What’s your disability?
I have C-PTSD (Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and I’m deaf.
Did you grow up with your disability or was it more recently acquired?
I grew up with TBI and being deaf. C-PTSD was more recently acquired.
How do you think growing up with a disability affected your perspective, pride, opinions and culture surrounding disability?
Well, I grew up trying to pass as non-disabled. It was absolutely exhausting, and it was demoralizing and awful to grow up thinking that a fundamental part of who I was – like, a part that I could never change – was so very undesirable.
I was scared of disability, and scared to be associated with it, because it was so very unwanted, unsexy, uncool.
Did you have disabled role models around you, growing up? If not, how do you think it would have affected you if you had?
This would have changed everything for me, I think. If I had seen proud, successful deaf people (or hey, any at all!) growing up, it would have made a real impact. I know that even as an adult, it was only in being a part of the strong, powerful disabled community in Berkeley, California that I really turned around and embraced the totality of who I am.
Did you grow up thinking you would be a mother?
I always wanted to be a mom, but I was scared that I’d somehow infect my kids with disability. That was back when I was trying to pass as non-disabled. But after I had my Disability Awakening, I wasn’t scared about that part anymore; only wondering if anyone would actually want to have kids with me.
Were you scared to become a mom because of your disability?
Does your child have a disability? If so, is it the same as yours?
Two of my three kids do, and neither is the same as mine! It’s been a huge, enormous learning curve in understanding new and unusual (for me) ways of experiencing in the world.
How does your child’s lack of disability – or difference in disability from your own – affect your parenting? Or does it at all?
Both the lack of disability and the difference in disabilities affect every aspect of our lives. I think that we balance each other out pretty well.
Because all of my kids are hearing, it makes things easier. They do a lot of hearing for me – they take care of the drive-through ordering and stuff like that, which is nice.
What would you say are the most challenging things about being a mom with a disability?
I become aware of how much I miss, hearing-wise, when I’m around hearing friends. My friends pick up on everything that is going on. I get scared that something will happen – maybe my children will be teased or something will be said – and I won’t hear it and it will be important that I do.
The challenge of dealing with the unknown – the unknown of what is being said – is there for me. So too is stigma surrounding things like C-PTSD or TBI or even being deaf. That’s what goes on for me with my own disabilities, but then there is the additional layer of not personally experiencing the disabilities that my kids have, so it can be challenging trying to figure it all out.
Do you think people focus more on you as a mom or you as a woman with a disability?
Most people don’t see me as disabled, and I’m super old to be a mother of young kids here in Hawaii! I think most people see me as a grandmother, which feels kind of weird but I’m getting used to it.
Disability aside, can you access the care, resources and help you need as a mom, or does disability consistently get layered on by the medical profession?
Since most people don’t see me as disabled and my disabilities are not immediately visible, it can be a struggle to get the care that I need.
What would you say your greatest skills as a mom are?
I’m very observant, thanks to being deaf. I am also highly empathetic, because of my emotional sensitivity that comes with C-PTSD. Both of these are two of my greatest skills in being a mom, I think.
I know my kids love it when I’m goofy and playful, so I guess the fact that I can be silly is a skill. Oh, and I know how to use an instant pot!
How about weaknesses? What do you think the hardest parts of being a mom are for you?
Not tailspinning when I’m triggered with C-PTSD is hard. I have a lot of coping mechanisms, but it’s hard.
Besides that and trying to access things when it’s hard for me (like, when I’m being triggered, or I can’t hear and need to understand something), being a single mom has it’s own challenges.
What do you think your kids would say are your weakest areas?!
Probably that I don’t play enough. And I still yell when I’m mad.
How do you think the presence of your disability makes it easier or harder to parent?
The presence of disability makes it both harder and easier. It can lend a depth, sensitivity and compassion to my relationships with my children; it can also be something that I struggle through (like when I get triggered). But I do think the good that it brings vastly outweighs the negative.
What do you wish people would really get about being a mom with a disability?
That we are mothers first.
That our disabilities can be assets.
That we are capable.
Can you tell us a parenting story?! Something funny related to your disability?
This isn’t a story, but can I just say that my ability to turn off my hearing aids makes every hearing parent I know deeply jealous!
Do you have a photo of you and your kid (s) to share?
Podcast and PDF
The podcast episode is below and the downloadable PDF is linked here and in button below (just click it: it will take you to Gumroad, where it will say “name a fair price” or something like that – feel free to put 0 in the box (and you can feel free to pay for it too – really, it’s all good and I won’t be hurt!). After you enter a number, it will take you to the next screen where you enter your email address for the download. I do not store your email address and I won’t bug you after – this is NOT a bait-and-switch thing where I say “free download” just to get your email address then harass you. NOPE! The system will then automatically send you the PDF or MP3 to download via your email).
Meriah Nichols is a career counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one gifted 2E). Deaf, with C-PTSD and TBI, she’s also a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.