A WOMAN SAID SHE WOULD HAVE HAD AN ABORTION IF SHE KNEW HER DAUGHTER WOULD BE BLIND — A MINI MEMOIR

Disclaimer: This story deals with the subject of abortion. There is no explicit or graphic content, but if reading about abortion is difficult or triggering for you, I’d encourage you to think carefully about whether you want to continue reading or choose something else that I’ve written.
This is a true story that happened while I was in my second year of university. By telling this story, I am speaking up for the unborn children whose lives are ended due to disability. I am not seeking to debate or argue, so please leave such comments out of the comment section. Thank you.


My heart pounds and the tears sting my eyes. My partner reaches for me and I collapse into him. The room is quiet as the other pro-life club members look on in stunned silence, watching for my reaction. But I can’t react yet. I can only hold on to my partner for dear life. Life that had unknowingly hung in the balance for a girl just like me.

I meet her on the way to my health class as I crunch the leaves with a childlike joy. Upon seeing my white cane, she says, “I have a blind daughter. Can I ask you a question?”

“Absolutely! I’m Rhianna,” I say, offering her my hand.

“My daughter is only nine now, but I want her to have a good education. Seeing you here, I presume it works, but I don’t know how. Will she be able to do university?” She sounds both hopeful and apprehensive.

I want to hug her. She doesn’t know the ins and outs of post-secondary education with a disability, but who does until they’re faced with it head-on? I’m just so happy that she’s taking the time to find out.

We stand on the sidewalk, students bustling past as I detail my university experience — how I receive electronic textbooks, the accommodations provided for students for disabilities and the support offered by the Disability Resource Center on campus.

“Thank you,” she says, a genuine relief in her voice.

“No problem. Happy to help.” I say, and I run to my kinesiology lecture for which I am now almost late.

An hour later, in the pro-life club meeting, I excitedly relay my conversation with the woman with the blind daughter. “She doesn’t know much about blindness, but she’s determined to learn what she needs to for her daughter,” I say.

It makes me think of my parents, not knowing anything of disability until their four-year-old daughter gets diagnosed with bilateral eye cancer and then all are thrust into this new, unknown world. And with everything new and unfamiliar facing their family, they did the best they could—which was pretty great. I smile. My parents are awesome.

Valerie enters the room with a summary of her conversations around campus about the student body’s perspectives on the pro-life/pro-choice debate.

“I talked to this woman who has a blind daughter,” she says.

“I met her,” I say. “We had such a good conversation.”

“She told me that if she had known her daughter would be blind, she would have had an abortion.”

The silence is like thunder, but it can’t compare to my heart. How can this be? She would have aborted her own daughter? She was so determined to give her daughter a good life, yet she would have had an abortion and taken away that life by choice? And all because she was blind?

My mind starts spinning. Would my parents have aborted me had they known I would be diagnosed with cancer and be blind for the rest of my life? I know in my heart the answer is no, but the thought makes me sick. My parents may not have made that choice, but others have, and still might.

And now, all I want to do is hold this nine-year-old girl and tell her that she is enough, that she’s loved and she will have a good life.

After the semester, I leave the pro-life club, not because my position changed but because I’m not in a place where I’m ready to have these conversations and hear someone’s brutal honesty about people’s perceptions of the value of life, and particularly, disabled lives. Because I know that woman’s view is all too common, and it won’t be the last time I hear the same sentiments.

I just hope that woman’s daughter never has to hear it, especially from her own mother.

MY TOP READS OF 2022

To celebrate Disability Pride Month in July, I opened the Authors with Disabilities Showcase. This online bookstore began out of a deep desire to shed light on the diverse talent within the disabled community, and support a group of writers that often get marginalized and underrated. In my journey of searching for and adding new titles to the bookstore, I have collected many favourites along the way, and my TBR pile [To be Read] just keeps growing!

Now that 2022 is drawing to a close, I wanted to highlight a few of my favourite reads from the bookstore.
Disclaimer: The links in this post are affiliate links and I may earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.

Thunder Dog by Michael Hingson

There’s no such thing as being late to the party when it comes to a great book! Thunder Dog was published 10 years after the tragedy of 9/11, and I read it more than 10 years later. But we will never forget, and this book is a wonderfully, poignant reminder of that day.

