What the Doctor Who Blamed Me for My Daughter's Disabilities Didn't Know
My daughter Callie and I were in the checkout line at Target the other day and I looked behind me. I hadn’t seen him in eight years. He looked the same as he did that day in the hospital. I wondered how it was possible he could look the same when I have changed so much.
Eight years ago, we were huddled around Callie’s incubator. It had been three days since her open heart surgery. She had only been born four days prior. She had a three inch scar that covered her tiny little chest. She was hooked to a million tubes and wires and had a respirator to help her breathe. She had a feeding tube in her nose that went down her throat to help her eat. Each breath was a struggle for her. She didn’t cry and the nurses told us it probably took too much energy for her. She had reddish blonde hair and bright blue eyes. In short, she was the most beautiful thing we had ever seen.
We were told we were going to meet with a specialist about her leg that day because they had noticed her left leg was shorter than her right. The specialist walked in and picked up her chart. He scanned through it, and when he got to the maternal history page he looked up.
“You have diabetes? Well, that’s why she has all the issues that she does.”
I started to sob as my husband pushed him out the door of our room in the NICU. He didn’t know I could hear my husband yelling at him through my wrenching sobs. He didn’t know they had told us the day of Callie’s open heart surgery that she probably would not make it through the surgery, much less survive the following weeks. He didn’t know we had just been given our miracle only to be told we might have to tell her goodbye. He didn’t know.
He didn’t know that when I was in second grade, my teacher asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up and my answer was “a mother.” He didn’t know my teacher asked me the question again and my response was the same. I wanted to be a mother more than anything in the world. He didn’t know I had been told by doctors my whole life that it would be very unlikely I would be able to get pregnant, much less be healthy enough to carry the baby to full term. He didn’t know I had boyfriends break up with me because they wanted to have kids and there was a chance my diabetes wouldn’t let me.
He didn’t know that both James and I cried tears of joy when we found out we were pregnant. He didn’t know James would leave me little notes “from” the baby that told me I was going to be a good mommy and they couldn’t wait to meet me. He didn’t know I had a special SAPD onesie made that said “Daddy’s Newest Recruit” and surprised James with it. He didn’t know we picked the name Callie because it meant “beautiful” and her middle name was Grace because she would become our saving grace. He didn’t know Callie would kick extra hard if I listened to hip hop music in the car, and she would start to kick really hard if she heard her Daddy’s voice. He didn’t know we would both put our hands on my tummy at night and tell her “good night.” He didn’t know we painted her room a sunny shade of yellow called “Pooh Bear’s Tummy Yellow.”
He didn’t know I saw my doctor weekly, texted him almost every day, and did everything in my power to be as healthy as I could be during my pregnancy. He didn’t know that I had the lowest A1C of my life during my pregnancy. He didn’t know that at every ultra sound the doctors were pleased with our progress and expected me to be able to go full term. He didn’t know how proud I was of that.
He didn’t know that with that small interaction, he destroyed my world. He didn’t know he shattered my heart into a million pieces and I still hear that statement in my darkest days. He didn’t know he confirmed my worst fears and to this day I still feel my heart clench when people ask why Callie has medical issues. He didn’t know that sometimes I hate myself because I might be the reason my daughter has challenges. He didn’t know that I ask myself “I’m her mother; how could I not protect her from this?” He doesn’t know that in that moment I hated my diabetes more than I had in my entire life. He didn’t know about the grief that still hits me at random moments. He didn’t know I would have traded places with her a million times over. He didn’t know I would have taken on every single burden she would have to bear to make it up to her.
He also didn’t know my daughter was a fighter. He didn’t know that about her mama either. He didn’t know she would break every limit the doctors had put on her. He didn’t know she survived her heart surgery. He didn’t know she survived her second one too. He didn’t know we spent three months in the NICU with her. He didn’t know she learned to walk with her prosthetic leg in two days when the doctors told us it would take a few weeks. He didn’t know she now walks, runs, swims and rides her horse Jazzy. He didn’t know her quiet spirit and shy smile light up the lives of people who know her. He didn’t know that despite every odd, she’s here and flourishing.
He didn’t know that in that moment, I promised myself I would help her shatter any glass ceiling in her life. He didn’t know I would spend my life protecting hers. He didn’t know I would teach her that kindness and compassion are more important than being the fastest or the “best” at something. He didn’t know Callie would redefine what “strong” and “beautiful” means. He didn’t know I made a promise to Callie to take the best care of myself so I could be there for her. He didn’t know I wouldn’t let my diabetes rob her of any time with her mama. He didn’t know I push myself harder and everything I do is for her. He didn’t know we would have an incredible support system. He didn’t know she would have a light about her — one that suggests she will change the world. He didn’t know that.
I didn’t say anything to him. Instead, I looked at my little miracle.