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A Piece of My Mind
September 27, 2006

Raising a Woman

Author Affiliations

A Piece of My Mind Section Editor: Roxanne K. Young, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2006;296(12):1445-1446. doi:10.1001/jama.296.12.1445

In my mind's eye, I see myself caring for a child, a daughter, with cerebral palsy. As I bend over to diaper her, I know I stand between two worlds: the world I have known all my life as a woman with a disability, and the world of my mother.

Gleaning from my own experience, I dream of giving my daughter physical therapy, but framing its need differently for her than it was framed for me. I want my daughter to know that the purpose of therapy is to enhance the strengths of her body and to protect it from unnecessary harm or pain. I want to avoid at all cost giving my daughter the message that she needs therapy in order to correct something that is wrong with her body, or to make her body look “normal.” And I dream of her adolescence, of how she will experience menstruation. I want to be honest with her about the difficulties her ability to give birth will bring. Blood flowing between spastic legs is incredibly hard to deal with. But I also want her to know that her ability to give birth, whether or not she chooses to, is a sacred thing. Indeed, her choice is the most sacred ability of all. Wrapped around all my dreams for this child I care for is the desire for her to know, and know deeply within herself, that this undeniably difficult body is nonetheless good, even beautiful.

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