As we rode in the car silent after the first neurology appointment with Max over 7 years ago, I couldn't keep the tears from streaming down my face. We had no diagnosis. There was no talk of a rare metabolic disease. There was no talk of severe forms of epilepsy. There was no talk of surgeries, and physical and developmental disabilities.
We left only with a test done to see if the shaking he was doing was anything to worry about. But I had one thing on my mind.
The first words that I could form to Steve through my silent sobs, "I don't want him to be retarded.".
And then I sobbed more...harder that time, and without restraint.
The guilt at that point, that punch right in the heart that took my breath away, the feeling that I didn't want him to be retarded, was the thing that made me sob. What did that mean? He was who he was...he was my baby...why did that come out of my mouth? Did it mean I didn't want my perfect little 3 month old baby?
Of course that wasn't the case. When those words came out of my mouth, without thought, without filter, it was a feeling deep inside, I don't want him to be different. I don't want him to be picked on. I don't want people to think he's anything but the perfect baby I saw him as. I didn't want doctors to think he wasn't worth helping because he was "just retarded".
We do have a diagnosis, several in fact. And with all of those diagnosis, I've never heard the term "mentally retarded" to label him medically or to qualify his mental abilities. Max has never been, to my knowledge, been called a retard out of meanness.
But, when I hear that word used, flippantly, or harshly, I can still feel that punch right in the heart. That initial moment of, "please don't treat my baby any different than the perfect human being he is.". Each time that word is used to label someone or something as "stupid" or to say that someone is less than perfect, it furthers the disrespect for all humans.
Those who know Max know that he is not stupid. He does have so much to offer in this world. He's beautiful, and bright, and deserves the same respect any one else does.
And that is why I have again this year, taken the pledge to End The Word.
It's for my son. It's for another new mom who will leave a doctor's visit shattered that her child will be looked at as not equal to other kids because of medical diagnosis. It's for the word to get out that being disrespectful with your words and name calling is not okay.
So, if you use the word retard, or retarded, please reconsider. Remember, RESPECT for all people.