39 Weeks and a Day: Pregnancy and Disability

39 weeks and a day looks like a belly that rests squarely on my thighs, a baby resting squarely on my bladder, compression socks, sweatpants, worse-than-yesterday nausea, and totally random, mild contractions (which could mean nothing or could mean actual progress--no way to know until things escalate. Labor is fun ☠️). All my comfiest clothes are packed in the hospital bag, so this baby needs to hurry up. We don't need to get to 40 weeks, dude. You don't have anything to prove. 👀

When I was a baby, the prognosis was that I'd never walk or have the coordination or muscle tone to write, feed myself, propel my own wheelchair, etc. When I was a teenager and I'd met all those milestones, a doctor my family trusted and respected made a passing comment about how pregnancy would be a "bad idea." I spent my adolescence and early adulthood believing that biological kids weren't an option for me, pretty much based on that one remark.

I didn't grieve that limitation. I'm pretty good at rolling with punches, so I told myself -- and anyone who asked -- that I preferred the idea of adoption, if I even decided I wanted kids at all. When Bryan and I got together, my attitude changed a bit. Here was this remarkable human, and I was hoping to spend the rest of my life with him...and for the first time, I started to question that very vague, limiting advice. And here we are, 16 years after that initial mention, at what is probably the end of my baby making career, and pregnancy has been a defining part of my experience as a young-ish adult. It's pushed my body, spirit, and marriage in ways I couldn't have anticipated, and would never have experienced if I'd simply accepted that it would be a "bad idea."

Alex with her husband Bryan, daughter Arwen, and baby Asa on the inside.

It's beginning to shift, and I'm super fortunate to have a very supportive OB, but many practicioners don't believe that disabled people should reproduce. In fact, forced sterilization is a thing. Google it. A prominent figure in the disability rights community actually heard her surgeon ask her husband if he should just, "tie her tubes while we're in here," during a cesarean section.

Their reasons vary. Some docs are concerned about health repercussions for the birthing parent, and I believe their intentions are good and sometimes their concerns are warranted, if not followed by uncreative solutions. Other times, they project their misconceptions about what it looks like to be a disabled parent onto their patients and believe that they're protecting the welfare of a potential child by preventing it from being conceived. Still others see any pregnancy involving disability as high risk and don't want the liability. Many fertility clinics refuse treatment to couples if one parent is disabled, as a matter of policy. The medical world has a long way to go when it comes to treating disabled patients with dignity and affording them autonomy. If you're a disabled person who's considering the right path to parenthood (let me be clear, pregnancy is not the right path for everyone), remember that you can and should advocate for your needs and desires, and that you can seek second opinions and fire docs who don't have your interest at heart.

Anyway, send "get outta there" vibes to this baby. I know how lucky I am to have carried three pregnancies, but stick a fork in me -- I'm done.

Written by Alex Wegman Image Credit: @alexwegman

Editor's Note: The "get outta there" vibes worked; baby Asa is a happy, healthy, bouncy boy.



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