“Mommy can’t.”

Ethan sat in my lap, snuggled against my chest, rambling on in toddler-speak about the stars out his window. The conversation lulled as he took my hand into his. At two years old, his hands were already larger than mine, and much, much stronger.

I was born with a rare congenital birth defect called Arthrogryposis. In the womb, my arms didn’t move enough to develop proper muscle tone and the joints from my shoulders to fingertips locked into place.

Growing up, as I learned to eat, write, drive and live using my feet like hands, I didn’t often wonder what sort of life I’d have. I felt like a normal girl, so why wouldn’t I have a normal life? Only now do I understand how lucky and rare I am. I am a mother with a physical disability.

Ethan intently studied my hand, then his own. He flexed and extended his fingers, then tried to force mine to do the same; they don’t. In despair, he sighed and looked up at me with his dark chocolate eyes. “It’s not working,” he broke the news. “It needs batteries.”

I couldn’t help but laugh at such a precious assessment, but it was the first time he’d really noticed that Mommy is different. I couldn’t help but wonder what other questions would come, and whether I’d be able to communicate answers that he could understand. Answers I don’t even understand.

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