Michelle Mansfield had her son Callum on 2 August 2006. Here are her thoughts on being a parent with learning disabilities
“I was shocked when I found out that I was pregnant. I was worried and scared but I felt excited too. At first I had some concerns about the amount of support I would need. I don’t think I would have done as well as I have without having the amazing support of my family and partner around me. Things would have been much more difficult.
When I went for my scan and blood tests, the midwife said she needed to tell social services about me. I asked why. I thought it was unfair for her to do that, but she said that she had to. Luckily, social services knew me and knew that I would be able to cope – they knew that there was no need for them to worry about me. It could have been different if they hadn’t known me though, and if they didn’t know how much good support I had around me!
When I knew I was pregnant people asked how I would cope, and even now people still ask how I cope – it annoys me. What I do is ask them how they cope, and they say quite easily, so I say I cope with everything else in my life even though I have my disability, so I can cope with having a baby. My health visitor can’t believe how well Callum has been brought up. I wouldn’t have gone through with the pregnancy if I thought I couldn’t cope – I knew it would be a big responsibility and my life would change.
Anyone with a learning disability who is thinking about becoming a parent needs to realise it’s a full time commitment, and every day will be different.
Life is very different when you are a mum – before I could do whatever I wanted, but now Callum always come first in whatever I do. It’s important that people with learning disabilities think a lot about whether they have the right support to become a parent: my mum and partner have both been so strong for me throughout and this has really helped.
People with learning disabilities should be given a chance to become parents – it shouldn’t be assumed that they can’t cope.”
This article appeared in the 13 September issue under the headline “‘You need support in place before you become a parent'”