I want to be a mother. It’s a simple premise, isn’t it? I want to hold my own baby in my arms with the man I love by my side and raise that child to be wild and free and curious (and a writer because both of its parents are writers therefore it just has to be that way).
I’m in a serious relationship with a man who shares the same faith as me, we’re planning marriage and we named our future children on our first date. All this should be in reach but I’m forced to question it. Why? Because I’m disabled.
As a disabled woman, every part of my anatomy is on show to the world and up for conversation. “What happened to you?” “What’s wrong with you?” “Do you need some help?” At every turn of my legs or my wheels. When it comes to expressing that I want to be a mother, like everything, it’s met with a ton of questions that a non-disabled person wouldn’t have to face.
The first experience was with my doctor, as I eagerly question them about my chances of conceiving with the rare form of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome I have.
“But what about your M.E and Functional Neurological Disorder?” They ask. Having just had them tell me my chances of conceiving are pretty low, I’m in shock.
What about it? Yes, I sometimes use a wheelchair. Yes, I can’t feel my left leg. Yes, I suffered medical trauma when I got meningitis and sepsis. I didn’t much reply, instead I took on a whole heap of internalised ableism.
My Mum questioned it too. Would I be ok to mother a crying, sleep-deprived child if I had a condition that already makes me perpetually fatigued? I have no doubt, but when others start to question your role as a disabled person coupled with the identity of being a mother then you do too.
We don’t see enough disabled parents in the media.
We all know there’s a pity or porn rhetoric around disability in the media and we’re either ones to feel sorry for or inspiration porn because we’ve just won triple gold in the Paralympics while juggling our third leg behind our broken backs. But when it comes to disabled parents- where are they?
I turn to Sophie from FashionBellee on Instagram. With over 20,000 followers on Instagram, Sophie shows life as the most colourful and positive disabled mum out there as she navigates parenthood just like any other mother with toddler Zyra.
Sophie’s reels show her pushing a pram while in her electric wheelchair, using a hoist to get in the pool to take Zyra swimming and working with some of the biggest brands in the world to show disabled mums exist.
In a similar hurrah for representation, the now-iconic Then Barbara Met Alan shows Barbara getting pregnant and raising a child as a wheelchair-using mum.
But who else do we turn to to see positive representation of disability and parenthood? We need more conversations around it and a conversation is exactly what I had with my boyfriend Adam.
“Sure, I expect that at time I’ll have to do more of the parenting [because your disability will mean you have to rest] but I want to be a hands on parent and spend time with our children” said Adam when I quizzed him deeper.
While we’re not actively trying for a child yet, it’s the ultimate goal in our relationship and if the man I aim to become a parent with doesn’t have an issue with my disability and my ability to be a parent then why should anyone else?
Sure, there’ll be challenges as a disabled mum. I expect there’ll be times I can’t do the night feed because my fatigue is too strong. I expect I might have to use my wheelchair for several weeks after the birth as my brain navigates recovering and functioning as a normal person.
And you bet my coordination as I juggle wheels and a pram will just go to pot but the truth is that only Adam and I can navigate these challenges that so many other parents who don’t have disabilities face.
When society is doubting your ability to be a mother, it can be easy to curl up and resign yourself to being “less” but it’s important now more than ever that we push back against that.
Disabled people deserve to be parents, disabled people will be great parents and terrible parents just like any other demographic group and disabled parents can thrive in society if society lets us… which is our whole fight in the first place.
So this is a call to all disabled parents- make yourselves known. Be loud. Celebrate your differences.
And know just because you’re disabled, doesn’t mean you’ll face issues when it comes to parenthood. You’ve got this, mama (or papa)