Motherhood

What Is Disabled Motherhood Like?

Rebekah Taussig motherhood with a disability

When I was in high school, my teacher asked the class…

…to carry around dolls for a week as a glimpse into parenthood. Everyone knew this was silly, since dolls are much easier than newborns, but we still cradled them on top of our notebooks and resisted the urge to stick them in our lockers during lunch (an automatic fail). When the experiment was over, and we had turned in our essays about the experience, my teacher called me to his desk.

In the essay I had turned in, I wrote that I most likely wanted kids in the future but I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to have them. He looked at me and gruffly whispered, “Allowed to?” with my words resting in his hand. I nodded. Then he said, “Don’t let anyone tell you what you’re allowed to do with your one life. I think you’d make a great mom someday.”

As a woman with cerebral palsy, the question marks I’ve had around motherhood have existed for as long as I can remember. I don’t have any pop culture references of an effortlessly calm disabled mom telling her child that it’ll all be better in the morning, or even everyday observations of visibly disabled moms running errands while their kids ask for cookies in the background. So, when I saw Rebekah Taussig, author of Sitting Pretty, open up on Instagram about her experience with pregnancy and motherhood as a woman with a disability, it was like seeing a path forward that my teacher had once assured me was there.

Rebekah (pictured above) is mom to 10-month-old Otto in Kansas City, Missouri, and we chatted about what it’s been like for her to enter this stage of life. It has been beautiful and exhilarating and harder than she expected, but it’s also had moments of been-there-done-that familiarity, too. Here, she explains.

Rebekah Taussig motherhood with a disability

Kelly: How did you picture motherhood before having Otto?
Rebekah: Last Saturday, we had this perfect morning where Otto was puttering around the kitchen in his jammies and I was making scones. It was slow and quiet and my partner Micah and I even had time to do the dishes. And that’s how I had pictured parenting. I thought Micah and I could go on living our lives like we always had and our baby would just be tootling around, fitting right into our cozy house and established routines. I don’t know where I got that idea. I knew parenting would be hard, but man, the specificity of this challenge has a certain bite to it that I didn’t anticipate!

There are so many shows and movies that montage motherhood as, like, a pile of dirty dishes in the midst of complete contentment. Plus, kids are everywhere, so it’s easy to wonder, ‘How hard can it be?’
I understood that it was hard, in a sort of hazy way, because everyone says it’s hard. But no one really tells you how it feels on an emotional level. What’s usually said is you’ll never regret it and it’ll be the best decision of your life, and that’s it. I wish there were more nuance to this, because having a baby is such a big experience and there’s a certain loss to no longer having the life you once had. I don’t think that letting yourself grieve that loss has to diminish the joy that you find in being a parent. I love Otto; he’s truly a love I have never known. Being a parent is difficult and draining, but loving Otto is not. He is real-life magic to me — his cheeks alone! I am fascinated by every syllable that comes out of his mouth, and he doesn’t even know what language is yet. He exhausts the living life out of me, but I miss him when he falls asleep. I’ve been thinking a lot about how my experience with disability has built a very sturdy muscle around seeing loss and joy coexist. And I don’t feel like that’s represented in the experience of parenthood very well. I think that loss and joy coexisting has been so fundamental to my experience of disability and parenthood.

I think that’s true, and true of every milestone: the downsides are almost never discussed. Becoming a couple means letting go of some freedoms that come with being single, and graduating from school means stepping away from that well-tended bubble. And as far as disability goes, yes! It’s very much a ‘both-and’ experience, where you can be frustrated with your body but love it deeply and defend it entirely. How did you feel when you found out you were pregnant?
I was terrified when I found out I was pregnant, because I realized just how little I thought I would ever get pregnant. I had this rosy picture in my head about motherhood, but there was also a part of me that doubted my ability to do it.

I understand that. I don’t want to speak for you, but my initial relationship with my body was mostly formed in a medical context. I saw it through this lens of all the ways it’s not doing what it’s supposed to do, and how it could be fixed. It wasn’t a completely negative experience, but if that’s what you’re used to, then it’s jarring to think of your body as this capable thing that’s strong enough to make a baby.
That’s exactly how it felt. There was something strange about being invited into this motherhood identity that is so mainstream. I remember being in one of my early appointments and I couldn’t believe how many times the technician said the word ‘normal.’ I was like, ‘Oh! That’s not a word I’m used to hearing in relation to my body.’ My relationship with my body has always been about mending it so that I could stay afloat, and with my pregnancy, it transitioned from survival mode into this space of abundance. I wasn’t the only one who was worried about how the pregnancy would go — my doctors also were — but it ended up being very straightforward. I should also mention that Micah had cancer during all of this, which is its own chapter in the story. It was really interesting to see that my body, which everyone had perceived as weak, was thriving and creating this whole other person, and Micah’s body, which everyone saw as healthy, was fighting.

Rebekah Taussig motherhood with a disability

It seems like your body was saying, ‘Hey, you got this.’
Yeah, and even Otto was kicking up a storm those last couple of months, so he was sending a Morse code of, ‘Don’t worry so much, Mom.’ But, you get it. Even though there’s no medical reason why my body couldn’t get pregnant and deliver a baby, I just never saw it happening. I hoped for it, but I didn’t have a clear plan toward it. I understood it as this unicorn type of thing.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a doctor ask me if I plan on having kids, and I think outside of a doctor’s office, there’s hardly any representation of disabled motherhood. It’s hard to picture it without examples.
I think I grew up seeing motherhood and disability as opposites, like oil and water. As a kid, I didn’t know any disabled mothers, and I only met others now after seeking them out online. It makes a huge difference in what you can imagine for yourself. There’s so much out there about non-disabled motherhood, from what pregnancy is like to what raising a baby is like; and there’s nothing like that for disabled moms — I’ve Googled. In fact, a couple of months after Otto was born, I was watching a panel featuring disabled moms and a disabled lawyer. I learned that there are still laws in the books stating that a child can be taken away from a disabled mother for no other reason than she’s disabled. I’m not afraid that Otto will be taken from me, but the fact that this practice is still legal communicates what we’re talking about here: There’s a distrust of disabled parents, and that’s why it’s so hard for us as disabled women to navigate it.

That’s horrifying. The big reason why I wanted to chat with you is because you’re a disabled mom, and I also didn’t grow up knowing any. When I’m babysitting my two-year-old nephew, Cosmo, there are moments when I tell myself, ‘I can totally do this,’ and other moments when I’m like, ‘Nope, I definitely can’t do this.’ All moms must feel this way, but it has to be heightened for disabled moms. It’s one thing to understand my body, but it’s so much more complicated when I consider a baby’s relationship to my body.
It’s funny, because I think that was one of the first things that really surprised me about motherhood. So much of it is like, ‘This is hard, I’m not sure I can do this,’ but also, ‘Hang on, I recognize this feeling, I know how this goes.’ For instance, as soon as we figure out one thing about Otto, he changes and we have to figure something else out. And that’s what it’s like being disabled, right? My body is constantly changing the game on me and I have to reroute and find new solutions. At the moment, Otto is really struggling with sleeping, and I’m thinking, ‘Will I just be awake at 2 a.m. forever?’ But I know with my body, everything can be figured out and nothing stays the same. I will find the resiliency I need until it changes, and the same goes with raising a baby. I think my disability has given me the skill set to know how to work with unpredictability and frustration, and that flexibility and endurance flows over into motherhood well.

I also think, like motherhood, having a disability is like being in a secret club. You and I have never met in person but we understand each other on a deep and personal level. And that’s true with parenting, too. There’s a connection that forms, even between strangers, because of this experience. I was on the phone the other day with someone I didn’t know and they heard Otto fussing in the background and said, ‘Don’t worry, he’ll sleep, I promise!’ That’s familiar in the sense of knowing what it’s like to be disabled on some basic level, even if our disabilities are different. There are a million ways I was ready for motherhood without knowing it.

