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LOVE BEYOND EXPECTATIONS: Meet Naomi D. Williams - Motherhood with a child with a disability

Naomi smiling and holding both of her son's hands  while standing next to him as he sits in his wheelchair with a smile on his face.
Photo credit: Yolanda Norman Rouse (submitted by Naomi Williams)

In this edition of SpeakUpSis! Magazine, we decided to share stories of motherhood and take a peek into the diversity of motherhood beyond race and ethnicity to show that every mother does motherhood differently. We want people to know that “mom-ing” looks different for every woman. There was no way I could release this edition with this focus and not allow you all to meet Naomi Williams. There are sundry reasons why Naomi inspires me to be vigilant and diligent as a parent while also extending mercy and grace to myself while parenting; however, I will allow you to find your own reasons to love her by giving you the opportunity to meet her. After our “Hey, girl, hey” greetings, we jumped right into the heart of the reason for our time together.

 

Angel:

Let's start first with how many children do you have? At what age did you become a mom?

 

Naomi:

So, I have one child, and I entered motherhood at 32. He was my unexpected birthday present.

 

Angel:

Okay, so you two share the same birthday?

 

Naomi:

I'm the ninth and he's the 17th of June; although, he wasn’t due until September.

 

Angel:

Before you got pregnant, did you ever think you wanted to have children? Were you one of those people that wanted kids?

 

Naomi:

Yes, I did. I did want children. I thought I would be a great mom, and I wanted to have an amazing partner, you know, a husband where we can do it together. I was single when I got pregnant with Noah. Actually, even before I got pregnant with Noah, I told myself if I don't have kids by the time I'm 35, I'm just not going to have them. I was 31 when I got pregnant, but I didn't get pregnant on purpose. Yes, I wanted children, but I wanted a family unit. A family included a husband as well, but that didn't happen.

 

Angel:

Did you have an idea in your mind of what all of that would look like?

 

Naomi:

When I was younger, in my twenties, I imagined it would be fun and exciting and challenging and I prayed that they [children] would have more grace as teenagers than I did




.  I remember it was probably six months before I got pregnant. I was talking to a friend, and I stated I had three fears, and one of them was having a child with a disability. I might cry, Angel.

 

Angel:

It’s okay. You know we cry here. 


Naomi:

And it wasn't, and I openly share this, it wasn't about the child with a disability. It was because of how society treats people with disabilities.

 

Angel:

I understand. So, since you've gone there, I know your story, for the most part. I asked those questions earlier because I wanted to know what your thought process was beforehand, and to let our readers know that sometimes it doesn't happen the way you think it's going to happen.

 

Naomi:

Yeah. I hear other people say it doesn't matter if we have a boy or a girl; I just want a healthy baby. Ten fingers, ten toes. Part of my journey after having Noah is talking to people about what happens if they child doesn’t have ten fingers or ten toes? They might have more; they might have less; they might not be healthy. So, then what?

 

The beginning of my pregnancy could be considered a typical pregnancy although my son's biological father was not happy that we were pregnant, and he opted to not be involved; he was minimally involved. We didn't live in the same state, so that made it easy for him to disengage. I did everything I was supposed to do. Because of my background as a public health educator, I worked with women who were high risk, so I knew all the things to do. I had to make the decision of whether I was going to keep Noah or not. When I found out I was pregnant, I was older. I was unmarried. And so, you know, you have the church. <We both laugh> The church stuff. You know.

 

Angel:

Were you part of traditional church culture at that time?

 

Naomi:

Yes. You know it’s like you’ve done the cardinal sin, so I was working through all of that.  I found out I was pregnant during a time I had been laid off from my job. I was unable to find anything and going into the military was my last resort. It was kind of funny to me because the recruiter told me I didn't meet weight, and I didn't meet the tape. So, he says I’ve got to lose some weight. I said, no problem. I’ll work on that. I was preparing to go out of town, and he is like, you know, you can't get any tattoos; you can't get any piercings. You have to lose weight. Don't gain weight. I went out of town, went to see family for a few months, and was looking for a job. While I was gone, I find out that I am pregnant. I go back and talk to the recruiter and was like, “Hey, things went well. Didn't get a tattoo, didn't get any piercings, but I gained a person.

 

So, my journey began with trying to figure this out. Here I am. I became a statistic, something that I absolutely did not want to do, especially older in life. You know, this doesn't happen to older, educated, black women, but it does. Anyway. So, probably around the second trimester, I wasn't feeling well. I was telling my doctor something just isn't right. My blood pressure was kind of going up. But it was never going up when I was at the doctor's office. They just chalked it up and told me I was a paranoid. They called me a hypochondriac.

