Recently I posted a very personal piece on how I was diagnosed with epilepsy in my 30’s and the impact that had on me starting a family. My intention was not as a pity post, it was done instead to educate and raise awareness of how certain conditions can affect you as a parent. The response to my post was really positive, and it seemed to strike a chord with a number of readers who wanted to know more and thanked me for writing about it. So I went out and asked other parents to come and join me and share their stories in the hope of raising awareness about other conditions. I wanted to give confidence and advice to others finding themselves in a similar situation having to manage a condition and take on the challenge of parenting. This interview took place with Craig, partner of the awesome Aleena who blogs over at the very brilliant MummyMamaMum. Here is my uplifting and witty interview with him that I hope you enjoy.
What is your condition and when were you diagnosed?
Cerebral Palsy of the right side which affects my right arm and leg. I was diagnosed at around a year old.
How does Cerebral Palsy affect your life?
Having had operations on my leg as a child, it pretty much functions as well as my left one. My right arm and hand, however, is a different story. It can make even the simplest of things like buttoning up a shirt near impossible. I was told I’d never ride a bike, swim, or drive a normal car, but I can do all those things. Well, maybe swimming isn’t my forte, but you get the picture. I get a lot of funny looks, which to be honest winds me up – I’d rather people just asked! It annoys me that I can’t do things like manual labour or much in the way of DIY but that’s Aleena’s area of expertise anyway haha.
What were your immediate emotions on finding out you were going to become a parent and being able to manage that and your condition?
I just couldn’t see how I was going to do the basics; bathing a baby, changing a nappy, even putting clothes on a wriggly kid! All of those things require the full use of two functioning hands and arms, and I’m not ashamed to admit I was daunted by it all, and afraid I was going to miss out because of it. Irrationally, I was extremely worried that Amelia would be born with Cerebral Palsy too. It’s not genetic, so it was an entirely unfounded worry, but it played on my mind nonetheless.
Now you are a parent what changes have you had to make to adapt?
Luckily Aleena is a lot like my Dad who told me all my life that I could do anything I wanted to if I just found my own way. With a bit of perseverance, support from Aleena, and the help of some handy modern gadgets, I worked out my own way of doing everything. The first time I bathed Amelia was petrifying, but I had Aleena behind me telling me to stop being a wuss and that I was doing fine! Changing nappies got harder as both the kids got older (and more wriggly!) and pull-ups are like a dream for me. We got a terry towling thing that sat in the bath when the kids were smaller, meaning I didn’t have to support and wash at the same time. These days, things like prams and highchairs fold down with one button, so that was easier than I expected.
What would you say to others in a similar situation?
I found my own way, and so will you. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to parenting, whether you’re able-bodied or not. My brother-in-law has CP too, but his affects his whole body and he’s wheelchair bound. The guy runs an entire farm complete with pigs, chickens, and all other kinds of livestock, and he can’t wait to have kids. I always think ‘if he can do it, then I have no excuse!’
What are your feelings for the future?
In terms of my CP, the older the kids get the easier it becomes. As they become more independent, their physical needs reduce, naturally making it easier for me. I hope that growing up around disability as a norm, my kids will naturally be more inclined to accept people from all walks of life and never see anyone with a disability as anything other than perfect in their way. Because, obviously, I am perfect 😉
What quote/one liner do you live by/sums up your feelings
Anything you can do, I can do better!
I really enjoyed this interview for its honesty and it’s humour. I hope you have too. Once again, my thanks to Craig and Aleena for taking part in the My Story Series and sharing their experience.