Thursday, October 29, 2009

Disability and Loss

image As part of my journey accepting my new identity, I have determined to chronicle my feelings.  When you are able bodied you take the ability to do what you would like for granted. I walked through this world with a sense of confidence because I could count on my body to submit to my will.  When I became a mother, I never worried about meeting the physical needs of my child.  I chased him around the park and swooped him up in my arms with the greatest of ease.

Even though I have been blessed to have two beautiful healthy sons, in the back of my mind, I have always thought about having one more child.  Of all of my identities, mother is the one that I cherish the most.  There are times that I look at my children and become so overwhelmed with love that I cannot speak. Their smile or big brown eyes warm my heart in way that I cannot describe. Not a day goes by that I do not tell them of my love for them.

Shortly after I had given birth to my second son, I began thinking about having one more child.  I wanted to try for a little girl.  As a womanist, I felt that there was so much that I could offer a little girl.  I thought about empowering her with a strong sense of self.  I thought about the sweet times when we cuddle and giggle over the ridiculous.  I even thought years ahead of shopping with her and going out to lunch.

Today those dreams are no more.  Due to all of the drugs that I take to manage my various illnesses, I can longer carry a child to term.  It is a loss that sometimes makes me unbearably sad.  When I speak about this, there are those that are quick to point out that I should be thankful for what I already have.  What they do not understand,is that to me, this is yet another example of the ways in which I feel betrayed by my body.

If you are born differently abled, the state of your body is absolutely normal to you but if you come to this identity after being fully abled, it is a loss.  I think that it is important to acknowledge this for exactly what it is.  I have had doctors tell me that this is not healthy or normal.  I have been encouraged to medicate myself into a false state of happiness. Being sad makes people uncomfortable and to own this sadness as completely as I do, even more so.

The woman that I was four years ago is gone forever.  The woman that I thought that I would become ten years from now will never appear.  This is a loss and it is traumatic.  I have only lost one person in this life who was close to me and dealing with this disabled identity is very much the same sort of feeling.  It is natural to mourn and this does not mean that you do not accept or love your new identity; it means that the person you were before was also of value.

My eyes have been opened and I no longer possess the same naiveté or wonder.  I know what real and lasting pain is.  Loss is inevitable in life but when that loss is you, how can you ever prepare to deal with that?  I have learned that this mourning must happen on my own time schedule.  I have learned that my tears and my frustration are a part of this journey.  The super crip mythology would have us ignore this because the differently abled are expected to internalize our feelings and not burden others, but being honest about the anger and the hurt can be cathartic.  

I don’t think we should fear embracing this and accepting it for what is.  Differently abled means just that- things are different for you now. Different does not have to mean bad but taking the time to adjust is absolutely necessary. You had to learn to creep before you could walk and walk before you could run and this should not be treated any differently.  It is a metamorphosis of being but unlike the caterpillar, you don’t know what will emerge until the journey is done.