Of Cookies and Terminator Legs

This month, our friend Judith reflects on her experience as a mom who also happens to be an amputee.

I remember quite distinctly when my family doctor answered my question about getting pregnant.

I was nineteen years old and recovering from the car accident that caused the amputation of both legs below the knees. I wasn’t married or even close to it, but as a young woman, I wanted to know whether I could still have a “normal” life. And that included having a child.

His answer was this. “Medically, there’s no reason you can’t conceive.  Physically, I would advise against it.”

That was 1971.

When the time came, I ignored that particular doctor’s advice and followed my heart. Today, I’m a fifty-nine year old mother and grandmother and I did it all my own way.

Eight of my nine months went well. After that, the extra weight affected my balance and I had to be more careful about moving around. I delivered by Caesarian, not because of my disability but because my son Brad decided to turn sideways and hunker down. The surgery went fine and soon I was on my way home to be a mom.

And that’s went I panicked.

While there were many books and support groups for abled-bodied parents of children with disabilities, there wasn’t much for a disabled mother of an active and VERY abled ball of fire.  I found myself in uncharted territories, so I did the only thing I could. I learned, by trial and error, what worked for me and for him.

As anyone with a disability can understand, finding ways to do certain things means you may have to do them differently. Not the wrong way, just a different way.  So, just as I learned to cope and do everyday things as a person with a disability, I learned to take care of a squirmy little baby. Most importantly, he learned how to be the child of a disabled parent.

We were a team.

Falling while carrying him in my arms was one of my biggest fears. So I used the stroller a lot, even around the house, instead of carrying him in my arms. As he grew, we adjusted. Brad learned not to pull on mommy, as some kids do, or not to jump on me.  He also learned there was a place for his toys and it wasn’t in mommy’s walking path.

The simple fact was, he never knew his mommy to be any other way, so to him, I was normal.

Until he was in preschool, he thought all mommies came in three pieces. He loved it when I’d crawl around on the floor with him. More than once, he took my prostheses from the side of the bed and hid them in the closet so I’d play on the floor with him. One day, Brad began walking on his knees on the sidewalk. His father could not get him to get up. With an innocent grin, Brad said, “Look daddy. I walk like mommy.”

My son would invite friends from school to see his mother’s “Terminator legs.” On Halloween, we’d bury old sets of prostheses near the front walkway, sticking half out of the ground next to a shovel, ready to greet the neighborhood trick-or-treaters.

In second grade, the kids made Mother’s Day booklets with illustrated pages, showing things they loved most about their moms. Brad’s booklet was entitled “Supermom.” On the cover, he drew me wearing a red cape and flying in the sky. The booklet had a picture of the cookies I made for him, and drawings of me singing to him and cleaning the house – normal, everyday “mom” things. Except for the last page. On that page was a drawing of me, on the floor, walking on my knees.  The caption under the picture said it all:

“My mommy is special, because she is collapsible!”

Special. Not weird or abnormal or gross. Special. I’d like to think having a disabled mom made him aware that different isn’t bad. It’s just different.

Besides…what little guy wouldn’t want a mom who made cookies AND had Terminator legs!


    Judith is a native Kentucky gal and loves her Wildcat Basketball. She sang opera in Europe for nine years but is now content to sing “My Old Kentucky Home” and bake cookies for her grandson Bennett.  She writes horror and murder-mystery stories and has several novels in the works.  On Halloween, she can sometimes be seen offering candy to the neighborhood kids …. from her old  terminator legs, of course!


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