There are many times people come up to me and express wonder & awe in my ability to raise my child, especially as a single mother. I am told I’m “inspiring,” “strong,” “amazing.” But these aren’t adjectives used to describe my situation as a single mom. They’re being used to describe my being a single mom with disabilities & a chronic illness. Yet, to me I am just another mother; I am no different; I am nothing special; I am simply raising my child like any mom who’s called by Him to do so. Is being a single mom difficult at times? Sure! Is being a parent in general, with or without a partner to divide tasks and offer assistance, a sometimes comic, sometimes frustrating title to own? You bet! Can raising a child evoke feelings of joy, sadness, frustration, pride, anger, delight, inadequacy, humbleness and so many more? Yes! I feel the same feelings, deal with many of the same things and do the best I can to make God proud of the parent I am – just as any parent does. To me, it has nothing to do with my disability or being sick.
My child and I know no other way of life. To us, my using a pronged-cane, wheelchair and power chair are an everyday affair. Doctors appointments, tests, medications, physical therapy, aquatic therapy are par for the course. This is our normal.
I admit, there are times I see parents at the park riding bikes with their children and feel envious & slightly depressed. There are times I watch another parent run with, race, chase after or jump around with their child and feel dismayed & saddened at my inability to do the same. I’ll watch a friend with their child, engaged in a physical activity which I am unable to take part in and I feel broken & angry. These are the only times I feel different from my fellow parents. But I remind myself that my CHILD is no different from her peers – and that alleviates any negativity and replaces it with immense joy in the life she’s able to live.
My daughter is able-bodied and is constantly jumping up & down with energy I can only dream of! She lives with abandon, soaking up the love, the zeal, the zest, the new experiences that life has to offer. She enjoys her weekly gymnastics classes and as I watch her excel while I sit among the other parents, I am full of pride and awe in her ability to work through fears and try all the new moves her coach encourages her to try.
I think the only time in my life as a mother that I felt disconnected from other moms, completely aware of my limitations and able to acknowledge that I might be different was the night I found out I was pregnant. I remember being instantly in love with the butterfly of a heartbeat that I watched on the screen of the ultrasound… I was also instantly thrown into fear for my life with this child. I prayed, thanking Him for blessing me with a baby and simultaneously asking for His guidance, His wisdom to be the mom He was calling me to be. I prayed that my ‘disability’ and illness would have no negative impact or consequences for the baby. I was so naïve, for the only impact my situation has had on my daughter has been incredibly positive!
She is currently only 4-years-old yet already understands AND demonstrates concepts such as empathy, compassion, thoughtfulness and inclusion of all those around her. She amazes me in her ability to problem-solve, to find things to be grateful for in times of disappointment, to be resilient and accommodating. She teaches me more than I teach her. She is wise beyond her years, but not in the tragic, depressing, trauma-based way that some kids sadly come by this wisdom. She has grown up understanding that love isn’t about whether her mommy’s legs work properly; love is about how she’s treated by her mommy, how her mom makes her feel about herself. She understands that my legs may be “broken” but my heart works just fine.
My heart works like any able-bodied mom’s or dad’s heart. I have the same thoughts and feelings that my able-bodied peers have. I dream the same dreams for my child that any parent dreams. I am not different from other moms. I am any mother.