I believe in possibility. In May 2001, at the age of thirty, I walked away from my first husband and my life. I had no idea at the time that, after a separation of ten years, this would place me on the path to reconnecting with my college sweetheart. He sent out an email to his entire address book that same month announcing his move from Seattle to San Francisco. I wrote back that my life was in transition as well. A year later, on May 28, 2002, we met in Berkeley and had dinner at Chez Panisse. As each moment of that dinner passed, I felt my true self, the self that had slowly faded away during my first marriage, emerge. I remember smiling and laughing and that familiar feeling from knowing Anders in college – it really felt like we knew each other and we had never stopped knowing one another. We started a tradition of a nice dinner at a new restaurant on the 28th of each month.
At the second of those dinners, I confessed that I wanted to have a child with him someday. Daisy Thea Wright was born on September 24, 2004 and for four months, we had a perfect baby. During those four months, we relocated from New York City to San Diego for my job and my college sweetheart, now husband, became a stay-at-home Dad. Like all other parents, we were sleep deprived and cranky and wondering why nobody had told us (when in fact, they had) how difficult it would be to have a newborn.
At our first visit to Daisy’s new pediatrician, we told the nurse practitioner that we had noticed that Daisy’s eyes were crossed more than they were straight. We were referred to a pediatric opthalmologist. A couple of weeks later, we took Daisy to her first eye doctor appointment. Everything changed on that day. We were told that Daisy had strabismus and ptosis, both of which would require surgery in the coming year, and that she was extremely farsighted and would need to begin wearing glasses immediately. Suddenly, my four-month old baby was somehow damaged. My mind swirled with fear, grief, anger, and disbelief. We suddenly had to endure perfect strangers asking us “are those glasses real or just a fashion statement” and often just pointing and laughing at Daisy.
This was the beginning of the amazing journey of developmental delay. Daisy hasn’t done anything on schedule and, at the age of four, is still predominantly non-verbal. Many of Daisy’s vision issues have been addressed. However, after months and years of testing, we are only aware of what she does not have and she remains undiagnosed. Many conditions are off the table but nobody can tell us for sure why or what her diagnosis might be. For the purposes of her IEP and receiving services, she has a shared diagnosis of mental retardation and autism. To me, her diagnosis is being Daisy.
So why do I believe in possibility when my four-year-old daughter does not function like other kids her age? Why do I remain hopeful when she may never go to college or be able to live independently?
Because I have grieved for the loss of the ‘typical’ parenting experience and I have wished that I could communicate with her like I see other parents communicating with their toddlers. And through this yearning and the search for answers, I have learned that all that I can do is believe in my daughter’s potential. My daughter’s possibility.
She may not be able to achieve success in the way that I did. But she is happy and she makes people smile. She is curious and loving and kind. And when my fingers run across her back, I feel the same sensation of my child’s sweet skin just as other mothers do. I am a better person now that I am Daisy’s Mom. I am more patient, compassionate, and kind. She has changed the way I see the world. Daisy has become my teacher and has made me a better teacher than I ever could have been without her.
Through my adventures with Daisy, I have met parents who are parenting children with more extreme health conditions, and I find strength in the way that they cope. As difficult as it has been, I have found joy in redefining my idea of success and slowing down long enough to follow Daisy’s lead. I have had to truly embrace that parenting is about the journey and not the outcome. I do not know what the future holds for Daisy, but I do know that I believe in her possibility. And in her potential to bring her own brand of loveliness to this world—a world that could use a genuine smile, kiss, belly laugh, compassion, and patience, much more than another overachiever.