When People Ask ‘Is She Yours?’ Because I Have a Disability
“Is she yours?”
I think my daughter looks nothing like me. Other then being short and female, she’s a tiny, adorable clone of her daddy. I wish with all my heart I actually believed that this is the reason I am almost never in public with her long before I’m asked if she’s mine. If the questions stopped there, I could probably convince myself it’s because her hair is blonde and stick-straight while mine is dark and a mass of unruly curls. The problem is, too many times the questions don’t stop when I answer, “Yes, she’s mine!” with pride in my voice. Some bolder strangers will ask if I actually gave birth, how I gave birth or the one that always turns my stomach and makes me feel a bit queasy: “Did you mean to have a child?”
Yes. My husband and I planned for and actively “tried” to have a child. We had sex! I felt disappointed each time I felt the cramps that meant another month had passed without success. I felt guilty about the surge of envy that came over me when my sister-in-law called to announce her pregnancy. I did not believe the first time I saw two lines on the test strip (or the second and third time). I cried tears of joy and anxiety when I did believe.
Why do these facts shock people so much? Because I’m a person with a disability. I have lived all of my years in a body that doesn’t quite get it right. I need special equipment to drive, I need help to put on socks and I cannot walk independently.
I’ll never really understand why so many people assume a person with a disability is synonymous with an asexual person. People seemed genuinely shocked when I was visibly pregnant. They seemed baffled by the concept of how I got that way. I answered some extremely bold (and rude) questions during that period.
I have spent my life encouraging the curiosity of children I’ve encountered. I have a well-rehearsed speech about how my crutches help me walk the way glasses help some people see. I don’t want them to see me as different or scary. I want them to be comfortable with our differences. I’m not quite so comfortable with the prying questions from adults.
My marriage, sex life and family planning choices are the business of exactly two people: my husband and me.
Sometimes I laugh it off and answer their questions because it’s an opportunity to educate someone about people with disabilities. Sometimes I am short and not subtle that I think they’re crossing a line. Sometimes I try to ignore them.
Soon, ignoring it won’t be an option. At almost 2 years old, my bright and sunny girl doesn’t miss much. She’s wise beyond her years and incredibly empathetic. She points to me and states in her clear, sweet voice, “That’s my mommy!” I dread the day she asks me why people ask if she’s mine so often. I hate that her life will make her far too aware of the prejudice in this world.
I know at least on some level she knows her mommy is different. She’s my biggest helper and guards my crutches like they’re precious (because they are, they help Mommy play!). I cannot wait to see who she becomes.
I hope as she grows the questions will become less frequent and less invasive because more people in our society will accept and understand that people with disabilities aren’t all that different from themselves.
But to answer the question…
Yes, I am her mother. And I’m damn proud of that fact. Now stop asking questions because I have a toddler to chase!
The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.