 

Angel:

Really?

 

Naomi:

Mm-hmm. I showed up at the ER, and my blood pressure is almost 200 over a 100. They tell me it’s in the normal range, but it wasn't normal for me. They're like, well, we never have women who check their blood pressure. Why are you doing this? Oh, you’re a hypochondriac, so on and so forth. They were just very dismissive. Because I didn't have all the classic signs of preeclampsia and hellp syndrome, I was dismissed. I had some of them, but not all of them. The day Noah was born I hadn't felt him move for 24 hours which is what prompted me to go to the doctor. He hasn't moved. I'm in my third trimester and something is wrong.

 

They hook me up and are like, no, nothing's wrong. We go through this whole ordeal. I ended up being diagnosed extremely late with pre-eclampsia. The day he was born, he was born dead, and I almost lost my life. Noah was born via cesarean. I had to be transferred to another hospital. They rushed me to the operating room, and the last thing I heard before being put under was the OB who I had never met before, and the anesthesiologist arguing and saying we need to put her to sleep so we can save the baby. And the anesthesiologist says, well, I don't know…her blood pressure…she might die.

 

It was probably 24 hours before I saw Noah. Actually, I was given a picture, so I was told he was born dead and had to be revived. He had a lack of oxygen for a long time and the cord was wrapped around his neck. There were so many things. What I learned later is that I ended up with what they call Hellp Syndrome. My body was shutting down. Yeah. So that's my wonderful, exciting, dramatic birth story.

 

Angel:

It's a whole story, so much so you wrote a whole book about it.

 

Naomi:

Wrote a whole book about it.  <We both laugh> Yeah, so, our story is intertwined and interlaced with love and joy and pain and hurt and trauma and faith. The unknown. After he was born, I didn't know if he was going to live, and I continued to be stereotyped. One of the neonatologists who delivered him was like, you know, I'm tired of delivering these crack babies.

 

Angel:

Wait. What?

 

Naomi:

I didn't hear this. My mom did and not on purpose. It was just something that was said in the hall. So that tells you how sick Noah was. How sick I was, and I've never used drugs. We were both fighting for our lives even after he was out of the womb. I almost died before childbirth, during childbirth, and then again after. They did not do all they needed to do to find out what was wrong. So, there you go.

 

Angel:

Now, that's a story. When we hear stories like yours, I believe people think it is an exception to the rule, but I'm beginning to think that there are more stories like yours than people know or even will admit. Have you found this to be true?

 

Naomi:

Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, we're starting to hear it more now. If you think of Serena Williams. She has been open about her story. I didn't realize Beyonce, when she had her twins, had challenges too. She was not as open with her story, but I get it. It is a lot to process and a lot of trauma. At the same time, we must be a voice because so often, and I don't want to sideline our conversation, but when you talk about maternal mortality, oh my gosh. This takes me all the way back to when I was in college and learning about social stratification. I couldn't understand why as a college educated woman, am I more likely to lose my child or my life than a white woman who has just graduated high school? The more education I have seems to put me at greater risk for losing my life. There are so many of black women who are just not listened to.

 

Something else to consider is childbirth education classes. If you go through the childbirth education classes, they do this very small piece about when you get ready to deliver. They take you to the labor and delivery unit; Then, they'll breeze you by the NICU. They’re like, well, sometimes your baby might get in trouble, and if so, this is where they come. Next, on to the next stop.

 

Angel:

Right. I don't even remember any of that. I've had three births, four children, and I don't remember any classes. But, that’s probably because I didn't go to any classes. I was younger than you when I had my children. Like you said, when you're educated, you tend to make different types of decisions. I didn't think to take a class or anything like that, and nobody ever really talked to me about what happens if things don't go as planned, not even the doctor.

 

Naomi:

Yeah. The likelihood of something going wrong is slim, yet things do go wrong. The NICU is a whole other world that I've had the privilege of learning. I knew about it before I had Noah. I had worked in it before he was born, so I went in with eyes wide open, which was good and not good. That takes us back to the thought of I just want a healthy baby. I envisioned having a natural birth. I didn't want an epidural. I wanted to go through it all. I had a birth plan and was going to work with a doula, all of that, and all of that went out the window.

 

Angel:

Right, right, right. So, now, you have the baby. You go through what you go through. You and Noah are living. I want to go back to what you said you expected motherhood would be like, and this is what I want everyone to understand about you and Noah’s story. Even when it doesn't happen the way that you think is going to happen or expect it to happen, you still get goodness and beauty in motherhood.

