at eighteen

Today is Loopy's eighteenth birthday.  There are no photos of her from the day she was born, but here she is at about two weeks old:


Saucy has a friend on Facebook, a cheer coach in another city who she's never met face-to-face, who has a tiny baby in and out of PICU and is living every parent's worst nightmare.  What Saucy would like to say to this woman, who she's never met face-to-face, who she knows through coaching chat groups only, is that she only can hope that eighteen years from now the woman finds herself where Saucy is now, celebrating an eighteenth birthday.

Let Saucy rewind back to when Loopy was born at three pounds six ounces.  She was early and the pregnancy was fraught with all sorts of complications (too many for Saucy to mention here without drinking wine before noon) but let's just summarize by saying that after weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit, the doctors discharged Loopy at four pounds with these words of advice to Saucy:

"She's probably not going to make it.  We normally wait until these infants are five pounds before discharge but that isn't going to happen, so you should take her home and enjoy you time with her without machines and in private.  She is barely feeding with this special NICU formula but you can try her on regular formula and do the best you can.  If she were larger we would send you home with a monitor for night sleeping but it would just go off all the time and you won't get any sleep, so do your best.  We are amazed she's come this far, but she really responds when you hold her and that's probably what got her here.  Good luck to you."

And do you know what Saucy thought at that moment?  To put it bluntly, she thought go fuck yourselves.

She took Loopy home and fed her with eye droppers and then tiny bottles.  The Secret Weapon fashioned special feeding nipples for those bottles by retrofitting the tiny pacifiers from the NICU.  He made the hole bigger so it would be easier for her to get her nourishment.  Saucy and The Fan worked round the clock to hold and feed that tiny four pound bag of gold.  Saucy slept either sitting up to hold Loopy up on her shoulder or flat on her back with Loopy on her stomach, constantly rubbing her back and head to keep her breathing.  Here and then, Saucy would doze off and awake with a jolt - and give Loopy a slight shake just to be sure.  They had their moments.  It was not easy.

Loopy grew.  The doctors were amazed when Saucy showed up with her at a regular follow up appointment with the NICU staff.  She was almost eight pounds at six months... they said it was a miracle.  It seemed as though she was a newborn, barely opening her eyes.  Don't get your hopes up, they said.  These babies are more prone to sudden infant death in the first two years of life.  Would you like a monitor now?

And do you know what Saucy thought at that moment?  She thought fuck you and your monitor.  We're doing just fine.

At the next appointment they still marvelled at Loopy's weight gain and growth but suggested that she'd likely never sit up, Saucy should just enjoy holding this baby like a newborn until she got big enough for a special chair.

And do you know what Saucy (and The Fan) said to each other when they left that appointment?  They thought,  fuck that.  We have a plan.  (Now just to clarify, The Fan doesn't talk like a sailor but she was definitely on board with Saucy's general sentiment by this point).

The Fan took out her finest silk scarves from her trips to Europe many years ago and they tied Loopy up in a high chair.  She looked part Geisha, part Cabbage Patch doll.  She was strapped in there from torso up, with her head and hands free.  At first her head drooped but eventually she was strong enough to hold it up.  Saucy fed her diluted cereal and baby food and tipped her head back like a dog taking a pill with cheese, rubbing her throat sometimes to make her swallow.

Around one, she was sitting up (slouching) but she was starting to cry and wail when she would get hungry and Saucy took this as a good sign.  The doctors of course, said it was a miracle because "these babies" sometimes never cry and "they can't even process their own hunger."  But not to worry, they said.  She would never stand up or walk but they would put her name on a list for a really nice wheelchair and Saucy should put her name on the Children's Wish Foundation list.  Maybe a nice trip to Disneyland would make everyone feel better about things.

And of course, Saucy thought to herself as she strapped one-year old Loopy in her newborn car seat and drove home, fuck that too.

From that day on, Saucy sat Loopy on a blanket and then went and sat on the other side of the room.  If Loopy wanted to be held, she'd have to come and get it.  Later, if Loopy wanted some food or a toy, she'd have to reach for it.  The cereal pieces and cookies were up on the ottoman, then on the counter.  Life was hard.  She cried a lot.  Saucy cried.  Everyone cried.  "Just give it to her already" Saucy heard that from so many people... so many people she had to tell politely to fuck off.

