People with disabilities have a long and complex history with the word inspirational.” Parents of kids with disabilities are also not immune to a case of inspiration. Stella Young, my cross-continent colleague with OI does a beautiful job explaining . Our existence alone is not inspirational. I could add to Stellas hilarious collection of odd times shes been informed shes inspirational. Most recently, a gentleman rolled down his window at the gas station to tell me that I had inspired him because if I didnt complain, he shouldnt either.” I looked around to see if Id missed something to complain about. Add that to my gas station paranoia of being robbed/kidnapped/otherwise assaulted and my not-so-great hearing (What? What? Oh thank you?) and I did have to laugh.
Over the years, the word inspire has soured in my soul. I dread Internet memes and my frustration grows when I see them shared over, and over, and over. I can foretell the drop of the i-bomb in the first 30 seconds of any media coverage about a person with a disability. Its in the sad, slow music and the drama-filled descriptions of how troubling life must be. A life like mine. Ive skipped reading countless articles, simply because the title reeked of inspiration.
In the last couple of weeks, my husband and I have shared our journey to adoption with the media. Weve been interviewed, photographed,and videotaped. Theres an element of suspense and anxiety as we wait for the piece to come out. Weve developed some mistrust and we wonder how our story will be spun. This time so far, weve been happy with the results. We appreciate that the media coveragehas focused on what were working towardsour sonversus false assumptions that we are somehow suffering from these bones of ours.
This experience of feeling accurately and honestly portrayed has surprised me. In one case, the interviewer even used that formerly dreaded wordinspirein posing a question about parenthood for people with disabilities. For once, I answered without the turn of my stomach or the mission to reframe and rephrase. I realized that its not the word itself that is problematic. In this case, I DO want to inspire. The path to parenthood isnt easy for anyone with a disability, but its a path I am most proud to have taken.
When Im braiding my daughters hair
When Im reading her books
And even when Im in survival mode during one of our more challenging moments .
I am so thankful.
My rodding surgeries to straighten my legs were never about the potential to inspire others, as I tried (but never mastered the ability) to walk. Instead, theyve allowed me to buckle my daughter into her car seat and then transfer to take the wheel. My arms are quite bowed. Therapy to turn doorknobs and regain strength after fractures never achieved that perfect range of motion score, but it helped me to tie my daughters shoes, teach her to write, and fill out dozens of papers to adopt our son.These parenting acts dont always come easy. But the truth is: parenting is hard work for everyone! People with disabilities have strengths in their resilience, problem-solving abilities, and creativity. Many of us are more than prepared to be parents, yet so many remain uncertain and miss out on what is, for me, the greatest gift and achievement of my life.
Im not trying to (dare I say it) inspire a baby boom. Im merely sharing a couple of personal reflections.
Being inspirational isnt always a bad thing.
If youve worked hard to achieve what others are inspired by, maybe it is just that: inspirational. In my own adult life I have been fortunate enough to find inspiration in the stories of other mothers with disabilities. The adoptive community has welcomed our family and we hope that people with disabilities will consider adoption as one option on the road to parenthood.Lets take back the power in the word inspirational. Lets take an active role in deciding when we are, and are not, inspiring. I’ll likely continue to awkwardly respond when people congratulate me for pumping gas, but if even one person with a disability knows they can enjoy this amazing experience of parenthood because of our story, Ill once again be thankful.