FOOTINMOUTH7000: Although I feel very sympathetic [sic] With him and I salute him for his determination, I feel bad for his child who has to live seeing his mother paralyzed. I mean this is an injustice to the child.
That social media comment was shut down amidst so many heart emojis and encouraging songs of praise after HuffPost Personal published an essay in January. This piece was my first opportunity to give the world a glimpse into what it’s like to be pregnant and paralyzed. I was so proud! And then I saw that comment.
I told myself it was just one of so many reactions—most of them heart-eye faces and yellow thumbs-ups—but as hard as I tried, I couldn’t ignore it.
I’ve heard comments like this all my life, most of them unintentional criticisms of something I have no control over. I was in a car accident in my teens. I flew through the air and landed on the highway pavement, pulling my spine down beyond repair. My whole world changed in that moment when one really negative comment had to sigh.
However, over the past 25 years, I have done so much for myself that I am able to accomplish whatever I have in my vision. I became a teacher and a swim coach. I traveled around the world despite the uncontrolled backroads and seemingly inhospitable lifestyle. I challenged myself beyond what was possible by training for the Paralympics. I also became a wife and a mother.
Because I am paralyzed and have been using a wheelchair for the past quarter century, that’s all I know at the moment, and of course that’s all my kids know. I am who I am because of my disability, and my children know who they are.
When I got pregnant with my first child, I realized I had to find a way for more. There was no learner’s permit, no manual, no guide to explain or show me how things would go.
Luckily, I’m as stubborn as a mule wearing heels in the rain. I was not one to be shaken by the notion that things happen for a reason, and I was determined to help them happen.
I have had two children without any significant medical intervention. I’m so proud of my body and willingness to stand in that rain wearing heels, declaring that all this can be done.
Don’t get me wrong: As soon as I got pregnant, a tiny voice inside me began to smell through my cerebrum. It judged me and made me doubt my abilities—or rather handicap—abilities to be and be a mother. I remember watching the pregnancy test with my husband in my little bathroom. We were all with jagged smiles, yet the snake entered and whispered, “Ssssssssss, how are you going to teach him how to walk?”
I honestly didn’t know. But I was sure that I have always been blessed with a willingness to try. I think that sentiment may be true for many parents.
I have to climb that tree because my child is stuck? No problem. Jump in front of a moving vehicle to catch the little ones? I got this.
I think every parent knows what it’s like to forget yourself for the sake of their little ones, and I’m no exception. I knew – I just knew – I would figure out how to teach my kid to walk and fly across monkey bars and do all the things I couldn’t possibly imagine doing for myself. Because I am his mother.
I’ve learned to challenge my body with car seats and strollers, with stairs and a soccer practice carpool – even when I’m not sure how I’ll meet whatever challenge lies ahead of me – and I’ve succeeded. . I’ve learned to try with what I have, and I’ve learned to ask for help. I’ve also learned to ask my kids for help, because sometimes it’s okay.
As my kids got older, I grew too.
I have been gifted with my disability and so much outlook on life with it from watching my kids watch me. I didn’t know I was so strong before he said and showed me.
Being able to sum up a small part of my own experience for them is everything to me. They have been the secret to knowing things like pure empathy, overcoming adversity, challenging norms, and many other beautiful and innate qualities that I believe every parent wants their child to have. be near them.
When my firstborn was just a kid, we went out for a walk around the block together – just us. I had taught him many times before that he needed to walk right next to the wheel of my wheelchair, as it was never possible to hold hands while crossing the street. He always followed those commands as he understood their importance. However, that day, while taking a walk in the neighborhood, my sweet boy did something that I will never forget. There was a slight tilt in the pavement, and before I could bend my chest toward my feet to give myself a suitable grip to climb the hill, my son came up behind me and gave a gentle push, as he looked at him. Tha papa does this many times before.
He helped me enough to climb that hill, and he didn’t expect or need gold stars or any kind of reward. He did it because he knew it was the right thing to do. And, for the first time in my entire life, I realized just how special my disability made me — it made me.
Each of my children has received so many lessons because of my wheelchair. There will be many more.
For Mother’s Day this year, my 8-year-old son made me a card that included two poems written in his best curly handwriting—because curly handwriting is fancy. The last line of his second poem reads, “[Mom] Unbelievable reaches. “How beautiful is she?
Is My Life Is Our Life Together All Curly Handwritten Odds? certainly not.
Being paralyzed and using a wheelchair puts a lot of pressure on my physical body and my physical health and I am almost constantly in a quandary wondering how it affects my health and my longevity. I wonder sometimes, will I always be there for them when they grow up? I don’t know But I only let myself worry about it for a second because worrying won’t help me or my family, and I have more important things to focus on.
Are there moments where I can’t be there for them or with them? Those moments when I have to push my boys and my husband to cross a suspension bridge in the rocky woods of British Columbia or down the tallest sandy hill at White Sands National Monument?
As my sons get older, those moments are becoming more and more adventurous and mobile. But I have a very special pocket in my chest for those times, and I keep those moments to myself when I am alone. Those moments are filled with the most bitter silence.
My paralysis can’t take me everywhere I want to go I’ve always known this. Many times my children will have to live without me. There will be things that I miss.
Yet they always return to me with huge smiles and stories to share. I have not been forgotten. I’ve missed I am loved. And they are loved and they know it. And I won’t trade for what we have Anything in the world.
Ryan Rae Harbuck is the author of his memoir “When I Grow Up I Want to Be a Chair”. She has been a teacher and swim coach, but enjoys being a mother the most. She lives in her hometown of Denver with her husband and two boys. To learn more, please visit his website at RyanRaeHarbuck.com.
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