Disability and Motherhood

Disabilityand Motherhood


Disabilityand Motherhood

Beinga woman is a challenging factor in some societies since thesesocieties consider women inferior to men. Women have to fight thesestruggles to be significant in the society. Motherhood is anotherchallenge because women are expected to take care of the children,with more responsibility heaped on the mothers. However, it is morechallenging when the mother in question is disabled. It is one thingto be disabled because already, the society is putting you amongpeople with special needs and attention. Therefore, most disabledpeople are not expected to be mothers because of the misinformationthat disability can interfere with effective motherhood. Many womenhave come out strongly, showing that disability does not come in theway of effective parenting, and they have proceeded to raisesuccessful children. This article is an analysis of four literatureworks by different authors on the topic of disability and motherhood.It will shed more light on the issue with special emphasis onrecommendations to support motherhood even with a disability.

SusanShaul, Ph.D., Pamela Dowling and Bernice F. Laden, B.S. all ofElliott Bay Health Associates explain the challenges of disabilityand motherhood as one big problem that has been engulfing the societyfor a long time. According to the author, many people think thatdisabled mothers cannot be good at parenting because their conditiondoes not allow them to be effective. Therefore, most of these womenare encouraged to focus on careers and be super career people. Thisis because, apart from the challenges involved in sexual intercourseand getting pregnant, the obstetric world is still underdeveloped tocater for this special group (Shaul et al., 1981, 364). Generally,the obstetric world is still unprepared for dealing with disabledmothers. Most of the hospitals around the world do not have theadequate facilities to deal with these women, making them have somany challenges during the process of delivery. This is because thesociety does not expect them to have children. The general belief isthat women who are disabled are extraordinarily dependent on otherpeople, making them less independent enough to make decisionsregarding motherhood. Another belief is that disability is adepressing misfortune that one would not have the best in mind forthe child. Additionally, claims are that disabled people cannotmanage child-rearing properly because of their condition.

CarolThomas, Department of Applied Social Science, Lancaster University inhis article TheBaby and the Bath Water: Disabled Women and Motherhood in SocialContext opinesthat the sociological aspect of pregnancy and parenthood hascompletely ignored the existence of disabled mothers. This puts thesemothers in a situation where the sociology and medical work cannothelp them raise their children well. The author explains that despitethe fact that disabled women desire to have children and experienceparenthood, they are discouraged by the societal misconceptions andmisinformation that they just cannot. Therefore, they become wary ofthe effects of the pregnancy on their already-disabled bodies and thereaction from the people around them. Their personal experienceliving with disability discourages them from having children.According to the author, the society is absorbed in focusing on theindividual instead of addressing the social factor that led to thedisability. He says some medical sociologists are discussing andopening up to the fact that disability should be treated as a chronicillness. The author insists that understanding the socialconsequences of living with disabilities and chronic illnesses canonly be understood if people can consider the personal experiences ofthe people living with disabilities and chronic illnesses. If thesociety takes the initiative to understand the experiences that thisgroup of people goes through, then maybe a more social approach cansuccessfully address the challenges involved in disability andparenting.

Inthe articleReconstructing Motherhood in the Era of ‘Perfect Babies: Mothers ofInfants and Toddlers with Disabilitiesby Gail H. Land, the author goes through her personal experience ofraising a child with a disability. DJ, as her nine-year-old child isoften called, is a child who defied all odds to live. She fought fromthe brink of death, as the author puts it, and despite staying in acoma for eight days, she came out fine, healthy and cheerful, onlywith an impaired mental state, probably due to birth asphyxia. Thisrevelation comes after her house help endures a lot of frustrationwhile taking the child for swimming lessons. A woman who wasconstantly comparing their mentally impaired DJ’s ability to learnand that of her child who was the same age as the DJ had annoyed thebabysitter. The woman seems to be ignorant of the effects of mentalimpairment on a child’s growth, development and observation ofmilestones. This case clearly sheds light on the issues that motherswho have disabled children go through. They have to go through a lotof pain defending the conditions of their child when the societyjudges them. It is only the parents, and probably a passionatebabysitter like the one the author has, who can understand thechallenges of coming from a medical complication to live. The authorinsists that the baby works for every second of her life, and she isvery proud of her.

