If God gave me a baby, I can raise a baby.
It's 9 a.m. and 2-year-old Halle is up on a stool helping her mom make breakfast. She cracks an egg against the counter and proudly presents it — still unbroken — to her mother, who finishes the job. She pokes at the egg with a wire whisk, pushing the bowl across the counter and flicking yolk everywhere in the process. She dumps the half-scrambled mixture into a frying pan.
She does it all using just one hand. Not because she has to. But because that's the way Mom does it. Mom only has one hand.
"I try to get her to use both hands, but sometimes she just insists," said Halle's mother, Katy Pluim, who lost her right arm in a car accident when she was 16 years old. "She thinks she has one hand, too."
The toddler's odd habit is just one of the extra little things that Pluim, 23, will have to figure out as she tackles the job of being a mother. Babies don't come with instruction manuals and every mother has a learning curve. But in Pluim's world, even simple things like changing diapers, making a bottle and folding laundry require creativity. Sometimes Pluim finds the task overwhelming — like the time Halle started choking on her own phlegm and Pluim couldn't give her the necessary CPR with one arm. But she tackles it one day at a time.
Though she's a private person, a few months ago Pluim decided to start writing a blog chronicling her journey. Her entries are short and simple and address the same topics most mommy bloggers talk about: children, homemaking and self-improvement. But instead of giving out crafty tips, Pluim talks about the frustrations and joys of overcoming challenges. Few will ever have to go through what Pluim has, learning to navigate life with just one arm, but her triumph over her fears of inadequacy are universally inspiring.
Pluim always wanted to be a mother, but from the time she lost her arm to the moment she discovered she was pregnant, the petite blonde has avoided thinking about the topic. She struggled to put her own hair in a ponytail. How was she going to take care of another human being?
Halle was a surprise. Pluim took six at-home pregnancy tests before she accepted the truth: she was going to be a mother. As her tummy swelled, the questions from well-meaning friends and family started rolling in.
"How are you going to change her bum?"
"How are you going to hold her?"
"How are you going to dress her?"
Pluim didn't have an answer. She was so petrified, she couldn't think about it. She was five months along before she could bring herself to look at the baby section at Wal-mart.
"Do we dare walk in there?" she asked her husband, scanning the racks of little pink dresses warily. "No," she decided, turning her back abruptly and marching on to the frozen food section. "Not yet."
When Halle was born, Pluim didn't even have a car seat to take her home from the hospital.
It took Pluim a month of anxiety and not sleeping and tears to rediscover herself. She wasn't helpless. She'd learned to snowboard with one arm. She'd learned to do yoga. "If God gave me a baby, I can raise a baby," she concluded.
It was just a matter of figuring it out.
If she used the stub of her right arm to hold up Halle's legs, changing diapers soon became easy. She learned to style Halle's feathery blonde hair in pig tails by using her teeth. It was a struggle, but she learned how to squeeze the squirming baby in and out of clothes — managing buttons and all.
"I think the hardest thing really was getting over my fear of becoming a mother," she said. "Everything is a little challenging physically, but if you have the right mind set there really isn't anything you can't do with one arm you can do with two."
In her Orem home last week, Pluim brightly reported, "Halle just turned two and she's still alive."
Halle demanded "sauce" for her eggs, so by the time she finished slurping them down, her chubby cheeks were covered in ketchup. Pluim went for a rag and wiped the toddler down.
"Now give me your hands," she told Halle. "It's time to wash up."
With her hand full of rag, Pluim couldn't force the little girl to comply. She relied on Halle to cooperate. And, remarkably, she did.
Halle knows Pluim only has one arm, Pluim said. When her father changes her diaper, Halle squirms and squeals like 2-year-olds are prone to do. But when her mother changes her diaper, the little girl is still as stone. Sometimes, when Pluim is struggling to close a door or turn off a light because her hand is full (usually with Halle), the toddler will shut the door and flip the switch without being asked.
Having Halle made things harder, Pluim said, because she had so many more things to figure out how to do. But she also made things easier. Since the little girl came along, Pluim has fewer dark, depressing days when she loses hope and gets frustrated with her lot in life. When Halle reaches out her tiny hand to help, Pluim smiles, turns to her husband and observes, "Looks like I got my arm back."
Read Pluim's blog at katypluim.blogspot.com.
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