Being a young, thirty something, blind woman I usually stand out in a crowd. People are often shocked to see someone my age wielding a white cane as I navigate through my local neighborhood. When my husband and I found out we were expecting just six months after I had been declared blind, the two of us were in absolute shock. The idea of impending parenthood thrilled and frightened us both. We had no doubt in our ability to raise and love a child. However, we knew the words “disability” and “pregnancy” were not exactly synonymous.
As my belly began to grow, I soon graduated from neighborhood oddity status to circus sideshow act. People could not seem to get over the fact that a blind, disabled woman could actually be pregnant and was planning to raise a child. Already scared out of my mind, the intrusive, jaw-dropping questions I received began to add additional stress to my already high-risk pregnancy.
I didn’t want to feel bad about being pregnant. I didn’t want to feel sorry for myself for being blind. I just wanted people to be happy for me; but congratulations and inappropriate belly rubs were hard to come by. At a weekly ultrasound appointment with my doctor, I burst into tears talking about the situation. He listened sympathetically during my hormonal tirade, handing me a Kleenex after Kleenex. When I had finished, he put his hand on my shoulder and gently said, “But I have one question, why do you care?”
His words rocked me to my pregnant core and then it hit me. If I was about to be somebody’s mother, I had better grow some thicker skin. I couldn’t succumb to this negativity. Why did I care? I was not going to feel bad about this pregnancy or the baby I so desperately wanted because I was disabled. I decided right then and there if people had the nerve to ask, then they needed to be prepared for my answers and a few follow up questions.
1) Was this pregnancy planned? – The sex was, but the baby was an added bonus. Issues relating to family planning involve two people, my husband and myself. But, if you must know we were thrilled when we found out I was pregnant. No, we didn’t plan to have a baby six months after I became blind. We had tried to start a family for years and oddly enough in the midst of a catastrophic health crisis, it happened. There’s a precious bundle on the way and planned or not, we’re so excited. Can you just be happy for us?
2) You’re not keeping it? – If by “it”, you were referring to my baby, why wouldn’t I keep my child? I’m an educated woman in a happy, stable, and committed relationship. I have the financial means and support system in place to provide for this baby. I want nothing more than to become a mother. The world is filled with disabled people who are capable, competent, and financially stable enough to raise children, biologically or otherwise. Maybe you were unaware?
3) Where’s the father in all this? – Oh, you mean the man I’ve been married to for ten years? The person I share a life with? Are you referring to my husband, the soon to be father, who’s over the moon about impending parenthood….he’s right over there. Disabled people are married. Our relationships are not unlike any other you’ve encountered. We go through our fair share of good times and not so good times. Did you assume somebody wouldn’t want a meaningful relationship with me because of my disability?
4) I didn’t think disabled people were “allowed” to have kids. – Correct me if I’m wrong, but there is no law that states people must become sterilized if they become disabled. We have sex. We reproduce, same as you. People with all sorts of disabilities make the conscious decision every day to have children. This may come as a shock but “people like me” don’t need permission from “people like you” to have a baby.
5) But how will you __________________? – How will I change the baby? How will I feed it? How will I get to the pediatrician? Don’t you think I’ve thought about all this stuff? Don’t you think I lay in bed every night worrying about how I can accomplish these things? I’m scared. Terrified even. But here’s a newsflash, what new parent isn’t? I’ve have nine months to make a plan, figure things out, network and put resources in place to enable me to meet the ever-changing needs of my baby. And frankly, since you’re not the one responsible for my kid, then you’re not the one who has to worry about any of it. I don’t have all the answers and that’s okay. Disabled or not, I am about to be a mother, and when it comes to my baby, I will go to the ends of the earth to make sure it has everything it needs.
6) Don’t you think having a disabled mother will be hard on your child? – Yes, having a disabled mother will be hard on my child. Despite my best efforts, I know I have limitations. As a blind mom, I’m might not be the ideal soccer coach, and there is no chance in hell I am going to be volunteering for car pool duties. But, I know having me for a mother means my child will learn determination. My child will know when life throws them a challenge, and there will be plenty, they don’t have to succumb to it. They will understand what it means to have empathy for another human being. My child will know that someone’s disability does not define them as an individual, because it does not define my role as their mother.
So please, if you ever encounter a disabled pregnant woman, don’t make assumptions. Don’t interrogate them. Tell them they are glowing. Say congratulations. Treat these soon to be mommies like you would any other expectant mom and always remember, despite the woman’s disability, loving their baby requires no “accommodations.”
9 thoughts on “How A Disabled Pregnant Woman Handles Insensitive Questions”
This article has opened up my eyes to questions that people ask. My daughter is 10years old (started to loose her sight two years ago and now severely visually impaired, registerd blind) she asked me the question the other week, “will I be able to have children” straight I answered “of course”. I have read this article to my daughter and she is so pleased that she can have children and her answer to being asked questions was “I get asked all sorts already”. Thank you for sharing this article.
Your daughter can absolutely be a mother Lisa! You tell her I said so. If she ever doubts that, show her a picture of my girls or email me. She can do anything and she will be a wonderful mother because she has you as an example!
I LOVED this article! I heard so many stupid questions and comments when I was pregnant that it became ridiculous. Just because a woman has a disability does not mean the joy of pregnancy and motherhood is any less.
This is a great post. I can totally relate to your struggle being a parent myself. The world tries to make you feel bad for being disabled, and even worse if you have kids while on disability.
I love the answers that you gave in this post!
Great post! Thanks for sharing! 🙂
I had parents, but most of my life lessons came from my uncle, with whom I spent weekends and summers. He had one leg, yet walked on crutches although he couldn’t bend his arms. But he taught me to fish, to play a mean game of poker, to move numbers in my brain, and to not have limits. I was in kindergarten before I really realized that he was missing a leg, because we were always busy doing things and living life and the things that were different just weren’t relevant to daily life. To this day, I am not sure how he played musical instruments with his fused arms, but he did. He changed my world by allowing me to not be limited by society’s expectations.
Your children will live lives different from their classmates. You will raise them in a world that is different, and that is a good thing. They will adapt, you will adapt, and they will be open and inclusive because they will grow up knowing that differences are ok, not lesser or better, but just part of life.
Thank you for that beautiful comment. I hope my children do grow up seeing a person for their own unique qualities, not their disability – like your uncle. He sounds like a wonderful man and I am glad he was a happy part of your childhood.
Holly, I adored your blogs!! And how refreshing!! I don’t have children myself not my choice I must add, but I have many blind friends who have children and it never ceases to amaze me the silly questions they get asked. I have a friend who’s husband is also blind. They had twin daughters and then a few years later, they had another little girl!! Your attitude is awesome, keep it up!!
Lovely piece, beautifully written. You will make a wonderful mom. Best of luck with the journey. My eyesight has deteriorated over the years. When my oldest kids were toddlers I was still driving, and by the time my youngest was a toddler, I had to give up driving among other things. However, I still have.as much value as when I was raising my now adult kids. My youngest and I enjoy communicating, listening to music together, and plenty besides.
I just found your article through the RNIB, I was diagnosed with Keratoconus in my early twenties, when my daughter was just a toddler.
I suffered constant sight deterioration, You are exactly right, my daughter has developed a very understanding character, and has that extra empathy.
I went right out of my way regarding ensuring she was informed and capable to move on to her own life.
So I know what you mean in the same way. Keep encouraged, and congratulations to you all!