The Push Game

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The pregnancy was emotionally difficult for Jack’s birth mother.

Early in 2005, technicians discovered through an ultrasound that his legs were not growing at a regular rate. Best estimates indicated they would be shorter than normal, but doctors did not know the extent of – or what was causing – the deformity appearing in the printouts. Because of the severity in what they saw from the ultrasound, doctors also wanted to do a test on the birth mom’s amniotic fluid. “If his legs aren’t growing right,” they told her, “then it is possible he will be mentally disabled too.”

But the birth mom was skeptical.

The test was risky, and there was valid concern that the long needle used would stab Jack – a grave and potentially-fatal possibility. Like her parents, she was also concerned that a family would not want to adopt him if there were both physical and developmental issues; one family had already backed out of the adoption process when the issue with his legs was discovered. It almost seemed like a pointless test; the family was already struggling with a physical disability, and now the doctors wanted to check for a developmental one. It was a trying time for her, stuck between wanting to do the right thing for Jack and the science which was telling her that things for him were not going to be great.

And to top it off, Jack was pushing on her stomach.

As babies often do, he was moving around inside the womb. He didn’t really kick all that much, but during those moves he would wiggle and push – hard she told me – against the wall of her stomach. After three days of discomfort, she gently pressed on her tummy out of frustration.

Jack pushed back.

This was exciting for her. She started pushing in multiples – two, maybe three – and each time Jack would push back in the same amount. This went on for three more days, and it became The Push Game for them. She would push and he would answer. At one point she saw the outline of his hand pressing out against her stomach, and they would “hold hands” through the lining. It was a special time for her, and also the moment she knew there was nothing wrong with Jack’s mental development. The test was never done.

She concluded with confidence that there was no need.

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