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The Assumption a Stranger Made About My Baby Because of My Wheelchair

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Just 48 hours after my C-section, I was taking my dog Rusty out for a walk, proud as punch with my newborn, eagerly feeding, snuggled inside my partially zipped-up hoodie.

It was a beautiful August morning. I’d been living in the clouds for two days, freshly discharged from hospital with my beautiful baby boy. Nothing could bring me down to earth… or so I thought.

Eager to start building a relationship between my dog, Rusty, and newborn son, I decided that their first meeting should be in a neutral place. Pulling a changing bag over the handles of my wheelchair, Rusty by my side and my son tucked up inside my zip-up hoodie, we headed towards our local green belt.

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Everything I ever wanted was in my arms, a smile was spread across my face, and everyone passing smiled back.

As I reached the green belt, I stopped and let Rusty off lead. In the August sun, I sat gazing at my son, stroking the soft fur on his ears. I was oblivious to the lady that approached, until I heard the words that brought me back to earth with a bang.

“Your doll looks so realistic. I’ve never seen a reborn doll before, but my friend told me about them because her daughter wanted one for Christmas.”

Excuse me? The air was taken right out of my lungs. I was barely able to get my next words out. “He’s my baby!”

But she continued. “My goodness, it even looks like it’s breathing!”

It baffles me. Why, when presented with a lady in her late 20s carrying a baby, would someone jump to the conclusion that the baby was a doll? Why would you think that?

There are still many people in this world who believe that disabled people shouldn’t be parents, that we aren’t capable, that we can’t possibly care for a child. But that’s not the reality.

What if I had a husband? Owned my own home? Worked? Volunteered? Helped my community?

All the above is true, but I still seem to be judged when people see my wheelchair or my feeding tube.

Yes, we do things slightly differently. There may be some limitations, a lot of planning, organization and checking out accessibility. But we are just like any other family, looking after each other, sharing love and life’s rollercoasters together.

When I started my Facebook blog earlier this year, my mission was and still is to raise awareness of parenting with a disability. To normalize parenting differently and to support other parents with disabilities.

This year during COVID, I set up an accessible food bank that’s now been taken over by a local charity Tees Valley Together and going from strength to strength. I’m now setting up an online face-to-face peer support group named Life After Diagnosis. I’m also setting up a virtual Christmas Fayre for small businesses run by people with disabilities, and really looking forward to my Advent Disability Awareness Challenge this Christmas.

There is no limit to what someone can achieve, even if they need to use aids to accomplish it. My life may not have taken the path I expected it to take, but I live my best life with what I’ve been given. I enjoy my life, I love my family and I try my best.

I challenge you to look beyond the wheelchair, mobility aids, feeding tube or disability.

See the person, the passion, the dreams and aspirations.

This story originally appeared on Pip, Disabled Mum.

Originally published: December 27, 2020
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