I won!

I love sport.

There’s something you wouldn’t have expected me to start with. But I do. Well, some sports anyway. I am a great lover of Wimbledon tennis in the summer and I adore watching gymnastics, diving, swimming and athletics. I used to do gymnastics growing up from ages 6-12 and I also dabbled in wheelchair tennis in secondary school (it was hard to progress from dabbling when you are pretty much the only wheelchair user in a school in a small Cornish village).

But nevertheless, I think I would love to have nurtured some kind of sporting skill if my body had given me the chance, and the working nervous system that is quite fundamental to sporting victory.

But at age almost-31 I have just had my first major sporting success. The annual tournament is a family affair, previously revolving around a golf match (is it a match?) which took place at unsociably early hours on Sunday morning of the bank holiday weekend in August, and the women and children of the family occupied themselves with other activities for the day, such as making sandwiches and changing nappies until we all met up again when the golf was over and we’d have a big buffet-style tea in the garden of the previous year’s winner.

It is always lovely to see all the family in one place, and to try and remind myself of all the names of the great aunts, uncles, cousins removed, cousins’ children and second cousins etc (seriously, Great Granny, how on earth did you cope with six kids) and in recent years the sport has changed to a version of bowls (there are flags and string points markers involved but I don’t know what the actual name is. It just takes place on a bowling green with bowls balls so it seems appropriate to refer to it as bowls). Pretty much everyone in the family now gets involved, we are split into teams and play around the 8-flag course twice. Some members of the family already play bowls and so have an idea of how to throw the balls – they aren’t actually spherical and one side is weighted making it want to veer off to one side – but there is a handicap system in place allowing even novice players to be in with a chance of winning if they score highly enough.

But even with the handicap available, it still would not be a level playing field for me (insert bowling green pun here).

I have no muscle whatsoever in my hands and lower arms, any strength I do have has to come from my upper body, and the only way I can hold a ball is by relying on the tendon resistance in the extension in my wrists/hands (pictures to follow!). Even still, standard bowls are too heavy for me to lift let alone lob into the air (I mean, roll gracefully), so I play using two jacks, which are slightly smaller meaning my child-sized floppy hands can just about lift them. But even with this allowance, I would not be able to get the ball anywhere near the desired region due to my lack of strength, so I position myself about half way towards the post. Only then can I attempt to actually use some skill to get the balls as close to the post as I can, which is exactly what everyone else is trying to do.

I’m pretty sure my spacial awareness is slightly more ‘well-practiced’, than the average mum who doesn’t partake in a particular sport, simply because I have to use spatial awareness all day -steering an electric wheelchair through narrow doorways, or pushing a manual wheelchair amongst a room of small children and Duplo and trying not to break either. Also if I am trying to pick up a small item it takes a lot more concentration to persuade my hands into getting to the right place in order for something to hopefully fall perfectly and conveniently into my hands just so I can put moisturiser on my face, for example.

Well anyway, I am rambling. Cut a long story short, I won.

The family tournament which is in its 23rd year and is really a much-loved family tradition and something I hope my own children will still attend after I’m gone, I won. I scored 86 even without the handicap added, which I am most proud of. The coveted prize is my maternal Great Granny’s wooden walking stick which has been decorated with the winners’ names engraved on little silver shields since 1995 after Great Granny died.

We met at my Gran’s cousin’s house for a BBQ, feast, drinks and of course the awards ceremony. I knew I had scored quite well whilst we were playing but of course, I didn’t know others’ scores so when they announced my name as the ladies’ winner and overall winner it was a bit surreal. My first thought was “Oh shit. I’m going to have to make a speech”, and I hate talking to groups of people, and even more so when it involves speaking about myself. I’d much rather address the masses via computer keyboard where no one can hear my annoyingly quiet voice and see my awkward face. I sat for a few moments cleverly diverting attention to the kids who were playing with my prizes, all the while thinking “I’ve got to say something. They’re expecting me to say something. I want to leave now.”, but I managed a short, muddled and awkward little speech where most of what I said was trying to excuse my winning, and get across that I wouldn’t have had a chance against everyone else if I hadn’t been allowed use smaller balls and start closer to each post. Everyone clapped and congratulated me, my Gran’s youngest brother who organises a lot of it, seemed genuinely pleased that I’d finally won, after being close a few years ago. I worried some of the family might think I hadn’t really won, fair and or square but everyone seemed pleased. Tom was especially proud as was my mum who wasn’t there this year.

