«Will he be like Forrest Gump?»
In her column «Der andere Blick» («A different perspective»), Sara Satir writes about her daily life as a mother to a disabled son. Her articles have been published in Migros Magazin for two years now– and will now also be appearing sporadically on Migros Commitent. Here is her very first article that started it all off.
A disabled child? I had not even considered the possibility during my pregnancy. I was 25 years old and healthy, there were no complications with my pregnancy and the prenatal screenings had not shown any anomalies. A disabled child was something that happened to other people, not me. All the statistics were on my side.
But things turned out differently. My son did not develop as expected. Other children lifted their head, grasped after objects, were able to sit up. My child did none of these things. «Don’t worry about it, he’s just very relaxed,» my family told me. «I wish my child was as placid as yours!», one mother said to me at the playground. Yet I could not help but worry. The doctors diagnosed a global developmental delay, which gave me hope. With a developmental delay, he can make up the lost ground; it’s all just a matter of time.
Many parents define themselves through their children’s development
Time passed and my friends’ children learned to walk. My hope diminished; my concern grew. Did my son have a disability? Up until that point, none of the doctors had uttered the word «disabled», and I clung to the diagnosis of developmental delay.
When I asked a doctor directly how she would describe my son to her colleagues in conversation, she replied: «We would say that he is a child with a mental disability.» I was not prepared for such directness, let alone the reply itself.
My very first question to her was: «Will he ever be able to live independently?» The doctor said that he would not. My second question was whether he would be like Forrest Gump. (An absurd question from today’s perspective, but the film’s eponymous protagonist was the only disabled person who spontaneously came to mind at that time.) The doctor smiled and said: «Perhaps, but without the Hollywood heroics.» There we were, standing there, with me laughing and crying at the same time.
So then, my child had a mental disability. Finally, some certainty. And yet I still had so many unanswered questions: Would he ever walk? Learn to talk? Make friends? Gradually, I began to understand. It felt like the other parents were part of a club to which I had been refused membership. Every parent has notions of how their child will develop; we want to guide our children into their independence. Many parents define themselves through their children's development, by how soon they learn to walk or talk. Playgrounds are dominated by questions such as these, and I could no longer compete, no longer belonged. Other questions became important.
A disabled child was no longer something that happened only to other people. Now it had happened to me. «Is he happy?» became my most important question – his laughter, my answer.
Sara Satir (42) wanted a family from a young age. Her first son Cem (17) was born disabled – reality was turning out very differently from the dream. She has been working as a coach in Winterthur for 11 years and supports people in overcoming challenges in their personal lives.