Just to give a little back story, I found out at 18 years old that my son was going to be born without arms or legs. Some things have been a struggle, but my sweet boy, Camden, has been the biggest blessing in my life!! He has helped me grow up and learn so many things. You may find it difficult to understand how a baby or toddler can teach you anything or especially how a disabled baby or toddler could teach you anything, but he did! These are 11 things that I have learned from having a disabled child.
How to be patient. The best parenting advice that my dad has ever given me was to be patient. Patience has never came easily to me before I had children. And let’s get real, it didn’t just come to me naturally and magically the moment I got pregnant. It took me having a disabled child to learn patience. And I didn’t learn it from having to have patience with him. I learned it from watching him have patience with himself. I was always so worried that he would struggle all of his life, but he doesn’t have a struggling bone in his body! He has the most patience and will practice doing something over and over again until he gets it just right. You should see him build a house with blocks. He’s so impressive!
You will learn who is part of your life because they love you and who is part of your life just because they’re nosey. I have always been what you would call “the black sheep of the family”. When I got pregnant with my first child, everyone talked about me because I wasn’t married. Then all of a sudden when we found out that he didn’t have arms or legs everyone cared and everyone wanted to be there for us. They even gave me and him a big welcome home party when we moved back to Georgia from Texas. But then when I got pregnant with my daughter who didn’t have a disability, everyone disappeared. Hardly any of those family or friends showed up to her baby shower or visited us when she was born or even way after. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some amazing friends because of my child having a disability, but those people also care about his siblings equally. Know who your people are. Get rid of the ones who are just being nosey.
Having a child with a disability can be a blessing in many ways. When I first found out that Camden didn’t have arms or legs all I could focus on was the negative. I didn’t know anything about this kind of birth defect. I’ve never heard of it or seen another person born missing even part of a limb. But then I learned that what I went through during my pregnancy and what he would be going through in his life could help other people! So I made this blog and put out my story while I was pregnant with him. Then right before I had him I made a Facebook page. We have reached thousands of people. I’ve gotten messages from people giving us love, messages from other families like ours, and even messages from some people who decided not to abort their child because of mine and Camden’s story. It makes me cry just thinking about all of that because I never thought that we would have THAT big of an impact on people. That we would inspire, give hope, and even save lives. It’s amazing and a blessing and we wouldn’t have been able to do any of that if God gave Camden arms and legs. And that’s just not all it is going to be. Camden is only three years old. He has a whole 70-90 more years in him to make a difference in this world. Now I have more tears because I just feel so blessed!!
How to be kind. Kindness doesn’t come naturally to me either. I think I have a little too much sarcasm in my blood to truly be considered as a nice person. But Camden taught me how to be nice. When we go out in public we get a lot of stares, pointing, and even people talking. I’ve walked away from Camden before and heard people talking about him right beside me and I said, “you’re talking about my son.” They ran away sooo fast. Most times I will just smile at people who are looking too hard or ask them if they’d like to say hello to him or tell Camden to say hey to them. I could be mean and yell at them, and I’m sure one day that time will come when an ignorant person is just being too much, but I always have to remember that Camden is watching me. He will learn how to deal with the public and their reaction to his limb-difference in his own way, but how I react while he is a child plants little seeds in his brain. He needs to know that just because other people don’t know how to act, doesn’t mean he should forget how to act. It is my #1 goal as a parent to raise my children to be kind and loving adults, to all people. Even the ones who look at us like we don’t belong or like we are too different.
Disability doesn’t mean you’re not normal. Come on y’all, you cannot put ANYONE in a group labeled normal. I literally don’t know a single person who is normal. And if you think you’re normal, that automatically makes you not normal. We all have our differences. I have one ear that sticks out further than the other and I hate those hospital mesh panties. That’s not normal. My daughter does the most random stuff in the whole world that will make you speechless, her feet smell awful, and she’s always talking about someone’s butt. That’s not normal. And my son doesn’t have arms or legs and hates chocolate milk. We’re all different and not normal. But that’s what makes the world beautiful and not boring!!! D-I-V-E-R-S-I-T-Y.
There really is more to a book than its cover. I know that most people look at Camden and think, poor child. But when he gets comfortable in his surroundings and starts doing things on his own, everyone always gathers around to watch! He’s awesome and can do so many things you’d never believe unless you’ve seen it with your own eyes. The comment I get most is, “I never knew how fast he can move!” He might not have legs to get up and run, but that boy can roll and scoot super fast! Don’t underestimate someone just because of the cover they were born in.
Children are more accepting of disability than adults. Most children aren’t afraid to come talk to Camden and ask questions about his disability. A lot of parents start apologizing immediately and snatch their children away! STOP DOING THIS! Camden needs children to ask about his disability. That is the only way people will accept him and be his friend. If you make your child think that they can’t talk to a disabled person, you’re doing more harm than good. Camden knows that he doesn’t have arms or legs. If you ask him, he will tell you! You being hush hush about it isn’t going to protect anyone’s feelings.
God will give you more than you can handle. I always see and have even been told the saying, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Yes he will. He will give you something that will break you in two. Being 18 and finding out that my child didn’t have arms or legs completely broke me. I was going to have an abortion because thinking of my child having to live a life of suffering in this world would be more cruel than ending it. But I still couldn’t stand that thought. I completely fell apart and just gave it all to God because I couldn’t pick myself up. And I automatically felt that sweet peace everyone talks about when you just give it all to God. If God wouldn’t have given me such heavy burdens, that made me want to die some days, at such a young age, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I wouldn’t be the mother that my children needed. I wouldn’t be the woman who stands up for herself or other women. God broke me and gave me more than I could handle, so I would give up and give it to Him! And with that broken self of mine, He turned me into a new and stronger self so I could help others.
Just because one doctor said no doesn’t mean that another doctor isn’t confident enough to try. When Camden was two months old I was told that he would never be able to get prosthetic arms or legs. And I didn’t take that no as an answer. I was mad. I was mad that these doctors weren’t confident in my son! He might’ve only been two months old and couldn’t even hold up his own head, but I knew he was going to be great. I knew him. I knew his eyes and he has “do-er” eyes. I found a new hospital and a new doctor that wouldn’t give up on my boy! Not only are they confident enough in Camden to be able to use prosthetic arms if he wants them when he’s an older child, they’re also going to be working on making him prosthetic legs! Legs were something we never even considered since all he has are his hips. But, hello! S-C-I-E-N-C-E!
You can be the voice for someone who is too young or shy to have a voice of their own. I knew that I was going to have to do this, but I didn’t know the extent. I’m always having to be Camden’s voice and tell people that “he CAN do that”, so don’t hold him back! And with learning to be the voice for my boy who is too young to speak up for himself, it’s made me be braver to speak for other people who are too young to speak for themselves or adults who are too shy or embarrassed to speak up for themselves. I wouldn’t have that courage if it weren’t for Camden and I’m so thankful I have that now!
You can love greater than you ever thought you could. I knew that I was going to love Camden no matter what disability he had, but the love he made me have for him has grown into so much more! My love for him has opened my eyes to so many things. That no matter the disability, EVERYONE needs love and deserves to be treated equally. And with me wanting that equality for all disabled people, I learned that they cannot have that until ALL humans are treated equally. And I know that I cannot make the world open their eyes and see that, so I started with myself and my family. And I hope my children pass down that love and acceptance to their spouses and children.