away. It was the exact same feeling as when I sat on a roller-coaster ride about to begin and I desperately wanted to get off. Except, this time, the rollercoaster was my body, and could not escape from it.
Like a flash, I pictured all my law school classmates, going on with their lives, sitting on their desks, interviewing for big law firms… I started panicking: Why I am not there? What have I done? My heart rate increased so suddenly that the anesthesiologist could not go on. A nurse came to me and asked me what the name of my daughter was going to be. “Mia” I said. She pulled out her smartphone and typed Mia on YouTube and showed me a video of a cartoon named Mia to get me to calm down. I calmed down, more out of embarrassment than anything else. I laid down. In less than 15 minutes, Mia was out. As soon as I heard her crying and had her little pink warm body laying down on my chest, the fierce mother instinct in me arose. The panic in my head and the heaviness in my heart were no more. I was a mom, and not any mom. I was the mom of a wonderfully different little girl.
The year that followed was filled with uncertainty. Our doctors had warned us that Mia’s amputation was rare and that it was very likely that other complications would show up as months went by. I spent hours and hours taking her to medical appointments and physical therapy sessions every single week. I had to do many exercises at home with her. Her physical therapist, seeing my overwhelmedness, prepared a daily checklist to help me out. Each week, I fill up three entire pages of checks. Despite feeling tired and anxious at the time, I remember this as the greatest period of growth in my life. I am an impulsive, impatient person. Mia’s amputation allowed me to cultivate patience as I saw all other babies crawling, walking, and running, while Mia was barely able to sit by herself. I am very self-conscious, Mia’s amputation taught me to be strong enough to confront the looks and odd comments of others. Until then, my spirituality relied on my family’s tradition, Mia’s amputation helped me gain my own testimony and surrender to the wishes of a merciful Heavenly Father, who was asking me to slow down to take care of this precious daughter of his.
I decided to write this post as I passed by the little blue crutch next to our bathroom door. At first, I did not even notice it, then I paused and felt extremely grateful for how far I’ve come. From being a girl sitting at the doctor’s office, worrying and doubting the future; to a mom who has learned to adapt to unconventional motherhood and move forward with faith and enthusiasm.
Half of my predictions never turned into reality. Yes, my husband and I have spent (and continue to spend) many hours in doctors, therapy appointments and prosthetic leg fittings; but I have not stopped traveling. In fact, in the last six years, my family has moved around the world three times and visited other countries — Mia is a fine little traveler. And I have been able to pursue my legal career. The doctor’s predictions were also wrong. Mia walks and runs like an average kid her age (sometimes using crutches to move around the house when she takes her prosthetic leg off); and talks and expresses herself perhaps 5 times above the average kid. She just have so much to say, to sign, to draw….
When people tell me “imagine if Mia had her two legs” I always reply “then she would not be Mia and I would not be me.”