As a friend of mine once said, hospitals are the great equalizers. And it's true, everyone needs healthcare. Rich, poor, ugly, pretty, educated, uneducated and oddly, the healthy and unhealthy alike. Of course unhealthy people need hospitals, but the relatively healthy need hospitals just as much for the occasional broken arm, mammogram, food poisoning, etc. I spent a lot of time last year at the children's hospital, it was basically a second home. And since B worked there too, I was easily voted the spouse that visited work most often. Spending so much time there I noticed that there were people who were there for relatively small things--the broken arms, the random accidents--and then there were people who you could tell, just by the way they carried themselves, were there for much more serious problems. And of course usually not their problems, but their children's problems which only made it harder. Sometimes you could tell these parents by the overnight bags and pillows they brought with them, sometimes it was just a heaviness in their gait and a solemn expression. Obviously I didn't talk to them to confirm the seriousness of their situation, but it was just something you could see. On one or two occasions I had the distinct impression of getting the silent nod, the secret handshake, the reverent acknowledgement exchanged from one knowing parent to another knowing parent. Of course this was only after the somber looking parent took a little closer look at my sweet Lamp in her carseat and then it happened...the scramble to hold the door, the faint smile...I was 'in the club' and once they knew I wasn't just a casual hospital cruiser there was a small, slight, instant thing. A bond? A respect? I don't know...but it was there. This isn't really a negative or positive thing, just an observation. It was kinda strange, this realization that I was now in the club.
A few weeks ago we were at Costco. We were standing it line for the traditional post-check-out-family-churro, when I happened to look back and see a couple of young girls standing with their mother. The older girl, probably around 12, was talking to her mom while staring at Lamp. She grabbed her arm about the same place where Lamp's short arm ends while talking to her mom with wide eyes. I wasn't mad or anything, kids are especially curious/surprised, and really I do understand.... but it always causes a little flicker in my heart just the same. After a minute I walked over with Lamp and introduced her to the girls. It was a little awkward, but I'm still learning how to maneuver and handle these things well. I just don't want kids to be afraid or even simply captivated. I want them to see her up close, meet her and see what a cute baby she is. I want her to be real to them. Anyway, it was a little awkward but I did it and I was glad. I hadn't noticed another woman sitting on the sidelines watching us. At least I didn't notice her until she got up and walked over to us. She was smiling and immediately reached out for Lamp's hand and remarked about what a cute baby she is. She then told us about her son. He was also born with limb differences. I can't remember the details that she described, but something along the lines of missing fingers and toes, much shorter than average. But he's great, she said. He's a doctor now. She kept talking and I don't remember much but it was one of those hair brushing moments. I had been 'in the club' before with other people, but this was the super-duper exclusive limb differences club and it was someone in public walking up to us without being phased by Lamp in the slightest. It was just so nice for once to have someone out in public relate. A mother who could look at my baby and be reminded of her own baby and just bring us into her little circle of sunshine while she talked about her son. I hope I can be like that for other people, whether they have kids with disabilities or not.
Then for Princess Sparkle's back to school night we were standing in line for some food when I suddenly realized the little girl in front of me was missing an arm. You would have thought I found the golden ticket I was so excited....look at her! She's missing her arm! Right away I found her mom and we started chatting up a storm and exchanged information. A few minutes later we saw an older woman at the same school event walk by with a limb difference on her right arm, very similar to Lamp's right arm. What is going on here? we thought. We have rarely seen limb difference out and about in the real world and suddenly we had 2 in one night? Not to mention our friend from Costco a week or two before? Strange as it sounds, it was comforting. I don't mind being in the club at all, it's just nice being reminded that we're not the only members.
Have you ever found yourself part of an exclusive club you hadn't really planned on joining? What did you do to help others finding themselves suddenly in your club?