I’ll never forget a party I went to about ten years ago, just after I stopped answering all those questions from the kids at the park. It was an evening party in late June and the weather was beautiful. I knew the beginning of the party would be warm, sitting on the west-facing deck, but that the air would cool down after the sun set.
But the weather wasn’t the reason I chose to wear pants to the party. I was finally sick of my prosthetic leg defining me. I knew that other people looked at my prosthesis and couldn’t help but immediately have a bunch of assumptions about me. Anything from “She must have been through hell. What a survivor” to “Oh, gross. Decent face, but I’d never date her.” I know what it’s like to see a piece of someone and assume that it’s a huge part of their identity.
Trouble was, with me, I used that to my advantage. I didn’t purposely flaunt my leg, but if it came up in normal conversation, I didn’t hide it, either. I wore the shorts instead of the pants. I assumed that people would think more highly of me if they knew I was an amputee. If they didn’t know about my leg, I didn’t trust that they would like me, that I would be enough. Ironically, I felt more whole in other people’s eyes if they knew a part of me was missing.
Once I stopped answering questions about my leg from strangers and realized I didn’t have to be the Amputee Role Model of the Universe, I could see that there was probably more to who I was than just being an amputee. Fortunately for me, I had a fallback identity. I was a new mom, a stay-at-home mom, and I was relishing in this role.
Motherhood is an equalizer. I could easily keep up with the other moms at play groups, singing groups or just comparing notes about poop and teeth and first steps. That I was an amputee in those groups was a non-issue. We were all just being moms together. For the first time in my life I had acquaintances that didn’t even know I was an amputee. At first this was very uncomfortable for me, so afraid was I that I wouldn’t be accepted or liked. But I was. I was learning not only how to be myself with people, but who that self was.
Motherhood was a perfect segue for me to leave my Amputee identity behind. Now I am expanding, perhaps realizing for the first time, how much more there is to me than just an amputee or just a mom. I’ve even realized the past few months (I love being 50!) that I can be full of contradictions and paradox and even that’s okay. Uncomfortable? Absolutely. But it’s all good.
Now when I go to a party, I wear what I want and bring my whole self to the party, not just the piece of me that’s missing.