Editor's Note: This series features a panel of women with various disabilities and mobility challenges who share their personal experiences with motherhood, and resources that other women can use to overcome and cope with those challenges.
For many women, the privilege of being a mother comes with both beautiful moments they get to experience while raising a child, and fears and stressors the responsibility entails. For women with disabilities, especially those who have mobility challenges, the excitement of accomplishing the tasks that come with motherhood and overcoming the stressors and fears is even more significant because of the barriers they face.
By sharing their own life experiences, guidance and resources with others, peer support helps people understand that their challenge is not unique to them. It offers an opportunity to meet new friends with whom they can relate and to overcome life challenges.
Today we meet E’van, who has Polio and uses a wheelchair for mobility. E’van defied all odds when she was able to get pregnant and now has two daughters!
I was born in Baghdad, Iraq. At seventeen months old, I contracted the Poliomyelities (Polio) virus due to a dirty, infected needle. That caused a lot of damage to my muscle tissues, which caused me to be paralyzed from my neck down. In the late seventies, I was granted permission by the Iraqi government to be sent to Germany and sponsored by a German family, I was taken away from my family for the first four or five years of my life. I stayed in the hospital as a ”science experiment,” trying a new drug treatment. I was then brought to the United States on a Visa that allowed me to continue physical therapy and more experimental treatments. My family was also able to come. When we reunited in Detroit, Michigan, I only knew German. They only spoke Arabic, and we were in the United States. No one spoke English! They actually had to provide an interpreter to reintroduce me to my family.
From the age of four to twelve, I only used braces to walk. However, Polio ended up causing severe Scoliosis to my spine, which required an emergency surgery. I had to have metal rods implanted in my spine, from the tip of my neck to the bottom of my tailbone. So essentially, I have two rods and sixty-two screws in my back. I was put in an induced coma, and between the time I was in the coma and the time I took to heal, all the reposting caused me to lose the twelve years of hard work I had put into gaining mobility, and I lost all senses again. I had to start all over again. When given the option to use braces or use a wheelchair for my mobility, I chose to use a wheelchair because the braces were too heavy. Living in Michigan, with snow and everything, it was really hard to navigate on crutches.
At the age of eighteen, I was told I would never be able to get pregnant. At that age, I was happy to hear that. But at the age of twenty-eight, I was able to get pregnant. Doctors had told me I couldn’t do a lot of things, but I didn’t really believe it. I was even once told that I only had twenty-four hours to live, and here I am!
While my first pregnancy was planned, my second one was more of a surprise. I was 32 and playing wheelchair basketball at the time. I went in for a physical in order to play, and when I went in, the doctor asked me why I was playing basketball. When I asked what he meant, he informed me that I was in my first trimester, the most critical time of my pregnancy, and that I had to stop playing.
Motherhood has been a challenge. I went through a couple of phases where at times, I felt hopeless because I wasn’t able to support my children like I wanted to. As I look back, I felt people were very judgmental as far as what is supposed to be ”the norm”. There were challenging moments, but I learned to become creative very quickly, like when I would carry my baby and push my chair. I would put a belt around my back and fasten her in between the belt and my chest. I didn’t have the technology that we have now; I just improvised!
My two daughters are eleven and sixteen now. My biggest challenge is letting go so they can experience life on their own. My biggest fear is everything that is happening in this world right now. However, I want them to live life to the fullest. No matter what your condition is, there are always ways of doing things, even if it’s not “the norm.” Life can be taken just as easily as it was given.