I went to the doctor with a pain in my head.
An ongoing headache.
She looked in my mouth twice, poking my tongue with an unsweetened paddlepop stick. I looked at the wall, lined with anti-obesity posters, as she took my blood pressure. I hoped she wasn’t going to ask me to weigh myself.
My blood pressure is perfect. I was sent home with a script and instructions to take paracetamol. Come back and see her if the headache deteriorates.
After her observations, she engaged in small talk.
“You still working at the Office?”
“No, I work for the Department now.”
“And things going well otherwise?”
“Yes, I got married in March.”
“Are you planning to have children?”
“We aren’t sure yet.”
“Well make sure you come to get a checkup, three months before you start trying.”
She glanced at my file. 34 years old.
And the small talk became big.
“Don’t leave it too late, there’s a strong risk your baby will be born with a disability.”
I just got married five minutes ago, and now babies are a common discussion topic. It’s been strangers asking nosily, but this time, it was a doctor because of her duty of care.
I smiled meekly, remaining silent. I hoped she’d stumbled across my work sometime. My writing on disability pride. Seen me speak, or perform. Spent time with my people.
But her head was probably in books about the medical model of disability. Diagnoses and grieving for a life lost.
I don’t even think she realised there’s a small chance of me passing on my genetic condition. Because no one seems to want a baby born with that other disability.
A baby could be born with any type of disability. And anyone could acquire a disability at anytime. It’s a life lottery.
And then I wished she had the perspective of disability that I do.
That disability isn’t a tragedy or a burden. Not a life sentence.
That can be a strong, positive part of identity.
That disability is not the worst thing that could happen.
And, did she forget that I too identify as having a disability?
Every woman of child bearing age must get this talk. Women with all sorts of perceptions about and exposure to disability.
I told my husband about the doctors appointment when he arrived home. Mentioned the headache, and we argued about the official term for a medical paddlepop stick. It’s a tongue depressor, he said. I told him about the family planning discussion. He groaned. He also knows disability isn’t the worst thing that could happen. And I loved him so much at that moment.
I just wanted to stop my headache. But now my heart aches from that brief discussion about the risk of having a baby with a disability. The discussion was not about fertility and how much time I have left to maximise my chances of conception. It was about disability.
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