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Disabled and parenting a disabled child.

Hi, I'm Abi and I'm 26 years old. I have cerebral palsy which affects my mobility and balance. This is the story of my life as a young disabled parent with 2 children (one of whom is also secretly disabled.

So, I became a mum at the age of 19 after a short relationship with a very abusive man. Looking back now I'm sure he picked me because of my physical vunerability. Anyway, as soon as my daughter was born I remember feeling like a truck had hit me. How would I carry her around when I can hardly walk, what if I dropped her? What if the social services thought I couldn't cope and took her from me? All of these things seemed very real possibilities. Hell, I'd never held a baby before let alone been fully responsible for the welfare of my own child. I remember feeling so judged by the midwives in hospital that I did nothing but cry and was shaking during all the assessments they did. I was so scared of doing something wrong! Fast forward a week and the powers that be decided my daughter and I could leave hospital, on the understanding that i would not be left alone with her until a full assessment of my physical abilities had been carried out. That's when things turned ugly...

I returned to my then partner's flat to face the worst incident of abuse I had ever faced. Whilst desperately trying to care for my daughter without dropping her and terrified I would hurt her (somewhat like any new parent I suspect) I was spat at, pushed to the floor and mentally broken down to a complete mess. I waited for him to leave and fled to my mums the very next morning. There, I had no choice but to demonstrate my parenting to social services and the midwives whilst in the worst mental state I had ever experienced. I learned quickly that the safest way to care for my daughter was to do everything on floor level. From feeding, changing and bathing. I had to use a cold water steriliser because I can only stand holding onto something which means boiling water is not the safest option. I needed somebody else to carry her upstairs and put her in the cot for me, and learned to carry her while crawling on my knees. To cut a long story short social services closed the case
And told me I could keep my baby! I broke away from my abusive ex and soon got back together with my first love, who took my daughter on as his own and is still here as my full time carer six years later. I found a pram that was heavy enough for me to put weight on ( enabling me to walk down the street without falling) and things for the most part ran smoothly until my first daughter was 4. My partner did and still does all of the cooking, school runs etc while I took charge of other housework ( done on my knees) As my daughter grew she was very independent and would willingly helped me with tasks I couldn't do. My partner was even able to return part time to work thanks to very nice neighbours who did the school run for me.

Then, life threw us a massive bombshell. Whilst pregnant with our second child, we were given the devastating news that she had severe spina bifida and fluid on her brain. Severe paralysis and learning disabilities were almost inevitable.
I was quickly faced with the prospect of parenting 2 children, one of whom is now a wheelchair user, whist constantly battling with my own physical limitations. Fast forward 2 years and we have coped surprisingly well. My youngest is as expected paralysed from the chest down and has constant emergencies with the shunt in her brain. This in itself presents its own challenges for me because i then have to cope alone at home with my eldest whist my partner stays in hospital with her. Honestly, some days I really struggle. The only reason I cope is because of a great practical support network from my partner and friends. I can't take my children out on my own, I can't do school runs, I can't even have a bath unless someone else is in the house. But, in spite of all this I love my life. My partner and I parent our children without any input from carers or social services and both children are achieving highly. We live in our own home and share the childcare equally. My message to all those parents and parents to be out there who are tired, scared, low or feel they can't cope is just to keep going. You are the only parent your child will ever have and they love you unconditionally in spite of all the struggles you face. Let's be honest, life as a disabled parent is damn hard work. You feel constantly judged and worry you aren't good enough, that you ask too much of your children, that they are forced to grow up too fast, or today others will judge you for being different. But the truth is that these are things even the most able of parents worry about. The single most important thing your child needs is love and care. When all's said and done there is no disability in the world that can get in the way of that!

Cerebral palsy

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