Mom On Wheels
by Marjorie Aunos
"Today is a pretty good day to die."
Those were Marjorie Aunos’ thoughts as her car hit black ice and spun out of control toward an oncoming truck. Then, as she waited for paramedics to extricate her from the mangled wreck, unable to feel anything below her neck, she realized that if she died now—her sixteen-month-old son would become an orphan.
So began the most challenging chapter in the life of this overachieving psychologist and parent, whose life's work had been to advocate for parents with intellectual disabilities to help them keep custody of their children.
Suddenly, Marjorie herself became a disabled single parent, experiencing first-hand the barriers and discrimination she’d witnessed for others. She, too, became a mother waiting for the knock on the door that would rob her of her child.
In a remarkable few months, determined not to let the accident take her professional identity, Marjorie returned to work—in her wheelchair. There, the strategies that had served her well before the accident were ineffective. In fact, they were making things worse.
As a clinical psychologist, she should have been able to prevent her own depression, anxiety, and post-trauma. She should have been able to reframe and rehabilitate herself. She should have gone into post-traumatic growth and not post-traumatic disorder. The shoulds fuelled deep shame and disappointment, which, in turn, increased her suffering.
But there were even bigger challenges.
Marjorie Aunos, PhD., is an internationally renowned researcher, adjunct professor, clinical psychologist, and award-winning inspirational speaker from Montreal, Canada.
She is chair of the Parenting and Parents with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Special Interest Group (SIRG) of the International Association on the Scientific Study on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
She has presented to international conferences, is published in peer-reviewed journals, and is lead or co-author of several book chapters on this topic.is a psychologist, inspirational and award-winning speaker, author, and researcher from Montreal, Canada.
For years Marjorie had dreamed about becoming a mother—not just any mother, but a great mother. An active mother. A role-model mother. A little over a year after giving birth, everything she thought she knew about motherhood lay shattered on that Quebec roadway.
Five days after the accident, she asked her parents to bring her son to the hospital. Thomas was frightened by the tubes and beeping machines. He refused to touch her, hug her, or sit beside her. Marjorie felt helpless and powerless that she couldn’t be there for him. And it hurt that Thomas kept turning to his grandma for comfort. She had wanted this child in her life so badly—now she was forced to watch someone else raise him and take care of him, in a way that she couldn’t.
If you can’t bend down to tie your child’s shoes or scoop them into your arms for a hug or keep them safe at bath time without supervision—are you a bad parent?
And so Marjorie had to start over as a parent, too. Between fights with insurance companies and rehab therapy sessions, Marjorie had to learn how to co-parent. She had to learn anew about self-care, perseverance and balance, how to be grateful for living, and how to ask for help.
But the most important revelation for Marjorie was that she had everything she needed to be a good parent to her son.
Sneak peek at the table of contents for Mom on Wheels
The call that never came
The Man of My Dreams
Today is a Good Day to Die
Who's That Lady?
Dreaming of Dancing
Once Upon a Second Time
Let's Talk Ableism
Shoulda Woulda Coulda
Head Above Water
Heroes and She-Roes
Grunts and Grit
Are You Sure, Little Lady?
All My Peeps
It Takes a Village
Dog with a Bone
Mimosas with Fraguli
Forgiving Dad and Saying Goodbye
Watching Him Watching Me
In Mom On wheels (excerpt)
The fresh snow on the side of the road was like twinkling pearls and tiny little diamonds. Every so often, I’d pass another lake on the left-hand side. The forest was a constant on the right, sprinkled with the odd house. I was driving at the posted speed limit of eighty kilometres per hour on a road that looked and felt dry. A car was behind me at a distance that led me to thinking how close it was to my ass. I thought about how I could signal them to back off, but chose instead to focus on my own driving. Up ahead, a black pick-up truck was driving towards me.
Suddenly my car swayed to the left and my tires no longer hugged the road. My attempts to redirect my unresponsive car were useless. I thought of all the cars I’d seen on the side of this road over the last couple of months.
This is what’s happening to me.
As my car swayed to the right, I saw the black pick-up truck again, dangerously close, and remembered that car chasing my rear bumper. It was perfect timing. I realized a collision was inevitable. I smiled—a little sarcastic one-corner-lift kind of smile one can have when fate is once playing with them. Everything slowed down, except my thoughts.
FUCK. This cannot happen to my family again. Sylvia lost to us a bit more than a year ago and now … me? This is UNREAL. And unfair. My son. My son is with my parents and my sister. They love him. My sister saw him born and my parents spend a lot of time with him. He is happy around them. He will be okay. And my family … they are strong together. They know how to get through grief and loss. They will pull through together. But … me? Fucking crazy life. I felt light and at peace. Death was coming for me and I was not scared. A bit pissed off that this was happening to me as I had so many plans for my life, but…
Today is a pretty good day to die.
"Marjorie’s book is at the same time empowering, practical, and talks about parenting with a disability in a real and true voice. Being a parent is a wonderful adventure, and no one should deprive themselves of such an experience because of their disability."
The Honourable Chantal Petitclerc
Paralympian, senator, and mother
"Marjorie’s journey from hopelessness and fear to confidence and strength is an example of true perseverance. Her story will inspire all parents—with a disability or not."
Founder, Rick Hansen Foundation
"Marjorie is both ordinary and heroic, imperfect and magnificent. And through her clear, heartfelt stories we are given the chance to become the same."
Author of A Short Course in Happiness After Loss (and Other Dark, Difficult Times)
in ebook and paperback
Coming soon in French