My name is Christine Scott. I’m a forty-six-year-old mother of five children and I grew up with a mentally disabled sister. I know Barbara was inspired when she asked me to contribute to the Uniting Caregivers blog. Processing the memories and spending time reminiscing with my mother about my sister’s life is exactly what I needed—and my mom too. Thank you, Barbara, for listening to the Spirit’s promptings.
It’s time to share my story.
When babies makes their entrance into the world, fingers and toes are counted and soft cheeks are kissed. That newborn scent is inhaled and it feels like those in attendance have been transported to heaven—at least for a moment. Expectations are high. Parents look into their beautiful child’s face and eagerly watch for a glimpse into what the future holds for their precious little one. They picture milestones: that first smile, that first word, and that first step. They can’t wait to see how their beautiful child is going to grow and progress.
But what happens when those long awaited milestones don’t happen, when friends and loved ones question your child’s progress, and maybe suggest something is not quite right? When illness and hospital stays become commonplace, how do these parents cope?
My sister, Laura, was born on July 3, 1967, the first child of Klaus and Elaine Hill. Laura didn’t come into the world in the anticipated way. My parents lived in Hoystville, Utah, an hour’s drive from the nearest hospital. Since it was my mom’s first baby, she didn’t know what to expect. She didn’t realize the back pain she was experiencing meant she was in labor, and when she finally figured it out—there wasn’t enough time to drive to the hospital. As a result, my sister was born in a parking lot at Parley’s Summit, in Parley’s canyon. And that’s what it says on her birth certificate. “Place of Birth: Parley’s Summit.” No joke.
No one thinks they’re ever going to have to deliver a baby on their own in the car, right? My young and inexperienced dad rose to the occasion like my mom’s very own knight in shining armor and the delivery went pretty well. I don’t know if he drew on his experiences of living through World War II in East Prussia, but he safely delivered his daughter and drove his wife and baby to the hospital.
My dad passed away when I was ten and I wish I could go back in time and ask him about his fears and worries at this moment in his life. I’d like to know about the strength he drew on to provide for his daughter in wife in the face of such scary and uncertain circumstances.
There was one problem my dad didn’t realize, but he couldn’t have done anything about it anyway. My sister was born three to four weeks early—and as a result—was not getting enough oxygen. As a result, the cells in her brain were damaged during the remaining thirty-minute drive to the hospital.
Mom and baby were released from the hospital in the typical way and everything seemed to be fine despite Laura’s rocky entrance into the world. My mom quickly settled into the life of a new mom, enjoying her beautiful daughter and running her tiny home. As time passed, Laura didn’t crawl, she scooted on her bottom, and at twenty months she wasn’t walking or talking and didn’t show any interest in being potty-trained.
Well-meaning family and friends commented on Laura’s lack of progress, but my mom refused to believe them. Her response: “She isn’t that delayed for an eighteen-month-old. She’s just a late bloomer.”Laura was beautiful. Laura was perfect. She was everything my mom dreamed her to be, so she didn’t listen. Even the family doctor supported my mom’s theory about my sister being a late bloomer.
Looking back, my mom admitted she didn’t want to know. She didn’t want to face the hard, cold reality that something was seriously wrong with her baby.
Two years later I was born, which helped my sister developmentally more than anything else. She now had a living, breathing model of how a normal child progressed constantly at her side. Besides, she couldn’t let her little sister show her up. She walked within weeks after I took my first steps, but she still never crawled. Up until the time I walked, scooting on her bottom got her where she wanted to go. She began to put together simple sentences. Things were looking up for my sister. My mom’s worries were finally being laid to rest. She could now breathe a little easier and look those family members and friends in the face and say, “Look, she’s fine, just like I told you.”
Until Laura experienced her first seizure.
As I reflect back on that time in my mom’s life, on her fears and how alone she must have felt, I wish I could put my arms around her and my dad and pull them into the embrace of a loving God and having that supreme guidance and comfort the Holy Ghost provides. It would have made all the difference. But they were both strong and they did the best they could, and I love them for it.
This ends the first part of my story of growing up with a mentally disabled sister, which I will continue over the next few weeks. I hope I will provide some insights which may help you with some struggles you face as a caregiver.
Thank you Christine for sharing part 1 of Laura’s Story. We look forward to your future segments.