That makes me feel better! It’s almost like how friends have told me that it can be weird when a complete stranger comments on their pregnant bellies — that feeling is similar to when someone comments on my legs.
Totally, there’s an overlap there when it comes to the public’s attention. I was preparing myself for what it would be like to be pregnant and disabled in public, but we went into lockdown right as I was beginning to show. I was sad in a way, because I had bought all of these cute maternity clothes! So, I don’t know how it feels to be in a wheelchair with a big pregnant belly out on the street somewhere, showing myself as an example of two things that aren’t ‘supposed to’ exist together. I was really proud of my belly and I made Micah take a hundred pictures of me and my chair the night before Otto was born.

Rebekah Taussig motherhood with a disability

I love that, and I would be proud, too! How does Otto relate to your wheelchair?
I’m so used to my wheelchair being misunderstood as something negative and either completely erased from my perspective or obsessed over as the defining feature of my life. There’s so much about disability that’s widely viewed as a deficit when it’s really an asset, and Otto is learning that firsthand. He’s growing up with my wheelchair as part of the fabric of our dynamic, and he’s developing a relationship with this object as one of ease and comfort. It’s taking me off guard to get to share that positive bond with him. It’s almost like I didn’t even know how to identify that feeling until I watched him feel it. He gets to see my wheelchair as being so fundamental to how I interact with the world, and it’s very special.

That makes me really happy. It’s something I notice with my nephew Cosmo, too. The other day a ball rolled into a bush, and I couldn’t stretch myself to pick it up. Cosmo said, ‘Baby get it, Aunt Kelly!’ so protectively and climbed underneath the bush to grab it. It melted my heart. We’ve talked about how motherhood has surprised you. How do you think disabled parenting would surprise non-disabled people?
First off, that’s such a cute thing about Cosmo — my heart is melting, too. It might surprise people to learn just how ordinary disabled parenting is. It’s another version of parenthood that is as interesting and mundane as anyone else’s. There are things that make it particularly difficult, like the way that most equipment is designed for non-disabled parents or the fact that it’s an underrepresented part of life in general. But in some ways, I think disabled parenting is super ordinary.

I don’t want to assume so much about non-disabled people, but it does seem like there’s a lack of imagination happening around motherhood. Otto and I are figuring out our own way of doing things, and it might look different to someone who’s not used to it, but it’s very routine to us — it’s our own dance with its own rhythm, and it works.

Rebekah Taussig motherhood with a disability

Can you describe how non-disabled equipment is a challenge, and how you’ve accommodated your disability into daily routines with Otto?

As one example, I can lift Otto if I can rely on my arms, but I don’t have great trunk muscles so it’s easier for me to lift him up and toward me than up and over something. It’s amazing how much equipment is designed for standing parents to lift a baby up, over, and out: cribs, high chairs, and car seats are all like this. Micah and I had to do a lot of research and troubleshooting for each item. I can’t even tell you how many hours I spent looking for a crib that could sit close enough to our bed and provide the leverage I needed to lift Otto to me! We spent a few hundred dollars on one that looked like it would work, but when it was delivered and we had a chance to try it, it didn’t work at all. It was a very frustrating and defeating experience. Ultimately, we landed on a very basic Gulliver crib from IKEA and my brother built a door into the side so I could pull Otto to me. It works!

We had to find equipment that worked for Otto, too. I would have been happy with any number of wraps or carriers, but Otto was picky! It was really important for me to find one that worked for both of us, because I wanted to be able to carry Otto around without having to cradle him in my arms — this took months, because Otto did not like being confined by wraps. We tried Solly wraps and a Baby Bjorn before Otto settled into the Ergo we use every day.

And as for our routines, our most elaborate one is probably getting in and out of the car. He has to be in the Ergo for this. We get strapped up at home, then I swoosh us down the front-door ramp and pop the curb to my car. He usually holds our diaper bag in his lap, which is an old army satchel covered in patches that he likes to run his fingers over. I open the back door and pull my wheelchair right up to the car so that I’m parallel with the back seat. I push myself all the way to the front edge of my seat, then grip the ceiling handle to transfer both of us into the car. Then I unstrap Otto from the Ergo, and we share a little moment to talk about being outside. I usually give him some kisses before I strap him into his car seat with a swivel base (rotated toward me) and give him a few options for the toys he might want to play with during the trip. ‘Do you want to play with your crocodile? Your elephant?,’ I ask. He picks one, and I rotate his seat to face the back of the car. Then I transfer into my wheelchair, push myself into the driver’s seat, and break down my chair. I put the wheels in the back seat and the frame in the front passenger’s seat. Then we do the whole thing in reverse once we get to where we’re going! It seems like an elaborate process, but it’s our intricate and practiced dance.

So, I’m tearing up as you describe this. It’s like you’re helping me figure all of this out, just by figuring it out for yourself. Aside from more representation and the understanding that disabled motherhood can be just as ordinary as non-disabled motherhood, what would you want people to take away from our chat?
I think disabled mothers are never at the forefront of a wider conversation about what motherhood is and what it could be, and it shouldn’t be our sole responsibility to speak up about inclusion. We all deserve to have options and imagine new paths for ourselves. Parenthood can be a milestone for disabled people, if they choose it. And they should feel empowered to do so.

Rebekah Taussig motherhood with a disability


Kelly Dawson is a writer, editor and media consultant based in Los Angeles. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

P.S. How to navigate a special needs encounter, and becoming friends with a non-disabled person. Plus, Rebekah’s week of outfits.

(Photos courtesy of Rebekah Taussig. Top photo: Rebekah Taussig is sitting in her wheelchair, bending down to hold her baby son Otto as he steps in the snow on their porch. She has snow in her hand for him to touch. Rebekah is wearing a buffalo check jacket, black pants, and a gray beanie. Otto is wearing a striped onesie, with a beanie that looks like a strawberry. They are both looking away from the camera at the snow in Rebekah’s hand. Their White House is in the background.)

  1. What a special post. I feel lucky to be able to have read this dialogue. Best wishes to all.

  2. ee says...

    I have an invisible disability, so while details of our experiences differ I feel so seen. Thank you for this piece and much love to both of you. xx

  3. Vittoria says...

    I’m crying – this was just such a beautiful interview. I’m crying for so many reasons – with love and solidarity with Kelly as her teacher told her “Don’t let anyone tell you what you’re allowed to do with your one life. I think you’d make a great mom someday.” (TRUTH!)…..With happiness for Rebekah and how her body became a space of abundance – we all know what it’s like to have a complicated relationship with our bodies, and for Rebekah this must have been so heightened. To have that beauty and transformative abundance brought in by perfect little Otto…..TEARS. And also thinking about how hard it would be to go through pregnancy while facing a cancer scare with your husband….TEARS. Thank you so very much to both Kelly and Rebekah for sharing all of this with us.

  4. This was a beautiful and fascinating window into another motherhood experience. Thank you so much for sharing.

  5. Peony says...

    This was interesting and lovely to read. As a non-disabled mom, I see so much overlap with this experience. I think that was the biggest point of learning for me. Thank you for sharing your experience and Otto is delicious.

  6. Teri says...

    Thank you so much for giving us the picture of a different life! There are so many variations to life and it is interesting to see a new perspective. It may sound crazy, but I learned so much about disabled life from my dog. He had a paralyzed back leg for his last two years of life. It is hard to watch something you love struggling but I realized you need to follow their lead. He was as happy as could be but needed some assistance. People sometimes asked if we were going to put him down soon. I quickly realized that just because life might be more challenging for someone, doesn’t mean it isn’t a life worth living. I think this article is a beautiful depiction of that idea related to motherhood and I love Rebekah’s comment “I think my disability has given me the skill set to know how to work with unpredictability and frustration, and that flexibility and endurance flows over into motherhood well.”

  7. Amy says...

    One of the most important corners of the internet in my opinion.

  8. Julia says...

    I always see this amazing disabled Mom around my neighborhood in Munich. She’s usually doing errands and going about her life in her wheelchair with her baby in her carrier. I always want to stop and give her a hug and tell her she’s doing an amazing job. Motherhood is SO hard and I admire how you are handling it with such strength and grace.

  9. Kim says...

    Thank for for sharing this. This is a completely new perspective for me. Otto is such a beautiful baby.