And that was Loopy's childhood in a nutshell.  A whole lot of crying.  A whole lot of Saucy saying inappropriate things under her breath to well-meaning individuals who constantly suggested that Loopy might be better off with a walker, with crutches, in a wheelchair.  And we had all of those things, at some point or another.  Loopy had little casts and little braces on her legs.  She wore the funny shoes and the giant elastic bands from her toes to her waist.  She had glasses and when she walked she stumbled and fell and bumped into things but every single time she got back up again.

It was as though someone had taught her a powerful phrase: fuck it.

She had a wheelchair for a time in grade school but she tired of the whole idea and she didn't want her best friend to have to push her at field trips anymore.  She worked out of it and made due with her little braces and splints.  Sometimes when she got home from school, she melted down in a puddle of exhaustion because it was such hard work, keeping up with everyone else as much as she could.  On top of everything, she had regular physical therapy and occupational therapy, occasional speech therapy and a zillion other appointments.  The school thought it best if Loopy didn't take physical education, because it was hard for the teachers to work around her different abilities and besides, it was a good time for her to do her therapy.  She had an assigned teachers assistant who she herself promptly dismissed, waving her off with, "why don't you go and find someone to help who needs you?"


Reader, you know how this story ends.  It doesn't have an ending because Loopy hasn't written it yet.  She can do anything she wants but she seems especially interested in doing the things that everyone thinks she cannot do.  You know that the girl who would never talk or sit up or walk is now a high school senior with excellent grades and group of wonderful friends.  They never shut up, Saucy can attest to that.  The girl who stumbled and was told she'd be better off with a walker is a cheerleader.  This year she is strong enough to be a base - she is holding up kids her own size.  Sometimes, self-doubt creeps in mostly because she's worried that she might let go and someone else will get hurt because of her limitations.  But she keeps at it.  She doesn't complain.  She does every single skill even though it kills her crooked little back and legs.  She jumps and she tumbles.  She comes home exhausted.


And she's beautiful, but you knew that already.  She's smart.  She is quick-witted with a dry sense of humour and if you get in her way her jokes will be at your expense but that is a small price to pay.  All of it, every tear, every fight with a doctor or teacher who suggested otherwise has been a small price to gain a fortune.  For we have spun that four pound bag of gold into something priceless.

So, to Saucy's never met face-to-face friend, it will get better.  Saucy can tell you have the fight in you. You're a cheerleading coach, for God's sake.  You can do this. You were born to do this.  And if the doctors or the specialists ever suggest that it cannot be done, you know what to say to them.

37 comments:

faye said...

I just bawled, thanks for sharing and Happy Birthday Loopy!!

Sarah said...

What a wonderful story about a fabulous girl and family--And to Loopy..YOU GO GIRL!

Krista said...

That's the power of a momma...we do whatever it takes, no matter who says what.

Nathalie from FL said...

Happy Birthday to Loopy and her awesome mom!

You are both heroins, truly.

Anonymous said...

Love love love this! <3

oliver rain said...

Beautifully said. Happy 18th birthday to darling Loopy.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Loopy!! Her story is amazing, and good for you Saucy - cherish every cry you had together when you were both working so hard to prove the doctors wrong!! They must marvel at her now....as we all do! Dena

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I'm all teary eyed right now. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LOOPY! One of the most beautiful and successful blog daughters in the universe! I can't WAIT to read what happens in the next chapters of her life--I have a feeling it's going to be amazing.

Unknown said...

Sasha, I read this story and when I scrolled down to Sidney's picture, I burst out crying. She is such a beautiful and talented woman. I miss you all and love you terribly. Keep up the good work! Happy Birthday Sidney!

Tanis said...

Sorry, I don't know why it didn't sign my name in the previous comment. It's your long lost "cousin", Tanis.

Clandestine Road said...

Happy birthday, Miracle Loopy!

I cried so much reading this. It just oozes love and respect. Just beautiful.

LisaInCT said...

I've watched her grow over the years reading your blog. She is truly a wonderful and beautiful young lady. You are an angel Saucy to do what you did for that little darling. So happy she beat the odds. Happy birthday Loopy... look how far you've come! Can't wait to see what you have up your sleeve for the future. Time for a new cupcake called: f*ck 'em.

