The Wheelchair: The Ups and Downs of It All

“Mom, you can say no, but I need to take Adelaide out in the wheelchair before her appointment tomorrow. Do you want to come?” I was really saying, “I need you, Mama, because I am nervous and scared.” My mom knew the underlying message. She has known me 32 years. So she agreed to be my buddy for the maiden voyage.

Our first trip was supposed to be church the day before. Our family of five. Conquering the church parking lot. Using the elevator. But we ended up with sick kids who hadn’t slept. We barely made it to a little birthday get-together with Dave’s family. So using the wheelchair was at the bottom of my exhausting list of to-dos.

Monday hit and my fear was that Adelaide’s first trip in her wheelchair would take place at her Tuesday doctor appointment, resulting in some sort of complete meltdown. Dave was at the beginning of a whirlwind week at work, so I knew that I needed to do something. And on my own. I unloaded the stroller and put the chair into the van.


It was emotional. One of my most bittersweet moments as a mom in those few minutes. I cried. Then, I started the van and drove. I picked up my mom and headed to the mall. Ready to get this wheelchair milestone done and out of the way.

I unloaded the wheelchair and got Adelaide all situated. I was about to throw up. That feeling you get as you wait in line for a roller coaster? All that. In my throat. Excitement, anticipation, and that deep-down-in-your-gut realization that you are being brave.



I chose TJMaxx, because Adelaide loves that place. I figured we could find a toy to keep her happy if she was overwhelmed. I also wanted to find some flowers to complete my Lenten decor.

We got stares. People pointed. Oooohed and aaaahed. I didn’t really make eye contact, because I was trying not to cry again. Adelaide was being extremely loud. So excited to be up and able to see people. She was shouting to strangers and trying to get their attention. My eyes quickly moistened with joyful mommy tears. Adelaide loved her new ride. She was happy.

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We found a doll, which Bess quickly commandeered. We went back to the toys and found our blonde ballerina’s identical twin sister. Sisters with matching dolls. One of the lovely perks to being a GirlMom.

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We went over to Jo-Ann’s to get some flowers. Everything was out of my budget, but I found some pussy willow and blossom branches on sale. They were exactly what I wanted when I found the vase at Goodwill. Adelaide took her bottle and napped. Completely peaceful in her completely accommodating chair. It’s amazing how the right tools can make all the difference.

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That evening, Dave came home from work and asked if we could return to TJMaxx. This time, I was all confidence unloading the chair, strapping Adelaide in, and attaching Dollie the Ballerina.

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As soon as we walked into the store, we saw one of Dave’s coworkers. Adelaide has seen her dozens of times, but never really ‘saw’ her while in her stroller. But up in that chair, sitting straight and tall, Adelaide shouted to her. Talked to her. Tried to grab her face and hands. She was having a conversation, and I have no idea what about. It made me catch my breath. My little nonverbal girl was out in the world, making her opinions on life known. And loving every minute.

We have navigated dozens of outings with our new wheels. Each time is easier than before. With Bess on my hip in a ring sling and Graham holding onto the armrest, we are embracing this new normal.

And, to be honest, I wish we would’ve done it earlier. Miss Independent is loving her new view. She is that girl who trades places in line to be in the front car of that roller coaster, while I sit behind marveling at her new-found fearlessness.

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