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|Photo caption: Mai with (L to R) son Luke, husband Charles, son Matthew, stepson Cortland.|
by Mai Thor McIntosh
Looking back over the past four years, Mai reflects on some of what she’s learned about herself as a parent since she first told her story in Impact in 2010.
Four years ago I talked about my experience of becoming a new mother with a disability. My son, Matthew, is now five and it’s been quite an adventure. I had so many questions early on. I’m sure most first-time moms will say the same. No matter how much we look online or how often we meet up with other moms on playdates, we still find ourselves thinking we haven’t a clue about what we’re doing. It really was just trial and error. For me, in particular, it was frustrating because I didn’t know any other moms with disabilities. Okay, honestly, sometimes it was down-right isolating. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a joy raising my family. However, any mom will tell you that it’s such a relief to hear another mom say that she knows what you’re going through and that you are doing okay. It also puts your mind at ease when you can share your own stories. For me, though, it seemed that no other mother truly knew what I was going through because I didn’t know any other moms who had disabilities. I couldn’t ask anyone else, “Hey, what do you when your kid chews on your wheelchair cushion and tears a hole in it?” because I didn’t know any other moms who used wheelchairs. I realized quickly that despite all of my similarities with other mothers, I had many differences as well. It was definitely tough at times.
I would credit motherhood for helping me to reflect upon myself as a woman with a disability on a level that I had not done before. It changed how I made choices, how I deal with challenges and resolve them, and ultimately, reshaped my whole worldview on what kind of person I was at the time and how I was going to evolve in order to live better. In the interest of my son, it meant to live more boldly and take more risks knowing that I am different from other mothers, and leading by example no matter what others might be thinking at a playmate’s birthday party or what physical barriers exist at the playground. There is so much about motherhood that is inspiring and it’s all true. However, it is also a very empowering thing as well. I have felt very empowered by my children – as if I can be a great advocate for myself and them. Yes, I said children. I had Matthew’s little brother, Luke, in 2011, so I went through all of it again! I wouldn’t change one moment of all the laughs, tears, hilarity or madness for anything!When they are grown and can fully understand, I hope to thank them for this gift of self-realization. What I hope they will tell me is that their mom, who happens to have a disability, was a great mom and raised them with intentional effort.
Mai Thor McIntosh and her family live in St. Paul, Minnesota.
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Retrieved from the Web site of the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota (http://ici.umn.edu/products/impact/271). Citation: Gaylord, V. (Ed). (Winter/Spring 2014). Impact: Feature Issue on Stories of Advocacy, Stories of Change from People with Disabilities, Their Families, and Allies (1988-2013), 27(1). [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration].
The PDF version of this Impact, with photos and graphics, is also online at http://ici.umn.edu/products/impact/271/271.pdf.
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