 

Naomi:

Yeah. You truly do. I don't remember all the words or adjectives that I used, but I wanted excitement, joy, and love, fun and challenging. I have gotten all those things. They don't look, in my mind, what I thought would bring all that. I have learned to really lean into creating the best life for us; that's what it's all about. As a parent, typically, you want your child to have the best life they can, so they can grow up to be the best person they can be. Well, my goal was, and still is, to raise a productive member of society. That hasn't changed because of his abilities or disabilities.

 

I think I was prompted to dig a bit deeper because Noah was sent home five months later, and it was, you know, make him comfortable because he is not going to be or do anything. He won't be here long, and if he is, he'll be vegetative. So, keeping with what I initially said I wanted or envisioned being my role in motherhood and being entrusted to raise a person who would be a productive member of society, teaching Noah that his life has value, and teaching others that his life has value. I can say I would not have the life I have if I didn't have him. I would not have been exposed to so many different things; you and I probably would've never met. There are people in my life I wouldn't have met if he wasn't who he is. God has truly taught, and continues to teach, me through Noah how to celebrate the simple things. How intricate, how fearfully, and how wonderfully made we are. I mean, what it takes to breathe, what it takes to eat. I mean all the steps that must happen for you to eat and not die. People take that for granted. I get the privilege to know it, and that's double-sided because It's hard, but I get the privilege to see just how much God cares for us, how much time he put into making us, and how one small thing can make the difference in someone's life and the quality of it.

 

Noah has a quality of life. He has a good quality of life. People look at him like he doesn't have a quality of life. They even look at me and say, oh my God, she doesn't have a good quality of life, but we do. We do. Disability is not the end of the world. We all have some sort of differences. At some point, we will all most likely have some sort of disability. We just have ours upfront and for the world to see.

 

Angel:

You taught me this. I say it all the time now, and every time I say it, I reference you. I think it's fitting for me to say it here. You taught me differently-abled. Noah is able to do things; he just does them differently than other people. We all, at some level, live differently, experience differently. It’s important for us to remember that.

 

For the woman who's reading this who may be expecting or maybe she's just had a baby and she's sitting with this type of situation. I've got to ask, if you had it all to do over again, would you make the same decision knowing how different life would be?

 

Naomi:

I would. I would. The only part I say I would change is the person I had him with.  


Angel:

I already knew you were going to say that. Get somebody who’s going to help me.

 

Naomi:

I say he doesn’t have to be here for me. I need him to be present in Noah’s life. Then, the Holy Spirit will hit me and be like, but if that was the case, then your story would not be your story, so I wrestle with God on that. He’s still working with me. I have said this since Noah was a baby. He doesn't need to be fixed. It’s us who needs fixing. There's nothing wrong with Noah. Quote. End quote. He is who he is and how he is to be. It's for us to learn how to move in the world with each other.

 

Angel:

Learn to embrace each other’s differences, whatever that difference is.

 

Naomi:

Whatever it looks like, however it looks. We will all need help at some point in time. Some more than others. Some different from others, but it's about being a part of humanity. For those who are truly in the word learning to be Christlike, well, that's a whole “nother’ story.

 

Angel:

That’s a whole other 30 minutes to an hour to five days.

 

Naomi:

So, let me answer the question. To the woman that might be reading this, that is in a situation very similar to mine, I would say people make mistakes. God doesn't. Babies are not mistakes. Love your baby for as long or as little that they're here. Whether it's minutes or it's years. Love them the same way that you were expecting them to come into this world. Your love for them and how you treat them should not change because they didn't meet your expectations.

 

Angel:

That's good, and that’s a great place right there to put a pin in it because that is a lesson that transcends motherhood - love people. Period

 

Naomi:

Period

 

Angel:

I know you thought you were going to just submit a cute, little, fun article, which is in this edition as well. So, if you're reading this interview, make sure you continue reading because you are also going to get a chance to read a piece of writing she pinned in this edition. Naomi, thank you for your time, for your story, for your obedience and for your willingness to share your story, to inspire the stories of others.

 

Naomi:

Thank you. Thank you, thank you. Let me just say, I am loving watching your journey. Seeing where you've been, and I shouldn't say in awe, but in awe of being able to watch it. Watch you.

 

Angel:

I appreciate you, Sis.

 

This has been another thought-provoking yet inspirational story of triumph in the face of unexpected and difficult circumstances. I bless God for allowing me the privilege of sharing the stories of extraordinary everyday women to inspire your story. I pray you have enjoyed getting to know Ms. Naomi Williams.

 

Naomi D. Williams Contact Details:

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