Last weekend after wheelchair basketball practice, Ella and I were discussing her teammates and why they were in chairs. I explained to her that most of the kids had spina bifida, and what that meant. She asked why she’d never met anyone with SB before she was in a wheelchair herself. I explained that most parents of children with spina bifida, and other debilitating birth defects, choose to terminate their pregnancies rather than have children who are disabled. She was upset by the thought that anyone would think her life, or those of her friends, was somehow deficient, so she wrote a letter to parents who are expecting a “crippled kid.”
Dear Parents of the Crippled Kid,
My name is Ella. I’m 10 years old and in a wheelchair.
If you found out that the baby you’re expecting has spina bifida or won’t be able to walk for other reasons, you’re probably scared. I know I was scared when I stopped being able to walk because I didn’t think I could have a good life. All I could think about were all of the things I could never get to do. That’s just because I had never seen the life of anyone like me. I didn’t know that it was okay because it seemed strange, and I didn’t want to be weird. I cried about that a lot. Then my mom showed me that there were people like me everywhere and it was going to be okay. Sometimes it’s better than okay. Some days it’s great to be me. Most days it is.
If you’re worried about that baby that you’re having…don’t. He’s going to be okay too. Please don’t abort him. Here’s two reasons why –
Number one – How could they have a bad life with you for their mom and dad? They won’t unless you’re overprotective and don’t let them do stuff. Their life will be different from other kids but different isn’t bad.
Number two – Well, I don’t really have a second reason. Do you really need one? I know you’re scared and it’s okay to be afraid, but you can still help them have a great life. Yes, people are probably going to stare at them but people always stare at cute kids. The wheels are just extra decoration.
Your kid can still get married. They can do ballet and track. They can go to college on a basketball scholarship. Kids in wheelchairs can be skaters or have tea parties, play dolls, do chores, grow up and get jobs. Wheelchair people go to school, do laundry, sing, have friends. We have normal-ish lives like all kids have normal-ish lives.
Some of the most amazing athletes and people I know have spina bifida and use wheelchairs, so please don’t get rid of yours because we need tons more amazing people.
Ella – the kid in the wheelchair