  10. Emily says...

    I’ve spent a year now with Long Haul COVID and its greatly limited what I can do – especially with the kids (age 3 and 5). For much of this time I’ve beaten myself up over not being able to be a good mom to them – I can’t run or go outside or lift them or follow them up the stairs or even get out of bed most days. At some point my perspective shifted and I realized that my definition of a “good mom” is totally wrapped up in ableist values. That my ability to run with my kids actually has nothing to do with my role as their mother (or my value as a person). And what’s more – I don’t ever want my kids to see me lose some functioning and get a message from me that I think now I’m lesser. Because how they see me treat this chronic illness is how they will likely treat anyone else’s illness or change in ability… maybe even their own someday.

    I want to be clear that I”m by no means saying I have a disability or I know what its like to be in a wheelchair. I mostly just want to convey that I’ve realized ableist attitudes about what a mother “should be” are really prevalent and thats too bad. I also want to thank you for this beautiful post.

  11. Anna says...

    Fourth time reading this one! Rebekah and Kelly’s stories really struck a chord. Thank you so much for sharing.

    In particular, Rebekah’s telling of Otto’s relationship with her wheelchair and how she said, “It’s almost like I didn’t even know how to identify that feeling until I watched him feel it.” Mothering has unlocked many pieces of my heart over the years, but what she describes – being seen as complete, with no agenda and unquestioned for perhaps the first time – is one of the best, and I have never heard it called out in this beautiful way.

    Also, her eloquence in holding the loss and joy of motherhood simultaneously and refusing to let them exist in polarization. I have lived the swings between these two poles, and the guilt that comes with the swings. What a thought to just let them both be! That whole passage was perfection.

    And finally, reflecting on how Rebekah has crafted a distinct motherhood path that works for her and Otto makes me reflect on how right she is that non-disabled motherhood is ripe for re-imagining. This is a crude attempt to articulate a vague feeling, but it feels like (at least within the non-disabled community) you are either a “good mom” and wholly (or certainly mostly) self-sacrificing, or you decide you’re going to own the “bad mom” moniker and let it all hang out and meet your needs while (mostly) ignoring your child’s. Finding the win / win scenarios is where it seems the imagination piece is most needed!

  12. Joann says...

    Thank you soo soo much Cup of Jo for posting this, Thank you Kelly and Rebekah even more for sharing your experience. Motherhood from all vintage points are similar yet different while so expanding and transforming for all.

  13. Sara says...

    thank you for sharing this wonderful conversation with us!

  14. Frankie says...

    This was a wonderful post.

  15. Kai J says...

    Hello – designating the content said by the interviewer with only bold text means blind people reading with screen readers can’t pick up on who is speaking at any given time.

    Very nice interview though, thank you for posting.

    • MJ says...

      Kai thanks so much for mentioning this. Yes, anyone posting web content (even — and especially — on social media!) should utilize Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG for short, to ensure that everyone can access your content.

      For a quick-and-easy guide, check out the “How to Meet WCAG 2 (Quick Reference)” link on the Web Accessibility Initiative website:

      https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/

      Thanks so much!

    • MJ says...

      So for example, please refer to WCAG 1.3.3 for guidance on distinguishing content through text (e.g. using text indicators like “Rebekah:” and “Kelly:” rather than sensory characteristics alone such as bold font, shape, color, size, etc. which cannot be read by a screenreader)

      I so appreciate the opportunity for us to be able to discuss how to improve accessibility (which is a neverending journey), and share resources so others can learn too. Thank you for creating this space and this opportunity to discuss CoJ. So deeply appreciated.

  16. Gray says...

    He looked at me and gruffly whispered, “Allowed to?” with my words resting in his hand. I nodded. Then he said, “Don’t let anyone tell you what you’re allowed to do with your one life. I think you’d make a great mom someday.”

    I loved this whole article but this made me cry. We need more people like this lovely teacher to be supportive to those with disabilities.

    • Kelly Dawson says...

      I actually cried as I was writing this. Encouragement from teachers can really stick, even so many years later! Thanks for reading and being supportive. :)

  17. Katie says...

    I loved and learned a lot from this post. Thank you!

  18. VLH says...

    People with disabilities become experts at problem-solving, and this comes in so handy as parents. My son has autism and I have ADHD, and some point when he was little and having lots of meltdowns, I realized, WAIT, I know this feeling! I take myself on little walks through what feels like insurmountable frustration every single day. So I can help him name what he’s feeling and show him how to acknowledge it, accommodate it, and find his way out of it. Being his parent has also helped me to shed some unhealthy coping mechanisms and shame I felt for my diagnosis. We are a gift to each other!

    A while back, I overheard one of my siblings say that the reason he didn’t want to have kids was that he was afraid of having a child with autism like mine. That really hurt, because I thought he genuinely liked his nephew. But it was also confusing, because even though there are hurdles, our lives are also enriched because of our disabilities. My brother lives in a world where he never has enough, and I’m struck by the fact that in my little family, there is always more than enough. For us, the world is so beautiful, so brilliant, so full of laughter and the overwhelming challenges and triumphs of daily life, that we sometimes need to retreat just to have a break from it all. For us, disability is an extra layer in the cake of life. Yes, you have to open wide to fit it all in. But it’s worth it.

  19. T says...

    You women are absolute legends! I cannot stop re-reding this interview and have already send it to all of my friends. There should be more information, research, products, more of everything for disabled parents. My experience as a parent is so interwined with all the useful (and crap) information from other parents, so having a tiny or non existent community of people with useful advice on baby products and schedules, depending only on your will to extensively research everything must be exhausting on its own – having a teething baby and adapting your and their care around your abilities on top of everything… You deserve all the praise, wine and companies that will finally listen, learn and make products for every user!

  20. Elisha says...

    Rebekah, the photo of of the two of you in your kitchen just doing your thing with enormous smiles on both of your faces made me teary. Pure joy in what I assume is normal, mundane moment! Letting Otto choose a toy to play with in the car sounds like a game changer. Hopefully this will help with our morning meltdowns🤞🏾

  21. Em says...

    I’m right in the middle of reading Rebekah’s book and squealed when I saw this post. COJ is always expanding my world and introducing me to new characters. My eternal gratitude.

  22. Anne C says...

    I’ve been reading this wonderful blog for a LONG time, and I think this is one of my favorite posts ever. Thank you for shining a light on Rebekah’s motherhood experience. Just beautiful.

  23. Jessica says...

    This may be the best interview I’ve read on this site. It was so moving, and thoughtful. It leaves me wanting to keep reading Rebekah’s words. I was really struck by her acceptance of the duality of motherhood. It also had me thinking that we all tend to think of our personal circumstances and burdens and how that impacts motherhood. I’m an older mother and I’m always wondering maybe this would have been easier when I was younger and more energetic?? We tend to focus on what we are lacking, what has held us back. But Rebekah does a succinct job of pointing out that motherhood is just hard. The circumstances around it don’t change that fact. Accepting that would probably go a long way towards a more balanced, peaceful existence.

  24. Vero says...

    Can I just say how much I LOVED this feature. Thank you so much Rebekah, Kelly and Cup of Jo. And on international women’s day too. I just so appreciate getting a peek inside someone else’s life. I think it helps us so much with tenderness and bridging the gaps that can sometimes feel wide between us. I love seeing you as a mom Rebekah. I love Otto’s sweet relationship with your chair.

  25. Joyce says...

    Thank you for this piece.

    I don’t know who needs to hear this but: your child WILL sleep eventually. It feels like they never will, and then they do. Xo.

    • Constanze says...

      Me. I needed to hear this. Thank you!

  26. Meg says...

    Fantastic post. I would welcome more articles like this, particularly the intersection of disability and employment. Thanks, coj team!

  27. Arielle says...

    Moving, wonderful, perspective-shifting. Thank you for sharing! (And please do more of these)

  28. Alexandra says...

    I’m a longtime reader (ten years!) and yet haven’t ever commented, but this piece left me unexpectedly in tears. I’m a first time mom with a two month old, and so many of Rebekah’s descriptions of new motherhood and the complicated emotions that it brings forth were perfectly, beautifully stated, with or without the added complexity of a physical disability. Thank you.

