Disability, Motherhood and the Mundane
Over ten years ago, I became a quadriplegic due to a real klutz move. I slipped and fell in a bathroom and broke my neck leaving me paralyzed from the chest down and with weakness in my hands and arms. This is not something I would have ever expected in a million years and it was a rough adjustment. Never did I think the words “full time wheelchair user” and “disability” would fall so nonchalantly from my lips as they do now. Never did I think that this life would become my new normal, those words proudly part and parcel of my identity.
My next great life shock came over a year ago when I found out I was pregnant and expecting not one, but two babies with my husband Rudy in what was considered a high risk pregnancy. And just for added dramatic effect, I gave birth to them via an emergency caesarian section 6 weeks before their due date, and smack in the middle of a global pandemic. Because why not? “How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life,” said the great Roman emperor and stoic, Marcus Aurelius. Like Marcus, I’ve officially run out of having expectations. Did I think I would become a quadriplegic? No. Did I think I’d carry twins in a body mostly paralyzed? Heck no (but happily!) Did I think I’d be preparing for parenthood during a plague? NO. With each surprise comes panic and the feeling that I am entering a twilight zone. But here I am now just doing regular life with all its twists and turns. After some grappling, surprises become new normals.
This is never more clear than it is now as I am immersed daily in the soft and lovely, but oftentimes hectic and exhausting, mundaneness of mothering two sweet and mischievous babies (while holding a job no less.) What does that look like as a quadriplegic mom of almost one year old twins? It looks like me wiping boogers. Picking outfits. Keeping babies from having meltdowns during conference calls. Fighting through aches and pains to stay present during playtimes. Hollering across the house for my husband to help me lift a baby from my lap to the floor, to a seat, to the crib. Cuddling squishy babies. Keeping tiny fingers out of my wheel spokes. Escaping on date nights. Having my man put my socks and shoes on. Teaching my kids how to walk from my wheelchair. Finding adaptive gadgets and creative solutions that help me get stuff done. And landing in bed at the end of each day wiped out, but happy and loving it.
What’s my point with all of this? Disabilities like mine are often approached from two narrative frameworks: the story of pity and tragedy, and the story of inspiration and overcoming. But here’s the deal: being a token of tragedy or inspiration isn’t really an accurate account of me or my life. The shock of major life changes wears off and loses dimension. The story, to me, is a less fluffy and sensational one. My “story” is everything in the middle: all the normal, relatable things that bridge the social gap between disabled and nondisabled. As a disabled mom of twins who easily fits into any click-bait worthy headliner, I hope my story catches the attention of others and serves to destigmatize and normalize disability, and remind them that at the end of the day, we are more alike than different.