CuteStuffInside said...

Happy Birthday Loopy, and many happy returns!

Kate said...

One of your most moving posts yet. Gave me chills! Happy Birthday to your gorgeous girl. Many more to come...because her mama doesn't take no for an answer

MTGrace said...

What an incredible story, and a beautiful, talented girl! Happy Birthday, Miracle Girl!

D'Rae N said...

Beautiful story, beautiful girl & beautiful mom! Happy birthday loopy!!!!!

Denise Gifford said...

What an incredible and beautiful girl!

The love of a mother can do wonders!

Happy Birthday !

I can't wait to hear many more stories of her successful life!

Anonymous said...

I volunteer on Acute Care Pediatrics and PICU. I wish that this post could be seen by every anguished and heartsick mother, and shared with every doctor. As a retired first grade teacher I can tell you that I know first-hand how a mother like you makes ALL the difference. That tiny, struggling scrap of humanity we know as "Loopy" has blossomed into a promising young woman on the verge of a successful and happy life. Thank you for sharing this heartfelt post.

Tiffany said...

Let the church say......Amen. Well stated. Bravo! I will have to print this for whenever doubt creeps in. Happy Birthday to you both!

matgrif said...

a teary "wow"...happy birthday Loopy!

Sandra D said...

This is one of your best posts ever! Enjoy this special day and all your hard work with your beautiful and successful daughter.

MJ said...

Everytime I read Loopy's story, I bawl. You, the Fan, the Secret Weapon & Loopy are such amazing people with such determination, creativity, intelligence and inner strength.

Happy birthday, Loopy!

The Mint Chocolate Chip Inn said...

I do believe Loopy hand-picked you as her Mom because she knew you would fight an extraordinary fight for her. What a special story that attests to the amazing spirit of your family. Happy Birthday, Loopy!

~Michelle G.

The Miller Five said...

Incredible story! Happy birthday Loopy!

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday to your BEAUTIFUL young woman. But happy birthday to you also....the day Loopy was born is the day your fierce,wonderful, amazing,fighting for her life, saucy Mama was born!!!!!!

sassy said...

Happy happy birthday sweet Loopy! Seriously, your Mom put those bottles up HIGH - like counter high and REALLY made you work. Look at you now....

Lora said...

Amazing story. Happy birthday to a gorgeous girl and her courageous mom.

Eugenia said...

Thank you, beautiful Saucy, for sharing. I bawled like a baby. Any mother would. I heard the stupid doctor say my No.2 probably won't make it through his first night. He is 22.

Fuck, has gotten me through a lot of short sighted "professionals."

Go Loopy Go.

e

DIANE said...

Ohhh I do love your blog, but THIS? This just may be my favorite post of yours ever. You've proven the power of a Mama-bear...and a well-placed F-bomb!

Happy Birthday Loopy! =)

Anonymous said...

Happy Birtday Loopy and good job mom for never giving up! mary in NY

JuliaW said...

Beautiful, just beautiful.Happy Birthday to you both!

Judi said...

Happy Birthday Miss Loopy. I read most of your story to my husband. When I stopped before the end he asked "what happened to this young lady?" Your story is a blessing. Thank you for sharing it. Might I respectfully close with some powerful words. To the Doctors and medical people who gave up before "THEY" even tried. F.U.
Judi in Wahoo

Anonymous said...

Awesome! No wonder your daughter is a cheerleader--you taught her how! (Love your cheer by the way--Mama power--another word for love.)
Shar

Anonymous said...

You should nominate your daughter to be the next cover girl. There is a contest on the Ellen Degeneres Show. She is beautiful

Stephanie B

Mrs. G. said...

Beautiful. How lucky you are to have her in your life, for so many reasons.

Mairead said...

I'm late to the party, and others have said it better, but this is such a powerful story. As a teacher, as a medically "special" child, and as a human being, this touches a very deep and raw place. Loopy is blessed to have you and The Fan cheering for her, pulling for her, fighting for her, and, most of all, teaching her to do all those things for herself as well. (And I LOVE how much credit you give to her efforts, too! Signs of a good mom -- you know when she's working hard!) Huge virtual hugs to you both.

Lisa Russell said...

Happy birthday last February Loopy! You are a stunning beauty, that's for sure. Saucy--you are such a good momma!! xoxo!