February 06, 2006

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.'

Posted on February 06, 2006