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Parent or Umpire?
Lizzy Gwilliam is a 30 year-old mum-of-three based in Devon with her partner Tom, a video editor. She suffers with a rare nerve disease called Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) which means she can no longer stand or walk, and has no muscle left in her lower limbs. She is a proud breastfeeder and encourages other mums to try it and to perservere through the toughest parts. Lizzy writes a blog at haveyoutriedwalkinglately.wordpress.com and can also be found on Twitter @shopgirlygm and YouTube under Elizabeth - where she has begun documenting parts of her life.
Sometimes for me, parenting feels a bit like I'm the umpire at a really long tennis match - except instead of 2 tennis players, there are 3 household monsters, and instead of a ball and rackets, there are My Little Pony figures and spoons covered in baked-bean juice. I do a lot of [small] people management from the comfort of my own chair.
I don't think any parents would say their job is easy though, and if they do then they are probably lying. Parenting from a wheelchair is just not as typical. There aren't the same amount of people giving advice like "you should try the pickup/put down method of soothing your baby to sleep each night", how can I do that if I can't even stand up myself.
Of course, my partner is able to do most of that, and he still goes to work full-time the morning after a bad night. But I want to be an equal parent to him. He shouldn't have to do all of the most difficult stuff. This is one of the main reasons I chose to breastfeed my children in the first place.
Before I'd even given birth to my first daughter I knew as soon as she was born that it would be the end of me being able to do everything to meet her needs. She suddenly became separate from my capabilities and I had to battle with myself that I was still her mum even if people didn't realise I was 'Mummy' straight away, even if I couldn't get her dressed, bathe her myself or get up and down from the floor to play with her. Bottle feeding would have been almost impossible for me - I'd need two hands just to hold the bottle and then I wouldn't be able to support my baby.
So given the health benefits of breastfeeding and the fact it must be quicker than sterilising and preparing bottles (something else I wouldn't be able to do), I decided I'd be the one who could give my daughter all her feeds - day or night. I think that decision alone gave me a sense of real identity around being a mum to my babies and certainly helped me bond with them. Of course, I would look after them any other way I could manage, but nobody else could or needed to feed them, or quickly comfort them by the power of the breast when nothing else worked. I'm pleased and proud that I could do that for them.
Parenting from a wheelchair now that I've been doing it for 6.5 years, is a bit more exercised. I've learnt how to speak to my children firmly when I need them to clear up their toys so I can actually wheel myself around the room. They have to listen to me so I can look after them. Of course, it doesn't always work and when they really want to run off they will, like any other wilful child.
But between my partner and I, even though he is much more capable physically than I am, I think we make a good team. I love that he is the Dad that all kids deserve - he will fly them around the room on imaginary broomsticks, pretend to be a massive dinosaur chasing them around the park and get up when they fall out of bed. I'd like to think we have the parenting balance right between us, although I'll always wish I was able to do more.
Tell us about your parenting experience. Does your impairment mean you have to do things differently?
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