Hope was a teeny tiny 7-year-old when she and her crooked little smile walked into the orthodontist’s office for the first time. We were told it was important for her to get braces before she turned 10. I couldn’t picture our little spitfire sitting still long enough for them to put braces on. They took her into a room to get a panoramic x-ray. It sounded simple. Put your mouth around this piece of metal and stand still for 20 seconds. Wait a minute. Stand still for 20 seconds? I’ve never seen her stand still for 20 seconds. But maybe I’m about to witness a miracle.
They brought her up to the machine and there was a problem. She was too short to wrap her mouth around the metal piece. The nice lady asked her to stand on a stool. Balance on a stool? She has trouble balancing while standing on the floor. I was getting a bad feeling about this. But maybe she’ll surprise me. Hope tried her hardest but she couldn’t balance on the stool. The x-ray was blurry. We had to try again. Hope was tired of trying and she started acting goofy. She put her mouth around the metal piece and started fidgeting. The nice lady told her that she could break her teeth if she didn’t stand still. Hope didn’t stop. Ok. We’re done. I would like to leave here with her crooked little teeth still inside of her sweet mouth. They scheduled an appointment to put the braces on. If she couldn’t sit still for a 20 second x-ray how’s she gonna sit still long enough for them to put braces on? I went ahead and made the appointment because I believe in miracles.
I was nervous as we walked into the office the morning of her appointment. Hope was 7 years old and she has ADHD and sensory processing disorder. Will she sit still and let them put the braces on? Or will it be too much for her? The first thing they did was put a contraption in her mouth to pull her gums away from her teeth. She started gagging. We’re 2 minutes into this and it’s not going well. Once she gagged she was done. They made a note on her chart to not use the gagging contraption in the future. The orthodontist said that her sensory issues were going to make it harder for her to withstand having braces put on. They decided we should wait 6 months and try again.
Life got out of control during the 6 month wait and I had to cancel Hope’s appointment for her braces. We finally took her back in when she was 9 years old. We told her if she would sit still and let them put her braces on then we would take her to Toys R US and buy her a prize. Hope sat very still while they put her braces on. Is this really happening? or is this just a dream? Is she really letting them put braces on her teeth? If I didn’t already believe in miracles I would’ve started believing in them at that moment. Hope walked out of the orthodontist’s office that day with braces on her teeth. I was dancing as we made our way through the parking lot to get in the van. Well, not really. I was dancing on the inside anyway. We danced our way into Toys R Us and Hope picked out her prize. I don’t remember now what it was but I’m guessing it was a dinosaur.
The estimated treatment time for Hope’s braces was 9-12 months. She had appointments every 5 weeks to have her braces checked. She never once complained that her braces hurt. She had to give up popcorn, caramel, peanuts, gum, and so many other things that she enjoyed eating. But she never complained. 12 months passed and it wasn’t time for her braces to come off. The doctor was waiting on some of her permanent teeth to come in. He decided to do another panoramic x-ray. Hope marched up to the x-ray machine. Well, would you look at that. She’s tall enough to reach the metal piece without standing on a stool. And she stood still for the whole 20 seconds. A lot can change in 3 years.
Hope’s 9-12 month treatment time turned into 2 years. September 26th was her big day. The day for her braces to come off finally arrived. And she was excited. The night before her appointment she was naming off all the foods that she was going to be able to eat. I can eat peanuts. I can eat caramel. I can eat popcorn. At bedtime she wouldn’t stop talking about peanuts, popcorn, and caramel. The excitement was getting to be too much for her. She was over the moon as we sat in the waiting room listening for them to call her name.
Her excitement escalated as we waited on the doctor. She’s usually really quiet when the doctor is in the room. But she talked his ear off this time. He thought it was pretty funny. It didn’t take long for the braces to come off. Ok Hopey show us your smile.
Very funny, Hopey. Now show us the smile that we paid for.
She had to have an impression made for her retainer. She gagged the first time. The second time she wouldn’t open her mouth because she was afraid she would gag. The stuff for the impression got hard before they were able to get it in her mouth. The third time she cooperated and they got the impression. The doctor handed her a bag full of all the stuff that she hadn’t been able to eat for 2 years. Cracker jacks, snickers, tootsie rolls, and laffy taffy. The smile on her face as she gazed at that bag of goodies was priceless. The cracker jacks were almost gone before we even got out the door.
We ended her big day with a trip to Toys R Us. Because any girl who wears braces for 2 years deserves a prize from her Mommy and Daddy.
Isaiah 45:2 says I will go before you and make the crooked places straight. This verse has come more alive to me now that my little girl’s crooked teeth are now straight. God is with us as we go through all the crooked places in our lives. He’s with us as we go through things that we don’t understand. He’s right in the middle of our chaotic mess. It seems like most of the time our trials take longer to get through than we want them to. We hope it will take a year but it will actually take two. We look around and we notice that some people are able to get their braces off after only a year. But we still have to wear ours. Everyone else gets to have the things we long for. They’re eating caramel, peanuts, taffy, bubble gum, and popcorn. But we can’t eat those things right now. We want to feel sorry for ourselves and start complaining about how hard life is. But then we stop and we look at a little girl. A little girl who didn’t let sensory processing disorder keep her from getting a brand new smile. A little girl who never complained even though her trial took twice as long as it was supposed. She inspires us and she reminds us that we can overcome some hard stuff too.
As our journey comes to an end God reminds us of how far we’ve come. We see that moment when it was impossible to stand still and balance on a stool. Time went by and we grew up a little. The day came when we marched into the room for the x-ray and this time we left Mommy out in the hallway. The stool we once needed sits in the corner because we’re tall enough now. And after what seems like forever we finally make it to the end of the race. There’s a bag of gooey, crunchy goodies with our name on it. The race was definitely long and hard. But it was worth it because of the new smile we now have on our face.