Updated: Jun 10, 2018
I’d like to start by saying that I’ve always liked my name. Growing up, whenever I met a person that didn't care for their name or preferred to use their middle or nickname instead of their given name it always made me feel lucky.
Fast forward 25 years... I had just moved back from out of state when I received an important looking letter. I remember thinking ....Ugh, this looks like I owe a lotta something to someone. At that moment, I had no idea that I would be opening an envelope that would reveal the true meaning of my name, Dawn.
The letter was from a group of lawyers requesting that I attend a meeting with them concerning my birth. I immediately called the person responsible for giving me life with a mind full of questions. I knew I was born a few months prematurely but I was starting to realize that there was a bit more to the story. Apparently my caring mother left out some important details in order to make sure I never felt anything but love and wanted.
As the story goes I was born at six months and I weighed less than a bag of sugar at 2 lbs. My mother said I shot out like a rocket into the labor nurse’s chest, I was blue and I had a collapsed chest. Doctor James Fox gave me my first breath of life at 1:07 am that early September day in 1972. They rushed me away to the NICU, leaving my mother alone without having seen me. Dr. Fox returned from the NICU telling my mother that it will be a positive thing if the baby survives the next 24 hours. On the second day, my mother requested that a priest to come to bless me.
For the first few days of surviving, I was referred to simply as "Baby". My mother wanted to name me, inspired by her daily mantra "With each new day there comes a dawn", so came my name. As I got bigger my mother was permitted visitation three times a week, taking two buses to reach me. She would scrub her elbows down with iodine putting a paper outfit over her clothes, hair, and shoes then she slid her hands into the holes of the incubator with rubber gloves looking at my see through skin and touching my feet.
The nurses started calling me "Sarah Bernhardt" because I often looked dramatic with crossed legs and a tiny hand on my forehead. They started to feed me with an eyedropper, getting bigger as the days passed. Finally, after three months almost hitting a whopping five pounds, I was able to go home just in time for Christmas. I had to still be under a lot of care but it was up to my mother at this point. When I was 3 years old I got my first clear chest x-ray. Mom did a great job because looking at me today you would never have known any of this.
Ok, back to the meeting with the lawyers. They informed me that they represented a class action lawsuit against a company that made IUD birth control back in the day. The product had been taken off the market due to all the babies being born prematurely and having birth defects.
I remember parking outside the ominous concrete building, taking a few deep breaths... thinking about what my mom said: "Tell them the truth, that's all". I looked at my letter with the room number and off I went. I opened a heavy door that leads to a large dim almost empty room. As I walked towards the end of this unusually large room, there was a long table with six lawyers and a single empty seat. It felt a bit surreal and very uncomfortable. I said "Hello" and as soon as I sat down in the empty chair the lawyers started flipping through their massive stacks of papers... calling out numbers and reading short sentences off pages... they started at me with a barrage of questions about my childhood and medical past. They read about how the IUD had caused things such as deafness, blindness, learning disabilities, brain damage, missing appendages, and in some cases death. The list was endless, the lawyers returned to asking me a question on how it may have affected me... It was the first time I connected "it" to something and the first time I would have to say "it" out loud... ("It" is so minute in comparison to the list that the lawyers rattled off, I felt embarrassed by that, I was also just as embarrassed to admit "it" for the first time to anyone) I said "I am dyslexic".
Next, they asked me about how it has and continues to affect me. I told them it was simple things in school like hiding most of the time if we were to read out loud or do work on the chalkboard so I wouldn't get teased (at that time schools didn't even really know or understand dyslexia). Being a waitress in my teens or working the register at that time - always trying to figure out the best way not to make mistakes with numbers or letters. I mostly shied away from anything that would make me look or feel dumb growing up. With that they excused me.
Weeks later I got a very little sum of money, I used some to pay bills and shared the rest with my family so they could do the same.
What I learned that day was I myself held Dawn back from many opportunities, not dyslexia. I learned how I love my name with all of its meaning. Most importantly I learned how incredibly lucky and grateful I am to be here as I am.