By Kelsey Kliemola (Ms. Wheelchair Michigan 2014)
I remember thinking so many times, “I wish my life could be different. I wish I could be a size two and have a perfect body and do all the things everyone else can do. I wish I knew how to be perfect.” But that’s not my story. That’s not my reality.
Nearly 30 years ago, I was born with cerebral palsy. CP is defined as a disorder that often effects muscle control and movement, and can often effect cognition.
My life started off normally enough. My mom’s pregnancy was fairly normal. Until it wasn’t. At 28 weeks along, she was admitted into the hospital due to preterm labor. While there, her placenta ruptured. She then endured an emergency c-section. And there I was, a mere 2 pounds, 10 ½ ounces. I spent a long period of time in the NICU, and arrived home far earlier than the doctors had anticipated.
I wish my life could be different. I wish I could be a size two and have a perfect body and do all the things everyone else can do. I wish I knew how to be perfect.
But I was not unscathed. During my birth, I had suffered a grade 4 brain bleed, the highest that one can suffer. And, at 10 months old, I was not hitting the milestones I should have been hitting at that age. When my mom would stand me up on her lap, I couldn’t bear any weight. I crumbled.
Assuming something was wrong with my legs or hips, she took me to an orthopedist. He then told my mom, “Well, she has CP. She’ll never be able to walk, talk, hear or see. So bring her home and make her comfortable.”
“Well, she has CP. She’ll never be able to walk, talk, hear or see. So bring her home and make her comfortable.”
Being that this was long before the days of Google, my mom had no idea where to turn. Thankfully, she didn’t accept this as my fate. She managed to get into touch with resources that specialized in children with exceptional needs, and thus began my education.
I started school at a very early age. I had to learn how to do everything. Dress myself, feed myself, transferring from a wheelchair. These weren’t things my parents dreamed of for me. These aren’t things any parent dreams for their child. But, I continued on because I knew nothing else. I stayed in special education classes until first grade. I was then mainstreamed into regular education classes. This is where it got tough.
I was bullied relentlessly in middle and high school. I was the only girl with a disability in my whole school, so I stuck out. I was an easy target. I was told I was never going to be anything, that I was ugly. No one was ever going to love me. I was the girl in the wheelchair.
No one was ever going to love me.
By God’s grace, I was able to make it through high school and was accepted into college. I reveled in my new found freedom, and at the chance to shed my previous imperfections. This time, I was going to get it right. Though I still had CP, this time was going to be different. And it was. Because that’s when I met my husband.
While taking a break from studying one night, I decided to curtail my boredom by logging on to a chat room. Kevin, (my husband), messaged me because he liked my name. We then talked for several months before finally deciding to meet in person.
From the beginning, I was honest. I told him fairly early on in our conversations that I had a disability. His response? “I don’t care.” So when we did meet, he didn’t see the disability, or the surgery scars, or that I didn’t have a supermodel body. He saw me.
That was almost 10 years ago. Since then, we’ve had two beautiful, healthy, children. Children who have never once asked me why I’m in a wheelchair. To them, I’m just Mommy. I make delicious macaroni and cheese, am obsessed with hugs and kisses, and always let them win at Candy Land. I make sure their blankets always smell nice and even let them sneak a cookie before dinner on occasion.
To them, I’m just Mommy.
No, I may never be a size two. And I’ll never have the perfect body, or be the popular girl I desperately prayed to be. I might never be able to drive a car or know what it’s like to run a marathon. But Psalm 139:14 says, “I will praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” It’s a journey, letting go of perfection. And everyday I’m getting closer. Everyday I’m learning that I am more than enough through Jesus.
Kelsey is Ms. Wheelchair Michigan 2014. Since winning this title she has traveled all over Michigan to speak to schools and groups. She is an encouragment to those with disabilities to not give up on themselves and to find perfection in Christ. She also is an inspiration to those couples who wish to have children. Not only does she encourage those with disabilities she is an inspiration to those with out disabilities to love all of God’s creation and find their perfection and worth in Him and not others.
This title does not include a scholarship so Kelsey is raising funds to travel to California to compete for the National title in August. To find out more or follow Kelsey join her on her FB page. If you would like to support her with a monetary gift please contact Kelsey directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. She also has a fundraiser on May 15 at Pizza House.