I think I have written and rewritten this post a half dozen times in the last few months. Things keep popping up in the media that make me feel like I have to speak up but the words aren't coming out right. There is far too much emotion attached to this one.
Life is random. The mantra we are fed as children gets repeated endlessly: life is not fair. Indeed it is not, nor is motherhood. There is no fairness in some women's ability to conceive children while others cannot. The sweet, angelic babies are not doled out to the single women with no support system, nor are the high needs colicky babies reserved for the most patient new moms with eager grandparents near by and a supportive partner. There is often no rhyme or reason to children who do not get to live long. Babies with disabilities or diseases are not given only to parents who are strong and who can handle it. We did not ask for it. We did not choose it. No one hands us a list when we are deciding to have children so that we can run down the options and check off what we want. Blond hair - check! Blue eyes - check! Athletic build - check! Social personality - check!
I am not a supermom.
I didn't choose for Kingsley to have spina bifida. If given the choice, I would have politely declined that option, would not have checked that box. I wouldn't have checked the autism box either. Or the one with the third chromosome. Or any of the boxes that would lead me to being a 'special needs mom'.
I did choose to have a baby though. I chose him. I chose him and whatever he was coming with, I chose to take it. I don't mean that I made this choice when we 'found out', I made this choice the day I decided we were ready for number three.
It's not fair that I did everything right and this still happened. It's not fair that some women do everything wrong and it doesn't happen. It's not fair when us mothers are told things about our children that we did not expect, did not want to hear, and yes, even feared hearing above all else. It's not fair. But as a mother, we know that life is not fair. Things happen, but we now must accept that it's not just about us anymore. Deal with it. No matter what we had hoped for, when that little baby is handed to us the other rule of childhood applies: you get what you get and you don't get upset. The checklist is gone. Your baby is here. You have one job - love them.
Because what is most unfair is the lie we tell ourselves about how accepting we are of differences. The lie we have deep down where we don't want to admit. The lie that comes out the day you are looked in the eye and told that life really is not fair. To see how unaccepting we are of people with disabilities we only need to look at the termination rates after a prenatal diagnosis or the reaction an adult has to learning that they now will be switching teams from able-bodied to disabled. Life is over. A life with a disability is not worth living, apparently. That decision is not fair.
We have such a double standard going. We pat our kids on the head and tell them that they should be nice to the little kid in the wheelchair. Don't stare at the little girl bouncing on her toes trying to fly. Don't point at the little boy who looks a little different. Be nice. Be friendly. Just don't you dare be my child.
I'm told often by the amazing community that I find myself in that living with a disability is not that bad. I have many friends who tell me that having a sibling with a disability is not that bad. Having a partner with a disability, a coworker with a disability, a neighbour with a disability, a friend with a disability... All not that bad. Most would say not bad at all. I can tell you in all honesty, having a child with a disability is not that bad. Not at all what I thought it would be. We have had a few rough patches, yes, and a few awkward moments, but that goes with having kids, no?
Six years ago today, my incredible daughter Rachel was born and I was forever changed in ways that there are just no words for. What I wanted for her in that moment was the same thing I still want for all of my children: to know in every second of their lives how deeply and madly they are loved, just as they are. It does not take an extraordinary woman to feel that love or an extraordinary child to receive it. And though I do happen to think that my three are quite extraordinary, Kingsley is not more or less worthy of such adjectives than the other two. He's just a kid. I'm just a mom. His disability isn't his whole life anymore than its mine. It may not be fair, but it certainly is not the end of the world.
If you ever find yourself in that position of discovering that your child is not going to be who you thought: relax. It's not going to be that bad. You are strong enough, you are amazing enough, you will do just fine. There's no need to panic. Remember that people with disabilities are people. They love, they laugh, they play, they communicate, they live. If you can get over yourself, you will do just fine.