My daughter, whom I had been waiting for a long time and wanted so much, was born pre-term and with certain problems. I remember little since that time, all sounds are as if through cotton wool, all images as if through the fog. My mind tries to erase these memories, both scary and most traumatic. After birth, my Nadiyka was a small doll, wrapped with wires and tubes. And only the noise of the apparatus of artificial respiration and the squeak of the sensors said that she lives. One day. Another day. And another day…
On one of the days, I realized that I was lucky, we were lucky, we did not give birth to a girl ‒ we gave birth to a Miracle! She began to breathe herself, frowned cutely and reached out her hands, wrinkling her nose when she slept. She lives.
But other anxieties began on this stage. It was then that I heard the word “abnormal” about my Miracle, my kid. This word was repeated again and again by different doctors in the context that I should realize that a child, born in such conditions may be… abnormal. I even asked to explain the meaning of the word “abnormal”. And as a philologist, I could not understand its meaning in these circumstances. And the doctors explained ‒ each in one’s own way. For some, abnormality meant certain cognitive problems in the future, someone interpreted abnormality as physical development deficiencies: “Well, we must wait and watch, but she may not walk, may not crawl… we must wait and watch”. Someone “abnormality” meant the disease of internal organs. And someone looked at me strangely and stated my abnormality.
The normality became for me the fixed idea for a while. I kept a children’s journal, where I wrote down everything that had been achieved in development and checked with books, and then told my husband, “Look, she babbles and coos, we come up to standards”. It was probably then that he thought that in the whole world, the most abnormal person was me.
You shouldn’t worry, our girl started talking, started walking, likes eating broccoli and draws rainbow unicorns, and tells me horror stories at night. At that moment, it finally came to me that the normality ‒ this definition was made only by people, based on the study of general. Look, you have red hair. You will be abnormal in the company of dark-haired women. Or my height is 152 centimeters. The average height of women in our country is 166 centimeters. And here I am not normal. If everyone in the company loves red wine, and I love white, then who falls out of the norm? If you break a finger, then from a traumatologist’s point of view, it is abnormal. If you break a nail ‒ you are far from the norm for a manicurist too.
One wise doctor only confirmed my thoughts, saying that the normality is a very, very conditional concept, which provides a lot of exceptions. I got rid of my kid’s journal. I didn’t jump up every morning to record the indicators, then measure and pray that the child would start to coo no later than this Friday, otherwise it would be beyond the norm. And yes, I recognized, first of all, my abnormality with all my disturbing actions. And I allowed myself to be abnormal, and the world around me, too, was entitled to its abnormality. But in fact, it did not ask my opinion. It simply existed around, and it was just me, who had to label “normal”, “abnormal”. But what for?
A boy with cerebral palsy in a wheelchair ‒ is he normal or not? Someone will say “yes”, but for someone, he is a Miracle, and for someone, he is just a boy in a green jacket in a funny carriage, who is very happy when he catches a ball. Sashko, even when he was the size of a pea grain, or even before, had an extra chromosome, he has Down syndrome. Is he normal? The doctor may say no. Mom will tell you how kind and wonderful he is. And his friend will say that no one in the world can run faster than Sashko, and he never cries when it hurts, but just laughs a little quieter.
Recently, there was a Facebook flash mob in support for children with certain developmental deficiencies (and who said, by the way, what are these deficiencies? Maybe these are special features? Or maybe even superpowers?). This flash mob raised a lot of people in support for these children. But alongside them, there were also people, who should definitely stick a label on whether a person fits the personal concept of norm. One shop saleswoman said she did not let a woman with Down syndrome in, because she disgusted. Another café administrator warned about her extraordinary courage and honesty and therefore does not allow any “not normal” people into the hall, because they spoil the mood of other visitors. The former teacher said that she always stares at “abnormal” people and children with certain features, believes their presence in public places, and in particular in schools, is unacceptable.
And I look at these people and remember my criteria for establishing abnormalities and try them on. This lady in the video burrs ‒ abnormal. And this one has a too big mouth ‒ abnormal. And this one is bug-eyed and wears glasses ‒ abnormal. Each of us is conditionally healthy, conditionally beautiful, and conditionally normal. And while we label others, we can also be labelled as abnormal because we are abnormally bug-eyed, abnormally red-haired, abnormally high, and abnormally thick, abnormally burr, and abnormally laugh, abnormally paint lips, and run abnormally. And then someone can send us far away…
Wait… It’s already been in one of the countries of Europe. And those terrible times when the “normal” destroyed the “abnormal” were called the most terrible page of humanity and “the brown plague”.
Look at the world, there is not a single normal or abnormal tree, flower, and cloud in it. It is all woven and assembled from what does not fit the framework of the norm. I don’t think about the normality or abnormality of my child, I just know that whatever happens in the world, no matter how it goes on ‒ she’s a Miracle! The mother of funny Sashko also says so.
Text by Tatusya Bo