A natural mother
June 7, 2019 1:02 PM   Subscribe

The story wouldn’t show her as a picture-perfect parent, but it would show her as the person I saw her to be: a woman working to assert her presence in a world that had, for a long time, refused to see her.
posted by the agents of KAOS (8 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
This was a really good read. It raises all sorts of uncomfortable questions without taking sides.
posted by hopeless romantique at 1:51 PM on June 7, 2019 [10 favorites]

That was a really good story, thanks for posting it. It reminded me of an episode of High Maintenance this season where a woman adopts a baby doll like Emma and her boyfriend comes to accept it. I feel for Vivia. It would be nice if she could get a real job looking after kids but the stuff about her not being able to answer questions made me think it would probably be dangerous for her to be alone with them.
posted by bleep at 2:38 PM on June 7, 2019

I think her family and community are doing their best for her. I did wish someone would help her take the doll to a "doctor" to get it's eyelashes and ripped body repaired.
posted by emjaybee at 2:45 PM on June 7, 2019 [16 favorites]

The bus driver told her that another passenger had seen them riding the bus together and had wanted to make them something special.

I find this touching. Vivia got a bit of the public recognition that she wanted.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:01 PM on June 7, 2019 [15 favorites]

I read this the other day and while I don't really know what I think about it yet, I haven't stopped thinking about it.

Ableism has a really toxic interaction with our broader discomfort with talking about sex. Families and educators are reluctant to talk with people with I/DD about sex, dating and parenting. Sometimes the boys get instruction on not masturbating in public but that's about it. It is a very uncomfortable topic for non-disabled people. One person in this publication about sexual self-advocacy said, "I go to the doctor and he has a hard time looking at me." I think Vivia's family's discomfort with her desire to parent is an entirely predictable consequence of this strand of ableism and fear of sex.

I think it's wrong to lie to people about whether they have a disability. I tried to write something longer about her family's strand of "Everyone has a disability" and what a disservice it was to Vivia but it came out quite angry. I'm sure they love her and want good things for her but I would not want my family lying to me about whether I had a TBI or not.

The saddest part of this story, to me, was that by the end of the story, Vivia has chosen independently not to be a parent other than to her dolls. She adopts a toddler sibling for Emma instead. She comes to the kind of sophisticated understanding of herself that her family thought she was incapable of, but then has to use it to come to the same conclusion they did about her ability to parent.

Customized employment would be an awesome option for her. I bet she would be an awesome read aloud partner for struggling readers, or leading organized games at recess.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:45 PM on June 7, 2019 [20 favorites]

Thanks for posting this. This was a really interesting article -- my extended family has been dealing with a variation of this, because I have an intellectually disabled cousin who recently made the choice to continue her pregnancy and become a mother.

She lives in another country, and we haven't spoken in close to two decades, so I heard about it from my mother a couple months ago. Every few days since then, I think about the venom in my mother's voice, her contempt. I told my mother that I thought it was reasonable for my 30-something cousin to want to have a kid, and that my mother should butt out, but she keeps poking at the issue. Recently, she texted me, asking what I thought of a certain name, and I was like ??????, and it turns out that she wanted me to criticize the name that my cousin planned to give her baby.

If I'm trying to be charitable, I can frame it as my mother is worried/frustrated because my cousin has a track record of undertaking something new, not being able to sustain it or deal with the consequences, and then her mother/my mother's sister having to step in, even though she is in her mid-60's and has disabilities of her own.

If I'm being honest, though, it's mostly ableism and shaming my cousin for having a sexual life and emotional desires. It's a refusal to "see" my cousin in a way similar to how Vivia wanted to be seen. My cousin is not as easy-going or good-natured as Vivia, but I don't think that means she should be denied the right to have a child.

I'd be very, very interested in reading analysis of this article by activists and commentators in the disabled community. After googling, I didn't find anything, but it's been less than a week since the article was posted online.
posted by joyceanmachine at 6:10 PM on June 7, 2019 [15 favorites]

This felt gross. I appreciate the approach the author took (observation paper/non-judgemental tones) but feel I'm probably missing a ton of subtext around it. -- Especially because Vivia's family of origin felt uncomfortably similar to mine, and mine is undoubtedly toxic. -- The whole "problem child" dynamic doesn't change because the person being scapegoated has some kind of disability.

As an autistic women parenting an one year old, who met with a ton of resistance (even abuse) at the idea of me becoming a mother when I was younger, I was triggered by this article, and my response is clearly more about me than whatever the reality is in Vivia's situation.

WRT the reborn dolls, it seems like Vivia is in a no-win situation. She took the suggestion to practice with a doll literally, and people are evaluating her actions with the doll, while simultaneously using the fact that she has a doll to further other/disqualify her from parenting. I've gotten myself into situations like that many times, by not catching the larger cues and have wound up being further pathologized by it. Part of navigating social situations involves ignoring others, and I miss that.

I pray no one judges my parenting ability based on how I struggle with a car-seat in a rental car, or when I have to adapt to something like my baby being "bumped" off of a full-flight. Every parent has worst moments, probably daily, who thing "thank God (no one important) is judging me right now". I can't imagine having a practice baby where the goal is to prove ability.

When I don't understand something, I use too many words to hide that fact. I often wish I could just remain quiet. There are certain situations where "just don't say anything" would be the safer action, especially if my words would be used to label me as inconsistent or to demonstrate my ability/intelligence. When I get anxious, everything like speeds up and stuff in my head gets rushed, and I'm not thinking well, so I rush my words out instead of what kids learn "slow down, take a breath, start from the beginning". This gets me labeled as manic, and I worry that the way I jumble my words will hurt my daughter, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that with speech, neither retisense nor disorganization is an indicator of intelligence, just ones skill in communication.

Anyway, I'm out of town, more or less solo parenting and between this article and a point of contention between me and grandma (something about it being up to me to not feel underminded by her feedback, instead of her not y'know critiquing me, and it's my fault my performance suffers), I was out of sorts & messed up the baby's breakfast schedule.

I'm feeling this article a little too hard and fighting my family vis-a-vis what I read here, especially because of a long standing history where I preceived my mother and sisters words having more weight than mine. After arguing my mom's choice of words about "breakfast appeasing the baby" AND having comments from her about "being glad my spouse handles mornings" that's earworming it's way through my brain, I have to wonder how accurate Vivia's families assertions are

BTW: WTF is up with the "only person to allow her to baby-sit is a single father" shade. Like not only is it sexist and dismissive of men's ability to parent effectively, it also diminuitive of fact that Vivia is (presumably) competently babysitting him son. It probably wouldn't help her case, but I'd be willing to consider Vivia as a sitter for my daughter & I expect my daughter would get more quality time and care from her than a teen.
posted by bindr at 8:13 AM on June 8, 2019 [14 favorites]

Bindr, thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience. I found the article really fascinating due to how many things it touches on. Your final thought about the single father is very interesting. It maybe also shows how men as parents are often also (for better or worse) shut out of the cultural mores of what is and isn’t acceptable parenting. He doesn’t have a cadre of moms in his ear about all the minutia and fears that can plague women when they become parents. So, he gets to make his own choices. And I bet she is a great sitter!
posted by amanda at 11:53 AM on June 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

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