Friday, May 15, 2009

Juxtaposition of Fairness and Faith: A Look at Motherhood in Light of Physical Disability

As I made clear in my profile, I am a married woman with a physical disability - spastic diplegic cerebral palsy to be exact. My husband Jason and I have been married for a little over one year; and, like most of the newly married young women I know, I have been chomping at the bit to have children for quite awhile now. Oh yes, the "baby bug" is alive and well at the Young residence. As with most every woman who has never gone through pregnancy or raised a child, I have all of the normal concerns about bodily changes and the pain of labor and keeping a young child from eating the lump on the sidewalk that looks suspiciously like chocolate... However, on top of this, the complications added by my disability to the idea of motherhood have forced me to do some much deeper soul searching.

A question that has quite often come to my mind is this: Is it fair to my children for me to become a mother? Is it fair to think about this when my physical shortcomings could, quite honestly, make me a liability to my children? Is it fair for me to enter into motherhood when my limitations will keep me from providing my children with the wide range of physical experiences that I want them to have with their mother beside them, teaching them - like hiking and scuba diving and running and swimming in the ocean and jumping rope and ice skating and roller blading.... (Whew, if I make that list any longer, I might break down and cry.) I have heard and read arguments that speak of the irresponsibility of disabled woman for doing just that....being mothers. And the reason they're seen as irresponsible? Because it isn't fair to their children.

Needless to say, such ideas are incredibly painful to me because I do not want to be a mother if I have little hope of being a good one. I see motherhood as an amazing responsibility to do the greatest good in one's power; and, so, if having a disability would prevent me from being able to do that, then the conclusion to draw would be that having children would be an act of extreme selfishness on my part. Ouch.

In wrestling over this question and bringing it before God in all of its many forms, He has always quieted my heart with these amazing truths: "I can do all things through HIM who gives me strength." - Phil. 4:13 and "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." - Eph. 2:10. You know what this means? It means that, if God wants me to be a mother, HE will equip me to be one and give me all the strength that I need to accomplish the task!! And if I believe that God is good and that everything He does is good, then this is what I have to conclude: If God, in His perfect plan, chooses to give me children, it will be good, including its ultimate impact on my children! What a soul shaking idea! It is unbelievable and humbling to me to think that my disability could be a part of God's good and perfect will for my children; but, if I really believe that everything God does is good, I have to also believe that such a thing will be the truth if He gives me children! WOW!

My husband and I have been asking God for His will for our family and have been seeking wisdom from those around us. As far as we can tell right now, it appears as though God is giving us the ok to step ahead in faith and start a family. We are very open to the possibility that He may shut that door as we move along on this journey, but He has given us nothing to indicate that so far. What an exciting possibility! :)

In all this talk about stepping forward in faith, I do not want to give the impression that "having faith" means not making preparations informed by my limitations to the best of my ability. On the contrary, I have been - and plan on - going to great lengths to do whatever research I need to do be the best mother I can be.

Last week, I constructed a training "baby" out of materials purchased at Walmart and Party City. "Practice Peanut", as Jason and I fondly call him, is eight pounds, and his torso perfectly fills out a "onesie" for babies newborn through three months of age that are at least 21 inches long. Jason and I took pictures throughout the construction process, and I would like to let you see them with instructions so that other women with disabilities may make one if they think it would be beneficial. :)

Step 1: Purchase materials.

Peanut materials

a. 1 Plastic coconut drink glass (think luau...)

b. 4 party favor bags full of marbles (total of two pounds). In case you're wondering where these are in the picture, they're inside the coconut. :)

c. 3 lbs each of rice and beans (Make sure you buy kinds that you like because you'll be eating them at some point.)

d. 1 standard sized pillow case.

e. String or rubber bands. (I started off using string and then changed to rubber bands, so I suggest rubber bands. They hold better.)

f. Masking tape.

g. A newborn to 3-month onsie (optional).

Step 2: Assemble Torso

3 lbs of rice and 3 lbs of beans

Put the rice and beans in two 1-gallon ziploc bags.


