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Being A Single Mother With The Added Challenge of A Disability

Being A Single Mother With The Added Challenge of A Disability

Last updated on December 2nd, 2023 at 11:39 am

Being A Single Mother With The Added Challenge of A Disability

My childhood was filled with what seemed like endless trips to the hospitals for spinal cord surgeries. In my lifetime, I have had 7 spinal cord surgeries, 1 surgery to realign my left foot, a surgery to correct my toes on my right foot.  I became partially disabled after my last spinal cord surgery and lost the feeling and muscle control in my left leg from the knee down and I suffer from chronic pain throughout my entire left leg. I now have to wear a leg brace for the rest of my life and use a cane. I had to relearn how to do every day simple things again, such as taking a bath, getting in/out of the car, getting dressed and walking up/down stairs. I was only 16. I felt like my life was over and fell into a terrible depression and my life started to spiral out of control. I went to college for a few years but I spent most of my early college days partying and drinking to drown out the pain and depression. I slept with a slew of guys, until I found a guy I actually started to care about. He was a military guy. It was a whirlwind romance and after 5 weeks we were engaged. He PCSed to Colorado and I started working on transferring and moving my stuff.  Shortly after he left I realized my period was late… sure enough I was pregnant. My fiancé was excited about our expected arrival, but our happiness didn’t last long. He revealed to me he was married but was getting a divorce soon.  I broke things off with him at that moment. I thought “if he could cheat on his current wife with me, who’s to say he won’t do the same to me?”

Because of my Spinia Bifida I was already considered a high risk pregnancy. Then I found out at nine weeks that I was carrying twins. My pregnancy was taxing mentally and physically. As the babies grew they pressed on my sciatic nerve causing me to have frequent fainting spells. Mentally I couldn’t believe I was pregnant… and all alone.  This wasn’t how I pictured I would bring my kids in the world, without a father, just like how I grew up. I was scared and I didn’t know how I would provide for me and my kids.

The first year with the twins is a blur because of the lack of sleep. At times I thought I was going to lose my mind from the exhaustion and trying to care for two screaming babies. I tried online school while taking care of them but I found it too much to handle so I took a year off.

My twins are now two years old and I have learned that I can do anything I put my mind to and I have learned the meaning of responsibility. I now attend college full time. I believe being a single parent to twins doesn’t mean you have to put your life on hold forever. If you want to start or continue on your road to higher education, then you should go for it! It’s not easy but it is possible. I do my studying and homework after the kids are asleep. I still battle with depression and see a therapist. But I don’t regret this journey with my twins for a single minute and knowing they depend on me keeps me going! They are my lifesavers!

We asked Nicole for some tips for others who must take care of children while dealing with a chronic disability. This is what she said:Description:

Tips for Taking Care of Children While Dealing With a Chronic Disability


Know that you cannot get all the cleaning done at once!  My house is a mess but an organized mess.  The only rooms in my house that are always clean, and completely organized, are the kitchen and my twin’s bedroom.  Once your kids are at the age to help pick up things, utilize the help!  My twins know how to put away their toys, put their dishes in the sink, where to throw away their trash and where to put their dirty clothes. They even help me with the laundry!


If you are like me and have no family members or a network of friends, hire a sitter if it is a feasible thing for you to do.  I have a sitter watch my twins during the times I attend my college courses or if I ever need a few hours to myself sans the twins. If hiring someone is not feasible, then find a local mom group to do a tradeoff where they watch your kids one day free and then vice versa, you watch their kids free.


On the days I am feeling in so much pain where I can barely move those are the days where simple comes in handy!  When I say simple, I mean simple meals, simple snacks and a simple day.  For example, on those days I might make muffins for breakfast, pb&j crackers for a snack and simple vegetable for dinner. And I do not feel guilty about letting my kids watch TV for the most part of the day when I am in pain, we still get to spend time together and I am not constantly on my feet chasing after them.


If you feel overwhelmed drop to attending part time. By overwhelming yourself you put yourself at risk for failing. Only take on as much as you can reasonably accomplish. Tell your instructors about your situation on the first day. Some teachers are lenient and count anything related to your kids as excusable for assignments and exams.


The most important investment that I ever purchased was a lightweight Combi twin stroller!  It’s lightweight and even with me being partially disabled in my left leg I can actually lift.

Thank you Nicole for sharing your story and tips with us! You Rock!!

Contributed by Nicole Ratliff, 26. Mother of 2 year old boy/girl twins. Nicole is striving to raise her twins as a single mother while coping with Spina Bifida.

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