  29. Erin says...

    COJ you nailed it today. Amazing piece. So insightful and thoughtful. Five stars, A++.

    • Heather says...

      I so agree! What a powerful and beautiful piece from two great minds.

  30. Kelly says...

    Thank you for this important and beautiful piece on motherhood.
    As an occupational therapist who works with people with paralysis, I’ve had several clients tell me over the years that they were discouraged by other medical professionals (!) from having children, which I find infuriating. Highlighting stories like this is so crucial in changing the cultural narrative.

  31. Anon says...

    Sometimes I think about how I’ll be able to mother when I’ve been dealing with mental health challenges since I was a toddler. Will I be able to handle going off my trusty medication for pregnancy and breastfeeding? Will I have the energy to be the mom I want to be? I know my struggles are much smaller and I can hide my differences so I don’t get the same scrutiny as these women, but this article made me feel better about the possibilities. Thank you for providing a new perspective and for making me feel hopeful.

    • Laura says...

      Make sure you find a doctor who is actually knowledgeable about medications for mental health in pregnancy and breastfeeding! Many of the common medications are actually quite safe, but as a doctor I mostly learned about this through taking a breastfeeding elective. Don’t assume you need to stop your medications that keep you healthy in order to have a healthy pregnancy, the ideal is to maintain as many of the medications that you know work for you as possible, because your baby needs a healthy mama.

  32. Emily says...

    Always love reading about different perspectives and life experiences. I think the line about there being a lack of imagination in non-disabled parenting is super interesting. She’s not wrong, and I say the following with an open and curious mind, in no way trying to defend or offend. I’d pose that the reality is a lack of acceptance or acknowledgment of imagination in non-disabled parenting. It’s taken me 8 months with our babe to start to understand what people mean when they say you make your own way. Early on, I was chatting with an acquaintance about our similar-aged babies sleeping habits and she said she was a “rebel” who laid the baby down on her belly to sleep. I was gobsmacked – not in a judgmental way – but it just blew my mind that she just DID that. No one came after her, the baby was fine, and that worked for them. She was a great mother no matter what. We’re all just doing our best, and figuring out our own way to do things. The accepted conventions for parenthood – whether from the AAPA, your mom, pediatrician, society, etc. – seem to be your only option until you live it. All that to say, there ARE so many ways to be a mom (or dad), and it’s a joy to read those different experiences and perspectives.

  33. Christina says...

    Such a great interview! Thank you!

  34. bess says...

    two great writers! so thoughtful & smart & relevant. This made me think of several amazing disabled moms I know and how they may have been discouraged when they were coming up, but I’m so glad to have them and their kids in my life. thanks!

  35. Lea says...

    I just wanted to say how grateful I am for this story. CofJ is one of the only mainstream blogs where I see pieces about living with disabilities and I could not be more happy as a Pwd – thank you from the bottom of my ❤️.

  36. Allyson says...

    Oh my heart. The car seat dance. You’re amazing and Otto is so perfectly loved. Thank you so much for sharing.

  37. Anna Kathleen Murphy Startzell says...

    I loved this interview. I was raised by a disabled mother and it shaped me in many ways. My mom is fiercely independent, creative, and goes out of her way to help other people. I am so proud and grateful to be her daughter, and I love seeing my children learning from and being loved by her. Thank you for highlighting her story!

  38. Violeta says...

    This was so enlightening and inspiring! Thank you so much for sharing.

  39. Nina says...

    Thanks for sharing this!

  40. Beth says...

    Oh wow, you don’t know how much I needed this today. I developed ME last year when my daughter was 2 and I have struggled so much to adjust and envision what my life will look like now as a disabled mother. Today I have had a bad flare up and I’m tired and in pain, and my daughter doesn’t understand why I can’t pick her up and spin her round or chase her through the house like I used to. Thank you for showing me an example of how parenting differently doesn’t mean less than x

  41. Noel says...

    Thank you so much for this, and for discussing disability. Disability is so seldom discussed in the mainstream regarding life events and how those with disabilities navigate (physically and emotionally) these events. My partner, who has a disability, and I are discussing the possibility of children and how that would look in our life, so this is also timely. It’s hard to imagine that chapter of life when it feels as if there are not examples of parents with disabilities that are well known and with whom to have these thoughtful discussion. Thank you for this conversation!

  42. Caitrin says...

    I was at the gynaecologist last week and saw a pregnant, blind patient making her way through the practice with her seeing-eye-dog and I was bowled over at how cool that was.

    Another friend at church has 4 grown children but given her juvenile diabetes – was *strongly* encouraged to abort every one of them and she and her husband chose not to.

    It’s so beautiful when life wins out… I hope we can continue to develop better care and products to support parents with disabilities.

    • Tara says...

      I’m currently pregnant with my first child and was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when I was 15. At that time, the doctors said I needed to have ALL of my children within 10 years of my diagnosis. Diabetes care has come leaps + bounds since then (CGMs + sensors, auto basal rates to dose insulin) so the “recommendations” have thankfully changed in the past two decades.

      I vividly remember talking with an amazing endocrinologist in 2013 who told me “You’re not too old, and you haven’t had diabetes for too long. You should have children because people like you and your husband should be parents.” I’ve tightly held onto this truth for years.

      I admit I do (and have) worried about the dangers involved. What if I have a low blood sugar while I’m holding baby and I fall, or he slips in the tub while I’m giving him a bath? Can I have diabetes and still be a good mother?

      Nannying in Brooklyn has given me lots of experience with children over the years and those little ones were so supportive! I’ve thought of them many times lately…. to hear a little two year old say “Tawa, scheck sugar! (when he heard my pump beeping)” or “I think it’s time for a little snack, ’cause my blood sugar is loww, too!”

      I look forward to the ways that we will bond over my chronic illness as mother and child. Holding on to these memories and trusting that we will have everything we need in the moments to come.

  43. Amanda says...

    What a lovely interview! It is refreshing to read a different view of motherhood. Thank you!

  44. Jane says...

    I studied languages and in that context, communication, and this quote is the best example for something I have been trying to tell people (my students and people in general ;-)) for a long time and in lots of contexts:
    “I understand that. I don’t want to speak for you, but my initial relationship with my body was mostly formed in a medical context. I saw it through this lens of all the ways it’s not doing what it’s supposed to do, and how it could be fixed. It wasn’t a completely negative experience, but if that’s what you’re used to, then it’s jarring to think of your body as this capable thing that’s strong enough to make a baby. –
    That’s exactly how it felt.”
    It is so, so important to TALK about our views, experiences, …, while also being clear about (to ourselves and the other person) that they are just that, our views and experiences, and of course they might feel different and thats ok too.
    Many times, people shy away from actively talking to people who are “different” in a visible way because they do not seem to feel comfortable and do not seem to know “what to say” and this example is SO, SO GOOD – starts a conversation, acknowledges yourself and the other person, leaves room for different views, invites to share, to talk about ir, to communicate.
    And I feel that this is so important if we want to really see the other person instead of living in a mainstreamed world with a very narrow view of “normal” which then becomes a much too narrow norm.
    So, I guess I am trying to say – awesome interview that invites so much openness and communication and awesome ladies on both sides of the interview to make it look easy!

  45. Paige says...

    What an incredibly moving interview. Thank you to you both!

  46. Agnès says...

    I really loved that conversation; it is beautifully written and also it feels very fresh, very clear and true. I find it very inspiring. “I thought Micah and I could go on living our lives like we always had and our baby would just be tootling around, fitting right into our cozy house and established routines.” Yes! Rebekah, I hope you write a book about parenting one day because your creativity and freedom are so inspiring. All my thoughts for your family!

  47. beth says...

    As so many others have already said, this was just simply a beautiful and thought-provoking piece, and I’m grateful for this space we share here.

    I also wanted to give a shout-out to Rebekah for her super-cute home- I always love posts that let us peek into other people’s spaces. Thanks so much!

  48. Sara says...

    Such a great article! A bit of feedback: I would change the title. It sounds like less-than motherhood rather than what you are really trying to say. Thanks!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Thank you for your note! See a comment thread below about this decision. Thank you!

