My mum and I have always had the kind of relationship where we can talk about anything. She was the first person to tell me it was possible to have sex with a disability. Need I say more?
This time of year is always a strange one for me and she knows it. Mother’s Day is right around the corner and my original due date was 3 April, before I rudely decided I wanted to get the party started early on 2 January. To make matters even worse I got my cerebral palsy diagnosis just before Christmas 1992, and then had my 2nd birthday a couple of weeks later. I spend a lot of time thinking about what that must have been like for her. I’ll never truly know but I imagine it must’ve been scary. She knows I feel guilty about that, even now, and I know that she thinks that’s unnecessary.
Now that I write for Liability Magazine, I thought I’d use that as an excuse to sit down and talk to her about how she dealt with this, and what advice she’d give to parents going through a similar situation.
Q: Do you remember how it felt when I got my diagnosis?
A: Relief I suppose because I knew there was something. Because it was near Christmas I didn’t know whether to tell people so I wandered round town then I decided I needed to. It didn’t affect how I felt about you. It didn’t scare me. I felt sad for you. I wasn’t crying I wasn’t hysterical, just relieved someone had finally listened to me.
I knew that you’d walk and I knew I’d push it until you did. Your consultant said he’d eat his hat if you didn’t walk because you were so intelligent and you’d (already) got where you’d got.
Q: When you were pregnant did it occur to you that you could have a disabled child?
A: Everybody knows there’s that possibility. Nobody wants their child to be disabled, but not because you don’t want them. You just want the best for your child.
Q: Do you think you’d have dealt with my diagnosis differently in today’s Internet era?
A: Because I’d already had experiences with CP (a childhood friend) it wasn’t as scary for me. Surely now it must be easier for parents who haven’t previously had experience because there’s more awareness now. Disabled children weren’t as integrated in mainstream schools in the same way they are today. It’s easier to look up where you can go for help and support.
Q What advice would you give to a parent whose child has just been diagnosed as disabled?
A: They’re still the same child you already loved. Don’t give up on them and work as hard as you can with them because the more you work the better the outcomes. Treat them normally. The most important thing is to not be soft and let them get away with things because of it. They don’t want to be treated differently. They want to be treated the same as any other child.