About Me

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I am a below knee amputee. More importantly, I am also Mommy to two boys, a very active 10 year old (Robby) and an mischievous toddler (Timmy). I have learned that being a parent with a disability can create some unusual and sometimes humorous situations. This blogger is available for hire! Let's talk and learn how a blog can expand your business.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Natural Childbirth, except, of course, for the amputee in the corner...

Cleaning off the top of the refrigerator yesterday, I came across the graduation certificate from the childbirth preparation class my husband and I took when I was pregnant. I dutifully dug through the coffee table to find our baby memory book, and tucked it inside the cover. As I continued cleaning the kitchen, I could not help but smile as I was remembering.

Much to my husbands chagrin, I enrolled us in childbirth classes when I entered my third trimester. As Scott still points out, three years later, these classes took all day Saturday, for two consecutive weeks.

Describing our instructor as enthusiastic would be an understatement. She eagerly passed our models of a uterus and umbilical cord. Photos depicting every stage of childbirth were prominently posted around the room. Scott reminded me that he couldn't believe he had to be in the room all day, and lamented missing the Nascar race.

At every opportunity, she campaigned for an all-natural birth. She spoke for an hour about the joys of a natural birth. She spoke to the evils of using epidurals and drugs, and seemed to encourage everything short of squatting behind a tree to keep the experience "real."

Midway through our first Saturday, she brought out the "birth balls." Unaware that such an apparatus existed, I thought that we were readying for another icebreaker... perhaps pregnant kick ball. I was wrong.

The next three hours were spent watching demonstrations and trying a myriad of labor positions. Honestly, until this experience, I thought there were only two positions. Lying flat on a hospital gurney for a C-Section and screaming on your back in a labor and delivery room.

Because I was not permitted to wear my leg during delivery, I thought it would be prudent to practice the positions without the prosthetic. I climbed onto the birth ball and started gently bouncing. Unfortunately, I lost my balance and rolled off, landing on top of a very nice gentleman coaching his wife.

Undeterred, we tried the next position. I got on my hands and knees, and put my head on a pillow. My rear was in the air, as if I was an animal presenting herself. I quickly discovered that this position put too much pressure on my knee and stump.

The last position was a squat. All of the pregnant women started to squat, with their coaches at their side. My "coach" looked at me, gave me a hug and a donut. I didn't need to say anything. He knew that I was upset because none of the positions would work for me because of the amputation.

Our perky birth instructor came over, and Scott asked to speak with her. Scott told her that I was feeling bad, because I couldn't do the labor positions because I only have one leg. Smiling, the natural childbirth advocate and cheerleader looked at me and said, "Don't worry about it, honey. You can go ahead and get an epidural."

So much for natural childbirth!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Airport Security...

I have to fly this weekend, and I am already dreading it. I don't have a fear of flying, although I can't say that I've ever really enjoyed it either. I do, however, have a real dread of dealing with airport security.

I've learned that each airport security line operates differently. I am lucky to live in the metropolitan DC area, where airport personnel are quite experienced dealing with amputees. These employees tend to be professional and quick. This, unfortunately, has not been my experience at other airports.

I have witnessed verbal arguments between security screeners as they debated how to deal with my prosthetic. It has taken upwards of four people to swab my prosthetic for explosive residue because they were so inexperienced that none of them could figure out how to work the machine. I have been asked to remove the limb so that it could be put through the metal detector. Incidentally, this request is against procedure.

On one occasion, when we were traveling after Christmas, a screener told me that she didn't know what to do with the prosthetic. She then whispered, "If you don't have anything bad in it, just go." Although I was happy with expedited "search," I have to admit it didn't boost my confidence in the screening protocol at that airport.

I have resigned myself that the pat down and explosive swabs are a necessary evil. Through trial and error, I have developed an arsenal of strategies to help expedite the process.

Dressing for the airport requires forethought. For starters, I always wear a sports bra. The underwire of a bra often sets off the detector wand, thus requiring a very public patdown. I opt for a sports bra because it contains no metal, whereas the back clasps in other undergarments can trigger the alarm. Care is also taken when choosing a shirt, making sure it doesn't have metal components or accents.

I often wear a long skirt that is devoid of metal buttons or zippers. I find that wearing a skirt can expedite the security process in a few ways. It makes my prosthetic visible to the security screeners, minimizing the explanation for setting off the alarm. Making my prosthetic accessible to the screeners allows them to swab for explosives quickly, helping them perform their job and reducing my delay.

