Are you a person with a disability who has ever wondered whether or not you would one day become a parent? Or are you a parent or caregiver who has ever had the same question regarding your son or daughter? Ms. Wheelchair Michigan 2014, Kelsey Kleimola, recently shared her story with UCP and discussed this very topic. See her story below!
by Kelsey Kleimola, Ms. Wheelchair Michigan 2014
From a very young age, I’d always known I wanted a family. I fantasized about being a mother, imagining a world in which my wheelchair didn’t exist. Not because I felt sorry for myself, or because I didn’t think parenting would be a possibility, but because I honestly didn’t think all that often about having a disability, or that it might keep me from my dreams. To me, having a disability was as much a part of me as breathing– something I’d lived with my entire life. I’d learned early on that I could either let it define me or let it drive me.
I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when I was ten months old. After being told, throughout many times in life, that I would never be able to do anything, and that any hope for a bright future looked grim, I worked hard to prove my naysayers wrong. When they said I couldn’t do something, I pushed forward– and I did it. I attended a public high school, even though I was told I’d never talk. I was accepted into an amazing college, though I was told that would be an impossibility. I continued to dream, despite those who were quietly whispering, “You can’t.” Always, though, my heart went back to one thing– wanting to be a mother.
Then an amazing thing happened. Some might call it miraculous. Right there, in the middle of my everyday life, I met my husband. We met in an online chatroom and during the first several weeks of us talking, I was upfront and honest. “I have cerebral palsy,” I said. His response? “So what?” It was then that I knew, this was the man God had chosen for me. On a snowy February day, two years after we’d first met, we got married.
A month before our second anniversary, we were blessed with a beautiful baby boy. I’d gone through a normal, healthy pregnancy. I was elated. My thoughts rushed back, not for the first time, to the little girl who longed for a family of her own. I was wrapped in a perfect bubble of happiness, knowing no one could burst it. But people tried. They questioned how I would care for a baby on a daily basis. What would happen when my son grew older and began to walk? What if he ran away from me and into a dangerous situation? What would I do? How would I cope?
But do you want to know the truth? While everyone else was busy worrying, I was busy loving. I reveled in the sweet smell of my baby boy– the fact that I could make him laugh so easily, that I could make him happy and that I was his mommy. I chose not to live in a world of “what ifs.” Instead, I savored the moments that I knew would pass all too quickly. I focused on what I could do as a parent, instead of the little things that I needed help with. I could change his diapers, give him baths, feed him and snuggle him. But most importantly, I wrapped my son in the certain knowledge that I was his mommy, and that was enough for both of us.
That was five years ago. Since then, we’ve added a gorgeous baby girl to our family. Neither one of my children have ever questioned why I’m in a wheelchair. This is their normal, and that’s OK. But when the difficult days and voices creep in, once again whispering, “You can’t,” the sweet laughter of my children reminds me that I did.
Kleimola is from Grand Rapids, MI and currently lives in Ypsilanti, MI with her family. She will compete at the Ms. Wheelchair America 2015 competition in Long Beach, California on August 4 – 10, 2014. Feel free to follow her on Facebook!