I don’t have children. Maybe I will someday. Or maybe I won’t. That’s not the point of this article.
Have you ever been in a class discussion about motherhood, and suddenly a classmate directly questions not only your capability to be a parent, but the physiological possibility of bearing a child? I have.
Has your ability to be a parent ever been questioned merely because you can’t see out of one eye, or because you use a chair, or because you live life with an illness, either mental or physical? I know many.
I think every woman experiences opinions with regard to both their capability as a mother, but also their practice in bearing their child. Judgements over breastfeeding, diet, choice of gender normativity, any of the above are commented on by relatives and strangers alike. But the process of judgement when one is disabled seems insidious and hurtful in another way.
It’s not just that people ask “do you think that’s wise?” when someone says they want to bear a child. It isn’t the perception that yuo’re incapable that hurts. It’s the notion that no matter where your disability lies – in my case, in my eyeballs- that your uterus is affected.
Our society is built on assumptions. The assumption that it’s okay to ask a disabled person if they can have sex. The assumption that we NEED to be told “Well, maybe you shouldn’t have a baby….” These assumptions are hardly acceptable.
The assumption that a disabled woman can’t have children is just as hurtful as the assumption that a woman who looks perfectly healthy can. Fertility shouldn’t be up for discussion. Neither should parenthood.
In my classroom, it was suggested that I couldn’t have a baby. In my classroom it was suggested that I wouldn’t be a good mother. The question was asked, and the entire classroom went silent, as though nobody could quite believe that the question had been asked, but at the same time, many people thought the exact same thing. The reality is, I’ve worked with children before. I have spent time and energy teaching autistic children not to eat rocks, I have spent time helping children learn how to play tag nicely. I am good with children.
But every time I say that I can babysit, or that I can nanny, or that I’d like to apply to run an afterschool program for kids, the look comes into the able bodied persons eyes, and you can hear the skepticism of “can you?