Eight years ago, when my three children were still very young, we traveled to Omaha for an Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) Foundation conference. Both I and my oldest daughter have OI, a genetic collagen disorder that causes brittle bones, short stature, and other symptoms. As we were checking in at the conference hotel, I glanced up and saw a young woman. She was less than five feet tall, with a square, thick torso over thin legs, and wavy shoulder-length brown hair. She pushed a baby stroller that came up too high on her, to her chest, making her look even smaller. I stared for just a moment, not long enough for her to notice, taking her in. I had never seen another mother who looked just like me. As I looked at her, all the strain I didn’t even know I was carrying around—all the self-consciousness of being a tiny, crooked, fragile mom in a world of tall, straight, strong moms—fell away. Here was a mom who looked just like me. And she was beautiful, capable, and strong. Which meant I must be beautiful, capable, and strong too—as strong as those moms who effortlessly dangle an infant seat on one arm while balancing a toddler on the opposite hip. For me, lifting and carrying and bending over to bathe my children were acts of will and courage as much as they were acts of strength.
Since my youngest child (a son named Benjamin, now eight years old) was born, I have lived with the increasingly painful consequences of giving my body to my children, through pregnancy and birth, and through the daily work required by a home inhabited by so many needy ones. As a child, I had about three dozen broken bones and a dozen surgeries due to OI. In contrast, in my teenage and young adult years, I led an active, nearly injury-free life in which my OI faded into the background, becoming more like a distant cousin I thought of now and again, instead of an intimate member of my nuclear family.
But my pregnancy with Ben wore me out physically in a way my first two pregnancies did not.
Continue reading in my guest post for Amy Julia Becker’s “Thin Places” blog at Christianity Today. This post is part of her “Perfectly Human” series of essays by people living with disabilities, and is adapted from my book.