The labor and delivery nurse was young and new and in a rush. She knew she should have made three trips to get the newborn babies, but in her haste she grabbed all three at the same time. She pressed them against her chest as she shuffled down the hallway. She made it halfway when the middle baby started to slip. She pressed her hands together in one last effort, but it was too late. Myrna – the baby who had only been in this world for a few minutes – landed on her head and started convulsing on the cold linoleum floor.
At home the convulsions persisted. Myrna’s mother remembered Myrna shaking so much that the crib actually vibrated at night. Finally Myrna’s parents took her to Katz's Hospital in East New York where the doctors confirmed that the drop had caused brain trauma resulting in epilepsy.
After several trials Myrna’s parents discovered a medication potent enough to stop the seizures during the day, which allowed Myrna to go to school. The seizures would still happen from time to time but for the most part Myrna was able to have a normal adolescence.
Myrna had known of Joe for a long time because he lived one block away and she had gone to school with his sister. When Joe returned from World War II they started dating and eventually got married. Their first few years or marriage were idyllic. They wanted children. Joe was a brilliant man and everyone assumed their children would be brilliant.
When Myrna was giving birth to their first child, Bonnie, she suffered an epileptic seizure during the birthing process. The doctor administered Myrna’s epilepsy medication to stop the seizure and Bonnie was born without issue.
The first few years with Bonnie were the happiest of Myrna’s life. She relished creeping into Bonnie’s room at night – lying next to her baby, pressing Bonnie against her body as they listened to music. It wasn’t until Bonnie was three years old that the doctors were able to determine that she was mentally disabled.
“What did I do to deserve this?” Myrna asked the doctor.
“It wasn’t you. It was the seizure you had while giving birth, it put undue pressure on the baby’s cranium.”
“Will it happen again?” Myrna asked. She and Joe wanted to have more children.
“Not unless you have another seizure during the birthing process.” The doctor comforted her. “Which we’ll be better prepared for the next time around.”
Myrna trusted the doctor and they had another child, but whereas with Bonnie things appeared normal for a while, with Eileen it was immediately apparent something was seriously wrong. As a newborn Eileen didn’t even know how to drink milk. Eileen was significantly mentally disabled and also physically incapacitated – unable to ever walk or talk or feed herself.
It wasn’t until years later that the doctors determined what had caused the mental and physical disabilities. It wasn’t the seizures. It was the medication treating the seizures.
Myrna stopped taking the epilepsy medication immediately. She and Joe waited a decade, hoping the medication would clear from Myrna’s body. They finally had a son, Jeffrey, and while he didn’t have any significant mental disabilities, Jeffrey struggled with cognitive issues throughout his life.
Raising their three disabled children, Myrna and Joe had wonderful support – but there was only so much friends and families could do. Joe ended up teaching social studies at Fresh Meadows Junior High. He could have achieved more but his responsibilities at home restricted his professional aspirations. They fought. One time Joe even held a broken piece of glass to his wrist, “I would have left a long time ago if not for the children!”
But throughout the difficulties of raising three disabled children, Myrna and Joe always abided by one maxim: never be ashamed of the family they had created. Their family wasn’t perfect but what family was? They never hid their children or disguised their disabilities. They were a proud family –
taking their children to the parks and playgrounds and movies that the other families went to.
One time, later in life, Myrna went to sit at shared table with her family. A lady at the table looked at Myrna and said, “I don’t want your family sitting at the same table as me!”
Myrna squinted her eyes and furrowed her brow at the woman. “Too bad!” She exclaimed as she sat down with her family.
Goose Chronicles Outtakes:
“What is a truth you’ve learned in your life?”
“When you laugh everyone laughs with you, but when you cry you cry alone.”
“How do you remain so strong?”
“I have no choice. People always ask me if I’m made of iron. I tell them I am human, just like anyone else.”