With the Christmas season comes an object lesson in the form of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. Immediately, we see Rudolph’s father trying to hide the glowing nose so his son better fits in. That is a lesson for parents. We should teach our kids to hold to social expectations as best they can but pretending a disability doesn’t exist benefits no one.
Rudolph’s rejection is swift and complete once his nose is revealed. Yet, in the middle of the mocking comes a doe who doesn’t care about the bright red light. Clarice even tells Rudolph that his glowing nose is better than the false one he was wearing. We all pray for our kids to find a friend like that. As I have seen in the lives of my boys there are kids in the world who will accept them even as others reject and ridicule them. Yet, sometimes it’s the adults that are thoughtless. Clarice’s father insists she not play with Rudolph because of his nose.
While Rudolph is dealing with his rejection we meet an elf named Hermie. Hermie has concluded that he prefers dentistry over toy making. This, of course, is unheard of and his boss doesn’t take the news well. Rather than give up on his dream, as instructed, Hermie determines to run away. Doesn’t take long for him to hook up with Rudolph and the two, label themselves as misfits and strike out on their own.
Rudolph and Hermie are certain there is no one like them. They are misfits, outcasts, and rejects. They are quite surprised to discover an entire island of toys, with varying “disabilities”, who feel the exact same way they do. Like Rudolph and Hermie, the toys are convinced no one wants them. As we know Rudolph ends up the hero by saving Christmas with the very nose he was mocked for.
Our special needs kid may or may not ever have the opportunity to show the benefits of their disability to the world. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t teach them about them. We need to find our child’s strength and play to that by purposely creating situations in which the child uses the strength. This is a two-fold concept. First, it teaches the child that they have something valuable to contribute. Second, as they use their strength their self-esteem grows. A child with a healthy self-esteem is less likely to succumb to the psychological warfare of bullies.
We cannot change how other people behave toward our child but we can teach our child ways to deflect the hurtful things others do. It is how our child responds to the bully that is crucial. Hermie was so certain in his dental calling that he didn’t back down despite all the mocking. That’s what we want, kids that can remain self-assured in the face of cruelty. So, as you watch Rudolph this year, take a moment to review the points of the story and help your child uncover his unique contribution to the world. Who knows, he may even save Christmas one day.
It all began in joyfully ignorant bliss. I was ripe with the sweet promises of expectancy. Having been pregnant three times before I knew it would be difficult and likely end in premature birth due to my rare blood disorder. Yet, with all that history I was still vastly unprepared for how much more complicated and painful this pregnancy would be. There I stood in all my knowledgeable ignorance.
I vividly recall the day, sitting on my bed talking to my best friend, Janeen, and my husband, Steve. It was a beautiful spring day and I was approximately six weeks into my surprise pregnancy. Suddenly, clarity rang like a bell. Without a doubt, I knew the due date of my baby. It would be December 7, Pearl Harbor Day. I immediately voiced this to Janeen, or Neen as I call her, and Steve. Both of them immediately rejected the idea.
I would only be entering my third trimester at that point. December would be far too early they cried. Though I agreed it was early I dismissed their concerns. I even went so far as to chastise them for leaving out the “God factor.” Prior to accepting Christ, I had given birth to two premature babies. Aside, from having Asperger’s Syndrome, my oldest son was healthy and the youngest was born perfectly fine. “If they are doing so well after being born prematurely before I was a Christian, imagine how much better this baby will be now that I have Christ,” I declared.
I am now painfully aware of what a stupid statement that was. I don’t know if I intentionally blocked out the fact that I had miscarried while being a Christian or if it simply didn’t occur to me at the time. Either way, it was a ridiculous statement. I had already had one lesson on the calamity of putting words in God’s mouth so you would think I would be smarter enough to know better. I was not.
I jotted down in my little pocket calendar that the baby would be born December 7, 1999, because I wanted to prove to Neen and Steve later that I was indeed right. Turns out I wouldn’t need that calendar to prove anything to anyone. The dramatic events of my pregnancy and the baby’s birth unfolded in such a way that no evidence was needed. The fingerprints of God were clearly visible.
I was admitted to the hospital the day after Thanksgiving, where I would remain until the baby was born. The plan was to use an epidural to keep me numb from the waist down in order to control the pain and ween me off of the narcotic pain medication I had been taking. My blood disorder is similar to sickle cell anemia in that it results in painful “crisis” episodes when I’m pregnant. Because epidurals are only administered by an anesthesiologist the head of that department and my high-risk pregnancy specialist, Dr. Barton met with Steve and me several times. It was a simple plan creating the optimal birth environment and we had no reason to believe it wouldn’t work. But we weren’t taking into consideration the “human factor.”
In a reverse of Mary and Joseph being called to Bethlem for the birth of Jesus, my doctors were simultaneously called out of town prior to the birth of my baby. Not to worry they told me. Both doctors had reviewed the plan with their staff and everyone knew what to do. Periodically, the anesthesiologist would be required to “dose the epidural.” That consisted of walking into my room and administering an extra bag of numbing medication into the needle placed in my back. The purpose was to control my pain while slowly phasing out the pain medication. The last thing we wanted was a baby born under narcotic use.
My days at the hospital were regimented and boring. Though we had no reason to suspect it, this day would be anything but routine. Steve, who was a disc jockey on a Christian radio station, came to the hospital to stay with me after he got off work and checked in on our other boys. No cause for alarm. By the time evening rolled around I was in need of an epidural dose. That was when the trouble began.
My nurse called the on-call anesthesiologist. After a significant amount of time passed and he failed to show she called him again. He informed her he was on his way. Each tick of the clock sent the pain snowballing toward uncontrollable. A third call was made. This time my nurse assured me he would come because he was needed for another patient having a C-section. In order to get to her, he had to walk right past my door.
I’ve often wondered what would have happened had the door to my room be open. It’s a wondering without a resolution because the door was shut so Steve and I never saw him. My nurse saw him, though. She watched him head toward my room and assumed he dosed the epidural. She was completely taken aback when she entered my room and found me in the throes of pain so significant it makes childbirth feel like a stroll through the park.
Since the anesthesiologist had come and gone the nurse called him again. For reasons I will never understand, he flat refused to come back. With that refusal, chaos ensued. Steve was livid, the nurse was near tears, hospital administrators were called in and I was screaming in pain. It was 11:45 pm on December 6, 1999.
The intense pain set off contractions. There was no choice but to administer the narcotic pain medication. It was an excruciatingly long night. The morning of December 7 found Dr. Barton at my bedside. He gave me the grim news that the baby was not doing well and showing signs of marked stress. It was now safer for the baby to be outside my body. Daniel James Graves (DJ), made his entrance into the world amid our very well-made plans which had been laid waste by a rogue doctor. It was the worst possible circumstances. It was a day already living in national infamy and would now do so for me personally.
This is the first installment of a series of posts titled The DJ Journey. The posts will chronicle the amazing but often pain-riddled life of raising my special needs son. Follow my blog to get email notifications when each episode is posted.