But most importantly, I won Granny’s Stick before my big brother.



The new addition to Trolley-hood

From one tweet after this shopping trip:
To this:
The wheelchair-parenting trolley is now established at Sainsbury’s Paignton! Make sure you share and tag any parents in wheelchairs (temporary or permanent users) who might need to make use of this. Hopefully other supermarkets will follow suit and these will be avaiable nationwide, and not just when people ask for one to be made. Keep the progress going by spreading the word far and wide!
Thanks to Wanzl and Sainsbury’s (Yalberton Road, Paignton) for making this happen.
#disability #parenting #accessforall #facilitiesforall #inclusion #shopping #disabledmum

Those pesky disabled people

I really am on the countdown now. Theoretically I have 5 weeks of pregnancy left, as I hit the 35 week mark yesterday. But considering I’ve never reached a due date with either previous pregnancy, I’m expecting it’ll be a few days short of the 40 week mark. I’m well aware there’s a 5 week ‘guessing period’ of due-datedness from 37 weeks to 42 weeks, ish. So I’m thinking I’ll start a sweepstake? So far in labour history I’ve got a 38+4 and a 39+3. Therefore I’m officially predicting my own baby’s gestation to be aboooout… 37+6… I don’t know why but I just think it might happen slightly earlier, or maybe that is just wishful, begging, desperate thinking as I’m SO uncomfortable.

Nothing fits. I even hate leggings and no one hates wearing leggings.

In the past few weeks I’ve had my first few belly measurements and they are consistently above average size, but still within the normal range. I’ve had blood taken again – which actually went swimmingly for a change because everything is swollen and I feel like I have Hulk-like veins. I don’t, but compared to how they normally cower within the depths of my skin so no medical professional can access them, it’s quite a treat. 

What else? Oh yes. We got engaged!  

Tom and I went down to Cornwall for our anniversary and shipped the children off to granny’s on the way (first time I’ve been away from them over a night or more, seriously!) and stayed in a hotel. It was brilliant, and very relaxing despite some completely inaccessible areas but we just worked things out ourselves, as we have a habit of doing. Tom carried me up and down spiral staircases to the posh swimming pool with staff watching, wondering what on earth we were thinking. We’re not stupid. We couldn’t NOT go swimming, child-free! 


There were no accessible changing rooms either so we improvised by sneaking into the empty gym so I could change into my swimsuit top. Well actually, the changing rooms were pretty accessible but it was a toss-up between Tom coming into the ladies’ room and risk getting shouted at, as all men are obviously predators, or me having to go in the men’s and watch other, hairier men changing or dare I say it, ‘flossing’. Neither filled me with ease so I opted for the sneaky gym-change. I guess a disabled person needing access, and then a place to change just doesn’t come into consideration when they refurbished this old hotel building. 

Challenges aside, it was lovely to stay in a hotel and just be us, without small children asking for breakfast at 5.52am for a couple of days. My mum had that pleasure. We even took a drive-yourself boat trip in the bay. Again, we faced challenges with this before we’d even gotten in the boat, with the operators of the boat-hire saying they were concerned for my safety.  (We’re always being irresponsible and risking our lives). It transpires that their concern was more that I  might try and sue them… Apparently they “had one the same, before”, who tried to claim against them after they hired the boat, even though nothing went wrong. It never gets old you know, being referred to as ‘one of them’, those vicious disabled people. What are we like, passionately waving copies of the Equality Act around and sueing people left, right and indeed centre. 

See look, I survived the trip. And I’m pretty sure Tom was quite comfortable with me being in control of the boat, just look at his calm face. In the evening following the boat ride, I decided I might be in labour- I was having Braxton-Hicks contractions, which I’ve had throughout all pregnancies but these were every two minutes and getting quite uncomfortable and slightly painful. We finished our restaurant meal and went back to our apartment and after sitting in bed for a while the pains eased off. Tom then decided he’d quite like to marry me, and conveniently he had a ring in his pocket and so the evening got a lot less stressful! Although before that moment Tom was imagining having to propose in the labour ward of the nearest hospital. 

It was the best weekend. 

