ableism disabilities motherhoood
6 Things Everyone Should Know About Moms with Disabilities5/09/2014
by DeBorah McCreath Akbar On January 8th, 1990, I woke up in the hospital. A doctor who I’d never ...
by DeBorah McCreath Akbar
On January 8th, 1990, I woke up in the hospital. A doctor who I’d never laid eyes on before, told me I'd been in a coma for 3 days, the result of a car accident I barely remember. The prognosis wasn’t good; I'd injured my spinal cord between the 7th and 8th vertebrae and was paralyzed from the chest down. I also had a broken arm and some new hardware. Now all of that may sound really frightening, and it was. I had a halo on my head, a cast on my arm and was unable to move. And I was terrified. What would my life be like going forward?
But as friends and family came to see me, I was slowly reassured that my life was not over; it was just going to be different. And it is.
There are a lot of things I want people to know about those of us living with disabilities. A lot! But I’m going to start small. Here are 6 things I want you to know about my life as a mother living with disabilities.
- We’re “Normal”: 1. For lack of a better word, persons who have disabilities are just like everyone else except that we may do things differently. When you look at the Roloff family, Amy, has children, a husband, a home and a career yet people still stare at them when they go out in public. Amy, Matt, myself, we’re really not different from other people; we all look different: different heights, different skin complexions, different hair types, however inside we're the same with blood, organs, feelings, ideas and desires to have a happy healthy fulfilling life with someone who cares as much about us as we do about them.
- We date! I dated with almost the same frequency after the car accident as I did before. There were some men who made disparaging comments and some who asked really moronic questions but for the most part, pre-internet and social media, the dating pool was pretty healthy. We did have to make sure the places were accessible; they needed to be without steps, have elevators and parking spaces so I could get out. There were times that waitresses would talk to my date about what I wanted instead of asking me. I had one boyfriend who said, "She's perfectly capable of speaking for herself." And that's on of the reasons I married this one; he’s a keeper!
- We're still women: I say this because people make many assumptions about persons with disabilities. After my car accident many people just assumed there wouldn't be any need for me to think about relationships or intimacy. Well guess what? I still had all of the same desires and needs as I did before the disability. I still enjoyed wearing makeup, combing my hair, being clean, dating, going fun places and doing fun things. Of course I still enjoyed hugs and nice touches and kissing. Just because the sensation was different didn't mean that the feelings on the inside weren't still there.
- Yes, we can get pregnant. When I went to the grocery store to get a pregnancy test the look on the clerk’s face was priceless. "Is this test for you?" she asked prompting me to almost fall out of my wheelchair. I didn't answer her; just made the purchase and kept rolling right along. Remember those health classes you took that talked about a woman's body and how pregnancy takes place with the egg and the sperm? Yeah, it all still works exactly the same way whether you are sitting down or standing up. It is the biology of the reproductive system not the external physical limitation that prohibits or allows pregnancy to take place.
- We have feelings. When my husband proposed to me, I was just as excited as any other woman on the planet. I had to work out my own concerns about combining a blended family and how I would take care of my personal care inside of a new relationship. My father asked me questions about my fiancée, just like any other father who has concerns about his daughter. I struggled with how to make sure that my stepchildren felt loved, included and not isolated within a new family dynamic. I had to decide whether I was going to breastfeed our youngest son or sterilize bottles and feed him formula. I definitely chose breastfeeding because it was a lot more convenient from a wheelchair except in public sometimes, that dynamic was a little more challenging at times but I figured it out with a blanket over my shoulder.
- We're good mothers! I made the decision to stop going to college so that I could keep my baby safe while I was pregnant; I purchased furniture that was accessible for me to be able to pick up my baby from napping or sleeping easily. I used a papoose so that I could carry him around in my wheelchair and of course as I mentioned above, breastfeeding over bottle-feeding. When he turned 4, I made the decision with my husband to home school him after he expressed how uncomfortable he was at pre-school. Now many parents might now agree but I made this decision because it was a better fit for me. Then, in his 10th grade year he decided he wanted to go to public school, which he did for his junior and senior year.