Published on behalf of and written by Laura Parkin
All of us face our difficulties in motherhood; there isn’t one mother that doesn’t have to climb a mountain, or fight to survive motherhood. We all have our crosses to bear, hurdles we overcome for our children, pain in many physical and mental forms to push through.
My experience of motherhood is one from a disabled person’s perspective. 6 years ago I was JUST “Laura” or “wife”; a career woman who lived for the excitement of running around estates in Essex after criminals as a police press officer. Someone that enjoyed being the life and soul of the party.
These days I am still Laura and a wife, but I'm also disabled, I am a mental health sufferer, I am career-less and I am dependent wholly on my husband. But since 2016, I am now also Mama…the best name and role I have yet to undertake.
I’d like to be courageous, you know, one of those people that managed to inspire others, never complained or let my disability define me. I’d like to say that my disability doesn’t change how I parent. But all of that would be lying. It wouldn’t be true to the experiences of many mothers that are disabled and fight every day to do things that an able bodied mama can do with ease. It's impossible for a condition, that decides for you what you can and can't do in your life, not to define you.
In 2014 I had a spinal fusion for a spine condition I was born with. Apart from 2 years in my early teens, my spine behaved enough for me to lead a relatively normal life. Then in 2014, my condition progressed to the point of needing surgery, my spine was broken and was compressing on my nerves, making my life unbearable. I am now officially bionic! Unfortunately my spine progression caused extensive nerve damage which is only getting worse, but I count my blessings that I can still walk.
One of the hardest things for me is having to ask for so much help with Ethan. It makes me feel like a part time mother. In fact, there hasn’t been one whole day in his eighteen months of life that I have solely cared for him without any help. I have only taken him out on my own a handful of times, an independence that so many take for granted.
I also now have fibromyalgia along with my spine condition and depression, so either side of any activity I have to rest. With help from my mum I take Ethan to Jo Jingles once a week. The price I pay for having fun with Ethan is that I have to lay down for most of the rest of the day because of the pain. Some days I’m in so much pain I can’t even lift my arms to comfort my son for a cuddle. It truly breaks my heart. I can't physically get up to deal with him in the night so my husband has done every night shift since day one. A blessing some may think (and yes I am totally and utterly blessed to have a husband that works full time and looks after me and our son) , but I'd do anything to feel tired for normal mum duties. I feel so guilty for everything my mum and husband do for me.
But through the guilt, I have also learnt gratitude; gratitude of having such an amazing support network of my husband, my mum and Ethan’s auntie who always step in to the roles I’m unable to fulfil. A good support network for any mama is important, but even more so for a disabled one.
As parents, we all try to teach our children compassion from a young age, and I’m certain having a disabled parent makes for very empathic children. My son Ethan helps his dad bring me my breakfast in bed every morning so I can take my meds to be able to get up. He cuddles me when I’m suffering, he sits on the bed happily playing with me while I’m laying down. He empathically says “awwwww” and strokes my hair. Feeling like no one cares when you are disabled can be horrible, so the fact Ethan will grow up to be even more caring because of it fills my heart with joy.
Many mamas have a lot of their freedom and identity taken away from them when they become a mother. They feel they lose themselves in their children and that is totally understandable. Motherhood is hard...disabled or not. But this is one massive positive for me being disabled. I already lost my independence, my social life, my career…my identity. My disability robbed me of all that. Motherhood has only given, not taken away. It has given me a purpose, an identity, a reason to live. A reason to fight my failing body every day that little bit harder. And throughout all of the hardships that come with being a disabled mama, I wouldn’t swap it for the world.