  49. KC says...

    This was a very timely post, thank you. I recently became physically disabled from cancer and have two small kids. It’s been an adjustment to figure out how to give them space to be kids when I can’t keep up with them like I used to. Yesterday I went outside with my 20-month old son to go puddle jumping and he fell face forward, as toddlers do. He cried out, waited a beat and soon realized I wasn’t going to pick him up like I had many times before. My heart broke, frustrated I couldn’t bend down to get him. My son stopped crying, stood up, and gave me a hug. Reading Rebekah’s interview, I realize we are teaching each other to be resilient.

    • MB says...

      I’m not very eloquent so will just say xoxoxo

  50. Charlie says...

    Wow. This is one of the best, most interesting articles I’ve ever read on cup of Jo! It was so informative, so loving, and so relatable – but also new – to me! Thank you for sharing!
    XO

  51. Lindsey says...

    I was so excited to see this! I follow Rebekah on Instagram and just LOVE her and her writing! Great interview, Kelly!

  52. Amrita says...

    I really enjoyed this, and learned so much from both Emily and Rebekah. Please share more stories like this!

  53. Kim says...

    Thank you so much for sharing your life with us!

  54. Sara says...

    Lovely interview and beautiful family! ❤️ Thank you for providing a motherhood story that is so rarely discussed.

  55. Megan says...

    I love this interview.

    I grew up as the kid of two disabled parents who lived under the system of shame.

    It means so much to see this.

  56. Amy says...

    Love, love, love this interview. It’s not about being “brave” or “courageous.” It’s about normalizing experiences across the spectrum. Good work, CoJ team!

  57. J. says...

    I loved this piece so much and plan on rereading it many more times. I was so moved by the poignancy of the section on loss and joy coexisting and how that forms so much of our identities and perceptions of all things in life. Thank you so much Kelly and Rebekah for this piece! And thank you Joanna and team for being the kind of place where I am lucky enough to get to read things like this each day xx

  58. Tovah says...

    Loved this so much!

  59. Eloise says...

    I have had an insane girl crush on Rebekah since you introduced her (and her AMAZING book) via her “Week of Outfits.”

  60. Maria says...

    What a wonderful story! I’m so happy to see this perspective on motherhood.

  61. GF says...

    Firstly, Rebekah Taussig is an all time fave of mine and her book was so so excellent. I squeal every time you discuss her. Secondly, thank you so much for this piece…I’ve never seen a conversation on disability like this in media aimed for main stream folks (that’s to say…I’ve never seen this on any page not directly written by and aimed towards disabled peeps). I’m 26 and have an autoimmune arthritis and it’s so so hard to navigate the world with no road map. I got sick in my early 20s so different than folks who have been disabled for as long as they can remember but also not in many ways…none of us know how to navigate a world built for abled folks and other than social media (praise be for social media), it can be hard to figure this stuff out (and while we trial and error like bosses, it’s always nice to have someone who’s been there give you tips and tricks and just to know how it is) and oof it’s tough. Since I’m 26, I’m at the age where many start thinking about kids and family and I’ve been having so many debates on ‘could I do this’ and it feels so good to hear from someone else with a disability who’s crushin’ it. So thank you. I felt really seen today and it made my heart happy <3

    • Eva says...

      I rarely comment but just wanted to say that I also have autoimmune arthritis and am in my thirties with two small kids. There are definitely some unique challenges, but it’s definitely possible!

  62. Hannah says...

    While I very much appreciate this article, I do feel the need to check…. was the title something that the mother being interviewed, approved and decided upon herself?

    I’m finding it hard to reconcile the tone of the article, which is inclusive and engaging, with the labelling in the title of Rebekah as a “disabled mother.”

    Within the disability community, the terminology of someone “having a disability” is more often preferred than saying they “are disabled.” Living with a disability is certainly not the sum total of someone’s life and identity. It is part of it, and it is a meaningful part. But saying someone is “disabled” is not inclusive language.

    I am hopeful that you checked with the mother, that this was language she was comfortable with?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Kelly Dawson, the writer of the article, who has cerebral palsy, chose the title. I think she did an amazing job overall with this story. Thank you!

    • MJ says...

      Hannah, I’m so glad you kindly brought up the importance of person-first language and recommended checking with the mother (Rebekah) regarding how she would like to be referred to. As you mentioned, that is generally the best course of action.

      Having said that, there are some folks within the disability rights community who prefer identity-first language (e.g. “disabled mom” as opposed to “mom who experiences a disability”). Apparently Rebekah feels this way too. It’s a way of claiming and celebrating our disabled identities and putting our disability first.

      You are so right though that it is always best to check with the person regarding their preference and honor that preference. And you’re absolutely correct that if in doubt, it is always best to err on the side of person-first language (e.g., “person with a disability”).

      For more info check out the National Center on Disability and Journalism Style Guide: https://ncdj.org/style-guide/

      Thanks so much for this article CoJ!! Looking forward to seeing more disability-focused (or disability-adjacent!?) pieces. After all, the experience of disability is an important part of being human. :)

    • Kelly Dawson says...

      Hi Hannah! Thanks for your concern. I agree with you that disability is never the sum of someone’s life and identity—that’s definitely not the case for me! But disability does inform every other aspect of my identity. So, I don’t think of it as something I have, as though it’s separate from me as a person. Being disabled is something I am.

      Rebekah and I prefer identity-first language over people-first language, so we’re both comfortable with “disabled mother” and “disabled aunt.” She’s on board with the headline. “People with disabilities” and “disabled people” are both right, it just comes down to preference.

    • Jana says...

      I’m learning that it’s best to ask- some people prefer person first language. Some feel that the disability forms such a part of their identity that it comes first. We can’t assume person first language is the default anymore!

  63. Bridget Scaife says...

    Wow, I loved this. Thank you for sharing your experiences – so wise and insightful.

  64. Jean says...

    Just Bravo COJ team! xo

  65. C says...

    This was fantastic. Thank you.

  66. M says...

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I am pregnant and it brought tears to my eyes. Your families are so lucky to have you both. xoxoxo

  67. Grace says...

    What a timely article.
    I have MS and we are hoping to start a family in the next year. My disease is very well controlled but I do have subtle weakness and get more tired than someone my age should. I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that I would have to compensate to be as good of a mother as someone “normal” but have also been ashamed to have the thought that I would be a lesser mother because of disability.
    And in the back of my mind, I worry about progression and what impact it would have on my kids if I became less physically capable.
    Thank you so much for this beautiful and inspiring reminder that I am enough just the way I am or will become.

    • Erica says...

      Hi Grace! My mom was diagnosed with MS when I was a young kid, and although I think it was really hard for her in a lot of ways, from my perspective as a kid, there was very little about her MS that impacted me negatively in any way, and certainly it never occurred to me that she was a lesser mom because of it. My mom was always my mom to me–a really excellent, thoughtful, amazing mom, and as I grow older, the fact that she was able to be such a great mom while also navigating MS just makes me respect her even more. She’s still a great mom, and is still doing really well health wise, some 30+ years after her diagnosis. I know MS is really different for different people, and every family has its own dynamic, but I just wanted to offer my perspective as the “kid” in my scenario. I wish you all the best with your family plans! <3

    • Jen says...

      I’m a mom of two sons (6&9) and I have MS. Sometimes the fatigue and flare ups are challenging but it’s also helped me to be more present and mindful of how i use my energy.

    • Jahmila says...

      Hi Grace, my mom was diagnosed with MS when I was around 7 and I can’t possibly imagine having a better mom. I think she was a stronger mom as a result of the MS (and you will be too). I wish you all the best!

  68. Sam E. says...

    Just…thank you. I so deeply appreciate this article, these amazing women and their voices here, and the opportunity to sit in community with everyone here. My wife has a degenerative physical condition, and co-parenting our two-year-old daughter has sometimes felt challenging for both of us, especially as she is someone who has not always had physical limitations and is the primary caregiver in our home. She’s slowly adapting and finding solutions to every new challenge, but there are hard days. Your perspectives are ones I’ll come back to again and again. Thank you for sharing.

