DAILY LIVING & MOBILITY

How I Survive and Thrive as a Disabled Single Mama

Other

Kat Harrison

What is wrong with me?

Is it only just a little over four years since I held Belle in my tummy? It feels like a lifetime ago. Raising her has been the most challenging thing I have ever had to do. The first year of her life was marred by doctors appointments. "Something is wrong with me" I would cry. "I can hardly walk" I would sob. "It's pelvic girdle pain. You had it during the pregnancy and it takes time to go away." they told me. Months went by. It didn't get better. "Sadly this seems to be your new normal now. You need to accept it. The more you fight against it the more upset you'll become." Accept it? I couldn't leave the house without help. I pushed the buggy constantly even though it exhausted me and caused me pain because it was acting as a walker - helping me to stay upright. I couldn't carry my baby up the stairs. I couldn't lift her into the bath. The heavier she got, I couldn't lift her out of the cot.

Breaking point

I became very depressed, as you would. I called my Health Visitor one day and told her I didn't think I was cut out for this. "I am not good enough for her. I can't take her out. I can't play with her properly. I can't do anything. She's better off without me." That phone call kinda saved my life. She had me put on antidepressants, came to see me daily, called/ texted me, and reassured me endlessly. But I was still struggling, unable to do daily tasks was wearing down my self esteem. After another difficult day, I went back to the doctor's. "What is making you so unhappy?" he asked. "My legs. I can't walk. I have no independence. And I'm in so much pain." He agreed to send me for a routine x-ray to give me a peace of mind that nothing was wrong. Weeks passed and the day arrived. I laid on the bed for my x-ray. And I waited, and waited, and waited. Eventually they came back in.

Vindication at last

They told me it wasn't good news. My pelvis is shattered, both hips are broken and have likely been that way since I gave birth - Belle was 10 months old at this point. "I knew it." is all I said. I think everyone expected me to be sad but I felt positively jubilant. All this time, I hadn't been imagining it. There was something wrong. Vindication, at last. So I had surgery. I was pinned and plated, sent for a myriad of scans. "This is fine" I told the Dr's, "but there is more to it than this break. I'm fatigued beyond belief. My muscles are deteriorating, I can't lift my arms to wave anymore as I lack the strength. I'm losing weight. I feel ill every day. I have leg spasms so severe that they throw me out the bed."

I was so naïve to all that would come next. One autoimmune disorder. A brittle bones disease. Several vitamin deficiencies. A rare thyroid disorder that means no matter how much I eat, without medication my weight will drop and I will become at risk of heart failure. Oh and my legs? They'd never go back to normal. I still use crutches now and can only walk short distances. Stairs are ridiculously difficult for me. I can't bend over. I certainly can't lift anything. All because the fracture was so old, by the time they tried to fix it it had malformed so it'll never go back to how it was. A few months post surgery, my collarbone snapped. Have you ever tried looking after a toddler with an arm in a sling and using two crutches? Now that was a challenge. More surgery. A plated shoulder. A million jokes about me being the bionic woman, although it was becoming less funny to me by the day.

Finding my way as a single disabled mum

Two months later, my relationship broke down. It had been coming a long time and we both knew it was the right thing. My health visitor again came into her own. "You can't stay here in this house. You need somewhere without stairs if you're gonna be a single disabled parent. Give me a few weeks and I'll get you somewhere. I promise. And you need a new bed - one with a remote so you can get up easily for the night feeds. I'll sort it for you. Oh and a bath board too. We'll figure out a safe way to do baths." Oh god. A single disabled parent. Those words rang in my head. I started to panic. How was I going to do this? I can't lift her up. I struggle to put her in and out of the cot. I can't do this. Shortly after, I got a phone call. We'd been offered a ground floor maisonette. Then the disability equipment team arrived with a bed and a bath board and everything else I could ever need. My health visitor spent the day with us helping me find safe ways to do everything. We made Belle's cot into a cot bed to make it safer. And slowly but steadily we found our way. My confidence grew and grew. I will never forget the first time I went to the shops by myself post separation. I walked round the whole time in a daze. "I'm doing it" I thought. "Nobody is helping me. I'M doing it." There's a photo I keep on my fireplace of one year old Belle in a swing. It's the first time I ever took her out by myself. I lifted her into the swing and high fived her and took her a picture. "YES. I got you in the swing. I AM SO PROUD OF MUMMY."

Gaining confidence.

So slowly, but surely, we found ways around things. I will never be able to run around the park, but I will chase with her while zooming around in my wheelchair. I won't be able to go ice skating, but you can bet I'll be the one at the sidelines cheering her on with all my might. Three years of disabled single parenting have taught me one main thing, and that is resilience. There is a way around most things. I am so much stronger than I give myself credit for. Every day has it's challenges, but I would take all the challenges in the world, because they mean I get to be her mum - and what a wonderful honour that is.

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