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I am a below knee amputee. More importantly, I am also Mommy to two boys, a very active 10 year old (Robby) and an mischievous toddler (Timmy). I have learned that being a parent with a disability can create some unusual and sometimes humorous situations. This blogger is available for hire! Let's talk and learn how a blog can expand your business.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Amputee Stigma

Yesterday Robby experienced what has become a rite of childhood by attending his first birthday party for a classmate. He could not have been more excited to be invited which happened to be hosted at his favorite bounce spot. I spent the weekend leading up to the party answering the same question: "Is it time for the party yet?"

Sunday morning he woke up early, telling me that he was "ready to go to that party and start jumping." I explained that it wasn't time to leave yet, but he tried to convince me to go early with the promise of cake. While I will do just about anything for a good piece of cake, I wasn't about to go to a bounce house four hours before the slotted party time. I set the timer on the microwave to countdown the time before the party and tried to divert his attention to more constructive projects.

Finally the timer beeped, and it was time to go. Robby stepped into his cowboy boots, grabbed the gift and went running out the door. I noticed in the car that his boots were on the wrong feet, but I figured that he was going to be taking them off as soon as we got to Jump-N-Jimmy's so I didn't bother changing them.

Robby was beyond ecstatic to be at the party. However I felt self-conscious and insecure. The lobby was filled with the parents of Robby's classmates, and this was the first time that I was meeting many of them. I try to feign confidence but, in reality, I am not comfortable around large groups of people that I don't know.

Most of the parents seemed to know each other. While I introduced myself, the cliche seemed closed and my standing in close proximity began to feel awkward. I was content and happy sitting in the comfy chair, sipping on some coffee and just watching Robby run and laugh with his friends.

I tried to sit close enough to the other parents so that I still seemed approachable, yet I didn't want to intrude on their conversation. Finally, two moms came and sat next to me. I smiled and introduced myself as "Robby's Mom." I was hoping to break the ice and start a conversation.

Instantly the moms began to look uncomfortable. Finally, one responded, "So, you're the disabled mom in the class." My face immediately began to flush and my heart rate increased. I think I responded by saying something eloquent like, "Umm.. my name is Peggy." An awkward silence ensured, and my insecurities began to skyrocket. I finally feigned a phone call so that I could get up and leave.

I felt deflated and angry. I have worked so hard to portray myself as a competent and involved parent. I am active in his class and have met all of his classmates. Despite my efforts, I've concluded that some people only define me by my limb loss. In the least I will have to fight an uphill battle against the stigma associated with amputees. In my opinion, these moms are more handicapped by their own ignorance than I am by my amputation.

I spent the rest of the party in the bouncers with Robby and his friends. It turns out that this group of five year olds are more fun, and less judgmental, than their parents! (Incidentally, this one legged "disabled" Mommy was the only adult actually jumping and playing with the kids.)

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  1. Peggy, did it ever dawn on you that maybe the children have talked to their parents about you? First, you went in and talked about being an amputee and secondly, you threw the most awesome party a kid would ever want. I am sure that it hurt your feelings that they only thought of you as the "disabled mom," but you should be happy that they even knew you existed.

    Moments like that must suck, but you ARE A VERY CONFIDENT, WELL EDUCATED women who happens to be an amputee. In the future, teach them like you taught Robby's classmates. Trust me there is too much ignorance in the world.

    If Robby stays in this private school, you eventually will be known as Robby's mom, it is rare if you actually are allowed your own name!!! Hugs to you!

  2. it stinks that they said that, but I notice that when thinking of my twins, most say the one with two legs or the one with one leg. The mom's probably didn't know how to bring up the subject and went with open mouth insert foot syndrome... I bet though by the time they left they had a whole different thought of you as in I wish I had more energy and was able to play and spend time with the kids like you do. I agree that maybe it should be a teaching opportunity-those mom's need to learn disabled is not a word that fits you <3

  3. I never found a group of other moms with whom I felt comfortable at my son's first school. After several years at the current school, I have found a few moms that I really like, but it seems to be a lot like the cliques in high school. I do not fit in with the majority of them, and I don't really care. I have my family and my other friends. Don't let it get you down!