For the next few posts, I will be doing an Interview Series called Moms Living with Disabilities.
Initially, I interviewed three women and asked them all the same questions. I wanted to incorporate their stories into one combined interview. However, their experiences are so unique and different from one another that I would rather shine a light on each woman individually, so I’m giving each one their own post. They are in no particular order of preference.
According to statistics, there are between 4.1 and 9 million parents living with disabilities in the United States. Imagine what that is globally. With statistics like that, it’s remarkable that we don’t hear more about the struggles and joys this demographic goes through on a daily basis.
My hope is that you can identify with these women – maybe they are your sister, your friend, your mother, your daughter…maybe they are you. Please join me in welcoming them.
This is Meaghan’s Story
Please briefly describe the disability or challenge that you have (what’s your official diagnosis)?
I struggle with an auto immune disease called Rheumatoid Arthritis. This is a fairly new diagnosis for physical struggles that have gone on for 8 years. It comes with chronic pain, limited physical mobility and affects almost every area of my body. Most auto-immune disease comes in “3’s” and I also have fibromyalgia and borderline Hashimoto’s disease which affects my thyroid.
Did you have it before you became a mom?
I did not.
How do you portray your particular disability to your kids?
We are a family that has chosen to embrace the truth of our situation. Because I struggle some days with even walking, there is no way to cover or compensate for my disease. My kids see it almost every day. Because both of my sons also have disabilities, we have always had a family culture that authentically sees the challenges in disabilities but also recognizes that everyone has some sort of struggle or challenge in life.
In what ways do you think it makes you a stronger mother?
I believe that there can be great strength in weakness and/or limitation. To be able to do hard things well and express vulnerability and challenge with my kids teaches them resilience and compassion for others. And because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I don’t have it “all together” and I never will, I have more grace to extend to others. Finally, my physical limitations have forced me to “die” to my perfectionism and busyness. Because of this, I am more emotionally available for my family.
What sort of help (if any) have you needed with raising your kids?
My kids are a bit older. Despite the boy’s limitations, they are pretty self-sufficient and our daughter is in her teens. The daily support is not as necessary. But, even before my diagnosis, we asked for and accepted help from our extended family, large group of friends and church community. I will admit that wanting help and needing help are different and it was easier for me to reach out when I didn’t need it. There is now a deeper sense of vulnerability and exposure when I do ask for help and more shame. I’m learning to work through it but it can be difficult.
Have you found people to be willing to help or do you sometimes struggle to find the help you may need (if you need help)?
Some of the help is so basic that I find it humbling. The days I can’t walk or struggle with holding things, it is difficult to do laundry, go to the market or very basic tasks. Because I still have good days, I just wait until my bad days pass to do those things or my husband and kids do them for us. I’m sure I could ask for help for many of those things but am still resisting that. I also know that this is a progressive disease and I will day be very dependent on others for help.
What kind of challenges as a mom do you face on a day to day basis because of having a disability?
Energies and emotions are my biggest struggles. Chronic fatigue is my reality as is chronic pain. Some days I feel so demoralized and question myself, my capabilities as a mom and whether or not I am “wrecking” my kids. I hate having them see me struggle to walk or drop things or have to lie down in the middle of the day. My whole life I have been a “go-getter” and that is not who I am anymore. It’s hard.
What positive things has your family experienced because of having a disability?
We have learned that life is hard but God is still good. We have learned that everyone has some sort of struggle and kindness and compassion can make someone’s day. My youngest has physical limitations but still seeks to help me with mine and that has been huge growth for him. We have learned that we are in this together and Mom doesn’t have to do everything. We have learned that our response to difficult situations is where our character is revealed and that life can be messy and still okay.
What do you want to teach people about having a disability like yours (if anything)?
Like I said, we all have a place of struggle… whether physical, emotional, financial or relational. My struggle limits my body and is progressive and that makes me profoundly sad. But I think that we all have something.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give other moms who have a disability?
Keep doing a hard thing well and find a support group or tribe of friends if you can. Women to be “messy” with. My tribe does not consist of moms who have chronic illness… Some aren’t even moms… But we are a small group of women who are there for each other. We listen, we don’t fix. We love and pray and make each other laugh. Find one or start one if you can.
Please stop by Meaghan’s blog http://windmillsandwalls.com/