12th January 2017

What happens if you need help having children and have a learning disability?

A member of My Life My Choice talks about his experience of trying to find out if he and his wife could start a family. He hopes that his story will help medical professionals be more sympathetic towards people in his situation.

I live independently with my wife. We both have a learning disability . After we got married, we tried to start a family. After a while of having sex without protection we were still not getting pregnant, so we spoke to our Occupational Therapists to ask their advice.

My wife is a wheelchair user and has spina bifida. We were not sure if this would be a problem, so the OTs arranged for us to see a doctor and the doctor referred us to a consultant at the hospital.

We went to the appointment with the consultant, and our OTs came too. I didn’t really understand what was going on, and I thought the consultant was rude.

 “How big is your pelvis?” He said to my wife. Neither of us knew exactly what a pelvis was, and he made us feel stupid for not knowing.

“How should she know how big her pelvis is?” I asked.

“All women should know how big their pelvis is,” he replied.

I became angry and my wife became upset. My OT suggested we go outside for 5 minutes to calm down, while they spoke to the consultant.

When we came back he told us that we probably couldn’t have children naturally. We were disappointed but I thought there were other options. I asked about using a surrogate mother. Somebody we go to Bingo with offered to be our surrogate. But we were told that it was too expensive.

I also told the consultant that we would like to adopt. He said, “I don’t think you two could cope with a baby.”

I asked if we could take one of those fake baby dolls home to try and see if we could be good parents. If we failed, I would accept that we would not make good parents. But to assume that we wouldn’t be good parents because we had learning disabilities seemed very unfair.

My wife would make a great mum – she is very good with our friend’s and family’s children. We both have looked after other people’s children for an evening while they go out.

It seemed as though every suggestion we made was shut down. It felt like nobody was listening to us. I know people with learning disabilities who have children, but we were told it wasn’t an option.

I don’t think we should have been automatically allowed to adopt. But I think we should have been given the same chance as everybody else. They should not have assumed that we wouldn’t make good parents, but taken the time to get to know us and find this out.

It would also have been helpful if the process was more accessible, and things were explained properly to us. After our experience, we felt upset and confused.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

My Life My Choice

MLMC is an Oxfordshire based charity with a national profile whose prime objective is to raise the self-esteem and quality of life for people with learning disabilities. They do this by campaigning, and providing volunteering, training, employment and social opportunities for its members. MLMC also work with other organisations to help produce information for people with learning and communication difficulties that is simple and easy to understand. Read more

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