Even though this may be hard to believe, there are still some people in the world who think it is the parent’s fault if they have a child with a disability. Some believe the parents participated in risky behavior while pregnant. Some even believe that a past wrong or horrible deed done by the parents, have doomed them to raise a child with a handicap.
Whether these inaccurate beliefs come from culture or religion, they can sting when voiced openly to those of us labeled. Last week, an offhand comment reminded me that there is much ignorance surrounding disabilities. I was speaking with a teacher, and she was commenting about another student with multiple disabilities.
While looking at the child in her class, she stated that while pregnant she did everything right. She ate all healthy foods, prayed daily for a healthy child, didn’t work too hard, and apparently was a general model citizen. She stated that she did all those things to make sure she had a healthy baby because she just knew that she would never be able to handle a child with a handicap. She stated that she had to make sure she wouldn’t have a baby “like that” because she wouldn’t be strong enough to raise them.
My first comment was that of course she would be able to take care of any baby, because that’s what mothers do. My second comment was that I had a child with a disability, and I did all the “right things” during my pregnancy as well. There wasn’t anything I did, or didn’t do, that caused my son to be different. She followed my comments by restating that she just couldn’t have raised a handicapped child.
She didn’t take back her remarks, or state “Of course you didn’t do anything wrong!” Not that I needed her to for my own confidence, but her words still bothered me. I was reminded again that I am a minority. There are more mothers without children like Eddie, than there are mothers that know exactly how I feel. The odds that she would’ve made those comments to a woman with “typical” children are much greater. She didn’t mean harm…but, in a minor way, she did harm me.
I know I didn’t cause Eddie to be blind. Even for women that did make mistakes during their pregnancy, there is no blame to place. Our children are who they are, and we should be proud of them, and help them achieve great accomplishments. Looking backwards is no way to be an advocate; we must carry on regardless of our history.
I want people in the world to be cheerleaders for us parents that, in most cases, have a tougher road. I don’t want to see sideways glances, and wonder if I am being deemed guilty by an uneducated bystander who may have never known a child like mine. I want to be embraced by my community, and feel acceptance in place of judgment. Maybe I’m naïve, but a mother can dream. Some people will never understand, but I’m going to surround myself with the people that do.