Use masking tape to secure the two bags together as shown. I would recommend first making each individual bag compact (taping down any extra slack) before taping the two together.

Step 3: Secure "torso" in pillow case.

Torso with opening for head

a. Unfold the pillow case and hold it upright before you with the shortest seam down and the opening pointed upward. About six inches up from the bottom, gather the pillow case together and bind it with a rubber band (as shown in the left of the picture).

b. Insert the bean and rice torso into the pillow case opening and rest on of the shorter ends squarely on the secured part of the pillow case so that it is centered there.

c. Gather the pillow case together tightly around the torso, and bind the remaining fabric together with another rubber band so that the secured part of the pillow case is centered with the top of the torso (as shown in the right of the picture).

Step 4: Insert torso into onsie. (Go ahead and skip this if you have chosen not to buy a onesie.)

Torso in onesie

Insert the torso into the onesie as shown so that the opening of the pillow case emerges from the neck opening of the onesie. Smooth the extra fabric from the bottom of the pillow case against the back of the torso to avoid bulging.

Step 5: Insert coconut filled with marbles into pillow case.


a. Insert the coconut filled with marbles into the opening of the pillow case so that the base is resting squarely on top of the cinched off "neck".

b. Use another rubber band to bind the remaining pillow case fabric together so that it is snug around the coconut.

Ta Da! Instant "Practice Peanut"! :) (Just an FYI, you may have to readjust the fabric in the rubber bands from time to time. It gets skewed every once in awhile.)

Oh, and feel free to give Peanut a hair cut. :P

A piece of incredible "equipment" that I recommend for any woman with a disability who is looking at becoming a mom is a baby wrap. I bought one this week at and tried it out with Peanut after it was delivered so that I could practice ambulating while carrying that kind of weight. It was amazing how well it worked! I was able to do everything that I normally would do and carry Peanut without using my hands! Check it out:

Peanut and wrap

Peanut and wrap

Isn't that amazing?? I've never felt so optimistic about having and caring for my children. If you're like me and have your doubts about your ability to be a good mother to your children, please do not give up! There are resources out there for you to use! God will help you. :)

To Him be the glory!

Friday, May 1, 2009

The whispered voice of God through marriage

To start this blog off and to get my proverbial blogging juices flowing (it's been awhile...), I'm going to share with you something that I wrote three weeks into my marriage. I was sitting in Starbucks when I started contemplating the symbolic parallels between marriage and God's relationship with His children, and this piece was the result. God bless coffee shops and caffeine. :)

May 9, 2008

I have spent the last three days forging a new identity for myself, and it's been a lot to take in. On Tuesday night, the copies of our marriage certificate that I had ordered came in, so I made my way over to the Social Security Office on Wednesday to begin the name change process. At 2:20pm I checked in, and by 2:40pm I was walking out to my car bearing a sheet of paper declaring that my name was changed and that my new SS card would be arriving in two weeks. Twenty minutes to a new identity. Or at least the start of one. That's remarkable and somewhat terrifying. On Thursday, I took on the local DDS to get a new driver's license. Once again, the speed of the whole process was astounding. In less than a half hour, I had a new picture ID in my hand. The name change was complete. I'm not Natasha Anne Lehman anymore, you guys. I'm now Natasha Anne Young. I am no longer under my father. I belong to Jason now. And then this afternoon I drove to the Jackson County Tag Office to get the title of my car transferred over to me and to register my car in Georgia. I have a Georgia license plate sitting in my car right now waiting to be bolted to it, and part of me is nervous to make the switch. Along with my driver's license and getting registered to vote in Jackson County at the DDS, getting a new license plate for my car completes the shift in my residency. I am no longer a Wisconsin resident. I legally belong in Georgia now.

