Happy Birthday Leighton!
Leighton was born on a sunny afternoon in August. Her birth was hard, and scary, and nearly killed us both. When the doctor finally pulled Leighton out, she was dangling before me by one leg, upside down, and red as a beet. She screamed louder than any of my other babies and continued to cry for a weird amount of time after delivery. In fact, I remember them finally handing her to me and my eyes darting around the room wondering if anyone else thought it was weird that this baby was screaming so loudly. I couldn’t comfort her, she was hysterical. Eventually she calmed down, and her giant brown eyes narrowed meeting mine. She was offended at being born.
Our first few months with Leighton were blissful.
Not long after Leighton was born we noticed that she wasn’t moving. In fact, Leighton was a like a bug on her back until she was nearly one years old. A string of therapist and experts from early intervention, and far too many trips to hospitals and neurologist followed. We ultimately received a diagnosis of cerebral palsy. In time, Leighton also received a second diagnosis of Sterotypy, which is a form of OCD that causes her to bang her head on her legs or the floor repeatedly for sensory input. Leighton has an anxiety disorder and some special needs that effect the way she learns and communicates. I could tell you more about her diagnosis and the many therapy sessions she has in a week, but that wouldn’t tell you much about Leighton.
About Leighton’s Diagnosis
Leighton is special. I have come to realize that Leighton was built for the life that she was given. Her spirit is the most powerful energy I have ever been in contact with, and as you read on you’ll see just how enormous of an impact this little girl has made in her 2 years of life. It’s very difficult to put into words, but it feels as though there have been two lives happening during one period of time. There’s one life where it’s constant fog and worry. The stress of having a child with special needs can be so scary and isolating that it feels like there’s no one in it with you. There’s you and your child, and maybe your spouse. You feel as though your floating from appointment to appointment, begging a specialist to give you some piece of information that ends the guessing game. And then there’s the other part of your life where you’re holding a healthy child, living your day to day life, recording every adorable thing they do with your cell phone. You’re picking up kids, dropping off kids, hosting BBQ’s, getting to know your child, and thanking God for that baby every second. One minute she seems fine, and the next you’re thinking, is she fine? It’s very, very, hard because your child isn’t her disabilities, but her disabilities effect every single piece of her life, and yours too.
Ultimately it was Leighton who lifted the fog. Every step she earned, every word she’s learned, every milestone she’s met has taught all of us to celebrate the presence of her and her disabilities. She taught me how to stop looking at her as a victim and start looking at her as a warrior. So I made this onesie for her 2 year old photos based on a song we sing together. BLESSINGS (outro) by Chance the Rapper.
In it he says:
The people’s champ must be everything the people can’t be
I’m getting artsy-fartsy, house full of some Hebru Brantleys
You must’ve missed the come up, I must be all I can be
Call me Mister Mufasa, I had to master stampedes
You can see now why this onesie had to say The People’s Champ on it… She’s my champ. She’ll spend her life mastering stampedes. P
About Leighton’s Spirit
Leighton is a force. Leighton has an energy that is magnetic. She is tiny but powerful. Her presence is enormous. In fact before I got pregnant with Leighton I could feel her spirit surrounding our home. Little birds would come visit in the trees outside my kitchen window and sing sweet songs. I could feel her wanting to be here with us, and that was ultimately what convinced me to have another baby.
Leighton is love. Leighton is drawn to those who need her the most. She will find a soul that has something heavy on his or her heart, and make her way over to them. She’ll sit next to that person, and just be with them. It’s honestly the most inspiring act you’ll ever witness. I have never met a being who has an energy so pure that they can find a complete stranger and know that they are needed. You can ask any of our friends, it isn’t that she plays favorites, she will sit next too or cuddle, whomever she feels needs to be shown love the most. It’s the most beautiful act of kindness. To experience it, is magical and maybe even life changing. There are many times I take her out to the grocery store or the mall, and she’ll drift from my side to find a stranger. That person will be so touched that this toddler has found them, and then Leighton will reach for their hand or lean on their leg, and the stranger will instantly smile. It’s an exchange of pure energy. That’s the best I can tell you.
Leighton is connected to animals. When Lady was a baby we could put her outside on a blanket and birds would sit near her and not move. I’ve watched this child walk up to wild deer and wave hello in their faces without them moving even an inch. Dogs follow her, chickens follow her, birds follow her. She will hold a snake, pet an ant, and call over a skunk. Since having Leighton we have had deer ( and their babies) , skunk, woodpeckers, a pair of cardinals, a fox family, an owl, chipmunks, groundhogs, and raccoons living on or near our property. The upside is that they will wait on our front porch for her at night ( this is not a joke), the downside is that they have eaten all of my landscaping. I have a love-hate relationship with her furry friends.
Leighton is strong. Yes she has a CP diagnosis but it is very mild. With the help of a lot of physical therapy Leighton has been trained over time to walk, jog, jump, and a host of other physically things we never thought possible. Leighton has gotten much stronger over time. There are days when Lady can’t move a muscle, or collapses every time she takes 3 steps. Those are hard days and they also serve as reminders that she does have a disability. However Leighton, and all kids with disabilities, are strong. They have never once lost sight of the fact that spirit trumps circumstance every single day. Many of my clients have children with special needs and I can tell you that those kids are the fiercest, bravest, most kick ass kids you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting. They are born warriors. They are born fighters. They are born with the kind of spirit it takes to face life everyday with one arm and both legs tied behind your back. They don’t complain, they don’t stop, they don’t whine, they just keep going. My girl is a navy seal in a toddlers body. We have watched her fall on her face one thousand times, and watched her stand up and walk one thousand and one times. Leighton is strong. Leighton was built for this.
(we removed her baba and blanket…opps!)