Welcome to October. The month of awareness. The month in which you must exhaust yourself by becoming aware of just about everything. No– I’m serious. Call it poor planning or call it coincidence but there are a ton of organizations vying for your attention this month. According to a random and unverified calendar, which I found through an extensive three-second Google search, October is:
- AIDS Awareness Month
- Down Syndrome Awareness Month
- Breast Cancer Awareness Month
- Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month
- Dental Hygiene Awareness Month <—- these are the people that bum you out on October 31st by giving you a toothbrush rather than that box of Jujubes you’ve been craving. Boooo.
- Vegetarian Awareness Month <—- is this a real thing?
- About 10 other awareness-months but I got tired of typing them out…
And, in case you weren’t aware enough as it is, October is also Spina Bifida Awareness Month.
Last October I answered readers’ questions about life with spina bifida (the good, the bad, and the handsome) but this year I really didn’t plan anything special. Good thing my SB friends are on top of it, by which I mean this:
My friend Sarah shared this image yesterday afternoon and put out a call (using the spina-bifida bat signal that each SB Mom receives upon diagnosis), asking the community to create their own images using the slogan and hashtag above. Here’s why I love the idea:
- The slogan answers one of the first questions that many of us asked when our kids were diagnosed. I myself remember wondering, “What does spina bifida look like, anyway?” And I didn’t just just mean physically– I wanted to know what the day-to-day was like, I wanted to know what to expect, I wanted to know that we would be okay. I remember telling my husband that I would give anything for one snapshot from the future, one image of our son that I could hold onto as proof that this kid was more than the fear and uncertainty I felt during that time.
- These images tell the truth about spina bifida. Often, new parents are told by well-meaning but inexperienced doctors that their child will have no quality of life and severe brain damage. Based on this, many mothers choose to terminate their pregnancies. These photos tell a different story– one much more hopeful and, I believe, much more true.
- The hashtag (#embracethebif) is perfection. Mainly because calling SB “the bif” makes it sound like a sweet new dance craze. Get down with your biffy self.
- The Internet is scary– this adds some positivity to the noise. Have you ever searched the Internet for photos of “spina bifida?” DON’T DO IT. People with disabilities are often misrepresented online but, I swear, the Google image search for SB is the absolute worst. Like many parents, I looked online for images and info that might help me to understand what SB “looked” like. Unfortunately, much of what I found was unhelpful and downright disturbing. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Wouldn’t it be nice if newly diagnosed parents could see the other side? Wouldn’t it be nice if folks who believe that people with spina bifida have no quality of life could see this instead:
So, if you’re a person living with SB or the parent of a child with SB, I suggest you join the fun. Just add “This is what spina bifida looks like” to your favorite photo and include the #embracethebif hashtag. You can share it with Sarah through her blog’s Facebook page. I’m joining in and creating a few photos of my own.
Since I’m apparently incapable of taking anything seriously and laughing at my kid is one of my favorite past times, I thought I might start with something like this…
Because that’s what it looked like around here yesterday. Angry toddler, runny nose, wanting all the ice cream. #reallife. Obviously, making a funny meme of your kid is so much funnier when you share it with friends, so I showed this to my SB mom buddies who countered with some pretty hilarious photos of their own. We’ve got quite a collection going…
It’s October. Be aware, ya’ll.