Monday, July 16, 2012

Buds, Blooms and Birthdays: Celebrate Life!

Buds, Blooms and Birthdays!

"One who plants a garden, plants happiness."

Happy day to all! Celebrate life every day! Twenty-five years ago today I was heading home from the hospital with the greatest birthday gift a person could ever have. My son was born two days earlier on the 14th of July when I was twenty-five, and just two days from my twenty-sixth birthday on the 16th of July in 1987. Two days ago, he turned twenty-five. Amazing how time really does go by fast.

I’ll never forget the uncertainty that I felt when I confirmed that I was pregnant. I stopped off at one of those “Doc in a Box” places to verify the accuracy of the home pregnancy test that I had used the previous day. I never told my son's father beforehand, because I knew we were moving back up North again very soon. He was going back to work for a company he had previously worked for, and I didn’t want to cause any unnecessary stress if the test wasn’t correct.

The doctor and nurse at the clinic seemed heartless. They looked at me as if an abortion was my only alternative. The doctor said he couldn’t take care of me because I was a high risk pregnancy, and he didn’t want to deal with the risk. They pretty much asked me “What are you going to do about it?” I guess they couldn’t understand, even though they were medical professionals, how a quadriplegic could have a child. It was quite sad on their part actually. Thankfully, I very quickly found a new doctor.

We moved up North and lived in a house that was off a dirt road during the winter and spring while we were trying to sell a house in the South. We were blessed to live in the in-laws house rent free while we tried to find a new house that we could afford. To get into the house, I remember quite vividly having to transfer up one step from the garage into a mudroom, from there I had to scoot across the floor with my wheelchair in tow, only to climb up two more steps to reach the main house. (There wasn’t a ramp.) I did this until I was over 8 months pregnant. I couldn’t take any medication for my neurogenic bladder, and I’ll never forget having to do this feat several times a day. Fortunately, I was young. I guess every pregnant woman remembers urgency. I just had to climb two mountains before reaching my destination.

My new doctors were an hour away and quite awesome. No one really knew what to expect, whether they would need forceps or if I would need a C section. Labor was indeed intense, and fast. (The doctor was in his jogging shorts when he delivered my baby.) I felt the labor pains as well as the pounding headache from autonomic dyserflexia (AD), a condition that acts as an internal alarm clock that alerts people living with SCI that there is something wrong going on within their bodies. AD is a life threatening condition that can elevate blood pressure and lead to a stroke. In other words, it truly felt as if both ends wanted to explode. Seriously!

During labor, I clearly remember screaming very loudly, “Get this baby out of me now!” Five hours after my contractions had begun, and one push later, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, 7lbs. 15 ounces. I was immensely grateful for every pain that I felt. I was blessed. The next day, I was dressed and having lunch in the cafeteria with a friend. I’ll never forget the doctor walking by and taking a second look. I hate hospitals and I wasn’t going to lie around all day in a hospital bed, regardless.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love life. I am truly grateful for every breath. To this day, I still love the reaction that I get when people realize that I had my son after my accident. My general and somewhat sarcastic response is typically, “Yes, I had sex, once!” I know that I've used this line before in my writing, but it makes a statement.

For me to take care of myself was still somewhat of a challenge, but I had mastered it. To care for a child and to keep him safe was a daily challenge. I figured everything out along the way. I had one rule that applied to everyone. They could not run over and pick him up unless it was a ‘real’ life threatening emergency. I couldn’t easily do this, and I had to make certain that he came to me. My strategy worked. I could tell the severity of an issue with him, by how quickly he came crawling, and later running, to me. As he grew he learned to crawl unto my lap as well. As he grew, so did my strength.

I missed not being able to push a stroller, but I became the stroller. He didn’t mind. In fact, as soon as he climbed on board my lap, he would slouch back against me. I still remember going through doors with him on my lap, and saying “squeeze tight”, and he would squeeze his legs together to prevent his foot from getting hung up in the door. As he got older he opened doors, and he still does today for everybody. When we were out in public people would always comment about him helping Mommy. My response was that we helped each other, and that life was about helping each other. It is a two-way, give and take kind of world, no matter how old you are. He would do for me so I could do for him.

He was indeed probably the most patient child on earth. He had to sit in his car seat while I assembled my wheelchair and got out of my car to retrieve him on the other side. Like any child, he tested me along the way. He never ran away, and he would put himself in his time out chair. This was pretty astonishing actually.

My love of life reflects within my home and garden as well. My belongings make me feel good, and have special meaning. I can trace my life through my things. No great dollar value on anything, but full of sentiment. Yet, if they all disappeared, I would still be full of love from the many very happy memories I carry within.

Sometimes I miss having my little buddy around, but I’ve loved watching him grow into an incredibly responsible adult with a huge heart. I think he truly realizes that life is a gift. No doubt.

From my garden pictures, I have been able to watch my plants grow on an almost daily basis. Plants make me feel great and often bring back special memories from deep within myself. I have happy memories of the tomatoes and green beans my parents canned every year. I can still remember standing over the sink in an extremely hot kitchen peeling the tomatoes. I use my parent’s last mason jar as a vase. My grandmother would always float a gardenia in a bowl of water for its aroma.

For me, plants evoke a great feeling of peace and happiness. Each flower is a little different than the one next to it. The seed, the plant, the new flower, the bee with the pollen, and the ultimate fruit or vegetable, is all kind of magical really. The closer that I look at each plant and flower, the more that I can see and appreciate about them.

In life we have to do whatever it is that makes us happy. During the winter, I often find myself looking at flower pictures, and reading multiple publications about gardening. It is not a phase, but rather a necessary passion. When negativity and conflict invade my personal space, there is no better escape for me. Socially, I can converse with any gardener. Every day, I find myself learning something new.

I love sharing my photos because they give people a different angle on the world from my perspective. I am generally looking up at sunflowers, and I am eye to eye with my zinnias and perennials. (I’m slightly over 4 feet tall in my wheelchair.) My husband tells everyone that his wife is 4 feet tall. I could be if I was a little person, but actually I’m 5’ 10 ½ inches.

I’m grateful for my husband who has helped me with his knowledge of photography as fine art. He has unknowingly taught me a ton about art and the importance of having it evoke a feeling. Light is also incredibly important for bringing out the detail in any picture. My niece through her pictures of my garden showed me how much beauty was really just outside my front door. For this I’m appreciative too.

There is a lot to learn and share about gardening. My experiences, in and out of the garden may be inspirational or helpful to others. To me, that is a very worthwhile thing. If I can simply share the joy and beauty of life, that too is worthwhile. As an advocate, life isn’t always roses. My goal, my survival, is to stay focused on the positive outcomes. Occasionally the squash vine borer may win, but at other times certain reporters and editors are required to attend sensitivity training. If I can only grow one squash, that one squash will be delicious!


  1. I really loved this one. It was neat reading about your experiences as a young mamma. I love you Mom. HAPPY BIRTHDAY

  2. If this isn't an inspiration to others nothing will be.

  3. I saved this read for this morning Brenda. It has made my day. And this day with be great. What a story you have shared with those of us fortunate enough to have had the chance to read it. I've learned more about photography from you as you did from your niece. I think more when I look at a flower now. When I see the beautiful center of a zinnia. And it seems I've learned about life as well. Hope (I know) your birthday was a great celebration of life.

    1. Thank you! I love your garden, pictures and cats! You and your wife have a very artistic touch. Thanks for your kind comments and yes, every birthday is wonderful!