It’s amazing what we as human beings are prepared to do to ourselves in order to avoid facing our feelings. It may be throwing ourselves into our work, in order to make every minute so busy with activity that we haven’t a moment to contemplate anything else, or it could be self-medication with whatever drink, drugs or substance we can lay our hands on. However, there comes a point where we can no longer do this and the only way to eradicate the demons that mercilessly control our lives is to face them and disempower them. And this is exactly what I am about to do.
Almost a year ago, my husband and I took part in a documentary ‘Somebody to Love’, which explored the challenges facing people with disabilities in finding love and forming romantic and sexual relationships. Partaking in that documentary was one of the most difficult things I have done in my life. The intimate nature of the recording and production meant that there was nowhere to hide from our feelings. We were in our own home, our own environment, laying our private lives bare for Irish viewers to dissect.
Watching the documentary back, I can see myself trying to stifle my husband’s words, trying to stop him from saying something ‘stupid’ or ‘dangerous’. By ‘stupid’ and ‘dangerous’, I mean the truth or, more specifically, our truth. Our truth is that we felt frightened and alone. We felt that we constantly had to prove ourselves, that we knew what we were doing, when in fact we did not have a clue. We’d never cared for a newborn before, and we were terrified, but we couldn’t let it show. In short, we were denied the right to be first time parents: to cremate the bottle, to hold the baby upside down, to make mistakes.(By the way, I am neither condoning nor encouraging this behaviour. Please read the instruction manual that comes with your child).
One of the worst moments of my life was the day my husband and I were supposed to take Alison from the hospital, It was a Monday, and I was recovering marvellously from my section. I was feeding Alison well, and she was thriving. I was even walking a little using a walker, having had to use a wheelchair for the last three weeks of the pregnancy. However, I felt emotional and like shit; my section scar was sore, I was missing my own mother like crazy, and it felt like fluid was leaking from every bodily orifice. And this was the moment that the head midwife, ward manager or whoever she was told me that they had ‘concerns’ about my ability to take care of my daughter. My heart broke. In that moment, it felt like Alison had died. I rang my husband and told him to take Ali with him and leave me behind, because it was me, not him, that they had the problem with. Reading it now, it seems like the rants of a crazy person, but in that moment, it made sense. After numerous phone calls to social workers, public health nurses and Offaly CIL, we were allowed home, on the condition that a Public Health Nurse could come to our home every day and monitor our ‘progress’.
Nearly three years have passed , and now one of my best friends, who also has Cerebral Palsy, is excited about welcoming her new arrival in January. But after witnessing what we contended with, she is starting to worry about how she will be perceived after the birth of her c child.. She will be a mother, not just an object of care, and it’s vital that she is enabled, without fear of judgement, to care for her child, It makes me furious to think that she, that we, have to think this way about the most precious event in any mother’s life, when children are being neglected by their parents every day.
and so I would urge her: If you by gross misfortune have to contend with these obstacles and attitudes, please have the courage to speak out. This is only the second time I have done so, but I feel so much better. Only through our honesty can we truly help others and deconstruct the negative attitudes that have the power to destroy us.