Zoe was born on 5 July, 2001 in the very early hours in Stavanger, Norway. To this day, my grandpa insists her birthday is the 4th of July because everyone was celebrating the 4th when they got the call that Zoe had arrived. It was years before she figured out the fireworks weren't for her on the 4th.
Mark and I were completely in awe with our little bundle. She began winning people over immediately with her bright blue eyes and it wasn't long before she was knocking them dead with her smile. Zoe was a perfect baby and watching her grow up has been my honor and pleasure.
When Zoe was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy at 14 months old, she received her first wheelchair. And she immediately took on the challenge. That kid was everywhere in that thing. A year later when she got her first power wheelchair, there was no stopping her.
Zoe is different than most kids. But not because of her diagnosis. Because she truly is a special person. She's had wisdom beyond her years for as long as I can remember. She's got the biggest heart of anyone I know. And she is truly nonjudgmental. Zoe doesn't care who you are, where you're from, or who you love. Her philosophy is "be nice." And she follows it to a T. I've yet to meet an adult who hasn't fallen instantly under her spell when they talk to her.
For as much as Zoe needs me physically, I need her three thousand times more emotionally. I do everything for Zoe from the moment she wakes up until she goes to bed. She's never been able to brush her own hair or teeth, and I'm happy to be the person to do it for her. But as her dad has spent so much time away from us, Zoe had definitely become my rock. It's crazy that even as young as 6 years old, she was able to keep me grounded through so many hard times. I look at her sometimes and I just think, "why on earth are people complaining about petty things when you don't hear Zoe complain at all about anything?" It's hard to feel sorry for yourself when your surrounded by such a positive light.
Zoe is about to turn 11 years old. Recently she's begun to doubt herself and her physical differences. We try not to leave too much room for self pity and fill Zoe's world with love, laughter, and of course - music. But it is inevitable for a young girl this age to compare herself to her friends. Zoe hates her body - how it looks and how it can't keep up with her mind. We have tears and struggle with finding clothes that she thinks will hide her differences. She points out everything she hates about her body as I get her dressed in the morning.
She doesn't realize just how amazing her body is and how it has beaten so many odds. That body of hers has been through 12 spinal surgeries. That round belly of hers keeps her breathing. Yes, SMA is a crappy thing. But she goes so far beyond SMA, that I often forget just how terrible the disease really is. I look at Zoe and I see true beauty. I see my best friend. I see the absolute reason I live and breathe.
And in Zoe's eyes, she doesn't measure up. It's heart breaking.
Throughout the years, Zoe has touched many people's lives with her spirit and kindness. She thinks that everyone reacts to her because of her wheelchair and out of pity. She couldn't be more wrong. They react to her heart which is undeniably the most genuine heart I've ever known.
In attempts to change Zoe's mind about how insignificant she thinks she is, I'm putting together a birthday video. I would like people to hold signs - just a white piece of paper or two - that say "I love you, Zoe" or "Happy Birthday, Zoe" or "Zoe rocks" or even "Zoe, you are BEAUTIFUL." I will compile them into a slideshow and show her this for her birthday. My goal is to show her people all over love her and support her. Of course, I plan on using Katy Perry's "Firework" as the background song for my little firecracker.
If you would like to be included, email a picture to firstname.lastname@example.org or shoot it to me on Twitter - @LO_Raine. Or check out our brand new Facebook page and tag your picture there. Please share this. Let's change one little girl's mind. Let's show her just how special she is. Convince her that she doesn't have to look like the girls on TV - she can look just like herself because she is beyond beautiful.
Let's leave lots of wonderful comments here for her, also ... they will be forwarded to her.
Happy Birthday precious Zoe. You are one beautiful young lady.
Hugs & love from ~