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Flashback Friday: Taking risks

Being the parent of a limb different baby forces you to take risks… And back in the winter of 2006, I had a lot of learning to do with Jordan as a newborn. There’s so much going on when you’re a parent of a newborn with or without a physical or developmental challenge. You’re exhausted, you’re hormonal and if there’s anything to worry about, your brain wants to zone in on it. My major focus was staring at babies with two hands.

I couldn’t help it. Babies with two hands were fascinating. There was a baby in Jordan’s daycare who was SO chunky, she couldn’t fold her arms. I told her I thought she was taunting me. (For fun. I didn’t really say mean things to the baby. She was so stinking cute and chunky.)

When Jordan was super tiny, about eight weeks old, she and her brother joined me on a trip to visit my parents in Florida. It was February so it was cold here. I could take Jordan out wrapped in blankets and no one would have to ask questions or stare. Blankets were my safety blanket. But going to Florida forced my hand. Jordan wouldn’t need as many blankets and she certainly wouldn’t need to be wrapped up when we go out in public.

I knew it was coming and I knew I had to take a risk. I had to accept people will stare. I had to accept people would ask questions. And I was right… I had my very first elderly pity moment. I didn’t like it much… But I didn’t dwell on it. But I also pushed through my fear. I took Jordan and Cameron to a park. She slept most of the time, but when she woke up, I picked her up and walked around with her blanket-free. I worried about the stares. I was sure Jordan’s first visit to the park would be difficult. But even though I thought she’d get a ton of stares, there really weren’t many.

Jordan at 16 weeks old

But after a while, I realized I was searching for stares. I was waiting for someone one to ask me questions. But honestly, Jordan’s spirit was bright from the very start. People were drawn to her sweet cheerful eyes and would completely miss Jordan’s difference. Often I would have an inner need to blurt out details about how Jordan had one hand.

But you know what? Most of the time when I felt the need to explain Jordan’s limb difference before anyone asked, it completely threw them for a loop. They were so enthralled by Jordan’s spirit, no one cared about arms or legs or fingers or toes. Jordan had already figured it out. If you’re strong and proud and happy, you can convince almost anyone to be your friend.

By the time Jordan was three months old, I was starting to feel more comfortable. I noted, the more I went out, the more comfortable I felt. It’s so true. You should never feel the need to hide you or your family because of a difference. Living your life as a family shows people more about who you are and how you feel about an obvious difference than any uncomfortable and forced lesson on respect.

One other tiny moment worth remembering… Cameron and Jordan didn’t used to fight all the time. When Jordan was two months old, Cam was even creating sweet songs about his sister. I wrote about it at the bottom of this post.



  1. Michael Jose on October 12, 2012 at 3:32 am

    Jen, Thank You for this. We are experiencing the same thing now. When we took our little one to the clinic the other day, she wriggled her “little left hand” out and there were these stares and questions. We were feeling sooo upset and then later on realised that we also were searching for the stares …We are new to this and have a lot of catching up to do….

    • Jen Lee Reeves on October 12, 2012 at 8:39 am

      Michael – it really requires a conscious choice to live life as a family and not work for the stares. But I’ll be honest, the moment you let it go, it is such a relief.

      Bess – We really have come a long way!

  2. Bess Posada on October 12, 2012 at 8:31 am

    Goodness gracious. You could have been writing about my experience, too! This was TOTALLY be. We’ve come a long way, baby!

  3. Bess Posada on October 12, 2012 at 8:32 am

    whoops. TOTALLY ME.

  4. Rebecca Zimmerman on October 12, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Thanks you a million times over. Your post brought tears to my eyes and I loved the “old lady pity”. I had an experience like that when my daughter was first born. It left me so perplexed. But I loved that you dubbed it “old lady pity” that had me in stitches. Your blog is the best, I am so glad you write so honestly and openly. You are a help to parents everywhere and Jordan is an inspiration to all.

  5. Jen Decker on October 12, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Thanks for writing this…I remember imagining that the reason the other moms weren’t talking to me at the pool was because my son (adopted@ 20 months and only home about 8 weeks) was missing part of his arm. I laugh at this now b/c they didn’t know me and they probably knew each other. Also I don’t notice the stares now.

  6. Jennifer Heard on October 13, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this. I have a 10 week old son who was born with a severely underdeveloped right arm with 3 fingers and a normal left arm, with 4 fingers. I know there will be stares, but I try to remind myself that people will be staring at a beautiful boy with a precious heart and a boy who will amaze them with all he can do! Carter has 3 big brothers, so I know he will be able to do whatever he wants – after all he will have to keep up with them.
    I have enjoyed reading your blogs, they are so comforting to me!

    • Jen Lee Reeves on October 14, 2012 at 1:30 pm

      Jennifer – It’s a learning experience for all of us every step of the way. Congrats on the arrival of Carter. I’m certain he’ll do it all!

  7. Caitlin on October 14, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    I seriously can’t wait until Jordan is old enough to read and fully appreciate all the lovely things you’ve written about her. You’re such a great mom, Jen. 🙂

  8. […] 5. Dealing with staring can require patience. I have mentioned staring and interacting with kids many, many times. The above link was the first time I really wrote about it outright in 2007. But I also discovered Jordan deals with it in different ways… And she’s even surprised at times when she doesn’t have to answer questions or stares. It really is about pushing yourself out of a comfort zone at times and taking risks. […]

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