Dear Yaw

Why can’t society accept my disabled child?

Dear Yaw

I recently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl with a disability. My husband and his family took one look at her and stormed out of the hospital room. I was later informed by his relatives that I shouldn’t come home with our baby as he doesn’t believe the baby is his. He believed I cheated on him and got pregnant. The baby is evil and punishment from the gods to bring bad omen to our families.

Even my own family didn’t want anything to do with it unless I take her to the concoction man. I did and he explained to us that it’s true my daughter was sent by the gods to punish us and the only way to end the curse is to give my child some concoction to drink that will send her back to the spirit world where she came from. I said no I won’t kill my baby.

One night I overheard them planning on ways to kill my baby that’s when I took her and run away on foot to another village where we board a bus and relocated to the city. A woman found us sleeping by the roadside and bring us to her home.

After hearing my story she gave a place to sleep and I work for her as a housemaid. People are receptive but still give us a stare when we go out in public. How can I explain to them that being different is not an offense? I lost my family and friends. I’m worried about my child.

-Adwoa

Dear Adwoa

Well, I must say that you have my admiration for defending your child against those who would harm her.

Sadly, a small proportion of children are born with disabilities; whatever the cause, it can never be the child’s fault.

However, a lot of people are scared of children who have disabilities and it is obvious to me that your husband and his family are scared too, particularly if they are saying things like ‘The baby is evil’. A baby is a baby! Moreover, because your husband is scared but does not want to accept responsibility either for his disabled daughter or for his own fear, he is blaming you; that is, he is holding you responsible. Obviously, this is unfair but when someone is scared they are not capable of thinking clearly and according responsibility fairly.

Unfortunately, your husband’s relatives are no better: their fear is making them want to blame you so that they do not have to feel scared or that they are responsible for the care of your child in future.

And, even more sadly, your own relatives are afraid but, rather than admit it, they believe that they can end their fear by killing your child. This cannot work: violence does not make fear go away. The only thing that can end fear is to feel it and understand the deeper causes that are driving it, which is always something suppressed in the unconscious mind from childhood. See ‘Putting Feelings First’.

As for the concoction man: he is clearly scared as well if, like your husband, he believes such ridiculous ideas that your daughter was sent ‘by the gods to punish us’.

Anyway, the good news is that you have more courage, love, and compassion than all of the other people you mention combined and your daughter is truly lucky to have a mother who is powerful enough to defend her. I wish there were more people in the world like you; it would be a far better place.

I am also glad that a kind woman has given you a place to live and work. Given your description of people’s responses to your child in public, however, it is clear that your community has a long way to go in accepting disabled children. So, there are no easy answers to your question about how to explain that your daughter’s difference is not an offense. Again, it is people’s fear that is the problem and this can only be resolved by them feeling it. Still, given your obvious courage, if you want a powerful way to respond to people’s fear, my suggestion is that you listen to people who say anything and invite those who stare to look more closely at your child. Sometimes, if people are given a chance to express themselves and they feel heard when they do so, it opens up possibilities for them to see things differently.

You have suffered a great loss: family and friends. And you do sound worried for your child. I encourage you to spend time feeling your worry and any other feelings. In time, this will teach you something about yourself and make you more powerful in dealing with people who are afraid.

And this will be a fine example for your daughter. So you can both help her now and in the future by loving her and acting powerfully around other people.

One other point. When you get the chance, I would like to suggest that you investigate the possibility of having a surgeon repair your daughter’s cleft palate. Even if this is not easy to organize and pay for, you can only find out by seeking out a surgeon who can perform this treatment. The point is that a cleft palate can be surgically repaired. So it would be good to check out who can do this and where it can be done, even if the actual surgery is a medium- term aim, for cost or other reasons. But, one day, your daughter may be able to have the surgery that will repair the damage.

Yaw

For more information on cleft palate visit: https://www.smiletrain.org/

Robert J Burrowes

Biodata: Robert J. Burrowes (Yaw) has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ His email address is flametree@riseup.net and his website is here.

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