Despite the delay, I make an effort to be friendly and engaging with the screeners. I have learned that by holding my tongue as they fumble through the screening I get through the process quicker versus the delay a verbal confrontation often causes. A smile helps to expedite the process, and will often brighten the day of overwhelmed and undertrained airport employee.

When it is my turn to pass through security, I put a smile on my face. I show the screener my prosthetic, and I wait. I know it's coming, but I shutter when I hear "female pat down" bellowed from the screener. I dutifully take my place in the plexiglass room, and hope for competence.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Diapered Dancing...

I love to dance. This being said, I have absolutely no talent in this area. My friends and family can attest to my complete lack of rhythm and coordination. There is, however, one person who thinks I'm the best dancer in the world. Robby, my three year old.

Robby and I dance all the time. We dance in the kitchen, through the living room and with his black bear and trains. Sometimes we dance in the car, and we've been known to break into a dance in the middle of the grocery store. (The latter is especially true if Robby happens to hear a Johnny Cash song in the distance.)

I like trying new exercise videos, but quickly discover that many of them are simply not realistic for an amputee lacking natural grace and balance. Carmen Elektra's StripAerobics was recommended by a friend, so I gave it a try. Despite it's name, this video does not teach "dirty" dancing. Most of the routines are comprised of various stretches and slow but deliberate movements. Slow movements are definitely my speed. I also like that there is no hard impact, so the dances are easy on my stump.

There is, however, a LOT of squatting, and she often slaps her rear at the end of each squat. I think it is supposed to be sexy. In my normal zealous ways, I started slapping by my butt while extending from each squat. I felt so ridiculous trying to be sexy that it became fun. Imagine, a middle aged woman with one leg, devoid of graceful and swaggering ways, trying to perform a seductive squat while her toddler is performing the dinosaur stomp.

Robby loves to copy his Mommy, so he often tries to the routines along with me. We have a good time dancing together. But we usually end up freestyling with dances from The Wiggles about half way through the video.

Yesterday morning, when I was cleaning up the kitchen, Robby and I were dancing to the songs on the radio. I paused to pour a third cup of coffee, and watched Robby twirling around the kitchen. Starting with his hands on his hips, he started moving into the dreaded yet effective squat from the video. He slid his little hands down the front of his chubby legs, and went into a full squat. On his way back to standing tall, he then proceeded to slap his little diapered butt with his hand.

Upon seeing my reaction, he continued the diapered butt slap at every opportunity throughout the day. I am now dreading the next time he wants to dance in public, fearing that he will break into one of his stripper dances. I shutter to think of him starting his seductive diapered butt slap in front of our family at the next wedding. I think it is time to put the StripAerobics away for awhile and push The Wiggles.

The Cure for Staring...

In the spring of first year as an amputee, I resolved never to wear shorts again. I decided to limit my wardrobe after a rather blatant incident involving staring when I did go out showing my leg. In my dramatic fashion, I even packed all if of my shorts and shorter skirts in a large garbage back and donated them to GoodWill.

And then spring faded into the heat of summer, and I regretted my rash actions. I was miserable in pants. So, I eventually went shopping, and bought a new summer wardrobe.

The weather is warmer, so a few days ago I pulled my shorts out of the back of my closet. All decked out in my summer wardrobe, I went to the grocery store. (insert dramatic music here...) Let the stares begin!

I am used to the stares, and most of the time I don't even notice people looking. Looking at something different is human nature. Most people are kind enough to glance and then casually look away, pretending that they don't see anything unusual. Of course, there are also the gawkers, the people who will actually crane their necks to keep looking. And then there are the whisperers, who feel the need to inform the person next to them that they see an amputee. These people make me laugh, because they obviously believe I must have lost my hearing with my leg.

The gawkers and the whisperers have one thing in common. They absolutely hate to get caught. If I happen to look directly at someone during one of these behaviors, they immediately flush, and then pretend to be very busy. They try to avoid eye contact, and won't say hello.

At the grocery store yesterday, I think I may have found the antidote to the gawkers and the whisperers. My three year old. He is at the stage where he loves to say hello to people. If he sees anybody looking in our direction, he will wave and say hi.

When I was pushing him in the coveted bus cart yesterday, Robby was particularly engaging. He was always talking and waving, which I appreciated because it kept his hands off the cans in the aisles.

When I was checking out, I realized the reason for my son's particularly outgoing behavior. He was acknowledging every person he saw staring in our direction. Being young, he only knew that they were looking at us, and is unaware of the reason. I don't have to "catch" the gawkers and the whisperers, it has become a game for my toddler.