Don't judge my parenting just because I have dwarfism

I walked into my first mother and baby group in 2014 cradling my child, only to find every single pair of eyes in the room staring me down from the door to my seat.

The same exact look of disbelief was mirrored across their faces – it read, ‘how could someone like her be a mother?’ I immediately felt uncomfortable and alienated.

As if to affirm my paranoia, a few minutes later, a nosy mother sitting next to me piped up with, ‘So is your baby like you then?’ and she gestured towards my body. I stared back at her, too stunned to answer.

It was as if other non-Disabled mothers thought we were some kind of freaks of nature or anomalies that must be explained.

Must I be interrogated and asked intrusive questions simply for the privilege of being allowed to sit with this group of women and their babies? Why didn’t we deserve to just be there, like they were?

I have always been the only visibly Disabled mother in the parenting spaces I’ve been in.

Whether that’s at hospital, a mother and baby group, a toddler dance class, at nursery, on the school run, the library – you name it; in every situation, every time, I’m always the odd one out.

Here’s the hot-take: Disabled people are worthy and often just as capable as anyone else of becoming incredible parents, should we wish to.

The awe, the fascination and the intrusive questions only serve to reinforce stereotypical views of how inspiring and medically fascinating it is that my body can carry two children, which really shouldn’t be up for debate. 

Ever since I could remember, I wanted to have a large family – many kids who are born close together with a loud and chaotic home. I didn’t ever question or doubt my ability to make my dreams come true.

I have achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism – and the one you’re more likely to see on TV and in magazines.

Although many people – including some doctors – have queried this at various stages of my life, my disability does not affect my ability to conceive, bear and raise children. Nor does it affect my children’s ability to have incredible, healthy, brilliant childhoods.

Both my pregnancies, aged 28 and 31, were relatively smooth and uncomplicated.

Some aspects of parenting – like carrying my children any further than out of a room or holding them while they learn to ride a bike – are admittedly slightly more difficult for me than an average height parent though. That’s because we don’t live in a world built for people who are four feet tall but, like with anything else, I get around the obstacles I face and find my own way of doing things

However, after several more experiences involving intrusive questions, prying eyes and judgements about me, and my parenting abilities being thrown at me just as I’m going about my day, I wanted to hide away. 

I gradually stopped attending social events and unregistered myself from the mother and baby group emails. I was already a tired parent looking after a small baby that kept me awake most of the night; the last thing I wanted was to feel like I didn’t belong or was somehow undeserving of being a mother.

When I had my second baby, I did things differently.

I didn’t sign up for any groups, instead I spent my maternity leave busying myself with seeing friends and family who already knew and supported my place in motherhood. I felt so much happier being in spaces that automatically accepted me and never questioned my right to be there.

My guess would be I’m probably not the only Disabled person who has done this in order to protect their mental and emotional health from well-meaning but hurtful comments and interrogation from strangers.

This then in turn, of course, continues the cycle of Disabled people not being visible in these spaces for the next generation of Disabled parents to feel more comfortable around.

If you were to ask me what could have been done differently to make me feel more welcome in parenting spaces, making huge, clear efforts to include parents of all disabilities would massively help.

This means being supportive and kind to Disabled parents, as with any other parent, while recognising that we may have access needs too.

Asking us how you can change your space to ensure we can access it and feel comfortable, rather than assuming that we should change to fit in or else miss out.

Above all, providing an inclusive, non-intrusive, judgement-free zone and ensuring that everyone that attends follows these guidelines too.

And if you have any questions about my disability or that of my children, search engines are free.

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