The Strollers of Strangers

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.

strollerNo, I say. Two years apart, I say. Chromosomal condition, I sometimes 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.


5 thoughts on “The Strollers of Strangers

  1. Heather, you made me cry- I thought I was the only one who did this. I have felt guilt every time, for it often feels like I am wishing a disability on someone else’s child, just to fulfill a sort of selfish need in me…to not feel so alone. Thank you for this reassurance that I am not alone in this behavior– a behavior that no matter how much I try not to engage in, I still do. ❤

    • Laurie, I know what you mean. There’s a little bit of risk that this will be interpreted as me “wishing a disability on someone else’s kid.” But that’s not it. I think you and I and others who do this are just hoping not to feel so alone on this path of parenting. There are so many things we just *can’t* share with most parents, and it would be nice to at least share with some parents, even if it’s about how we can’t usually share with “the norm.”

  2. Heather you are so eloquent. I often tell folks that my two year old medically fragile daughter is one. She has brain damage and a feeding tube amongst a host of other things. She is tiny and I hate the questions so I lie. I want them to think that she is younger, rather than behind. I want them to think that we are just like them, a perfectly healthy little family. I want to escape in to the lie. We are hopeful and we are very inspired by your family. Thank you.

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