Parenting With Cerebral Palsy

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Curated by
Whitney Bailey
Content via In The News
In The News
Curated by
Whitney Bailey

Laurence and Adele Clark say they fell in love nine years ago while on their first date. Besides the fact that they were both born with cerebral palsy, they bonded over their shared desire of one day becoming parents. The husband and wife welcomed their son Tom into the world after being married for one year.

The Clark family was featured in a documentary about the journey of parenthood with a disability. The documentary follows the family dynamics and Adele’s pregnancy as they become a family of four.

Parents as Role Models

The documentary interviews Laurence and Adele’s parents about what it was like raising a child with a disability at 8:00. It is clear to see what has influenced the couple’s tenacious spirit. Their parents pushed them to excel, and never let their child’s disability hinder their quality of life.

“I was hard on Adele when she was little because I had to be hard because I wanted her to think, “Yeah, I am like everyone else,” says Adele’s mother as she talks about how she would encourage her daughter to go outside and play with the other kids. If Adele fell while playing, her mother would encourage her to get up and keep on going. She says that of course she cared about her daughter falling, but felt like that was the only way to teach Adele to get back up and keep on going.

Laurence's mother says that while raising her son she chose to focus on the ‘right now’ instead of the future. But, she admits that she did have hopes that one day her son would have a partner in life.

Laurence and Adele were both raised in an atmosphere where their abilities seemed to outshine their disabilities. The couple maintained this mindset that was instilled into them by their parents when they became parents themselves. However, they do wish that others would realize their capabilities.

“We’re just used to getting on with (parenting), and not really seeing it as an issue. It was other people’s perception of us. So, I’d be out in the local supermarket, for example, and complete strangers would stop me and ask how I manage (being a parent), and sometimes even if Tom was mine. Quite frankly, it’s none of their business.”

First Born Child’s Perspective on Having Parents With A Disability

The couple had their son Tom a year after getting married. Tom does not seem to notice anything different about his parents. His dad uses a wheelchair, while his mom uses crutches, and that is just part of the family’s everyday life. At 16:00, Laurence and Adele reminisce on a time when Tom asked them an important question, when was he going to get his very own wheelchair?

When Tom started school, he realized that disability is not a part of every family, but watching the documentary one can see the love he has for his parents. He’s also excited for his sibling on the way!

Expecting New Baby --- Birth Plan

Laurence and Adele waited for six years to have another child. Laurence jokes that the reason the two waited so long is because of the difficulties of parenthood. But Adele really wanted a sibling for Tom, so the couple became pregnant a second and final time with another baby boy.

Laurence and Adele met with a midwife consultant to formulate a birth plan. Adele experienced a cesarean section with Tom, and wished to have a natural birthing process with her second child.  

“I just want to try and experience (giving birth) the way most women do.”

The midwife gave the couple insight on different options for delivery for the baby, one of which was a water birth that seemed to intrigue the awaiting parents. However, a problem arose when Adele went into labor. After eighteen hours of labor the birth plan changed and at 29:00 in the documentary, a cesarean section was needed for the health of the baby.

House Modifications For Baby

The couple chose to modify and/or add on to their house in preparation for the baby’s nursery. The expansion and modifications were necessary as Laurence’s wheelchair could not physically fit in the narrow doorways of the spare bedroom that would be made into the nursery.

Laurence and Adele renovated their kitchen for accessibility. The new modifications of the kitchen provide easier access for the parents to bathe their baby independently, as seen in the documentary at 36:45 when Mom and Dad give their son his first bath.

Baby At Home

Watching the documentary, one can see the different techniques the couple uses to successfully care for the new baby. For example, Laurence, who has limited function in his upper body, has developed his own way of picking up his son. He admits that some might question the way he cares for his child, but he says it’s all about finding safe ways to do things on his own.

Laurence’s mother boasts about the couple’s parenting skills by saying, “they’re both so capable, and so confident when they’re in their own home that I just want to be there, mostly making sure that Tom is okay.”

Laurence is a comedian by trade, and a couple weeks after his son was born, he had to go on tour leaving Adele to care for the new baby and Tom.

“I would never want my experience to be viewed as triumph over adversity because I’m not doing anything extra special, I’m just living my life.”

Clearly, Laurence and Adele deal with the same obstacles and dynamics as any other family.

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