Posted by Heather Krill in Life After Paralysis on June 13, 2022# Lifestyle first published by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation
My husband Geoff has a wonderful mom, sister and wife– he has tons of lady friends and girlfriends in his story– but I’m not quite sure he has ever faced off with anyone like our daughter Greta. And while becoming parents for the first time changed our lives forever, no doubt, the birth of our second baby on June 13, 2011, truly solidified when “shit got real.” Maybe because our boy was the happiest baby on the planet from day one– he rarely cried, loved food, time outside, and his favorite puppy during naps and bedtime. He was easy. We could tag team. With just the one baby, Geoff could transfer onto the couch, I could pass him the baby, and the two of them could contently hang out for hours together, cracking each other up, watching Animal Planet, playing with toys, and reading books. With one baby, one of us could handle tasks in the kitchen or laundry and still have eyes on the one baby. With one baby, we could take a walk in our neighborhood, letting him toddle around and explore.
Having that first baby took us YEARS, so we didn’t want to wait very long to kick off the In Vitro Fertilization process again for the next round. So, when our son was only 6 months old, we harvested my ovaries again, only this time, our daughter demanded a quick presence here on Earth and arrived a very short 9 months later. Despite being ten pounds, her labor was intensely short, and she was born bruised from such a rapid descent into the birth canal, and, unbeknownst to us at the time, with a broken collar bone. Our girl cried a lot. She cried unless she was attached to her mother either through eating or being snugged in one of those front packs. Our world would never be the same, although we knew our family was complete. Once she had words, more peace was restored in the universe, but until that point, much of those infant and toddler years were a blur. So when people say, “Oh, I wish I could go back to when they were babies,” Geoff and I ALWAYS look at each other, mouthing silently, NO WAY. Not for us. And maybe others with mobility issues and babies have different “survival” experiences, and there are things we missed or books we should have read.
Even now, I returned home from a late meeting, and the two of them were at the kitchen table yelling at each other over math homework. Geoff kept saying, “She isn’t listening to what I’m saying,” and Greta kept yelling, “Dad doesn’t know how to do the math this way. He is old school,” and while she isn’t wrong, these were not helpful to the situation. She looks more like her dad than her mom. But her personality for “getting it right” and internal motivation to be the best and impatience for people who can’t be placed on time? Those genetics come directly from her mother. She also gets hangry pretty regularly, so it’s important to snack while doing homework, and keep granola bars in her pockets for every outing because one never knows when that version will appear.
But mostly, she is a pretty amazing kid. And she is turning 11, and we just cannot believe our eyes. She has her first “step up” middle school dance and move up day for the middle school coming soon, which, fortunately, in our district, just moves the kids about 200 feet south. She will be in the building where I teach, and I have no idea what that will be like when she and her brother are in ninth and tenth grade English classes, respectively.
But for the time being, she wants to be a ski racer and a real estate agent when she grows up. She is dabbling in softball this spring, plays the clarinet, and drives her brother insane. Her best friend is our dog Emerson, followed closely on the heels of some equally fabulous kiddos in the fifth grade. She handles herself like someone far older than her 11 years, like an old soul in Nike high tops, a blonde ponytail, and work-out clothes. I try to tell Geoff, having worked with tweens and teenagers my whole adult life, that those times when she cried as a baby, the times she is yelling at him while trying to help her with homework–these will not be the hardest times we have as parents. We do not rush her childhood, yet I know as we grow older, our girl will be right by her dad’s side especially.
Heather Ehrman Krill is a writer- wife- teacher-mom who lives in the White Mountains of NH with her husband, Geoff, a paraplegic and professional skier, and their two children, Carver and Greta who are 12 and 11 respectively. Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.