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Opinion: The magic of babies and toddlers

After her brain injury, columnist Diane Nakamura rediscovered the simple joys of being around babies

For most of my adult life, I wasn’t really a fan of babies and toddlers. 
I chose not to have kids because I felt I could not deal with childbirth, be sleep deprived, change diapers, potty train, clean up puke, chase after kids, be a working parent and juggle all of these responsibilities well. 
As a kid, I was the favourite babysitter in my neighbourhood and I enjoyed kids very much. I changed diapers, tolerated angry toddler tantrums and didn’t mind chasing them around the house and yard to ensure their safety. 
Then, there was a shift. In my early 20s I lived with my friends, a couple who had a toddler and a baby. All of a sudden I realized I was a horrible babysitter. One day, the toddler, Brittany led me to the potty to show me her deposit. She was so proud of herself. Instead of praising her, I screamed, ran to the toilet and threw up. Not too long after this incident, the baby was napping and I fell asleep on the couch. Brittany’s mom Judy came home to find Brittany on the counter with pieces of bread strewn all over and she had a knife in the toaster. 
Judy woke me up and told me “Di, you’re fired.” I felt like a monster. Luckily, Judy didn’t hold it against me and we moved on. 
For most of the following 30 years, as long as I didn’t have to change diapers or deal with potty training, I was fine to look after children. Not being able to deal with these tasks caused issues in my work and personal life.
After my brain injury, one of the many symptoms I suffered was sensitivity to noise. I couldn’t physically be around babies and young children because their crying and screaming made my head feel like it would explode. I had friends who had children and grandchildren who I couldn’t visit with. I felt awful but I also had to set boundaries in order to take care of myself. 
Then there was another shift. My sensitivity to noise decreased in intensity and frequency. All of a sudden I started looking at babies and toddlers with a different lens. I began to appreciate their different stages of development and immediately noticed when milestones were reached.
In my previous career, being aware of infant and child development was part of my job. Much of this information came flooding back into my consciousness. 
I began to receive requests to babysit infants and toddlers. Yikes! My initial reaction was “oh my gosh I can’t do this!” Then I told myself to grow up and move out of my dysfunctional comfort zone. I’ve been through so much in my life and still am.  If I couldn’t deal with baby and toddler messes, there was a huge problem. 
One day I changed my first diaper in years. It was a nasty diaper. I placed myself in a meditation-like state and just did it. I did it without gagging or throwing up. And the baby smiled and laughed because he obviously felt better. Maybe he laughed at the expression on my face. I picked him up and hugged him. I had faced my phobia and overcame it. Then came the next test. 
I got thrown up on and I lived through it no problem. After I cleaned the baby up and myself,  I hugged her too. What the heck happened to me?
I honestly think that this miracle happened because of my brain injury. 
My curse has been lifted thanks to the loving magic of babies and toddlers. Who knew this was possible? Now I know that anything is possible.