My wife birthed our first child.
When it was my turn to get pregnant, it took forever. Each month was riddled with hope followed by disappointment. At the time I ran a program for kids with autism. They were beautiful, brilliant, and often times physically aggressive.
One day, I was attempting to stop an overwhelmed kid from pulling down all of the school- picture-day equipment onto himself. One move and the child was safe but I suffered massive nerve damage to my right arm. I spent the next six months on disability. I could not help the kids I loved so much. I couldn’t even buckle our toddler into her car seat. I worried that if I did miraculously get pregnant, I would not be able to hold my own baby.
Recovering from home without the daily roller coaster of panic and pride in my classroom, and without the ability to do projects and chores, was a challenge. Before my injury, being quiet was scary. I would fill empty space with anxious mind chatter, food, T.V., audio books and work. Now I had no choice but to sit and breathe and just be.
At one point I hopped on a plane to go and sit on my grandfather’s couch for a couple of days. Pop looked at me with loving eyes and repeated words he had said many times before. Words I’ll never forget.
“Honey what I’ve learned is, if you can’t love somebody for who they are you don’t have the privilege of loving them at all.”
He elaborated with stories of his life as a pro-integration pastor in North Carolina during segregation, and raising a teenager with alcohol and drug issues.
I realized this love he was talking about also had to do with self-love. If I couldn’t love myself as I was, I really couldn’t love myself at all. I found an incredible physical therapist, and little by little I began to heal. A few months into the healing process, I got pregnant.
Still not back at work, I wondered if my body could handle creating another human being. This time I chose faith over panic. I learned to get quiet and trust. I could not open the jars of paint in my art studio but I could read with my daughter and take long walks between bouts of nausea and fatigue. Eventually I went back to work in a new position without the physical demands.
On the due date, I was healthy. I had studied Hypnobirthing by spending months practicing this deep form of meditation. This active extrovert had finally learned how to enjoy quiet solitude.
Although my wife and mother were in the room, I only wanted silence. When contractions rolled through my body, I found myself up on my feet and swaying back and forth.
At that moment I understood my students with autism.
I connected with their familiar movements as a tool for grounding and self regulation.
The gift had come full circle. The same students who provided opportunity for chaos and physical accidents were my teachers. They instinctively understood the necessity for deep quiet and grounding. The had forced me to slow down and heal, and when I needed it most, they gave me the tools to stay grounded in the most intense moment of my life. From that experience, my daughter Simka came into the world; her name meaning “joyful celebration”.
Six years after her birth, Simka is still joyful, passionate and bold. She walks this earth radiating passionate love and enthusiasm. I recently heard her shouting, “this is the best day of my life!” as our neighbor pushed her high into the sky on his swing. Sometimes, her passion means she experiences life differently, absorbing the world around her in ways I don’t notice in other kids. Our nine year old and three year old twins are happy to snuggle in and enjoy an animated movie like Moana; Simka may leave the room screaming, unable to watch more than two minutes because of the disturbing images that cling to her brain long after the credits roll. Instead of being ashamed of her passion and fear, she will say, “I know I am not alone in this. I know there are people all over the world feeling these feelings right now. I am OK. This is just who I am.” Simka is a joyful celebration of self-love. Just like the students who taught me to channel my strength to bring her into this world, my daughter is another young teacher of mine.
Lydia K. Dolch is a wife, a mother of four young kids, an artist, a special education teacher and an educational consultant. Her goal is to help children, families and providers gain the tools they need to communicate, learn, love and feel whole. You can connect with Lydia on Twitter.