by DAMON TAYOLOR
When my son was born something went wrong.
He was deprived of oxygen for too long and now has permanent brain damage. It was a tragedy and now, nine years later, my family and I are still counting the cost.
There is not much I remember about the first few months after Rudy’s birth.
There are a few things that I guess are normal and the same as they are for any new mum. Things, like being so exhausted I thought I might just fade away and really, really, really sore boobs .
But the thing I remember most clearly is that so many of the people around me behaved as though I’d never actually been pregnant at all.
Sure, I had friends who were spectacular. Who would sit on the phone with me for hours listening to stories of me stumbling my way through this new foreign landscape. Who would bring food. And wine. And chocolate.
But to so many others, Rudy was invisible.
When I returned to work, after three months, there was no welcome-back morning tea. Almost no one asked me about “my little man”. Was he sleeping okay? Was he eating? No little in-jokes that I had joined the club; the kind I’d seen other new mothers get. And that hurt more than anything.
My baby is broken. Not invisible.
And the answers – had anyone bothered to ask – were no, he wasn’t eating and I didn’t know why. I was getting almost no sleep either because it would sometimes take me two hours to get one feed into him, which he would promptly throw up all over me.
The same thing happened with colleagues at my husband’s work and it hurt him just as badly.
I get it.
I really do.
What happened at the birth of my son was a tragedy and there isn’t a page in the Miss Manners Rulebook for how to deal with it. There’s no pamphlet called “talking with a co-worker about their disabled son around the water cooler”.
It’s much easier to ignore it and talk about Sex and the City or the football.
But here’s my request, if something like that happens to someone near you: Don’t.
Don’t ignore what happened. Don’t pretend there is no baby.
You know what happened. They know you know what happened.
Acknowledge it and ask. Ask them how they are.
Yes, maybe they’ll cry a little but then again, maybe they won’t.
Maybe they’ll just be grateful for a little bit of normal.
Damon Tayolor is the creator of Care for me, an iPhone app designed to help people care for people with disabilities. You can find out more about it here.