So as far as birth preparations go, I’ve washed babygrows, bought some, but not all things for my hospital bag, and discussed a few birth plans with my midwife. It’s mostly a waiting game now.

It’s all getting very near…

Follow me on Twitter @shopgirlygm 

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Only a bit useful

My partner has been away abroad with his dad (man holiday) for the last 10 or so days and during this time I’ve had an assortment of family (2 whole different people) coming to stay to help me. It always seems to involve a lot of preparation and planning when this happens, although aside from Tom’s occasional work trips, his father-son trip away is only alternate-yearly, so in reality it’s not a big thing.

All the same, I love having people come to visit. I just never feel totally comfortable having to rely on other people to come and stay with me just because I can’t look after myself so to speak, even if they have previously fulfilled that role in years gone by, such as my mum. Mum has known me for…erm, *most* of my life I believe, and so is pretty comfortable with knowing what kind of things I need assistance with. Only it’s not the same as it used to be.

I am majorly less independent than when I lived at home pre-uni, I can’t do many of the things I used to be able to do and nothing makes that more of a reality than being in these couple of weeks where I become the daughter of the household once again, being looked after by my mum. I start to question and analyse my every move, wondering whether I’ve always crawled from the bedroom to the bathroom on my hands and knees, and then remembering -no, this is new in the last few years. Before that I could walk upright on my knees holding on to available furniture and walls, and before that I could still walk in bare feet, carefully. Just picturing the backwards transition of my movement-abilities in my head… Oh god, am I reversing evolution? Am I going to turn into an ape and start carrying my babies on my back?

I then start to wonder if I’d tried harder, could I have held on to some of my old abilities? I hope not, is the answer. As my muscle wastage has progressed since childhood, things have got a lot more difficult and/or dangerous and so quickly learning new techniques is the only practical way of getting on with things without just laying on the floor like an upturned turtle yelling ‘hellllp, I can’t hold A hair brush the same way I used to!’ I used to be right-handed for writing and using cutlery, that got too difficult so now I use both hands at the same time. I’m not ambidextrous as such, multidextrous maybe? I quite like that, a little more comic-book heroin. Bidextrous? Hmm. I’m not sure.

There was a time where getting in and out of the bath was nothing too taxing. Now it has become something else. I don’t possess a new-age sci-fi hoist type contraption (we are intending to move house sooner rather than later) so first time I showered after Tom went away last week was when my mum and our family friend were here to stay. Getting me out of the bath was quite the spectacle. It wasn’t exactly far removed from a Search and Rescue winching operation and I was half expecting to see a helicopter hovering above the house full of confused looking air-medic type folk. The operation was carried out in stages, successfully, each one with me being the only naked person amongst 3 grown women hanging out in my bathroom. I have come to the conclusion that being dressed doesn’t make it any easier being the person in need, so I think I might move to a commune and chill with some other wobbly naked people.

I’m 27 now and I still consider myself a novice to the whole ‘wheelchair-user’ thing. I’ve only really used a wheelchair most of the time since aged about 17, which is maybe why I’m still so acutely aware of people’s reactions to seeing someone in a wheelchair when I’m out in public. I’d like to think most of my family still see me as just ‘Lizzy’, not ‘Lizzy, the one in a wheelchair’. Unfortunately, and I suppose I am probably just as guilty of this presumption at times, I can immediately see that people see me as a wheelchair before my actual person. Amongst our family and close friends, we are allowed to make jokes about my bind to the chair on wheels and what purpose it serves in my life. I think making jokes makes it more acceptable that this is what my life is now, and when people know me I am also happy for them to take a stab at risky disability satire. What I find a bit unnerving and a little surprising is moments when strangers attempt this, not knowing at all how it might be received by said person-on-wheels. Luckily for the gentleman at the beach at the weekend, he came out unscathed. Mostly. When my stepdad was loading bags of towels and picnic food onto the back of my electric wheelchair he made a joke about finding a place to stow his other shoes and some beer. The man, who’d been sat there for all of three minutes with his dog, said “good idea, what else would she be useful for otherwise?” 

My mental jaw dropped a little. I quickly retorted with “and providing grandchildren”, in a distinctly defensive tone with the agreement of my Mum and stepdad, but I don’t think he even heard anyway. Bugger. Oh well, stereotypes aren’t that bad, are they? 



On the beach, not being very useful.