Finding My Nemo

We decided months ago that Finding Dory would be the first movie we took Avery to see in theaters. Since he’s 2 and a half now, he enjoys watching TV and understands a great deal despite his brain malformation. Polymicrogyria has taken his ability to use his left arm and given him a speech and learning delay- so far- but it hasn’t stolen his sense of adventure or attention span. He loves cartoons! He also has cerebral palsy as a result of the PMG and we are realizing that, as he grows, it will become increasingly more difficult to make accomodations for him. So now, while he’s small, we decided to do what may be too difficult to do often in the future. To do something normal.

This isn’t about Dory, though. It’s about Nemo. My Nemo.

The night before we took him, we decided to watch Finding Nemo since it had been years since his father and I last saw it. So many years that I wasn’t a special needs parent the last time I watched it. So many years that all of the little things that jumped out at me this time weren’t even given a second thought before. Why had I never looked at Nemo and seen his disability? Sure, I realized that his small fin was part of the storyline. But I never realized how integral it was to the story.

Avery was born weighing just a little over a pound. You may wonder, what is such an extreme preemie made of? Strength. Determination. Fight. Courage. For the first four months of his life, Avery lived in the NICU. Fighting for each breath. Just like Nemo was determined to return to his father, my son was determined to fight for the very chance to come home to his. They both fought insurmountable odds to return to their families. Realizing the parallels, tears began to stream down my cheeks.

Me? I’m Marlin. I’ve taken on the role of helicopter Mom with fervor. “Avery, be careful.” “He CAN’T eat that.” “Make sure he is breathing well.” “I’m just checking his breathing.” “Yes, again.” Don’t go to far, or crawl too quickly, or stand near that person who just sneezed. Like Pavlov’s dogs, I’ve been trained. I expect the worst because, historically, I’ve gotten the worst. Marlin and I, you see, I think we suffer from PTSD. We fear for good reason.

As the movie went on I realized I was being taught a lesson, not only as a mother but as a person. If Nemo’s imperfect fin could be his “lucky” fin, why can’t Avery’s left arm be his “lucky” arm? Why does it have to be a disability? We’ve been taught to look at differences as imperfections for so long and instead of embracing them we’re embarrassed by them. I don’t want to see the day that my son isn’t proud of every unique part of himself. So what if he isn’t made like everyone else. He was given a journey all his own. That journey just so happens to include a unique brain and a lucky fin.

Avery’s journey is far from over. He will have many more mountains to climb in the future. I’ll have many more worries. New, terrifying worries. How will we ever make it? That’s easy. One breath, one flip of a lucky fin, one “lefty did it!” at a time.

Just like Nemo did.

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