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A Simple, Unquestioned Fact

by Candice Lee.

Is my "normal" child a visible validation of my "right" to procreate?

Two years ago, pregnancy forced me to wrestle with owning disability as part of my identity for the first time. Though I've had my disability since birth, my ability to function more or less "normally" has allowed me to swim in the mainstream for most of my adult life.

Reaction to my pregnancy, however, brought home to me my status as other, and I was apprehensive at what might lie ahead. Would my motherhood be greeted with the kind of bewilderment and hostility I felt directed at my pregnancy?

To my surprise, I've found the opposite to be true. In my case, motherhood has been the great equalizer. When childless, I never realized what a fraternity parenthood is. I now have something in common with anyone who has ever had a child. In public with my daughter, I seem to draw fewer stares and second glances than I do on my own. Maybe her presence is a distraction (to me or to others); or maybe my status as a parent humanizes me in the eyes of other parents, my obvious physical difference outweighed by a common bond.

My daughter Madelyn is a robust, sweet-tempered child, the kind of walking rosy-cheeked advertisement for good health that elderly ladies fuss over in the supermarket. A small part of me wonders if that isn't the key to this sudden easy belonging: my "normal" child is visible validation of my "right" to procreate.

While I was merely pregnant, that was in question. Right now, that's just a cynical whisper in my head. The sole negative reaction I've had since my daughter's birth was, oddly, from another woman I know with a disability. Seeing me in church for the first time since Madelyn's arrival, she asked me how it went. When I reported that both of us were well, she asked with obvious surprise, "There's nothing wrong with her?!"

To Madelyn herself, "mommy's braces" are as much a simple, unquestioned fact as her own blue eyes or daddy's freckles. I wish I could bottle her brand of total acceptance. Of course that will likely wane in the years ahead, most notably during adolescence, when merely having a mother is a cause for embarrassment. But if I do my job right, she'll reach adulthood with most of it intact.

Candice Lee is a contract analyst for a midwestern university and a freelance writer. She and her husband live in Michigan with her husband and young daugher. Read her earlier essay, From 'Passing' to 'Coming Out.'

I think I commented on this story when she first wrote about her pregnancy. At the time, I don't think I was even pregnant, yet. Now, I have one-year-old twin sons.

I think, in my experience, there is some truth to what she says about there being a mom/parent club that tends to rise above all the disability crap.

I still get "What are you going to do when..." questions though. First, it was, what are you going to do when they are born? And then, yeah, well, okay. But what are you going to do when they start crawling around? Now, that is done and I still haven't killed 'em. So, it is "What are you going to do when they start running?" And "What are you going to do when they start needing rides to places?" (I don't drive, but we've already bussed it to doctor's appts. church, gymboree, etc.) So, it seems like people are okay with what I've done with them so far, but I will never be able to totally prove I can parent them until they are grown up, I guess.

I also get, "How nice it will be when they are older and are able to take care of you." Like I bred little personal care attendants. It's wild.

(BTW, I guess I should've mentioned...I am vision/hearing impaired, dad is quadriplegic.)

I have a child in elementary school and an infant. I think most people though we adopted our first, but our second so unmistakably looks like me...

I've been a step-father for 4 years which gave me a sort of "preview" of parenting. Now, my wife and I have a toddler boy, Chris Jr. ("CJ") and it's an amazing experience. Parenting from a scooter, I have Cerebral Palsy, is definitely a challenge and I wish I could be more hands on with his daily needs. But, life is what it is. I'm still his Dad and he likes to climb all over me and my scooter. I know some people are shocked that:

  1. I could father a child at all.
  2. I can be a good dad.

But, you get over that. I think I prove the stereotypes wrong, and have been proving them wrong for 40 years, by simply living, working, and being independent in this world. Not all of us with disabilities are equally successful at this, but I've done OK.

I have gotten many questions from people about what "label" I prefer: "disabled," "handicapped," "mobility impaired," etc.

I prefer "Daddy."

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