Sunday, March 26, 2017

Crashing a Public Women's Restroom in Disability Style

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We recently traveled with Noah, it's not easy.  In fact, although I'd like to say that perhaps we gain more skills on how to do it better each time, Noah throws us a new traveling curve ball because he likes to be a tad unpredictable. Just when I think I've found away his take off and landing sensory vomiting episodes with Motion Ease, a Vomit bag, and a bib to best protect his non-FAA approved Car seat (yes I'm a rule breaker for my child), from being covered in a sensory overload evidence, he'll do something he's never done before - just to keep us on our toes I'm sure.

I took Luke to the bathroom at the Orlando International Airport.  I couldn't find a family restroom the best that I tried for Noah.  I refuse to place him on a bathroom dirty floor to change him - I just can't do it.  I can't.  So I recline his wheelchair the best I can and it takes both his Dad and I to change him one lifts the bum, one switches out the old with the new, one holds him so he doesn't flop out, one pulls his pants up, one hollers to Luke to just stand there and not touch anything that isn't sanitary.... you get the idea.  It's not easy, nor a picnic or fun.  And it could be so much better if proper Changing Spaces were in place that allowed us to make this easier and change Noah with some dignity.  But until the world catches up with our needs we're doing the best we can.

While taking Luke to the bathroom I realized that the handicapped stall in the women's restroom was unusually awesome and rather perfect for our changing needs for Noah.  It was huge.  And by huge I mean had it's own personal sink in it, room to turn around, it probably could have accommodated two wheelchairs to be honest.  It would have made a decent family bathroom but instead was tucked away inside the women's public restroom.   I went back to Chris who was sitting at a Ruby Tuesday's table feeding Noah prior to our flight.  Told him I found a bathroom for Noah - but it was inside the women's restroom.
He looked at me like you're really going to attempt to change Noah all by yourself?  Until I gave him that look that was like "nope, buddy that's not what I had in mind."  Without me even saying a word, he's like "oh hell no, I can't go into a women's restroom."  I said, "we have to do this." 

He shook his head in disbelief of what I was proposing. I wanted him to just waltz in a public women's restroom.  He looked at me and said "are you trying to get me arrested, so we can't go home?"  Funny as that may have been (although I would have put up the bail money if needed), I was quite serious.  He was going in that bathroom and helping me change our 8 year old wheelchair bound child even if I had to push him the whole way into that stall.   No, wasn't an option. 

First I thought, well perhaps I should announce my husband's presence to all the ladies in there. But then I was like nope.  Advanced warning wasn't needed.  We're a family, he's not a bathroom threat to anyone.   Chris, walked behind me like a shrinking violet.  I kept telling him to come on already.  He walked like a sloth, dragging his feet in utter terror.   I was somewhat amused with his extreme discomfort about the situation.  And even more amused by the looks we received by other women in the bathroom.  I much didn't care.  I was standing my ground and marching into bathroom battle.  Some jaws wide open, some pretending to look away but then glancing my direction.  Little girls not even so much as thinking twice, because at young tender ages they haven't yet developed a sense of discrimination or dislike for differences yet.  Chris hustled into hiding into the large disability stall - he stood against the wall looking at me like he couldn't believe I was forcing him to do this.   I ushered Luke into the stall told him to stay in a corner with his hands clasped in in from of him and not to touch anything with germs while we worked on helping Noah.  Luke follows directions as if I put him through military school at age one.  I had no worries that he'd leave his corner germ-free post., which was great because I could place all my focus on changing Noah with the help of his Dad.

Noah's diaper change was a little bit messier than we had anticipated it would be, which always presents an extra layered challenge trying to do this while he remains tilted in a wheelchair.  It sucks really.  I won't play it up as anything less.  But the main goal is not to fumble our precious Noah onto the floor when we do this.  It took a bit longer to change him, but was really thankful for the sink inside the stall that certainly helped the situation.  Chris did his best to whisper as if was trying not to give away his location.  I laughed under my breath likely about the challenge of changing Noah in this way and having my husband backed against a tremendously uncomfortable situation.  If you can't laugh about it all, you'd lose your mind.  Laughter is important.  Never fail to laugh about the hard things.  I promise you it helps.

After Noah had been taken care of, and Luke was given permission to come out of his germ free corner, Chris looked at me for direction.  Part of me told him he should march out first just because I wanted to see everyone's reaction.  There isn't much like true shock value of a guy in a bathroom with his disabled child and family.  What fun right?  People need to see more of this - really they do.  They need to see how hard our reality is.  Why hide it from everyone?  Perhaps if I showed them enough things would get easier for us?  Or not -

But I took one for the team and just told him to follow me out.  The look in his eyes said could you please at least hurry me out?  It is honestly really sad that we've placed so much gender stigma on bathroom situations.   We all have to use one - and we all have different body parts.  So what?  I've used plenty of men's bathrooms at events and concerts back in the day when the women's bathroom was line was to eternity.  And the men were really great about it.  Wasn't there picking up a date (nor am I interested in looking at anything I shouldn't be)- I just had to pee really badly.   Will Noah's daddy ever get over the shyness? I doubt it.  Bless his heart he's just sweet in that way.  And cares a bit too much about what people think.  However, I have full faith in him that if I wasn't around he'd have the courage to go the distance for Noah and entering a women's bathroom if need be to get to the only and best changing location for Noah on his own.   He could do it, if the occasion required it.  He'd do anything for Noah, that much I know. 

That's why I chuckle whenever I see people have bathroom gender debates.  You all haven't a clue.  None, zip, nada.  Everyone wants to view things as black and white, and there are so many shades of grey in life.  We're so quick to judge, point a finger, and increase someone else's hardships and difficulties that we lack tolerance, patience, understanding and above all else kindness. 

Luckily for all the ladies that were present they didn't utter a word, although mind you I was ready and most certainly would have put anyone in their place that dared to question or say something about my husband entering a women's bathroom to help me with our severely disabled child.  I dared them to do so and shot back glances in the direction of all those that looked like they even might think about going there.  So the next time ladies that you see a guy in a bathroom - especially with a young child or one that is disabled.  Cut him a break, not all daddies are entering a bathroom because you think they're a predator.  Just calm down.  Do you bathroom business and move on. 

And for all of you that continue to remain uncomfortable with the idea that I'm now forcing Noah's daddy to enter women's restrooms if need be - then please fully support Changing Spaces worldwide to give us adequate changing space for Noah, so we don't have to make you feel uneasy about our situation.  Same with the dudes - if I think your bathroom area is equipped with what I need... I'm going in... wink wink. 


Noah's Miracle by Stacy Warden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.