From the very first day Kolette and I decided to try to have a family I have worried about how I would play my part in raising that family. My concern wasn’t so much if I would be able to play a part, but how I would play that part.
I have spent every day from the day I broke my neck in 1986 to today working around my disability. In those 20 plus years I have figured out how to accomplish a great many things that others said would be impossible. But, when my thoughts turned to Coleman, on his way to join us in this world, I not only wondered if I was creative enough to adapt to his needs, but also if he would allow his needs to adapt to my abilities.
This desire to help, and concern about being able to fulfill that desire was only heightened last Tuesday when Coleman was born. I was amazed at how needy he was; how tiny and small. The nurses who helped him in the hospital moved so delicately and with such precision. My movements, as I worked to hold him, seemed big and cumbersome by comparison.
Then, yesterday evening as I was lying in bed Kolette placed Cole in my arms. I played with him, talked with him, kissed him, and cooed at him. It’s amazing the things we’ll say to babies. Stuff like, “Coley Boley Toley Roly Poly” just comes right out of your mouth as if it’s normal everyday conversation.
In the middle of all this tomfoolery, his pacifier fell out of his mouth and onto his chest. Needing to hold onto him with both arms I knew that even if I could move my hands I still had a problem. His eyes began to close and his brow began to furrow and I knew that a big cry was coming.
Not knowing what else to do I used my arms to lift his chest as close to my face as I possibly could. When you’re a quadriplegic you learn early on that your mouth can be one of the best friends of a handless man.
With his chest right against my face I was able to work my lips around the back end of his pacifier. With his pacifier firmly ensconced in my mouth I lowered his chest in an effort to move his head toward my face. My first shot yielded poor results–the pacifier ended up in his eye. My following attempts weren’t much better as I hit his nose and cheek accordingly.
Although I wasn’t able to put the pacifier in his mouth, pushing it around his face helped Cole clue into what I was trying to have happen. Wanting the pacifier in his mouth as badly as I did, he turned his face toward mine searching for the ever soothing binky. Our faces moved around and around almost in unison but without yielding success. Just when I thought we were never going to succeed, Cole put his little hand up near his mouth and happened to push the binky in the hole.
With both of us searching for the “money shot” we finally got the pacifier in his mouth. Cole’s brow unfurled, his eyes opened and the potential cry was averted. It wasn’t pretty and they’ll never teach that technique in a parenting class. But it was a beginning.
It was the beginning of my and Cole’s journey together. It was the first of many things I’m sure we’ll figure out in our own way. It was a small thing but it has given me great hope. I can’t wait to see the things we work out.