There’s gotta be something about magazine covers these days. Sports Illustrated Kids and DC Kids aren’t the only ones featuring children with disabilities as full, productive, and loved members of society. Parents Magazine has now joined the beautiful mix.
The cover of Parents‘ February 2013 issue features beautiful little Emily Kiecher. This sweet and friendly-looking little girl has spina bifida, and she uses a walker. Parents‘ blog writer, Ellen Seidman, writes:
[S]he has spina bifida, a condition that affects 1 in 2500 children caused when the spinal column and surrounding tissue and skin fail to close up in utero. Emily, her mom Liz, 36, and dad Christopher, 35, live in Buffalo, New York. Liz is an at-home mom who runs a handmade hair accessories business, The Sassy Damsel (guess who her favorite model is?) and Christopher’s a high school teacher. The couple are active fundraisers for the Spina Bifida Association, and have helped raise more than $20,000.
Thankfully, unlike some children with spina bifida, Emily is able to walk. Her mother expects that she will one day be able to walk without a walker, but still with the aid of forearm crutches.
Spina bifida is all too often used by parents as a reason for abortion, despite the fact that many children with spina bifida – probably most – can function nearly completely normally in society. (Who defines “normal” anyway, and why is it a measuring rod for the value of human life?)
Emily’s mom excitedly shared with Ellen Seidman about watching Emily’s first steps last year and shared that the cute youngster is able to walk and run in her decked-out gold walker.
Her hips are dislocated, but it doesn’t affect her gait, which is pretty good. She has a shunt in her head, to help drain fluid from her brain, and luckily she’s never had any problems with it. She has no surface feeling from her waist down, so I can’t put her on a slide in the middle of summer because she wouldn’t be able to feel it’s burning hot. She has low muscle tone on her left side. Every week she get physical and speech therapy, and also gets occupational therapy, aqua therapy, and hippotherapy.
The only sad and scary part about Emily’s story is the part about her life before she was born. Well, more accurately, the part about the advice her mother was given. Emily’s mom told Ellen exactly what happened:
Four years ago, when I was pregnant and went for an 18-week exam, the technician stopped and told us we needed to speak to the OB. She said the pictures showed a hole in the baby’s spine, and that it could be spina bifida. I had no idea what that even meant. I was on prenatal vitamins for a year before I conceived, I was physically fit, I led a healthy lifestyle. The doctor sent us to a perinatologist that day, who did a sonogram. She confirmed it was spina bifida. I was hysterical. She told us our baby would have paralysis, would need a head shunt, and could have various degrees of learning disabilities. She wrapped up our visit by asking if we wanted to terminate the pregnancy. We said, ‘No.’
And “no” is exactly how simple it should be. No, babies with spina bifida like Emily and Titus don’t deserve to die. No, babies with Down syndrome like Paisley don’t deserve to die. No, babies with cerebral palsy like Cayden don’t deserve to do. And no, babies with Trisomy 18 like Bella don’t deserve to die. No to death. Yes to life, and yes to parents like Emily’s!
You can read the full interview with Emily’s mom here. (Pay special attention to the advice she gives Emily when people stare at her in stores – it’s priceless.) Kudos to magazines like Parents and Sports Illustrated Kids that are showing the world the beauty, life, and incredible love in precious children like Emily. As Ellen Seidman writes:
The fact that she’s holding onto a walker and has foot braces is almost irrelevant… except for the fact that history is being made.
Let’s continue to make history and proclaim with loud voices that these children deserve to live!