Kid O was teething. She was in pain. I was frustrated. I put her down some place safe, went into the bathroom and let out a good primal scream. A moment later I returned and placed her in her crib for a nap. Then I went to take a bath. I was rummaging around for clothes when I heard a loud rap on the door. I closed up my robe and looked out the peephole. To my great concern, I saw three policemen standing in the vestibule. I opened the door. The oldest of the three explained to me that they had received a call about a screaming baby. I picked Kid O up because the loud noises had wakened her up. The eldest cop looked like he was a grandpa. He asked me, "how old is she?" I told him she was six months. Then he said, "Is she teething?" And I told him, yeah. And told him the rest. I'll never forget the look on his face. "A mother is having a temper tantrum and for this we get called." Without saying another word the three of them left.
I have been living in a fishbowl since 1996. Shortly after Kid O was born, my nosy neighbor came over with something for me to read about pre-eclampsia and how I could have prevented it. I waived her away. I already knew that I could have prevented Kid O's premature birth. The nosy neighbor at least meant well. She was not the one who called the police on us. That was likely the downstairs neighbor whose husband was always yelling at their son. Or it could have been the couple who had given birth to a perfect son, another 90th percentile. She made a point of telling me her son's head was in the 99th percentile.
I dubbed the baby girl next door and the baby boy upstairs, baby giants. On one of the few occasions that the woman next door invited me to stroller our babies together, we stopped at this very tiny, quiet park. As we sat there, she said to her daughter, H., "You are a baby, and she is an infant." I was perplexed. I thought a baby and infant were one and the same. I also wondered, why the need to compare? Did she want me to admit that her baby was far superior to mine? She found other moms with higher quality babies to walk with. I was surrounded by baby snobs. Kid O and I were not good enough to be seen in their company. We were fine with staying with if someone locked herself out of the house. Or if upstairs mom needed some company because her husband was out of town. No trips to the playlot for us.
I felt isolated and I felt fearful. Kid O and I didn't measure up. Since she was only six months old when the cops were called, I knew or imagined that people were always assessing me in a way that they would never have done if Kid O had been ablebodied. Every scream had to mean we were maltreating her. When we tried to put her to bed just like any other parents, the police were called again. We were forced to wait until Kid O was sound asleep before putting her to bed. Every time she'd wake up on account of teething pain, I'd have to try two, three times to get her back to bed. And each time I was fearful there'd be another knock on the door.
Everyone would always ask me if Kid O was OK. No one would ever ask me if I was. No, I wasn't. I had a difficult baby and neighbors who assumed the worst. I was frazzled. I was constantly looking over my shoulder. And, on top of that, I was trying to overcome my anger and grief over not having the same kind of child as everyone else. How could I be OK? Kid O didn't like to be in the stroller. Kid O didn't enjoy the sun porch. And milestones were not being met. No one could explain to me why not. I was starting to intuit the worst. I named it to myself months before any pediatrician did. I knew Kid O had cerebral palsy. I knew that she was handicapped. I knew she was a great gift, too. I knew that I'd never take basic movement for granted. Ever again.