Teen Mom 2
I have been avoiding this one partly because it involves real people instead of actors and partly because it is infuriating. In case you have been living under a rock and have no idea what Teen Mom is I will give you a brief overview. It all began with 16 And Pregnant, a reality show on MTV that focuses on pregnant teens and tries to promote safe sex. Each girl is only in one episode and makes a small amount of money so the overwhelming cost of parenting is a huge deal for their entire family. This concept goes out the window with Teen Mom and Teen Mom 2 because everyone who is on film on a regular basis makes an insane amount of money. Money certainly helps, but it doesn’t fix everything.
One of the girls, Leah, had twins and one of them has a rare form of muscular dystrophy. From the beginning, the parents were told that Ali may never walk and will not lead a “normal” life. Thankfully they have a lot of family support, but they add to the ableism. Ali has a Dr who is at the top of his field and has said multiple times that she must use a power wheelchair and a helmet when she is out of the chair. He has warned them that she needs to conserve her energy for breathing because eventually her heart and lungs are going to fail. Hearing all of this is enough to break anyone’s heart. As a mom , my worst fear is losing a child.
This is devastating to any mom, but to a very young mother it is understandable that Leah has a hard time coping. The father and extended family are deeply in denial. In fact when the Dr said she would have to use a wheelchair and would most likely die before reaching adulthood, they only focused on the chair. They constantly sat that they don’t want her to be lazy and be dependent on the wheelchair. They say that she is a miracle because she can walk some, but admit that she falls 20 times a day.
I am not trying to knock religion because I find comfort in prayer as a way to release negative feelings and for comfort. However, these people really do believe that she is going to be healed because of it. If I am to believe in a just God then I also have to believe that either He wants me to be disabled because it is part of His grand design or that it is all random and He has nothing to do with my health. I just can’t believe that He punishes people with illness and heals people that He likes. This line of thinking has led them to basically ignore everything her Dr says.
Let’s not forget that she has access to the best Drs and assistive technology. Sadly, her parents are so in denial about the reality of her situation to actually give her what she needs. She was so excited about her pink wheelchair and the independence it gave her. It was amazing to see her racing with her sisters. This was short lived. Most of the time she doesn’t even have access to it because they have broken it over and over again. Let that sink in for a second — they destroyed 3 power chairs worth over 20 grand. I have a huge list of amazing things that would make me nearly able bodied if I had enough money.
I understand why it is hard to face the truth with Ali because her prognosis seems so bleek but it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead of trying to force her to be just like her sister, they could embrace her as she is. Instead of saying that they don’t want her to be lazy like a lot of wheelchair users, they could try to give her all of the assistive technology available to make her as productive as possible. Instead of saying that helmets are embarrassing, they could bedazzle the crap out of it until it was the coolest thing ever. Instead of saying that they don’t want her to be dependent on the wheelchair, they could do some research and learn that it will actually improve her mobility and overall health. They act as if she is going to become an addict and start snort wheelchairs.
Part of the reason that they see her problems as failures and her medical equipment as embarrassing is society’s view of disability. We are constantly bombarded with inspiration porn that shows sad cripples that find their inner strength and overcome their illness. Maybe that does happen, but it certainly not the norm. I still hear on a regular basis “I would rather die than be crippled ” and “I would never be able to keep a kid with so many problems”. But the joke’s on them because I love my life. I have an amazing husband and a wonderfully weird, creative child. I didn’t deserve the hard parts of my life, but I didn’t deserve the good parts either. Leah and company have the ability to not only change how their family sees her disability, but also to put forth a better story on tv. My wheelchair has glow in the dark wheels, light up fairy wings and a sidecar on occasion. My son’s classroom thinks wheelchairs are awesome now because we changed their minds. This was long winded, but I believe that if more people spoke up about how much damage , both physically and emotionally, is being done to Ali then maybe someone will intervene.