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Constructing the (M)other

Narratives of Disability, Motherhood, and the Politics of «Normal»


Edited By Priya Lalvani

Constructing the (M)other is a collection of personal narratives about motherhood in the context of a society in which disability holds a stigmatized position. From multiple vantage points, these autoethnographies reveal how ableist beliefs about disability are institutionally upheld and reified. Collectively they seek to call attention to a patriarchal surveillance of mothering, challenge the trope of the good mother, and dismantle the constructed hierarchy of acceptable children. The stories contained in this volume are counter-narratives of resistance—they are the devices through which mothers push back. Rejecting notions of the otherness of their children, in these essays, mothers negotiate their identities and claim access to the category of normative motherhood. Readers are likely to experience dissonance, have their assumptions about disability challenged, and find their parameters of normalcy transformed.

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Chapter Nine: The Strange Case of the Two Journals: Ableism, Academia, and the Birth of a Child (Priya Lalvani)


chapter 9

The Strange Case of the Two Journals

Ableism, Academia, and the Birth of a Child

Priya Lalvani

May 18th, 1995

It’s a sunny Thursday morning. After twenty-eight hours in labor, I look down at the tiny little girl in my arms. So small and so beautiful. She has dark hair and perfect little fingers and toes. She has brown eyes. She also has Down syndrome.

January 24th, 2002

Minal is one week old today… After it was confirmed that she has Down syndrome, I didn’t react very much. Why did I not? I still have a beautiful little girl. But life is never going to be the same.

These are entries from my two journals, written seven years apart, each providing a snapshot of a mother’s reflections after the birth of a child—more specifically, a daughter diagnosed with Trisomy 21, or Down syndrome. The journals go on to document events and interactions following the birthing of these two daughters. However, as those who know me might point out, I have one daughter (and also, one son). And yet, there are two journals about becoming a mother to two daughters with Down syndrome.

I should explain. When I wrote the first journal in 1995, I had not actually given birth to a child with Down syndrome (or any child at all). Rather, the first excerpt above is taken from an...

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