A Guest Blog Post from Emma Richards
So, what is it like in the daily life of a disabled mum? Why would you want to know? That is exactly what I would have thought until I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis aged just 24. My world was to change the day the consultant uttered those words ‘You have MS’. It was to be the start of my battle. My daily battle.
I was diagnosed and married in the same year with no disabling symptoms making themselves known. It wasn’t until my daughter Ava was born in 2008 that my battle really began. I won’t go into my history because you can read about that if you wish in my blog. I just wanted to give you a taste of what a ‘normal’ day is like for me.
I am now a single mum, but am lucky that Ava (who is now 7) is a great help. Probably because she has known nothing else but me with MS. My biggest problem now is my walking and as a result I bounce off walls in my bungalow when I walk, or I use a wheelchair or scooter (Benidorm stylie) for longer distances.
The alarm goes off at 6.45am (after a night of broken sleep due to 5 toilet stops!) and my body tenses and shakes like I am doing some kind of strange dance. This is normal, it is only temporary but something I am used to. I stagger to the shower to wake my body up and luckily I have a seat to rest on. I stagger back out feeling like I have run a marathon already. The hot water makes everything a little bit harder so getting dressed is another battle…..and it’s not even 8am.
The School Run…….
Oh, the dreaded school run (you only have to decide what to wear!). I have to use a mobility scooter and after 3 years of having to use it on the school run, I have blocked out the gossiping and staring. It just happens that it is raining, so I have to put a cover over me so I resemble a large moving blueberry……which just fuels the staring, well that might be in my head! So I survive, and get back to the house safely without a puncture or breakdown (yes that has happened before). I have a little recharge before my next expedition.
Cheltenham town centre…………..
I bundle my walking frame into my adapted car. Yep, as my legs are not very effective (to put it politely) I drive with my hands. I steer with my left hand and I have a lever to drive with my right hand. I pull to accelerate and push to brake, and after driving for 10 years with my feet, I can tell you it was strange. Remember when you learnt to drive, you bunny hopped your way down the road? Well imagine that but every time you brake, you are almost thrown through the windscreen! Now I could not imagine driving with my feet again. I park up in a disabled space in the town centre to a number of disapproving looks. What is that young lady doing parking in a disabled space? There’s nothing wrong with her. Probably because I look like a ‘normal’ healthy person, especially in a car. I now have to phone the Shopmobility service and wait for them to bring a mobility scooter to my car. This is a great service but since they lost their home in Beechwood, they have to deliver scooters to customers as there is no car park at (or near) their new home. After my 10 minute wait, I make a dash for the Theatre.
Choir at the Everyman Theatre
I have been singing with the Everyvoice choir for the last 3 years and it is honestly the best thing I have ever done. I sing with a branch of the choir called ‘Babes in Arms’ which is for mums with pre school children (anywhere from a few weeks old to 4 yrs and almost off to school). The children play in the middle of the room, and we just sing and ignore them for an hour. Don’t worry they are entirely safe! Luckily even though Ava is now 7, I have been allowed to remain as an honorary member. After every term we perform in a big concert where all choirs join together and sing. If you ever loved singing in a school choir and you have a baby or toddler, I cannot recommend this enough. (Take a look at their website.)
The best of the rest
After my uplifting release of endorphins at choir, I need to pop into a few shops on the way back to the car. Right, I need to cross the road……..hmmm time to locate the dropped kerbs. Not something everyone needs to know, but it is amazing how few there are and how many cars park across them. One word: Infuriating! Right, located one and I am successfully across the road. Into the shop, I am faced with row upon row of clothes. No wonder children don’t like shopping, you can’t see anything and where you are going. Right, I need to locate the lift to get to the right floor. Lift located, barely enough room to fit me in but it shudders and starts moving. I find what I need and get out as quickly as I possibly can. Before MS, I used to love shopping, nowadays I avoid it as much as I possibly can.
I return home after returning the scooter and after all this, there isn’t much time until the school run again. Luckily the rain has stopped so it makes the school run a little easier. Tea time, another challenge. Ava is a fussy eater but it is the process of making her anything to eat that wipes me out. I am now drawing on those energy reserve banks. Next stop – Dance…..back in the car, launch the walking frame in the car, get the wheelchair out of the car when we get there (Ava is old enough to help me get it out now), sit through dance for 90 minutes, wheelchair back in the car, drive home, frame out of the car, in the front door and collapse.
Well, temporarily collapse…..one final challenge before I can sit down, bath time. Now luckily Ava is getting to the age where she can bath herself, occasionally wanting me to be there with her. Story time and then bed. Then I normally have no energy to do anything in the evening so that is it!! Phew, sleep for me and start again tomorrow.
Emma is a 35yr old single mum to a beautiful 7yr old girl called Ava. She suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and is a part time primary school teacher. If you are looking for any guidance with symptoms of MS or would like to know more about Emma visit her blog.