“When one of four hijacked planes flew into the World Trade Center’s North Tower on September 11, 2001, Michael Hingson, a district sales manager for a data protection and network security systems company, was sitting down for a meeting. His guide dog, Roselle, was at his feet.

Blind from birth, Michael could hear the sounds of shattering glass, falling debris, and terrified people flooding all around him. But Roselle sat calmly beside him. In that moment, Michael chose to trust Roselle’s judgment and not to panic. They were a team.”

Buy Thunder Dog on Amazon.

How to Lose Everything by Christa Couture

Grief is hard to feel, but even harder to understand. But it helps to hear a fellow human speak openly about their own grief and their journey through it. If nothing else, it can help us feel less alone, which is sometimes, all we need.

“From the amputation of her leg as a cure for bone cancer at a young age to her first child’s single day of life, the heart transplant and subsequent death of her second child, the divorce born of grief and then the thyroidectomy that threatened her career as a professional musician, How to Lose Everything delves into the heart of loss. Couture bears witness to the shift in perspective that comes with loss, and how it can deepen compassion for others, expand understanding, inspire a letting go of little things and plant a deeper feeling for what matters. At the same time, Couture’s writing evokes the joy and lightness that both precede and eventually follow grief, as well as the hope and resilience that grow from connections with others.”

Buy How to Lose Everything on Amazon.

Poster Child by Emily Rapp

Heartbreakingly vivid, raw and relatable, this memoir digs into the emotions we’d rather keep hidden, explores the parts of ourselves that are uncomfortable, and teaches that disability is only one part of who we are–and there’s so much more that defines a person and who they become.

“Emily Rapp was born with a congenital defect that required, at the age of four, that her left foot be amputated. By the time she was eight she’d had dozens of operations, had lost most of her leg, from just above the knee, and had become the smiling, indefatigable “poster child” for the March of Dimes. For years she made appearances at church suppers and rodeos, giving pep talks about how normal and happy she was. All the while she was learning to live with what she later described as “my grievous, irrevocable flaw,” and the paradox that being extraordinary was the only way to be ordinary.”

Buy Poster Child on Amazon.

Sitting Pretty by Rebekah Taussig

I will confess: I haven’t finished this book. Though I’m well on my way, I can only read for about 10 minutes before I have to put it aside for days to digest what Rebekah has written. It touches parts of me that I didn’t know were there, challenges subconscious beliefs I held about myself, and offers, in personal and theoretical terms, a way to understand the world around me and find my place in it.

“Growing up as a paralyzed girl during the 90s and early 2000s, Rebekah Taussig only saw disability depicted as something monstrous (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), inspirational (Helen Keller), or angelic (Forrest Gump). None of this felt right; and as she got older, she longed for more stories that allowed disability to be complex and ordinary, uncomfortable and fine, painful and fulfilling.

Writing about the rhythms and textures of what it means to live in a body that doesn’t fit, Rebekah reflects on everything from the complications of kindness and charity, living both independently and dependently, experiencing intimacy, and how the pervasiveness of ableism in our everyday media directly translates to everyday life.”

Buy Sitting Pretty on Amazon.

Forward, Shakespeare by Jean Little

Jean Little had an uncanny ability to take disability and create something universally relatable in her books. Forward, Shakespeare, and its prequel, Rescue Pup, are no exception. Alongside learning about how guide dogs are trained to guide the blind, you’ll fall in love with Shakespeare and learn about how letting someone love you is the first step in learning to love and accept yourself for who you are.

“Seeing-eye pup, Shakespeare, conquered many fears in Rescue Pup. Now he is back, about to be matched up with a blind boy, ready to begin his working life. Tim is enraged by his blindness and wants nothing to do with a guide dog. But he is no match for Shakespeare.”

Buy Forward, Shakespeare on Amazon.

It’s Not What It Looks Like by Molly Burke

I have been a fan of Molly’s Youtube channel for years now, and her audiobook, It’s Not What It Looks Like, did not disappoint.

Molly and I are both blind, but our experiences and perspectives are sometimes poles apart. Our disabilities have shaped us in different ways, but that’s what makes this such a wonderful read. In her book, I saw myself clearly in her words and depictions of living as a blind woman, but I also learned a new way of perceiving blindness and how we can all appreciate the diversity of disability and a person’s individual journey.

