‘As soon as my pregnant belly began to be obvious, balanced atop my spindly braced legs (in the words of a wry friend, “Like an olive on a toothpick”), the stares from strangers increased, both in number and in hostility. They telegraph their messages clearly: “I didn’t think that kind had sex!” and “Good God, is she bringing another one like her into the world?”‘
Candice M. Lee on Ragged Magazine
My husband is also disabled. He refuses to have a child because he thinks I will start ignoring him. What do I do?
Try and think for a moment why he may feel this way. Does he think that your love for him will decrease? That you will no longer spend time together? Does his disability make him dependent on you for care, and he fears you won’t care for him the same way with a baby in the picture?
Why not try talking to him about some of this? Having a baby doesn’t mean your relationship will falter; rather, it will expand to include the child you have brought into the world together. As parents, both of you – not just you as the mother – will devote time to your baby. Sometimes it will be you and the baby, sometimes it will be him and the baby, and sometimes you will be together as a family, and there will be plenty of love to go around!
Says counsellor Jyotti Savla, ‘What will really help even once you conceive is understanding thevarious stages of pregnancy [and what will be needed after the birth of your child]. Once you both understand the changes, you will be able to figure out the support you will need. You can then arrange for the required support. For example maybe a maid to help you with your newborn, or a caregiver for your husband if you are his primary caregiver. Discussing your issue with a counsellor will also help immensely.’
My in-laws think that I will pass on my handicap to my baby, so I shouldn’t conceive.
To have or not to have a child? This is a big decision that you and your spouse need to make together. Consider the factors that any other couple would consider at this stage – and then decide.
Like your in-laws, you too may believe that ‘disability breeds disability’ – but this is true only for some specific impairments. Not all disabilities are genetic or hereditary – passed down from one generation to the next. For instance, polio, retinal detachment, bipolar disorder, secondary to middle ear infections are not genetic, while genetic sensory neural hearing loss, retinitis pigmentosa, thalassemia can be hereditary. However, even with a genetic disability, there is no guarantee that it will be passed on to your offspring. Sometimes a disability manifests in one or all offspring in the next generation, sometimes it skips generations .
Nondisabled mothers can also have disabled offspring – look at this blog for an example – and you are at equal risk as them if your disability is not genetic. If you are ready to shoulder the responsibility of a baby, don’t let other people’s prejudices stop you from doing so.
Keep in mind a larger question while thinking this through: If there is a possibility that your disability could be passed on to your child, is that reason enough to never conceive or have a baby?
Can I conceive even if I have a disability?
Yes you can. Conception occurs in the same way for both disabled and nondisabled women – when you have vaginal sex with your partner without any contraception. For some, it may happen quickly, whereas for others it may take months.
Having a disability doesn’t directly affect the possibility of conception, but some medications related to certain mental disorders or disabilities do reduce sexual desires. Also, some motor disabilities or disorders like vaginismus could make having sex difficult or painful.
Health factors that affect women’s ability to conceive, regardless of disability status, include: being very overweight or underweight, malnourishment, low haemoglobin. It is best to deal with these if you are planning to conceive. Visit a doctor who can advise you on any specific health needs you might have.
There are many reasons why women – both disabled and nondisabled – may find it hard to conceive. If you are in this situation, don’t lose hope. Sometimes it is curable, but even if not, don’t think less of yourself. Social stigma and pressure from your community or family could lead you to believe that if you can’t be a mother, you are not ‘woman’ enough. This is not true. And remember,adoption is always an option.
Is there a right age to conceive?
Technically speaking, you can get pregnant as soon as you begin your periods, which could be as early as 9! But at that age you are not ready to take up the responsibilities of child bearing – physically or emotionally. With the onset of menstruation, a series of changes start taking place in your body, which are usually completed by the age of 18. Then your body is ready to safely conceive, and you are better psychologically prepared to bring up a child.
Many women conceive between the age of 20 to 30 years, which is commonly thought to be the ‘right age’. Given biological constraints, the right age generally depends on when you are ready to become a parent, your professional and personal goals, financial considerations, and so on. Increasingly more and more women are conceiving in their late 30s and 40s.
If you do want to have a baby in your 40s, there are some factors you may want to consider. As you age, it could become more difficult to conceive and carry a baby. Labour and delivery may be more complicated, and the chances of you developing conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure – before or during the pregnancy – may increase. In a worst case scenario, there can be an increased chance of your baby having physical or mental disabilities, or a still birth.
You may also have to take your partner’s body clock into account. Male fertility is generally very high up until the end of the 30s. By the age of 50, around a third of men will experience a decrease in the number of sperms produced. However, two thirds of men will not experience any loss of fertility until they are even much older than that.
So remember, these are only possibilities. You could be an exception and deliver a healthy baby at fifteen, or even at fifty. Basically you are fertile and capable of conceiving right from the onset of menstruation up until menopause (when menstruation stops). You need to decide what is the ‘right time’ for you to have a baby.