I peer into the strollers of strangers. I do this the way others peer into mine, but I’m not looking for the same things. They are looking, I believe, to adore a baby as the baby is expected to look. They are looking to measure the baby up against their memories of the babies they held years ago. They will even guess how old and they will mentally chart what babies do at that age and how many pounds babies are at that age and how tall. And in most strollers, they will see what they are looking for and more: boy or girl, hair or not hair, brown eyes or blue. They will delight in the expected.
I am peering into the strollers of strangers in the hopes that I find the unexpected. A feeding tube. A hearing aid. A slack body in need of support. Some indicator that suggests I might have found camaraderie. People who don’t parent kids with disabilities might not get this. They might think I’m “wishing disability” onto someone else. But that’s not the case. I am looking for difference in the babies, and in that difference, some kind of sameness between the mothers and me. Some kind of club membership and some kind of friend.
But I usually only see babies who look as babies usually look. Out in public, I remind myself of numbers. Your girl is 1 in 50,000, I say to myself. Even Down syndrome is 1 in 700. There are not too many like you.
I push a double stroller now. They are twins, people say.
I am looking for someone in the crowd who will not offer me pity or surprise or confusion. I am looking for someone in the crowd who will never say, You’ve got your hands full. I am looking for someone in the crowd who will nod, who will get it, who will give me their card.