  69. Fem says...

    In the process of getting pregnant, one of my doctors told me not to worry about caring for the baby as a disabled mother, the best preparation there is is living your life as a disabled person, and I was managing that just fine.

    I don’t think disabled parenthood differs all that much from nondisabled parenthood, the exhaustion, the figuring out what works for your family, it’s probably the same for everybody. Of course a lot of gear is developed for standing people, and we had to hack some stuff as well, and forego on some other stuff, BUT EVERYTHING IS ALWAYS MADE FOR PEOPLE WHO WALK, so it’s not really all that different from my day to day life, we’re always making adjustments.

    But to normalize disabled parenting, we need to show it, and show how regular it is. So thank you for this!

  70. Eirian says...

    Thank you so much for this wonderful article. My mother is disabled with Pregnancy Associated Osteoporosis and was in a wheelchair for part of my childhood. She recently shared that she worried about how we would build a relationship when she was less physically able than my friend’s parents, and it made me so sad. I don’t remember that she couldn’t pick me up – I remember that she patiently taught me to climb onto her lap! She is my beautiful, smart, funny, kind mum and I’m so proud to be her best friend.

  71. Maya says...

    Thank you, CoJ and Rebekah, for sharing her story. I grew up with a mother (a social worker and professor who worked with disabled adults and children) who walked with canes or was in a wheelchair for my childhood. She couldn’t run or move her lower body very well (although loved to swim) due to having polio as a child. She nearly died when she caught it, and it left her with paralysis in her legs. When she was pregnant with me, her doctor said she wouldn’t be strong enough to carry and deliver, and certainly not care for a child. She did have me (although she wasn’t able to do it again), and she loved being a mother, even though physically it was hard and sometimes painful. She had to explain (when I was about four or five years old) that no matter how hard I tried to teach her, she would never be able to run. Despite her healthy life, she died of cancer (unfair) at the tender age of 46, when I was 12-years-old…She spent her last years in and out of a wheelchair, and I remember her going to my school to talk about her disability and how you should never let anyone define you or tell you what you can and can’t do in life, even if your life physically or neurological brings challenges. This story brought tears to my eyes. We need more stories like this one out there. Thank you!

  72. Sarah M says...

    I’m currently reading Rebecca’s book and so enjoyed this.

    (Tammy Duckworth is my senator so she’s who I think of as a mother with disability who’s in the media. But I’m here for more representation!)

  73. Sarz says...

    Thank you for this! Gal with a mostly-invisible disability here. For decades, I exhausted myself trying to keep up with my more able-bodied peers. It’s been a process, unlearning this internalized ableism! Thank you, Kelly and Rebekah, for your assistance in this journey. So proud to be a part of this community. :)

  74. M says...

    Thanks for this. I’m also a mobility-impaired mom and had a lot of self-doubt prior to getting pregnant–I really related to Rebekah’s comments about how her relationship to her body has been so medicalized that it was hard to shift the lens while pregnant. I’m currently pregnant again and still struggle with tremendous anxiety that something will go horribly wrong (despite my doctors being reasonably confident that it won’t, and a prior successful pregnancy) due to this ingrained view of my body as abnormal. And I won’t even get started on the tremendous ableism within the discourse about things like birth planning, breastfeeding, and postpartum recovery.

    I would love to see the focus on disabled motherhood continue–this was a fantastic interview but one is not enough! Our experiences are so variable and there are always new things that come up as our kids and our bodies change over time. And the topic of integrating career and parenting is so much more complicated when you’re disabled.

    Totally agree that kids are so adaptable and loving no matter what the circumstances. My son is so sweet and rolls with whatever we need to do. And always asks for more Chrissy on Daniel Tiger, because she has crutches just like Mommy’s!

    Finally, PS: To those who have commented with language like “in a wheelchair” about someone they know, please research why it is important to switch to language like “uses a wheelchair.” We are not confined by our mobility aids–in fact they help us do so much more.

    • Allison says...

      I didn’t know this M, thanks for your comment about using, “uses a wheelchair.” I learned something new today!

  75. Karen says...

    I agree. I feel so lucky to have gotten the chance to “listen in” and learn!

  76. Laura J says...

    What a beautiful interview! Thank you both for sharing your thoughts & lives. Otto is darling!

  77. Ida says...

    I had a very strong “aha-moment” at work one day when I saw my co-worker with his 6-year old daughter. He’s in a wheelchair and they are approaching the front door of the building, his daughter stops, lets him pass her and waits for him to open the door for her so that she can walk in. She was fully capable of opening the door herself, but as he was her dad she obviously thought it was his job to do it. And it made me realize how prejudiced I am to think that she should open the door herself, but also how being a parent is the same for everyone. I feel truly embarrassed for coming to this realization so late in life, especially when I read your story and hear how you had to think about what people would say when they saw your pregnant belly. Thank you for sharing!

  78. isavoyage says...

    thank you! i’d love to read more articles on the topic of life with a disability.

  79. Grace says...

    I love this interview! My mom has MS and had a brain aneurysm rupture when my sister and I were little, and has used walker/wheelchair at various points in our lives including now. It makes me sad to think she or anyone would have doubted her ability to be a mom had her health/disability been at a different point when she was thinking of having kids, because she is an amazing mom.

  80. leah says...

    Loved this, thank you

  81. Mandy says...

    I loved this interview! Today is my due date for baby girl #2, and as a disabled mama myself, I love hearing about others’ experiences. I’m missing my left hand and forearm below the elbow, and there was definitely a few things to figure out after my first daughter was born. Breastfeeding positioning and equipment made for two-handed parents come to mind! I remember a woman asking me, “but how will you change her diapers?” Comments like that hurt my feelings, but not my confidence. I knew that I was her mom, and that she needed me exactly as I am.
    Now she has a super special relationship with my “little arm” and always holds it when she’s feeling tired or in need of extra love. It’s her way of knowing she’s safe with her mama.

    • Agnès says...

      Mandy, that is beautiful, that your daughter has a special relationship with your little arm.

  82. Emily says...

    I really loved this, thank you! I love the story of how you get both of you in the car, with the breaks to chat with him and choose toys. I can feel that you really see him as a little person, that’s beautiful and not always easy.

    It also made me reflect, because even though I’m not disabled I also was kind of surprised that my body could actually do all these pregnancy and birth things. It felt kind of like science fiction, one of those things that happens “to other people.” I wonder how many people feel this way…

  83. Sarah says...

    What a beautiful article. I really love that her teacher was kind and said something about her own assumptions on what she could be. Good work teacher taking a minute to plant a seed. This is such a beautiful.

  84. MK says...

    This is beautiful, and also I love the name Otto! We named our first baby Otto, and he is four (almost five!) now. I loved reading this and seeing his name. It’s just the best. <3

  85. Jill says...

    Look at you! Out there in the snow! Doing the dishes! Playing on the sofa! At an outdoor restaurant! Cuddling in the front carrier! You got this! Thanks for a great article with great insights!
    You are impressive!

  86. Ilka says...

    A wonderful article, thank you!

  87. Annie K. says...

    Thank you so much for sharing your conversation and a peak into your lives. This was a lovely thing to read this morning. I’m unexpectedly home with my two little ones due to possible COVID exposure. You have gently reminded me of the magic of being a parent and that is a gift I needed today.

    • Lindsey says...

      This article is so lovely and interesting! Rebekah seems like such a great mom! I hope this doesn’t seem rude, I’m so curious if she spends much time totally alone with Otto? I’m not a mother, but I’ve been a nanny on and off for a decade, and I’m so curious what she would do if/when a toddler runs away, into the street, squeezes through a gate that she can’t fit through. I nanny in Brooklyn, and there have been so many times where I had to physically run to stop a toddler from entering traffic, or had to dive down quickly to prevent a toddler from getting hurt from a fall. I’m just wondering how this sort of thing is navigated in a wheel chair.

    • Caitlin says...

