I had wondered what she would think about me nursing Ruby, since she herself only weaned less than a year ago. For the majority of my pregnancy, she would continue to ask to nurse, and then laugh. Or she'd snuggle up to me and pretend to nurse, making little eating sounds and then giggling.
But the minute Ruby was born and started nursing, Cora stopped pretending to nurse. She'd continue to play with her dolls and ask to hold Ruby, but never pretended to nurse her babies, and seemed kind of dismissive of the process of breastfeeding Ruby.
Until this week. My friend was visiting, and we looked over at Cora sitting on the floor with her baby, to find her lifting up her shirt and putting her baby to her chest. "Eat. Baby. Slurp. Slurp." She'd take Baby out, then lift up her shirt and start over again. Then she'd pat her on the back, make a fake burping sound and squeal "meee, mee!" (translation: "excuse me") and run into her room to change Baby's diaper and put her to bed.
Watching her made my breath stop and my heart start to ache a little. Probably because it's just so sweet seeing her finally start to own this process of intimately caring for a baby that only mommies do, and seeing her take on my role in her play. She's trying it on for size, practicing fitting herself into that mold that I've given her.
It's something that parents find so sweet; seeing our children play at nurturing us as we nurture them, watch them practice being grownups in the way they've been shown. We hope that it means that we are rubbing off on them in a positive way, that we're not doing everything wrong, that we've given them enough of a good example that they can hope to one day emulate us. And it's just so darn sweet, right? I think that when we see our kids playing parents we start catch a glimmer of what they may actually be like as adults, and start to visualize grandchildren and all sorts of future possibilities and hopes.
But childbearing is just such a loaded topic with Cora, since she has an intellectual disability. I want Cora to have a full, active, vibrant adult life. I want her to do what she loves. I want her to love who she loves. I know that in the past (and even now) romantic relationships among those with cognitive disabilities are discouraged or even prevented. And I don't want that for Cora. I want her to find happiness and love.
But what about having children? Will she want children? She should be physically able to have children. But there are so many questions about whether people with intellectual disabilities should be able to have children or would be able to care for children. There are some parents who have actually sterilized their children with disabilities to prevent this from happening. Would I want to prevent Cora from having kids, if it's what she wants?
The mere idea of that scares me. If I profess to want her to find her happiness, to live the life that she wants, how could I want to prevent that? As advocates for our kids, we want to help them find the support they need to live as independently and full a life as they want to live. Couldn't there be a way to support Cora so that she can be a parent?
I just don't know. It causes me almost physical pain to think that I could be the one to try and prevent her from experiencing this. But it could be so hard. I didn't become a parent until my thirties. I know I won't be around for Cora's entire adult life. Could I help her raise a child? Would I want to do go through parenting again later in life? How much support would she need? Could she be a competent parent?
I just don't know.
So when I see her put her baby to her chest, I can't help but know that these questions are in the back of my mind, even as my heart swells with love to see her doing something so sweet and natural and biologically programmed to make my emotions (or hormones) run high.
I guess when it comes down to it, like much of my concerns and questions, I just have to put them on the back burner. She's not even four years old yet. We're not there yet. One day we may be asking these questions for real. But for now, I'll appreciate watching my three year old nurse her doll. I'll take it as the compliment that it is, and encourage her natural ability to love and nurture. For now I will live this life that I have and wait for Cora to ask the questions.
|A few months ago... wearing Baby Hopkins in her wrap.|