A few months ago my 3-year-old innocently studied her favorite baby doll, one of my beloved dolls from childhood that my mom saved for me. I was not prepared for the question that followed, even though I had been mentally preparing for this moment over the last several years.
“Mama, why doesn’t my baby have [leg] braces just like me?”
Her sudden realization stunned me into silence for a moment, and in her endearing toddler way, she grabbed my face between her hands and asked me again more urgently.
Searching for the answer I had carefully prepared months in advance (but was nowhere to be found), I blurted out “Baby Sally (that’s right, this baby is old enough to be named after the Dick and Jane series) doesn’t use braces to make her legs strong, but I bet if you ask Santa he can bring you a baby that does have braces just like you.”
And there you have it, folks. My total amateur mom move. Did I mention this conversation happened in December? It did.
Previous life experience had taught me that I would most likely need to move heaven and earth to make this happen for my beautiful girl. We had already gotten her a Bitty Baby doll for Christmas (thank you, Costco, for that sale), and I frantically searched the American Girl website for anything resembling a leg brace for her. Maybe the cast they sell could be modified into something that fit? Could my husband possibly, discreetly sequester the 3D printer at work to make one and not get fired? Maybe someone on Etsy could make and ship one in time?
So many children wear leg braces. Why was this so hard?
Then, in a desperate move, I mentioned my dilemma to my daughter’s beloved orthotist, Brad, at our next appointment at Boston Orthotics and Prosthetics. Without hesitation, he told me, “Yeah, no problem. I can do that. It will take me about a half-hour, but I can definitely do it before Christmas.” He went on to tell me that they make a lot of orthotics for “lovies,” mostly teddy bears, and that they’ve never had a request for a doll. But he would make it happen for us. I thanked him profusely and barely got to my car before I started to cry with relief.
This was really going to happen.
I giddily told my husband and best friend all about my new plan to have the braces already on the baby in the box when my daughter opened it on Christmas morning so it looked like they belonged there the whole time. I could hardly contain my excitement.
I dropped her off at preschool and rushed to the Peabody office just a few days before Christmas. By this point, every staff member I encountered knew about the baby doll braces and was magically just as excited as I was. Brad brought the doll out, looking as proud as could be, and knowing the powerful difference visibility makes for people of all ages. The office staff excitedly agreed my daughter would love it, and they also noted how special it was.
It was the truest embodiment of Christmas spirit I’ve ever encountered. Our own little Christmas miracle.
My husband and I carefully pulled open the box, put the braces on the baby, and then wrapped her up. The braces looked just like my daughter’s, right down to the pink velcro.
Christmas morning came, and we anxiously waited for her to open the box.
She looked at the doll’s red hair and blue eyes, and then she incredulously exclaimed, “She has braces!” So much emotion enveloped her little body she didn’t know what to do with herself. She now feels so much pride in her ability to take the baby’s braces on and off all by herself and in pretending to teach her to walk.
In her new baby, she found commonality. She found visibility — a toy that tangibly looked like her — and unlocked something I had taken for granted.
The way manufacturers make toys matters.
But most importantly, kindness matters.
Thank you a million times over, Brad from Boston Orthotics and Prosthetics, for giving all of us such a priceless gift. I, for one, will never forget it.