I'm not a parent yet, so I can't imagine what it's like to have a child with Erb's Palsy. As a teacher I work with children on a daily basis. I've only ever taught one pupil with Brachial Plexus Injury who, like many others, had lots of motivation and adapted to their surroundings. After reading lots of articles, I found that this motivation often comes from the parents. I thought it was important to share a story from a mother's point of view. I'm sure many of you will connect with this story.
The hardest thing to reconcile with my son's birth injury that resulted in #erbspalsy is the fact that seconds before emerging earth side, he was whole. As a mama, it's the first thing you look for as you hold your baby for the first time. Simultaneously falling madly in love while scanning their tiny bodies, making sure all fingers and toes are accounted for. The birth was so traumatic that my brain hardly registered when the doctors tried to explain what had happened and what the future might hold for our son's right arm. I was just overwhelmed with gratitude that he was alive. My husband held all the anxiety and worry for both of us, listening intently and trying in vain to understand how and why this happened.
From that first day and for the next several weeks, Cameron had a full waiter's tip, hand turned backwards with no movement at all from his shoulder down. I can still remember holding the security blanket of denial close as I carefully pinned his sleeve to his chest with a safety pin to minimize any further injury, believing fully that this injury would not be part of his future. I held on to that false hope even as we took him to weekly physical therapy and chiropractic sessions. When he was about three weeks old he finally showed movement in his arm and we celebrated wildly when he raised his shoulder against gravity by the time he was five months old. As encouraging as these milestones were, we still didn't know how affected his arm would be.
What makes Erb's palsy unique is that without opening up the arm to see the nerves, you don't know for sure how damaged they are and therefore it's nearly impossible to get a concrete prognosis nor are you able to prepare yourself as a parent for the level of disability that your child might face. All you can do is wait and see. Throughout the next couple of years we we forced to accept that although he is nearly fully functional, Cameron will have to battle with Erb's palsy for the rest of his life.
"He's also just coming to realize that his right arm can't do all the things his left arm can. Every time he notices, it hurts a tender part of my heart, the part where I ache for him to know how perfect and loved he is."
Fast forward to now and we have a rough and tumble four year old who lives for riding his bike off of dirt jumps and going across the monkey bars. The only time I am reminded of his disability is during stretches as he strains to straighten his crooked arm or when we catch a glimpse of his ever increasing scapula winging. He's also just coming to realize that his right arm can't do all the things his left arm can. Every time he notices, it hurts a tender part of my heart, the part where I ache for him to know how perfect and loved he is. As much as we're trying to keep his arm from tightening, we're trying to do the same for his own heart and self confidence. Reminding him daily that he is fearfully and wonderfully made and that his Erb's arm has super powers that he hasn't discovered yet. Thankfully, the day hasn't come yet when another child points out his arm or makes a comment but we know it's coming. In that way, my husband and I are preparing our hearts as well.
Through struggle there will be opportunities
Every single thing Cameron will need to get through this life is right inside of him. His God-given talents will shine through regardless of his injury. He has to physically adapt to do certain things but that's not a bad thing. Watching him throw a mean curveball with his Erb's arm because he can't throw it over hand is proof that he will find his own capacity in his own way. I am positive that this injury happened for a reason and that through the struggle, there will be opportunities for Cameron to grow and develop his character in ways we can only imagine. In the course of this journey that began in heartbreak, we know without a doubt that our son is completely whole exactly how he is, and we have unrelenting hope for his future.
Thank you so much to Shawneen Whitaker for taking the time to write this article. I loved this story. I loved the positivity and honesty. One thing that really grabbed me was the idea that Cameron's Erb's happened for a reason and through struggle there will be opportunities. I know from my own personal experience that this is true. (See this blog).
Shaween - Instagram @shawneenwhitakerartwork
Much love x