Surround Yourself, Mama

One of my most useful but situationally frustrating characteristics is “stubborn,” I’m confident my husband and parents will confirm. I have no interest in asking them, though, so you’ll have to trust me. I’ve been a mama to my son for just over a year, and please believe I’ve had to fight my stubborn impulse down more times than I’ll count.

Kristen Beale & Son

I’m being smart about this, at least: I’m not asking and I’m not counting.

I’m disabled and dependent on a wheelchair, so I’m constantly adapting the “normal” way of doing things, to accommodate my disability. More specifically, I’m forever pushing past my impulse response of ”no thanks, I can do it on my own” to people trying to help me. Truly, it has been among my biggest struggles.

Now that I’m a mama and I’m responsible for another life, though, I’m trying to not be so reckless in the name of my independence. I’m trying. I spent the first months of motherhood stuck in the “my situation is unique, so I have to figure it out on my own” mindset. But that was isolating. No surprise there.

So now, I’ve evolved: I realize that I don’t want to parent on an island, so I sought out community – a community of people who have a child, have a disability, know some tricks or, bonus points, all of the above.

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To be clear: my husband is supportive and he’s there whenever I need him. There’s something special, though, about being in community with people who can empathize, share mama-experiences, or just be “in it” with me. I’ve never been a fan of organized support groups or the like but, if you are, power to ya; meeting people at church is more my cup of tea so that’s what I’m recommending but, honestly, take ‘em where you can get ‘em. Good, solid people have been especially helpful for me when my pregnancy-and-postpartum emotions were soaring, and now when I have a small baby I’ve tried so hard not to drop. I tried the “do it on my own” approach at the beginning of my son’s life, but I had too many questions and still no desire to read a parenting book.

I can cry on demand, every time, when I think about the last year and all the sweet moments we’ve had as a family of three. There has been a truckload of equally difficult and revealing moments to go along, and all of them are so fleeting. That transience is both heartbreaking and exciting: heartbreaking because I’ll never get to relive the moments of my son being tiny and perfect; and exciting because, as he gets stronger and more independent, a world of adventures and fun will open up.

Motherhood is hard as heck at every angle, I acknowledge it, but it’s a tremendous privilege that no mama should have to do without support. Whether over the internet or in person, my experience so far has been that finding community is crucial for your mental health, easier parenting, and a smoother transition into raising your plus one (or two, or three!).

I’m stubborn – I’m claiming it – but my son can crumble that in me with just one look [or one line of drool]. My “crumble” took the form of joining a community this time (ok, it’s not so bad). So I’m trying to save my “stubborn” for something more important. It’s okay, I’ve never had trouble finding something to be stubborn about.

Learn more about Parenting with a Disability

About the Author - Kristin Beale

Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of three books, Greater Things and A Million Suns, Wide Awake, and a comic book, Date Me. Instagram: @kristin.gupta

Kristin Beale

The opinions expressed in these blogs are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $10,000,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.