      Hi Lindsey,
      I can’t answer for a parent who has a disability, but I’d like to gently ask that you challenge your thought process. To me, this sounded infantilizing. If you met a parent with asthma, would you ask them if they have alone time with their child or no because of safety? I am a job coach for folks with disabilities and I will (shamefully) admit that as a newbie I used to question their abilities in my head. When I first started, at times I would think to myself, there’s no way this job will work out for them. That’s painful for me to admit now. I quickly realized that the BIGGEST limitation that individual had in being successful was….my mindset. I was the weakest link. People can and will figure out how to do things! Thank goodness I know how to be more supportive of that now. It’s opened up my world in a beautiful way that I’m grateful for .
      How someone gets the job done might not look like how I do, but it is just as effective and efficient! They don’t need to change…I do!
      When I was a toddler my mom lost her voice for a year due to a tumor on her vocal chords. She would not have been able to call 911 in an emergency. Of course we still spent time safely alone with her. As someone who isn’t a parent, I hope it’s ok I replied to this. My take on your question is that it is us, without disabilities, who need to adjust our mindset. I loved this article so much.

    • L says...

      Hi Lindsey,

      My mom has a mobility disability and had it my whole life. I know you mean well, but this is something people asked my mom often and it really hurt her. This was literally never an issue – I was always aware of my moms disability and she always made sure we were in safe situations. I also have nannied and have never quite had the experience you described. I think it depends on the child, obviously. I do know my mom always made sure I was on the “inside” of the sidewalk we were going down, rather than the car side which helped her feel comfortable I’m sure.

      Btw – my mom was a single mom. So just me and her. I’m trying to be measured in my response because I know this is just a desire to learn. But this is the reason so many people carry shame with disability and it shouldn’t be that. I’m really grateful for my mom exactly how she is.

    • Christina says...

      @Caitlin and @L . I don’t think anyone would think that she isn’t a highly capable mother!

      I have myself had wild toddlers that I had to strap down with the seat belts in their strollers. So I thought Lindsey’s question came out of a concerned ”oh, how would I do if I couldn’t do what I did?”, not an assumption that she wasn’t capable but rather ”do you have a clever trick?”.

    • Lindsey says...

      I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend anyone. I can’t picture how the rebellious toddler years would work, with the public meltdowns, and the “no!” Phases, without being able to run after and pick up a 2 year old, but all children and families are so different, and I guess just because I can’t picture it doesn’t mean it can’t work.
      Thanks for your thoughtful responses. I have such a desire to see logistics, but you all have taught me that those logistics aren’t really my business, and can seem offensive to ask about. Thanks again, and so sorry to offend.

  88. Madeline says...

    Wow. This is absolutely beautiful and inspiring! We are all capable of so much more than we know.

  89. Lizzy says...

    Thank you so much for this post. I knew I was missing role models like this, but I didn’t know how to find them. xoxo

  90. This is such a fantastic interview. I am impressed with the editorial decision to have a disabled woman not only featured but also employed to do the interview — that takes it a step beyond “inclusion” and shows how determined COJ is to be an accessible space to all mothers. Thank you.

    • Julia says...

      Yes, seconded! I appreciate this editorial decision, COJ

  91. Diana says...

    This was one of the most accurate and insightful things about parenthood I’ve ever read. Thank you for this awesome piece! This part particularly struck me: “My relationship with my body has always been about mending it so that I could stay afloat, and with my pregnancy, it transitioned from survival mode into this space of abundance.” I had this journey in reverse – I’ve been able-bodied my whole life, and didn’t realize how much I (not consciously) had held this tight to myself as part of my core identity. It turns out that my body is *not* particularly good at being pregnant and I ended up with some serious complications, some of which have lingered after pregnancy. The first time around it really threw me for a loop, as I had never flexed those particular kinds of resiliency muscles before and realized something that had been a core part of how I viewed myself was no longer true, and perhaps had never been true. I’m now pregnant again, another high-risk pregnancy, and it’s taken me time to view my body, that used to never need much of my attention but now needs constant monitoring, with compassion – but I’m slowly getting there. Anyways. Thank you again for this article.

  92. Abbey says...

    I love this conversation so much. Two insightful, articulate, women sharing the nuances and magic and mundanity of life. I’m neither a mother nor disabled but it’s the art and artfulness of the conversation that includes us all. Thank you!

  93. Anon. says...

    Thank you for this. I’m newly pregnant – a few weeks shy of my second trimester – and my husband has hemiplegia (one side of his body is paralyzed). There is so little information for not just disabled mothers, but disabled parents in general. At my first OB appointment we asked for suggestions for classes, professionals, resources, etc. that could help my husband figure out how to care for a baby while only using one arm (picking up baby, supporting newborn’s head, changing diapers, using a carseat, feeding, etc.). We got a blank look, uncomfortable silence, and then, “That’s a really great question. I’m not sure I have an answer.” I know over time we’ll figure out a way to make all of it work (because there’s really no other option), but it’s an additional challenge most people entering parenthood don’t have to consider. It can feel frustrating and lonely. Rebekah’s story gives me a glimmer of hope that we’ll eventually find our own groove as a little family.

    • Anonymous says...

      I’m sorry to hear that your doctor was not able to offer any resources. Might I suggest that your husband connect with an occupational therapist? Their job is to help people with all kinds of challenges participate in daily activities, including parenting! Best of luck to you and your growing family!

    • MJ says...

      Check out Through the Looking Glass (located in Berkeley, CA), a fantastic nonprofit with tons of resources for parents who experience disabilities: https://lookingglass.org/

    • Sarah says...

      I would suggest hiring a doula who has experience supporting parents/ family’s with disabilities. They may have a bunch of resources that your doctor does not. Doulas are awesome!

  94. Caitlin says...

    ❤️loved this post

  95. L says...

    Thank you for posting this! My mom has a mobility disability and it is beautiful to see this mom and aunt talk through this under-discussed topic. My mom always had a lot of shame around her disability when I was growing up, and that was hard for her and for me. I was scared to ever talk to anyone about it. Like anything, children inherit the shame we carry. This openness was so refreshing!

  96. Irina says...

    Thank you for this interview! I’d love more interviews like this, about mothering while having a physical disability or a mental illness, or co-parenting with someone who does.

    Also, when Rebekah talked about how her disability is a natural part of life for her son, it reminded me of how adaptable children are, and how there really is no such thing as a single yardstick by which to measure the worth of a child/caregiver relationship. Each connection is unique.

    For example, I spent roughly half my childhood living with my grandparents, and there were certainly physical limitations to what they could do. For example, they couldn’t get down on the floor to play with me, or chase after me on the playground, or teach me to jump rope or ride a bike. However, it never occurred to me to think that something was missing from our interactions. There was so much that they COULD do, and did, that the relationship felt full and complete.

    • Sherry says...

      What a beautiful comment! It gives life to me as a mom. There is so much that I CAN do, and do, that the relationship will feel full and complete. What a good reminder!

  97. AE says...

    Disabled (though my physical disability is invisible) and pregnant with my first. And the shift in perspective from survival mode to one of abundance really rings true got me though I hadn’t had the words for it until now. Thank you.

    • Katie says...

      Congratulations on your baby to come! Many adventures await you. Parenthood is a wild ride! :)

  98. Lesley says...

    Thank you so much for this article. Cheers to Rebekah for creating the life she wants for herself despite the complete lack of inclusion for her experience.

  99. jdp says...

    “loss and joy coexisting” might be the very best definition of parenthood i’ve ever heard.

    • Adele says...

      Agreed!!

  100. sam says...

    I love this so so much! Thank you for sharing!

    Tangentially related: could you do a post on work-life/career/employment changes after becoming a parent? I’m thinking not just of people who continued working, but also of people who left the workforce for a while? I usually think of “leaving the workforce” as such an unfortunate thing, but I’m facing the possibility in my own life (after costs of childcare, my remaining income is not worth the stress of my current job). I’m eager for stories of people who’ve been through that change and how they made the most of it.

  101. Sara says...

    Thank you so much for this piece. I’m a brand new mother and I’m also deaf. When I got pregnant someone even asked me “how I was going to do ‘this?'” ‘This’ being hearing my baby’s cries, knowing the nuances of different sounds and cries, etc. It’s been hard. I tried several different apps and devices that would shake my pillow and/or hand to let me know about sounds but most have not been that helpful. So, I’ve had to rely on my husband for many things. What’s been the hardest is the lack of knowledge and anyone to really ask about how to do motherhood with my hearing loss. But, while it has been a journey and I frequently have to give myself grace for being unable to do some motherhood-associated things I’ll never be able to do, I love it and am so blessed to have a partner that’s come alongside me as we figure it out together.

