I eat with my feet!

that's life (Australia) - - Contents -

I’d just started high school when I passed a boy and his friends and heard gig­gling.

Turn­ing to look, I no­ticed that he’d slipped his arms un­der his T-shirt to im­i­tate me. Hu­mil­i­ated, I dropped my head and quickly walked away.

Al­though I was born with­out arms, I wasn’t used to be­ing ridiculed.

But as a teenager that all changed.

‘What’s wrong, Carolina?’ my mum, Dina, asked when I got home.

‘Other kids are mak­ing fun of me,’ I said.

Rub­bing the back of her hands over my cheeks, Mum told me some­thing spe­cial.

‘Don’t let any­one bring you down,’ she said. ‘Fol­low your dreams, what­ever they are.’

Pulling out a photo al­bum, she showed me child­hood pho­tos where I was smil­ing, dressed as an an­gel, a bal­le­rina or a pi­rate.

‘I didn’t know you’d be born with­out arms,’ she told me. ‘When you were born, your fa­ther and I cried and cried, think­ing how dif­fi­cult your life would be.

‘Then we de­cided not to make a big fuss about it. We wanted you to know that you were loved and that you could do any­thing.’

Doc­tors had told Mum that my de­for­mity may have been caused by chicken pox dur­ing her first trimester of preg­nancy, but they couldn’t be sure.

‘One day, when you were about 16 or 18 months old, you sur­prised me beyond belief,’ Mum told me. ‘After din­ner, you picked up two plates with your feet, held them over your head and man­aged to get to the sink. That day was un­for­get­table. It showed us how de­ter­mined you were.’

Aged two, they’d en­rolled me in a swim­ming class. The in­struc­tor tied his hands to his back and de­vised a tech­nique for me to copy. I went on to win four gold medals in lo­cal con­tests!

As I grew, I also went to a gym to build up my leg mus­cles and agility.

‘To eat, I held a spoon be­tween

my two big toes of my foot’

Then, at 13, I met a boy there called Jonas. Two years older than me, he was so sup­port­ive.

Es­pe­cially when I moved schools.

As the sleeves of my blouse flapped in the wind, ac­cen­tu­at­ing my miss­ing limbs, the boys would poke fun at me.

‘I wouldn’t change a thing about you,’ Jonas said.

I refuse to stay home and cry, I thought.

Be­sides, I lived a per­fectly nor­mal life.

I could un­lock a door by lift­ing my left leg and twist­ing the key with my toes. To eat, I held a spoon be­tween my two big­gest toes of my right foot.

I could even write with a pen held in my toes.

In the shower, I’d sit down to bathe my­self and wash my hair and then I’d put on

make-up with my right foot.

My par­ents didn’t let me off wash­ing the dishes ei­ther! Sit­ting down, I’d hold the plate over the sink with my toes on my right foot and use a sponge to wipe it with my left.

Then one day, when I was 14, Jonas and I were talk­ing at the gym.

As usual, he was help­ing me put on my swim­ming cap.

It seemed he was al­ways nearby, do­ing things if I couldn’t.

When he fin­ished tuck­ing my hair un­der the cap, we were stand­ing face to face.

‘I love you Caro, you know that,’ he said. Kiss­ing him on the cheek, I felt the same way and I knew we’d be to­gether for­ever.

In Novem­ber 2011, after dat­ing for 12 years, we mar­ried. I knew our guests were won­der­ing how I’d put a wed­ding band on Jonas’ fin­ger. Of course, I took off my left shoe and used my toes! Then he placed my ring on a chain around my neck.

Three years on, I be­came a phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teacher.

But driv­ing has been my big­gest achieve­ment.

I got a car fit­ted with a steer­ing wheel and a blinker switch on the floor.

Open­ing the car door with my left foot, I take off my shoes and socks.

I pull the seat­belt out with my right foot and grab it with my left to click it in place.

I’ve also mas­tered get­ting dressed! There are two small hooks a few feet from the floor on my bath­room wall – one fac­ing up and the other down – so I can pull my un­der­wear on and off.

I type on a com­puter, use a mo­bile phone and can even take a selfie! At Christ­mas, I make our fes­tive feast with my feet, then Jonas puts it in the oven.

He’s is the most sup­port­ive per­son I’ve ever met and he is my hands when I need them.

Ev­ery day, he ties my hair in a pony­tail and out shop­ping, he takes the items off the su­per­mar­ket shelf.

‘There was a void in my heart that only you could fill,’ he tells me.

I’ve al­ways wanted to be a mum, so re­cently we saw a spe­cial­ist to find out if a child could in­herit my con­di­tion, but they just didn’t know. We’re still go­ing to try and if we don’t fall preg­nant, we’d like to adopt.

I’m also rais­ing money for sen­sory pros­thetic arms and hands. Each one costs around $130,000 and ar­ti­fi­cial nerves mean I would con­trol them with my brain.

I would love the feel­ing of hold­ing hands with my hus­band. But most of all, I want to em­brace peo­ple and take care of a child. I want to hug my baby. These are small things, but to me they would make a big dif­fer­ence.

Carolina Tanaka Meneghel, 32, was born with­out arms, but she doesn’t let that stop her

My par­ents treated me no dif­fer­entlyI can even put on eye­liner!

Show­ing my friend how to wash dishes!I live a per­fectly nor­mal life

With my hubby Jonas

I slipped the wed­ding ring on Jonas’ fin­ger

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