How does a person process so much change? It's tempting to say that the essence of “me” has not changed...that only my external identifiers have, but I don't think that's entirely true. After all, how do we as human beings categorize each other? Are not our names and locations two of the most personal pieces of information we can give about ourselves? It struck me at some point today how beautifully analogous this all is to spiritual transformation. Y'all know how enamored I am with symbols, so thinking this through this afternoon has totally thrilled me. Is it not true that when we come to Christ, a new creation is formed? Our original nature is not modified or simply externally renamed. On the contrary, we are reborn! Something completely new and brilliant takes its first breath the moment Christ comes in. We are given a new and true name. And do we not change residence at the same time? Do we not instantly cross over from the dominion of darkness and sin to the light and redemption? So then, just as my spiritual identity and residence changed on April 20th, 2000, my earthly identity and residence changed on April 19th, 2008. And both are irrevocable. There is no going back. My allegiance is completely changed. Just as Christ is my focus and point of reference, so too is Jason in a more limited and earthly way. I am terribly in love with the parallels here. The concept of throwing away an old identity to take on a brand new one is terrifying in itself, but somehow the wonder of it's implications are too overwhelming for me to be frightened. Jason has given me his name as Christ has. I keep visualizing this as being instantly wrapped in the height and strength of someone else. I have been “big” my whole life, and taking Jason's name is allowing me to reduce back down to my true and real size. My protection and well-being are not my load to bear anymore. I am resting under the shelter of someone else. Having Jason's name gives me such an intense sense of security and belonging. I am CLAIMED! And not only that, but I am claimed BY HIS OWN CHOICE!

This is so spiritually rich for me. Is this not what Christ has done? Has He not given me His name, whereby claiming me as His own because it delighted Him to do so? My dad adopted my brother and myself when I was young, and God certainly has used that to speak to me about His adoption of me; but taking Jason's name through marriage and starting this journey of committed oneness with him has taken me to a height of understanding of my relationship with Christ that I didn't have before. And I think the main reason for that is because, whereas Dad's adoption of me gave me an amazing and humbling picture of God as my Father, I now have been given a front-row seat to understand God as a Lover and the Romancer of my soul through Christ. I am so terribly awed at how good God has been to me in how He has provided such a clear picture of this through Jason. I am not exaggerating when I say that Jason is, by far, the most Christ-like man I have ever met. He may be private and shy, but the selflessness with which he loves me has probably had the biggest positive impact on my correct understanding of Christ, an impact bigger than anything else I've encountered in my Christian walk these last eight years. Who am I that God would bless me like this?? Not only has God met my desires in Jason, but He has also opened the door on the road to my greatest growth in holiness and understanding of God. Isn't that what marriage was created for? To teach us about God (specifically about His covenantal love and the unity within the Trinity) and to provide us with a prime environment for sanctification? I AM SO BLESSED!!!

Submission is an interesting thing. Jason and I are awkwardly learning the delicate dance of leadership and submission, and it's been teaching me A LOT about myself, in particular my attitude toward God. I am about as stubborn and willful as they come, and I can remember one night in particular when Jason called me on something that he needed to for my good and for the good of our marriage; and, even though I almost immediately recognized that I was in the wrong, I could not get myself to submit to his gentle but firm admonition. As I listened to his loving and unyielding persistence, I felt my respect for him climbing and I desperately wanted to submit and be restored to him, but there was a part of me that had its heels dug in. For a few minutes, I was completely shut down with my back to him. I eventually was able to humble myself, but it left me exhausted. And then Jason gave me yet another reason to respect him. Instead of lording himself over me and continuing to point out my sin, he compassionately forgave me and let me know how much he loved me. I have so many amazing reasons to love this man. Isn't this whole scenario – sin and gentle admonition, stubborn refusal to submit and patience, humble repentance and grace – a clear picture of our struggle with the flesh and God's unyielding persistent love? In reflecting on this situation later, I realized how often I do this very thing with God. It has given me a lot to think about.


You know, as I read this, it hits me how far I still have to go in my relationship with Jason. I'd like to tell you that I'm in a completely different place than I was a year ago, but I can still see myself in these struggles. And it makes me think that maybe our natural desire to fix things NOW and be done with it is not consistent with God's character, despite the urge we feel to be holy completely. Somehow, He has ordained it so that growth in holiness cannot happen without a lot of concerted effort on our part.

Oh that we could learn to embrace the glory of the process instead of giving up when our initial attempts seem to fail.