    • Ell says...

      Hi Sara, thanks for sharing! I can’t speak to your specific struggles, other than to say I’m sorry. Giving yourself grace is a really hard thing to learn, and a really important skill to teach your child.

    • katie says...

      Congratulations Sara! Your story made me think of “The Mitten String” – it’s a children’s book that includes a deaf mother and her baby. My son read it as part of a school STEAM knitting challenge and the beauty of the pandemic is that I got to sit alongside and hear it. It made me think about and respect challenges of deaf mothers, but it was also lovely to see how my son just accepted the situation outright. Best of luck on your journey – soak up that newborn time :-)

    • Jody says...

      Hi Just some encouragement about hearing your baby crying. My experience might be unusual but our three babies really didn’t cry. We slept with them in our room, fed them on demand round the clock, held them constantly, tended to their needs readily, didn’t overtax them… as babies they were all super happy. Now as big kids the only noise is when they fight among themselves or play wildly and happily! So all this is to say, the work around for an inability to hear your baby cry could be a happy baby 😊

    • Kay Lynn says...

      Sara, I have a severe hearing loss (about 5 percent hearing). It is corrected pretty well with aids, but I definitely need workarounds at night, when showering, swimming, and in other situations when I don’t have hearing aids in. Before my daughter was born I worried about this a lot. But you learn to be a superstar observer…and you are the expert on your baby. I put her in her high chair in the bathroom while I showered. The withings video baby monitor was really helpful for us. My husband delights in being daddy at night. And kids take it all in stride. When my daughter was 4 she gave her grandmother an exuberant compliment on her pretty hearing aids (earrings!!!). I think that God gives us exactly the right kids for us and your kids are so lucky to have you.

    • WT says...

      I follow @whatdaddid on Instagram. He’s a deaf dad to a hearing child. He has lots of information, maybe some tools that could help? But yes also, grace upon grace for each of us.

  102. Sarah says...

    So important. Thank you for hosting this conversation.

  103. R says...

    Loved this eye-opening interview, especially as it relates to my own sister with disabilities.

  104. Alice says...

    My mom has spina bifida and I am so lucky to be her daughter. She is truly the best of all time. Love this interview.

  105. Kate says...

    I teared up reading this. I have a two-year old and was so scared about how I would care for him when my body was fighting me, but he’s so sweet when he knows I’m not feeling well and will come snuggle if I need a rest. Kids just see you as their person and embrace everything you are <3

  106. beckly says...

    I love that this was less a question and answer and more a conversational post. I am not disabled nor do I often ever encounter anyone who is but every conversation like this I am fortunate enough to hear brings me to a place of greater empathy for disabled people of all types. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  107. Mara says...

    Beautiful and important piece — thank you!!

  108. Michaela says...

    Beautiful!

  109. Brooke says...

    What a beautiful, insightful article. Thank you!

  110. A Rose says...

    So many wonderful things here. While I am not a wheelchair user, my daughter is, and so much of our routine is this “intricate and practiced dance”. I have also seen the same total acceptance of her and her mobility aids by her younger sisters and cousins. Thank you both, Kelly and Rebekah, for sharing your stories here, and for representing disabled women being their creative, resilient, amazing selves.

  111. DB says...

    What an incredible interview and piece of writing! A real joy to read. Thank you!

  112. Sophie says...

    “with my pregnancy, it transitioned from survival mode into this space of abundance.” Wow, incredible recognition.
    “I will find the resiliency I need until it changes. . .”: my new mantra haha.

    Rebekah, this would be so valuable on Instagram or Tiktok. Why not get the most from those cute maternity clothes photo’s, for one :) But also the documentary value and example of raising a child as a disabled parent/family would be so inspiring for – everyone! Especially if prejudiced legislation still exists. It’s a personal decision, I know. Just a vote of confidence for your experience!

    Also, that your baby bag is an patched up army satchel is quite a poignant, poetic image. Congratulations and the best of luck! Otto is already a lucky person on an extraordinary journey! Prayers to your husband and his healthy recovery!

    • Kelly says...

      Just flagging that Rebekah already does this. She has an incredibly popular instagram account, @sitting_pretty, and a wonderful book of the same name.

    • Diana says...

      Rebekah is very very much on Instagram! She has 45,000 followers. Linked in the article.

  113. Elspeth says...

    ‘Being a parent is difficult and draining, but loving Otto is not’
    I love this!

    • Blythe says...

      In an interview full of gems, that was my favorite line too :) So good, so true.

  114. florence says...

    Thank you Rebekah for sharing a peek into your world as a mother!

  115. Erika says...

    This is so beautiful. Motherhood is unique for all of us. It’s tender that you can see him seeing you in this beautiful and unique way. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us all.

    “He’s growing up with my wheelchair as part of the fabric of our dynamic, and he’s developing a relationship with this object as one of ease and comfort. It’s taking me off guard to get to share that positive bond with him. It’s almost like I didn’t even know how to identify that feeling until I watched him feel it. He gets to see my wheelchair as being so fundamental to how I interact with the world, and it’s very special.”

  116. Adele says...

    This is one of the best articles i’ve ever read on motherhood, ever.

    • a.bensonhurst says...

      Right? The honesty, so simply and graciously expressed. And very inspiring.

    • Ariel says...

      100% agree. Wow.

    • Kara says...

      I couldn’t agree more. Every paragraph gave me something to think about. I would basically be requoting a good portion of the article to list all the moments of insight and wisdom or where had me reflecting on my experience with pregnancy and motherhood.

    • Nina says...

      YES. I’m blown away by how spot-on this article is about parenting. I only know parenting from the non-disabled perspective. But maybe that’s the most important take-away here? At her core, this momma is a momma. She’s got some unique physical struggles she figures out how to navigate. But her thought process in doing so seems so similar to those I go through as I navigate my different challenges as a mom. Does this work for my child? Does it work for me?

    • Kristen says...

      Completely agreed. This conversation is full of gems, profound and deeply thought provoking. Thank you CoJ and especially Kelly and Rebekah!

  117. joy says...

    This is great. Thank you for this interview with Rebekah and for lifting up a variety of voices and experience. Also, I want to SQUISH Otto! He has the most glorious baby rolls!

  118. Rachel says...

    I loved reading this interview with Rebekah. Sitting Pretty is one of the best books I’ve read in the past few years, and it’s wonderful to hear more from her (and Kelly too!).

  119. Michaela says...

    This is such an amazing interview! It made me think of how many obstacles society puts in front of disabled mothers, and how innovative and smart they are to manage them. This was a really beautiful view into Rebekah and Otto’s bond and I feel lucky that I get to see it! Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Nicola says...

      Loved this! So much of it is relatable to other parents, disabled or not. “Loss and joy coexisting” sums it up perfectly.

      Thank you, COJ, for sharing!

  120. SN says...

    Kelly & Rebekah — thank you for this thoughtful and insightful conversation. As a new mom I just love hearing from how other women take on this incredible, amazing, exhausting and overwhelming experience. You are both amazing moms.

    I just love this wisdom & guidance: “Don’t let anyone tell you what you’re allowed to do with your one life.”

    (P.S. Cup of Jo — thank you for featuring more disabled voices. This is so important.)

    • SN says...

      I meant to say ‘you’re an amazing mom!’ And Kelly — you sound like an amazing Aunt :-)

  121. mimi says...

    Ah I got teary eyed by this beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing this viewpoint. I appreciate having a peak into her world.

  122. Greta says...

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for this. My husband has a progressive neurological condition and uses a wheelchair. Although I don’t think we will have kids, I love seeing our friends with disabilities figure out what works for them with parenting. This is just so beautiful to read about in a more mainstream setting. I think children of parents with disabilities will grow up to be lovely, empathetic human beings.

  123. Ashley says...

    spot on, CoJ! love this, thank you <3