In‘Doing Motherhood,’ some experiences of mothers with physicaldisabilities by Lars Grue and Kristin Tafjord Lærum, an interviewwith 30 women, shows that women with disabilities feel like they nolonger belong to their gender. To them, it is like asexual and theyyearn to recapture their gender. The interview showed that most ofthem appreciate the fact that the society treats them differently. Toraise a child successfully for both of them to be accepted asordinary people in the society, they have to do a lot, something thatdiscourages them from motherhood. According to the author, thesociety seems to look down upon the potential of people withdisabilities. According to professionals and many lay people, thisgroup of people is very dependent that they are only seen asreceivers and not carers.

CarolThomas has utilized the method of interviewing to get first-handinformation regarding the experiences of women with disabilities. Itprovided a clear way of analyzing the experiences, expectations,thoughts and aspirations of disabled women. Although the number ofparticipants is small at seventeen, it is still a good number giventhe fact that he interviewed women suffering from a number ofphysical disabilities and chronic illnesses. This paper has reportedresults from 17 disabled women with special focus put on theirpersonal experience. These women were at different stages in theirreproductive life and journeys, allowing the report to be holistic inits approach at the time of interview. It has shed more light on theexperiences of disabled women, the misinformation and misconceptionsregarding pregnancy and disability, how the society perceives themand their decisions regarding their reproductive lives areinterconnected in the social fabric of provision of services andenabling structures. Particularly, the women refer to the socialrelationship between them and the ordinary people in the society.These women are greatly wary of three things. These are the medicalrisks involved in pregnancy and the possible effect on theirdisability, the perception of the public that they cannot be goodcarers and the need to disapprove them and the bad experience ofreceiving help that is entirely unhelpful from social and healthworkers.

Thesecond authors, Susan Shaul, Ph.D., Pamela Dowling and Bernice F.Laden, B.S. all of Elliott Bay Health Associates agree with Mr.Thomas that the society sees the disabled people as overly dependent,and nothing should be expected of them. According to the interview,which was also done on 30 women of different ages and reproductivehealth status, the society sees them as receivers therefore, theyshould not be expected to be carers. This article gives vivid andaccurate information since it has included individuals who have beenreceiving first-hand experiences regarding these misconceptions.These women were of different disabilities, further allowing us tocompare how the society treats different disabilities.

Thethird article covered by Gail H. Landsman incorporates both personalexperience and the experience of other people. The fact that theauthor was inspired by her personal experience to look further intothis matter shows that the information is credible. The authorappreciates the steps taken to curb these misconceptions and helpmothers with children with disability raise their children normally(Landsman, 1998, 90-99). However, she insists that despite the factthat genetic counseling and technological techniques can be used todetect pregnancy problems and be used in deciding on parenting, it isnot moral to deny a disabled child a chance to live.

Thefinal article, done by Lars Grue and Kristin Tafjord Lærum, whichcovered 30 women of different disabilities and reproductive statecircumstances, echoed the same message and the previous three. Themothers interviewed complain that the society has greatly stigmatizedthis group. For them to raise their children successfully in order tobe wholly accepted by the society, they put more effort. To them,they are not ordinary, and the society keeps reminding them of thesame (Grue&amp Lærum, 2002, 671-673). It proceeds to emphasize that someparts of the society are making efforts to ensure that disabledpeople are treaty same as normal people. According to the author, theUN’s Standard Rules for People with Disabilities, and the NorwegianAction Plan for Securing Equal Rights for People with Disabilities ishope for better treatment for these people. If these doctrines arewell accepted and implemented, disabled people will have equalopportunities as the other people enabling them to lead a normallife.

Inconclusion, it is time for the society to accept that disability isno longer inability. If President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was ableto lead America through the Second World War propelling them to aworld superpower, any person with a disability is capable ofachieving as much success as the other people. It showed people withdisabilities could also be givers and carers rather than justreceivers. Therefore, the health department and the social realmshould appreciate that and move towards accepting motherhood even indisability.


Grue,L., &amp Lærum, K. T. (2002). `DoingMotherhood`: some experiences of mothers with physical disabilities.Disability &amp Society, 17(6), 671-683.

Landsman,G. H. (1998). Reconstructing motherhood in the age of&quot perfect&quotbabies: Mothers of infants and toddlers with disabilities. Signs,69-99.

Shaul,S., Dowling, P., &amp Laden, B. F. (1981). Like other women:Perspectives of mothers with physical disabilities. J. Soc. &ampSoc. Welfare, 8, 364.

Thomas,C. (1997). The baby and the bathwater: Disabled women and motherhoodin social context. Sociology of Health &amp Illness, 19(5), 622-643.