“Close your eyes and get ready to see the world in a new and more positive way. As a child in Toronto, Molly Burke was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa and became completely sightless as a teenager. Now an award-winning YouTube star and global influencer, Molly shares what it’s like to be a purple-haired, pink-obsessed fashion and makeup lover in a seeing world. She speaks with authenticity and candor about how she tackles the preconceived notions we have around blindness; Molly has made it her mission to make us see her – and ourselves- in a wholly empowering way. Learn about her struggles with bullying and anxiety, her quest for inclusivity, how she built a successful influencer business (with more than 1.8 million followers), and what it’s really like to travel with the true star of this audio, her service dog, Gallop.”

Buy It’s Not What It Looks Like on Amazon.

What were your favourite books of 2022? Let me know in the comments!

SIX WRITING DREAMS

During one of our weekly phone calls, my dear friend, Anneliese, blindfluencer and blogger from Look On the Dark Side, asked me to write down a list of dreams. As someone who has always classified myself as a big-idea, sky-high dreamer, this caught me off guard; I knew all my dreams… didn’t I?

Nope. Dreams, like people, change and evolve, and things you never thought you’d consider are now at the top of the list. It’s an exercise in self-discovery more than a list of things to check off. And I found that the process was totally and wonderfully unexpected!

Please allow me to share six of my writing dreams with you.

I. A Blog About My Experience with Blindness

Sound familiar? Though I may already be fulfilling this dream, it doesn’t mean my dream is complete.

Not Your Blind Writer began out of a desire to overcome my fear of being known only as a “blind” writer. Now, over a year since my very first post, I’m proud to be a blind writer and to use my experiences, struggles, celebrations and voice to further disability equality, accessibility and bring about a true, heartfelt understanding that disabled people are valuable and important.

II. A Memoir

I’m hesitant about this one as I feel like I haven’t had enough adventure in my life to warrant a memoir; after all, don’t people want to read memoirs about people like Helen Keller, Fanny Crosby, Michael Hingson, or so many other people who have lived and done more noteworthy things than me?

But it’s an idea that won’t go away, and I’ve learned to listen when that happens. So, I will wait and write and see what happens next.

III. A Biblical Fiction Novel

There’s one idea that’s been swirling about my brain for years–at least since I was a preteen–about writing the backstory of a character from the Bible whose story is stubbornly lacking any detail. I began to write my first novel in university, but dropped it when I became overwhelmed by the historical research needed. And while I love research, it became a hang up and my novel was shelved. But not forgotten. And there’s not only one! I’ve got many ideas along this track, but I owe it to my first book and the characters I’ve lived with for over a decade to write their story first.

IV. A Fantasy Novella

When I say fantasy, I’m not talking about an entirely new world like Middle Earth or Narnia, but rather, a story set in what looks like our world and acts like our world, but with a few magical additions–talking animals, for one [of course].

The prologue to one such novella sits ready and waiting on my laptop, and has for years now. But the story it was intended to precede has lost the “thing” that brings it to life. When the time is right, I’ll bring it back–maybe then, the characters and I will be ready to tell the story the way it was meant to be told.

V. An Anthology of Short Stories

I’ve begun in the way any writer does–by writing short story after short story. Three of my stories can be found here, and I have more than enough drafts to keep me busy for a while. And that, my friend, is a great feeling.

VI. A Picture Book About Guide Dogs

I won’t give much away about this one, but needless to say, the guide dog in question is a spunky, go-getter, yellow lab with a brilliant sense of humour and a heart of gold [entirely inspired by my current guide, Saint]. And while he has the job of being a guide dog to a high school girl named Tara, he has another job too, which takes him down many unexpected roads and nose-first into many adventures.

As with every idea that comes into my head, any of these may change. In fact, I’m sure they will. But that’s the wonderful part of being a writer; characters and places that at one time, only existed in my imagination, become alive and breathing and the story tells me where it should go, not the other way around.

Maybe I’ll fulfill these dreams, and maybe some of them will only live on this list. And that’s okay. The important thing is to keep dreaming. And let’s be real: that’s the fun part, anyway!

What are some of your dreams? Tell me in the comments. And no matter what they are or what happens, let’s keep dreaming.