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  • Though it is certainly not the life she imagined, Wolf says she loves it all the same. "It's a second chance and I want to use it well."

    Katherine Wolf and family
    Katherine Wolf

    Now living in Atlanta, Georgia, aside from making improvements every day, just seven years ago she gave birth to her second son, whom she calls her "miracle baby."

    Motherhood has served as both her desperation and motivation. 

    "Of all the losses of ability and all the painful struggles since my stroke, losing my motherhood was the hardest by far. Early on, my brain couldn't process that other people had been caring for my baby, who had previously been my sidekick, exclusively breastfed," she tells CafeMom.

    After realizing she couldn't care for him, she says that relearning to do that was a huge motivator for her to heal as much as possible. With the arrival of her second son, Wolf also says her experience was "profound," as she learned to rewire her brain into doing simple tasks like holding him and not dropping him.

    Of course, there isn't a rainbow without a little rain, and although Wolf doesn't experience negativity on the regular, she does acknowledge that her disability can impact her children.  

    "I remember our older son, James, was in early elementary school, and he was waking up more to the fact that his mom was different than the other moms. There was a kid in his class who would taunt him and kind of bully him, and another well-meaning mom who knew the bully came to my door with a revelation. 'James is being bullied BECAUSE you're in a wheelchair!' she proclaimed matter-of-factly, like Sherlock Holmes. I felt so ashamed and heartbroken. I knew my children would experience some unique losses because of my disabilities, but I hadn't imagined my disabilities might cause this kind of hurt in their lives. Jay, my husband, wisely redirected my thinking by saying, 'The kid bullying James isn't doing it because you're in a wheelchair. He's doing it because he's a little jerk!' In all the situations and more, it's easy to stay in victim mentality, like no one could understand, but compassion is key to the healing of our own hearts and to helping shape our kids' hearts, too."

    And the truth is, comments like that hardly stop Wolf from living her best life. She even wrote a book Hope Heals and started an organization for disabled families called the Hope Heals Camp.

    "We always try to over-communicate that our lives are far from perfect. ... It's hard to keep showing up every day to an unknown future and uphill battles, and sometimes, I get down. We've found wonderful therapists for our marriage and even our kids who we're so grateful to be able to work with to get outside our own heads and negative patterns."
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  • For 28-year-old New Jersey mom of three Jaleesa Graham, her disability has been a part of her all her life.  

    Jaleesa Graham AND CHIDLREN
    Jaleesa Graham

    "I was born missing the lower half of my right arm, I have a limb difference. Although in the past my difference has affected my self-esteem, I never let it affect my ability to adapt and to get things done. I can do anything I set my mind to; I just have to find a way for me to do it. I have little life hacks that help me out day-to-day with my limb difference. I am independent, and day-to-day I dress myself, I clean up after my children, make meals, drive, do my makeup and hair, change diapers, typical mom stuff, and I do it all with one arm."

    She has mobility in the lower half of her right arm, so she puts it to use, such as carrying groceries. Though she can't grab with her right arm, she uses it to help steady her left hand to tie her own shoes and to help make a knot. To do her hair in a ponytail, she leans against a wall and uses it to make up for the part of the right arm that she's missing to make a pull-through loop. She can even braid her daughter's hair.
    She's a mom to three: 1 biological son (7), 1 adopted son (3), and a new  foster daughter (1), and has no time to slow down. Though she maintains that her day-to-day life is just like any other mother, Graham does feel that her disability has had a positive impact on her children. 

    "Because of my disability, I work hard to be a great example for my children. I want to show them that you can do anything you set your mind to and to never allow the world's thinking to limit what you know you are capable of. My kids learn a lot from me because of my disability. They see the importance of trying until you succeed and making the most of your situation. Also, being a mom has taught me that I am stronger than I ever knew."
  • The most frustrating thing for Graham about her disability is the limitations others place on her. 

    Jaleesa Graham and children
    Jaleesa Graham

    "When I am alone with my three children, a lot of people wonder how I get things done or assume that I need help, but I don’t. When I am food shopping people always treat me like I am not capable of carrying bags or pushing a cart because of my arm. I know that most people have good intentions, but it bothers me that they think I am not capable of simple things like pushing a grocery cart or carrying bags of groceries."

    And most of all, Graham doesn't want anyone's pity.

    "My situation is nothing to feel sorry about. I don’t need your sympathy or limitations. I was born missing the lower half of my right arm, but I am just as capable and able as you are. I can do anything you can do, and I am happy with who I am and my arm does not limit my abilities. I am just like everyone else; I’m just a bit more unique." 

  • For 25-year-old Amy Miller, her husband, Alex, and their son of Ontario, Canada, disability has impacted their lives, but hasn't inhibited it. 

    "I have Marfan syndrome," explains Miller. "It is a connective tissue disorder and affects me in many different ways. I have heart issues, bone and joint issues, gastrointestinal issues, and more. This impacts my mobility, and as a result I depend on various devices such as a wheelchair and forearm crutches. Other simple tasks such as cooking, cleaning, self-care, can sometimes be difficult depending on what kind of day I am having."

    Though she does struggle in some day-to-day activities, overall, Miller sees herself and her motherhood much like anyone else's -- with a few adaptations. 

    "My disability impacts motherhood for me by making it difficult to do things like pick up and carry my son, or chase after him. Some days it’s very tiring. But his love has taught me just I’m capable of. There are many things that we have to adapt, and it’s always changing as he grows. I think it’s interesting how creative we can be in finding ways to get through our day. Right now, I am teaching him to ride on my lap while I push myself in my wheelchair. This will make getting around easier for us."

    When things are especially tough, Miller relies a lot on Alex, who is her sole caretaker. He physically carries her when she cannot stand and he even learned how to braid her hair. He bathes her, changes her, and manages her medication when she cannot.

  • One of the worst parts of Miller's disability, aside from the pain, exhaustion, and frequent hospital visits, is people's general ignorance. 

    The young mother has dealt with her fair share of rudeness and lack of support -- often at the hands of complete strangers. But her most harrowing experience came from someone in the medical field. 

    "The worst comment was made by an anesthetist before I was put under for gallbladder removal surgery. She told me it was her medical, professional opinion that all people with Marfan syndrome should be sterilized. It’s something that still haunts me to this day. That was a very traumatic experience for me. I think, ultimately, people are afraid of what they don’t understand. Many think our situation is something that could never work for them, and that’s okay. It works for us. Most days."

  • Motherhood isn't a one-size-fits-all dress every woman can slip on. It isn't a defined position we hold with set requirements.

    It goes beyond co-sleeping debates and Ferber method arguments. Motherhood is malleable. It's terrifying and heartbreaking and soul-sucking and life-giving. And it's different for each of us.

    But one thing about motherhood is universally true -- if the kids are loved and cared for with a mother's whole being, no matter what that being looks like or has the ability to do, it is damn beautiful.