About the Author: Dani became a quadriplegic in 2009 and since has been a disability culture advocate. She also has a Masters in English, focusing on disability studies. Dani is a beloved and returning customer of liberare.co, loving our bras: a staple in her life as a wheelchair user and a new mom of twins.Â
Dani in our Blush bra
Twin pregnancy is considered high risk. Add to that the expecting mother’s medically complicated disability— quadriplegia in my case—and you have a cocktail of risky business ripe for a Lifetime movie. Yet, my 5 months of pregnancy thus far been uneventfully normal, and with that luck, I can cut straight to the chase, dispel some myths, and tell you why being disabled & pregnant (x2) is one of the most empowering situations a woman can be in.
First, some myth busting:
1. DISABLED PEOPLE DON’T HAVE SEX
Wrong. Disabled people have sex. You probably are not astonished, but I was recently amused to discover that some non-disabled people are unaware that we have it in us! This bizarre assumption often comes out of society’s tendency to infantilize disabled people or view them as asexual. That or there is a lack of imagination to comprehend how bodies different than the norm do the deed. So, I hate to disappoint, but I did not become pregnant by way of Immaculate Conception. It was more fun than that.
2. DISABLED WOMEN STRUGGLE WITH FERTILITY
Disabled women do not necessarily have any more or less predisposition to infertility than non-disabled women. Many are surprised to hear that my twin pregnancy is not the result of in-vitro fertilization. In fact, I was quite fertile: 2 in 1 on the first try. What’s more, my OB said that I have a 94% chance of having multiples again in any subsequent pregnancy. That makes my husband break a sweat.
3. PREGNANCY IS DANGEROUS FOR DISABLED WOMEN
Not necessarily, though for some there are added risks and it could be dangerous just like for any woman depending on a multitude of factors, or just luck. But it’s important to know that disabled women can also have fairly—or very—normal pregnancies. Did you know that even paralyzed women have contractions and can give birth naturally? It’s pretty fascinating.
Now, for the personal lessons:
1. I AM EQUIPPED FOR THIS CRAZY TWIN PREGNANCY BECAUSE OF, NOT IN SPITE OF MY DISABILITY.
My high risk obstetrician said:
“You have a disability and have dealt with its challenges. You’re already equipped to handle this pregnancy.”
BAM! Best. Doctor. Ever. He gets me, *sigh.* Do you know how many doctors I’ve had that automatically underestimate, or are just downright socially awkward when I roll into the room? When disability is only understood from a clinical perspective and as a medical disadvantage, it can be tough for some docs to see that there are actually many other angles and assets that comprise life in this body.
2. MY BODY HAS EXCEEDED EVEN MY OWN EXPECTATIONS.
When you are constantly reminded by doctors, society, and even your own body that you are at a physical disadvantage, it’s almost hard to believe that you can actually sustain human life inside that same broken body, let alone two lives. Well my belief system is getting a reality check, as I recognize how truly dynamic human bodies can be and that no social stigma of perceived ineptitude that I may have unintentionally digested, can touch the fact that I’m basically sitting here nonchalantly while my very paralyzed body professionally engineers two human lives. For more on this, check out fellow wheelchair user, Rebekah’s, musings on how internalized ableism led her to feel similarly befuddled over her own pregnancy:
3. THE BEST ADVICE HAS COME FROM THE TRUE EXPERTS: OTHER DISABLED MOMS.
I don’t care if you’ve had 10 babies or a degree in medicine or child development. While I’ll take any nugget of wisdom I can get as a first-time-mom, I also know that non-disabled mothers do not possess the nuanced, niche, and highly creative expertise that disabled mothers can provide to me. Remembering further that these are totally competent women who have also regularly been underestimated, patronized, or discriminated against, my already high level of respect for disabled mothers has blossomed into a passion for this particular community of women.
Most of the sense of empowerment I developed since sustaining a life-altering injury 11 years ago came from the confidence & wisdom shared by other disabled individuals. It was years before I ever even considered positively identifying as disabled. But with this pregnancy, and with my little babies who are now thriving and being nurtured in my “broken” body, I am at once humbled and empowered purely from within. There’s nothing like it.
Bonnie Turner Photography