Ever since I turned 27, the thought of children has been on my mind. At 28, I am now a year older than my mother was when she had me. I always thought that my life would go a certain way. I would get my degree, get married, start a career, and have a baby. All of this was supposed to happen before I was 30.
Then I got sick, and one by one those dreams went up in flame.
I couldn’t go to medical school. Not only that, but I might even be able to manage a regular job let alone a career.
I got a degree, but unlike I expected my whole life, I am graduating with a bachelor with no idea of when or if I will ever be able to get more.
Some things changed, but not for the worse, just became different. Instead of a husband, I have a wife. The important part of that: the love, the support, the companionship remains the same. We live in Canada for now, which mean marriage for us is possible.
And then there are children.
I’ve always imagined myself having children, and since meeting Alyssa, those dreams have become more vivid. I wonder if our child would have my eyes and her sweet smile. If they will be quiet like Alyssa or loud like me, or maybe somewhere in between. Will they love writing like we do?
I imagine reading to my children, the same way my father read with me.
I imagine singing songs in the car like I used to. I imagine myself, exhausted in the middle of the night rocking them back and forth as they cry, humming one lullaby after the next. I imagine that moment of absolute serenity when they finally fall asleep, in your arms.
I have a habit of playing out imaginary scenarios in my head, and plan how I will react if my child faces unfair teachers, bullies. I plan how I will teach my children about gender, about sex, about drugs. I imagine myself having all the various “talks” that parents have with children.
In the same way that my disability changed the path of the rest of my life, so too it makes the question of children one that is more than just: do I want children.
I don’t know if I will be physically capable of having children.
I don’t have any physical indications of infertility, quite the opposite in fact. I have regular periods, when I am not on an IUD, and when I was tested for PCOS when I was younger there seemed to be no indication that I had it. But as long as I continue to flare with my Crohn’s, I am too sick to have a baby. Flaring increases my risk of miscarriage, it increases the risk of physical harm to the baby. Even if I were to go into remission, pregnancy can either make my conditions better, but it could also make them worse. It could be that my physical reaction to pregnancy is too intense and that I may have to terminate.
Still biological children are not the only option. I’ve always told myself that I would adopt, so even if can’t have a child physically, I could still have children.
But I wonder sometimes.
Will I have the energy for children? When some days I cannot muster the energy to get out of bed, how will I handle being able to run after them? Will they miss out because of me?
I have a lot to offer a child. I’m a good cook, I have a lot of love, I tell great stories. Alyssa too, I can see her being an amazing mother. Despite this, the worries and questions haunt me.
It’s funny how we doubt in ourselves what we support in others.
I would never suggest that a disabled person cannot be a wonderful parent. I know many people who are hindered by different circumstances, who have been homeless, who struggle with racism, poverty, harassment, abuse, in addition to having disabilities, and they are some of the best parents I know.
Anxiety is not about rationality. I truly believe that disability should not be a barrier to whether or not someone has children. I aggressively and passionately defend the rights of disabled parents. These are all truths.
Despite that, my anxiety doesn’t let me grant myself the same benefit I grant others.
It doesn’t help that I have other voices mirroring my anxieties.
My mother asking how I’ll handle taking care of a child if I can’t take care of myself.
A friend casually celebrating my potential infertility because it would mean she wouldn’t have to worry about me going through the dangers of pregnancy.
Random people asking me if I think its “responsible” of me to pass on my genetic material. Or those who imply that I am somehow harming a child by introducing them to my situation. That having a mother who is sick is akin to child abuse.
We live in a society that sees nothing wrong with non-consensually sterilizing people for no other reason than because they are disabled. In a society that sees nothing wrong with parents murdering their disabled children, citing “difficult circumstances”. In a society that sees nothing wrong with taking children away from parents with disabilities. “For their own good.”
In a world where feminists fight hard to secure the right of choice and bodily autonomy, surprisingly few also speak out against the way choice is taken away from people with disabilities. Some even encourage eugenics.
In the face of a culture so saturated with ableism my mind swirls with endless anxieties and I wonder, if this too is another dream denied to me.