If I’d been able to learn from that then maybe I wouldn’t have become such a drama queen about them myself! To say I had a ‘thing’ for a set of baby wheels is really like saying Imelda Marcos liked shoes – you see I was ever so slightly addicted! I gave up counting around the twenty mark...
For the first few, I reasoned with myself (and my husband!) that our daughter’s needs were not being met by the previous ones. Lucy was diagnosed with hip dysplasia at 6 weeks old and put into a restrictive harness keeping her knees bent and hips flexed in what’s endearingly called a ‘frog like position’! The reality is ‘normal’ clothes didn’t fit and nor did her new profile in the lovely pram I’d bought for her.
Then a year on and the hips still not in the correct position, we moved onto major surgery and the addition of a hip-spica cast, which kept the legs splayed out solid from chest to ankle – much more like a spatchcock chicken. However I was now aware that part of the new pram purchases were also driven by my need to ‘compensate’ myself for having a baby with disabilities. I went all out and bought the lovely Quinny Buzz I’d drooled over when pregnant but couldn’t justify in price.
And I got it in bubblegum pink, to coordinate with her purple cast, you see not just practical?! The shape did allow for her unusual position, helped with a cushion, but like many of the brands at that time, the seat was always a bit reclined. By the time she was two years old and her low tone was more of an issue, the permanent recline became a constant frustration for her.
I embarked a long journey of pushchair discovery and at the peak of my little habit, I was literally spending all evening every evening trawling the internet and researching my fix. The ‘buzz’ came in the hunt for the perfect set of wheels, with just the right seat positioning, fold mechanism, colour/pattern fabric and matching accessories.
The hit lasted shorter and shorter amounts of time with each purchase until the ‘down’ came with opening the box on delivery. I was no longer even getting satisfaction from the deal as it became a reminder of what I was denying.
Luckily I had bought popular brands that held their value well and I always managed to sell them quickly (once within 48 hours of my getting it!) and even made money on some of them. But eventually I reached a point where I had to admit that shop bought, mainstream whatever you want to call them, pushchairs really were not what my beautiful disabled daughter needed.
By the time she was four, she was also starting to outgrow the size and weight limit of ‘normal’ pushchairs and we started to get ‘those looks’ from other parents assuming that a child of her age should be able to walk. Quite simply coming to terms with her disability, came at around the same time as coming to terms with her need for equipment designed with her special needs in mind.
It was a stepping out of one world and acknowledging ours and embracing it. I still squirm now and again with the frustration that her special needs umbrella fold stroller doesn’t recline, which she needs for naps. I also dream of designing the perfect compact special needs pushchair, because lord knows I’ve got enough experience of them now, but I’m relieved I’ve kicked the habit and can now see them for what they are, a mode of transport and piece of essential equipment, not a status symbol.