My mum always said my disability was never a negative
Mother’s Day is a day that means many things for many women. For me, a woman in her thirties, it forces me to reflect on whether I want to be a mother one day. When I ask myself that question the short answer is yes. Yes, I do want to be a mother. My next thought is less clear cut. My next thought is filled with anxiety.
We have all heard people say they plan to parent differently to their mother. I do not feel this way. I, on the other hand, have such an amazing role model for motherhood that I worry that I will never be able to replicate the sort of mother I have.
I have always been very close to my mum Lorraine but when you have a disability you sort of have to be close. Like many women, my mum struggled to get pregnant so when I finally arrived, when she was 39, there was no doubt that I would always be loved.
The more time I reflect on my childhood the more I realise how lucky I am. My parent’s love has always enveloped me, the sort of love that many people search for their entire life and I received it from the minute I took my first breath.
Ironically my first breath also defined my life. My delayed first breath gave me my disability. I have Cerebral Palsy. A lifelong disability. A disability that presents differently in everyone who has it. I can’t imagine the level of worry, anxiety and heartache my delayed development and my following diagnosis coursed my Mum. After watching all her friends have multiple children while struggling with IVF, and then finally having a baby that wasn’t considered healthy. I am not sure how I would have coped if I was in my mother’s position.
My Dad was not able to tell our loved ones that “Mum and bub are well” because I wasn’t well. The first four months of my life was spent in the NICU in a humidicrib. I was born at just 28 weeks and at six days old I weighed 1075 grams (2.4 pound).
When you have a child with a disability life gets a little bit more complicated particularly in the 1990’s. Back then you couldn’t quickly find an Instagram account of someone a little bit further down the road than you; to give you an insight into your and your baby’s future. All your knowledge of this new thing called Cerebral Palsy comes from doctors who tell you the worst-case scenario. With Cerebral Palsy being so variable and wide-ranging symptoms from not being able to walk, not being able to stand, feed yourself or even speak, parents before the internet were thrown into the deep end.
Having a child with a disability, I imagine would be isolating. People without disabilities didn’t really ever understand the level of ongoing care that comes with parenting someone with a disability. So, it makes sense that my mum sought out a support network of people that would better understand her life. My mum attended a ‘Mother’s With Disabled Children’ support group once. It didn’t go well.
When I meet someone, they assume that I am a sad person and I’ve had a hard life. No, I haven’t, not really. A challenging life yes, but not a sad one. Why? Because of my mum’s determination to never see my disability as a negative. She must have said that to me 10 million times at this point. Mum has always told me, “Peta you’re not disabled. You’re Peta”. My mum never let everyone define me based on my disability and that simple act has defined who I am.
The day my mum attended the support group, she realised that her child might be different, but she was also different. Sitting in a circle, she listened to each and every woman cry. Cry that they were not given the child that they were expecting. Cry that their life was over. Cry that their one-year-old baby would never finish school or get married. Look, I am not saying that the feelings these women were experiencing weren’t valid and very real. I’m not even saying that my mum never found it difficult being my mother.
What I am saying is I am beyond thankful that my mum recognised in herself that negative thinking was not going to make her feel more supported or understood. My Cerebral Palsy diagnosis wasn’t going to go away. It was, was it was and my mum was going to make the best of the situation. After all, I was still her daughter, her flesh and blood. She believed that I had the same determination gene that she has in herself. That she would always encourage me to do my best, regardless of what the doctors were telling us.
Thank god she did. She has a very happy, fulfilled daughter on her hands and all because I was told that, I could. I could do anything I put my mind to.
If I am ever lucky enough to become a mum I hope I am half the mother that Lorraine is. Happy Mother’s Day Mum. You are the best there is.
If you want to hear my mum’s side of the story; you can listen to a very special Mother’s Day episode of the I Can’t Stand Podcast. Where mum and I chat about how she made the most of being a mother of a child who had a disability. It’s a great chat. Out Mother’s Day the 9th of May.