Ask me what I did with my life up until January 27, 2009. I would say whatever it was, it wasn’t as important as what I was doing on January 28, 2009. That was the day my son was born. Everything else that happened before that day seems a little less relevant now. Can you believe it was seven months ago? Matthew is now 18 lbs. and 27 inches long. He is a big boy! What a blessing though, and what a person he has become.As a new mother with a disability, I’ve thought often about the challenges and barriers I had to overcome before the baby came along. Trust me, there have been a lot. But if you know me, you’ll know that I’m not the kind of person to wear my heart on my sleeve. I thought living life as a disabled woman made me who I am. Then, I became a mom. Being a mother is like all of the challenges and barriers that I have had up to this point rolled up in a wiggly, chubby-cheeked bundle of happy slobber. And it’s all happened within the last seven months! Motherhood is by far the hardest-repeat-hardest job in the world. Now I have come to a new conclusion: when I became a mom, I realized the potential of the person that I could become. I strive to be that person every single day for my son.
Life as a disabled mom is not much different from the life of any other mom with an infant. There are diapers, feedings, waking up at night and everything else. But there’s the stuff other moms don’t have to worry about. If you are a wheelchair user and you get frustrated with places in public that are not accessible, try having a baby. I’ve never felt the impact of accessibility more than now…not to mention gravity and other basic laws of physics as well.
For me, it’s being able to carry the little tike on my lap and have both hands free to push, getting him onto and off the floor when he wants to play, getting him in and out of the crib-so many little logistical things that other moms wouldn’t think about. I’ve managed well so far. I haven’t dropped Matthew…yet. His head is so hard though, that if I did he’d probably be stunned for a second or two and then start blowing raspberries again. As much as I want to, I can’t pick him up straight off the floor from my chair. It might be a tad uncomfortable for him and not to mention, I would break my back. So, I have to get out of the chair, get on the floor with him, put him on the couch, get back in the chair, then pick him up from off the couch. Whew! Did you get all that? What takes two seconds for an able-bodied mom takes me about two minutes. But it gets done. And it teaches me and my son a great lesson in patience.
In the pregnancy journal I described the lack of products for disabled moms. That still holds true. So what we’ve done is improvise, taking things for new moms and making them useful for us. Matthew has a sling used when he was a newborn. Now I simply strap it around him like a seatbelt so he doesn’t fall off my lap when we are out and about. We also made a crib door that swings out, allowing me to get him in and out. It was a bit easier when he was tiny. Now that he’s a big boy, it’s getting harder to pick him up. One day, I will bend over to get him and he’ll be so heavy that we will both topple over.
Luckily, Matthew is smart. Once he starts sitting up and standing on his own, it will be easier. He’s an easy baby overall and in all honesty; I was pleasantly surprised at the ease with which my transition into motherhood occurred. He is so ridiculously happy and funny that I don’t even watch Friends reruns anymore.
The best part about having him in my life is how happy he makes me. Every part of my day could go wrong and put me in a bad mood but when I see him smile, I feel better.
I always thought that motherhood would make me feel and look haggard, stressed and tired. Although I do get tired, nothing else applies. Being a mom brings me such peace and purpose that I can’t even begin to describe. Before Matthew I was always on the go, doing things for others and fighting some kind of fight. Now, my main focus is on him and it has made me realize that all that fuss was unnecessary. I want to be present in the moment with him so that he knows just how much he is loved.