Ever since I was a little girl, I thought I  wanted to be a mother.  I think I romanticized the idea because motherhood was the main role assigned to women in my culture and also because it was something I had been told not to expect as a disabled girl.   I had no role models to teach me otherwise.  The thought of a disabled woman being a mother was so taboo that for a long time in my youth, I thought my female body was just incapable of getting pregnant because my future was always addressed as if I had no sexuality and no reproductive organs to worry about.

I suspect most women have, in one way or another, been led to romanticize the idea of motherhood.  The messages we receive and the expectations imposed upon us are oppressive.   Motherhood seems to be socially expected if you are a woman, and yet for women with disabilities it is so often the opposite: We are expected to NEVER become mothers.  After all, God forbid we bring a child into this world for whom we cannot physically care…or even worse, giving birth to a child who could inherit our differences.  What an irresponsible thing to do.   That’s how many still think when women with disabilities get pregnant.

Yes, I always wanted to be a mother, but I realize now that for me, it was not so much a natural desire as much as it was wanting to prove people wrong.  Of course I love my sons with all my heart, but deep down I know that if I could do it over knowing what I know now, motherhood, probably, would not have been part of my life.   I once shared a similar thought on my Facebook page and was the target of attacks by other women who thought I was a horrible person for saying something like that.  They questioned my sanity and the validity of my feelings.  Others pitied me and prayed for me and otherwise told me I was just having a bad day.  Women are natural mothers, my friends said as they helped me get “back to my senses.”

Motherhood was not easy for me.  I don’t assume it to be easy for any mother, but I think in my case, as it often is  for other mothers with disabilities, my parental rights were overtaken by loving family whose ablelist messages to my children led them to believe I was not fit to be their mother.  From the time my sons were born my need for assistance with some of their basic care was translated by my family as “inability to be a mother.” I guess my own internalized ablelism along with the oppressive  cultural views of disability and motherhood turned the relationship with my sons  “unnatural”.   I mean, I know they love me and I love them more than life itself.  There is indeed a special connection between mother and child, but I think something happens, something breaks when children’s view of their mother is burdened by the doubts of other people.   In my case, my sons’ care was taken away from me.  Everyone in my family felt it was ok to discipline ME in front of my children, or go over my head reversing decisions I had made about their discipline, spoiling them rotten and pretty much taking all power away from me.  Instead of telling them to back off, I gave in.  I settled into the idea that I am just not a good mother.  I had been told so from the minute my babies were born.  When my oldest son was born twenty-three years ago, I woke up after a C-Section to a Child Protective Services worker at the foot of the bed questioning me, and my ex-husband who was also a chair user, how we were planning to take care of our baby since we were both disabled.   I was too shocked and too scared to simply say that we will manage and learn together like most new parents do.   Instead, I said my mother and sisters will be there to help.  I guess at that moment the seed of doubt was planted.

I have learned a few things, since then, about motherhood and womanhood.  Just because we have a reproductive system, it doesn’t mean we have to reproduce.  We don’t have to prove ourselves through motherhood.  We are as complete and as capable of nurturing and giving and loving without ever giving birth to a child.   I have also learned motherhood is not for every woman.  There is such thing as happiness without children.   The idea that we must be mothers to be happy is not only wrong but also oppressive.  The thousands of women who do not have children for whatever reason are made to feel inferior and incomplete by this myth.   I have also learned that many mothers keep their doubts and feelings of inadequacy to themselves because the pressure to be “good mothers” is something that keeps many of them in silence suffering quietly like I did for years.   The most important thing to remember is that we are not alone in this.  As women we have been branded and labeled and placed in a reproductive line where we are expected to be mothers in order to have value as women.  This unfair expectation becomes a double edge knife in the lives of many disabled mothers who, like me, become victims of even more fierce ablelism because it not only affects us as women, but also affects our children and their views of disability and women in general.

Last, but not least, I also learned that it is never too late to try to heal the wounds of the past.   We are all trying to find the way back to where we were supposed to be.  And although there is no going back in time, there is a chance to start over.  There is always, somehow, a chance to start over.  We can only move forward, and we must do it with love -choosing to see painful memories as lessons and opportunities for growth.

Yes. Everything begins and ends with love.

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