I saw an old friend on Saturday. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and I was walking down a street busy with families enjoying the nice weather. She was with her young child, and in front of me I pushed Marshall in a stroller. I wanted to stop and say, “This is my little Marshy Marsh. Come and meet him!”
Instead, I stared straight ahead and hurried past her, hoping she wouldn’t see me.
Marshall is about ten weeks old now. The grind of nights at the hospital and days at work, over and over again, was too much, so I’ve taken a few weeks off work. Despite my grumbling the other night (maybe it was a lot louder than grumbling; hey, I was worn out), I do love holding him and doing the nighttime feeds. I love to hold his little mitten hands in mine, and to aggressively kiss his fat cheeks. It’s disgusting, but I like wiping clean the fat folds in his arms and neck, and gently picking at his cradle cap. I look at him and think he is so cute. He really is. He’s a fat little muffin right now.
So why did I ignore my friend? I’m not ashamed of Marshall. I’m not embarrassed. If I’m going to be honest with myself, it’s that I’m exhausted by the constant anxiety that I feel when I think I’m going to have to answer questions. I imagine stares from passersby, when all they probably see are his cute little feet sticking out from under the stroller’s cover. If someone meets him for the first time, do I start with, “This is Marshall! He has Apert syndrome. That’s why he looks a little different”? The last thing I want to do is allow the syndrome to define who he is. I also feel like I should just get it out of the way right from the get go.
I know this is all my issue right now. He’s not even three months old, so he doesn’t notice any of this going on. All he wants to do is fill his diaper every hour.
Later that same afternoon, on the way back home, we stopped at one of our favourite neighbourhood destinations, a little independent toy store. We love this place, not only because of the fun stuff they sell, but because I truly feel safe around the two proprietors. They are good people with good hearts. It was a lucky coincidence that I stopped in with Quinn the first week we moved into the area, and we haven’t stopped dropping in every few days since. That day, I met another regular for the first time. He was there with his young daughter, who appeared to be about Quinn’s age. After fifteen minutes of chatting, they were ready to leave, so he came over to say bye to Marshall. I immediately felt the familiar tightening in my chest, but I forced myself to let it go. I had already passed up one chance to let someone see how cute Marshall is, and I wasn’t going to let a second chance that day go by. He crouched down in front of the stroller, and he and his daughter felt Marshall’s little feet and hands. It was unusually tender, and although normally I would be put off by a stranger touching my baby, there was something different about this encounter, so I let it continue. After a minute, they stood up, we shook hands, promising to see each other again here, and they walked out of the store.
Only afterwards did I find out that his little girl is nearly blind, and touching things is how she sees them. I had no idea, and her father certainly gave no indication that she was in any way different than any other child I might pass on the street. The entire time in the store, there was no sign of anxiety, and his daughter was confident and self-assured. This man is my role model now. I want to get to the point where I am not scared to be around other people again. I’m going to take Marshall outside right now for a walk, and if I see my friend again, I will stop this time and introduce my little Marshmallow.