I knew the day would come. I thought about it numerous times during her first year of life. I wondered when exactly the moment would happen, how it would occur, the situation I would find myself in. I never had a clear image of what exactly would transpire, but I knew after so many encounters that one-day things would be vastly different. I knew there would come a day when the small talk surrounding a run in encounter with a "baby" in a stroller would yield a different response than "how cute", "oh, is she 1?", "what's her name?", "she is so pretty", "what pretty eyes", and/or some other similar but positive and smile exchanging encounter. I wondered at what point it would occur, always fearful of the day it would happen, but then of course forgetting about the potential on the day that it did.
After all the years of hesitant exchanges standing next to her stroller, eager to just smile along and chuckle at whatever praising remark was made, the one time that I forgot it could occur, is of course when it did. I knew she wouldn't be a baby forever, I knew she wouldn't be tiny forever, G-d knows she has enough tubes and medical interventions erasing the Failure to Thrive diagnosis as we speak. I was never naive enough to think that she would always get positive head turns, but in the end, maybe I was. I knew once she was bigger she would get noticed for her hand stereotypies and her abnormal flexibility. I knew people would start to realize she wasn't a baby, but in the majority of ways, she really still is, and ironically the phrase "look at the pretty baby" that used to make me grit my teeth because she wasn't a baby, I wish would return.
I knew her growing up would eventually happen, but I didn't expect for the day to occur while walking down 68th Street in New York City. I knew one day someone would act in a way that hurt me to my core, but I didn't expect it to be a man walking a cute Yorkie named PJ, who (I can only assume) had zero intention to break a mother's heart while he was out walking his friendly dog. I knew one day it would be completely obvious that the little girl in the stroller with splatter colored framed glasses and a customized pacifier clip was not actually a baby, but I didn't expect the silence after responding to the question about her age to be so deafening and feel like an eternity was passing by. I knew one day there would be no words to fill the awkwardness that filled the air. Yet the thing about preparing for the future with a diagnosis like CDKL5 is that there really is no way you can, because no matter how many dress rehearsals you have; when the curtains lift and you find yourself center stage, it is never exactly how you anticipated it to occur.