When TaLisha Grzyb met her tutor in college, she had no idea that she was meeting her future husband.
“I was always very much focused on education, and even when he asked me out, I sort of told him no. It's like the running joke in our relationship. I told him no two times, and then it’s third time's the charm," TaLisha tells Yahoo Life.
TaLisha, a disability advocate, and her husband Quentin were married in 2016. Shortly after their honeymoon, TaLisha discovered that she was pregnant with twins. From the beginning, she knew that her pregnancy would be unique because TaLisha lives with muscular dystrophy, a disease that causes muscle weakness and muscle loss. For some it can impact mobility and motor functions. For TaLisha, congenital dystrophy means that she has never been able to walk due to low muscle tone, and she uses a wheelchair full-time.
TaLisha and Quentin welcomed healthy twins boys, Micah and Mason, in 2017, and went on to have two more children. Today the proud mother of four shares her experiences on a Youtube channel called, Rolling Through Life with Talisha. She knows there are a lot of misconceptions about mothers with disabilities, and she's on a mission to normalize her family's experiences.
According to the National Council on Disability, there are 4.1 million parents with disabilities in the U.S., and many face legal and social challenges as they raise their families. The organization Partnerships for Action, Voices for Empowerment (PAVE) reports that parents with disabilities are referred to child welfare services and permanently separated from their children at disproportionately high rates. In fact, 35 states include disability as grounds for termination of parental rights.
Growing up, TaLisha had frequent doctors visits and hospitalizations, but says that she was raised by parents who encouraged her to achieve and push through obstacles. “I was not allowed to say I can't do something and they raised me just as they would any other child,” says TaLisha. “I've always wanted to be a mom because I just fell in love with the way that I was raised.”
When she met Quentin, they agreed that children would be a part of their future, and TaLisha says she never questioned her ability to carry a baby or be a mother. “I never focused on what I can't do. Like in my head, the only thing I can't do is walk,” she tells Yahoo Life.
The doctors, however, saw things differently, and TaLisha says that her pregnancy with the twins wasn't met with positivity. TaLisha recalls that doctors mentioned terminating her pregnancy and asked her several times if she wanted to keep the babies. “I know moms without a disability are not treated in that manner. So I kind of built a distrust for the medical community because of that reason,” says TaLisha. “When you're a new mom, you're very vulnerable. You're very hormonal. And I feel like in my head, all I should have been hearing is, 'Congratulations, how can we help you?'”
After the twins, the couple welcomed their third son, Tyson, in 2018 by cesarean section. In 2021, TaLisha became pregnant with their fourth child and decided to take back some of the control she felt was missing from her previous deliveries by having an at-home vaginal birth.
“I didn't agree when they wanted to do the C-section because they wanted to do it at 38 weeks and I wanted to be full-term,” TaLisha shares. “I’m not able to be given an epidural since I have a rod in my back. I have to be put fully asleep, so I'm given general anesthesia for my C-section, and I'm not awake for the birth. I don't hear the first cry or anything like that, and I sort of felt robbed in that aspect with my previous deliveries.”
TaLisha intended to do an at-home birth with a midwife, but because she was considered high risk, she couldn’t find a midwife who would take her on as a client. Instead, she and Quentin studied, prayed, meditated and delivered their fourth son, Titan, together at home, with help from her mother. TaLisha insists that this isn’t the right approach for everyone, but she felt confident that this was the best decision for her family.
“You can't just look at me from a textbook standpoint because I'm not the average person with muscular dystrophy. And so with that, I empower myself because I know my body. I did not attend medical school. No, I do not have a medical degree. No, I do not wear a white coat, but I am the best expert with my own body,” says TaLisha.
She adds: “My husband was there, my mom was there, I was present, and I was awake. I felt everything, so that was very much different!”
With their family complete, TaLisha and Quentin find joy in spending time at home with their sons. Both parents work remotely, and the three older children are in school during the day, so there is the daily juggling act of school work, activities like karate and chasing a toddler around. When the couple needs an extra pair of hands, they're lucky enough to have friends and family nearby to help out.
TaLisha says she hasn’t talked to her boys about why mommy uses a wheelchair, because they haven’t asked. Right now they just see her as their mother, and that’s how she likes it.
“I know that day is coming, so I'm very much prepared, which is part of the reason I created a book series about their life, Rolling Through Life with Mommy, a spinoff of my YouTube channel," she says.
In her books, TaLisha is able to show how a mother in a wheelchair goes on adventures with her children. “I don't ever want them to feel like, because mommy is in a wheelchair, I have to feel sorry for her. So it's a conversation I'm very much anticipating," she says.
Between her children’s books and Youtube channel, TaLisha continues to combat harmful stereotypes by educating viewers about her life. She wants to show that whatever the disability, there is normalcy in it.
“I think the biggest misconception is that we are just out here having kids and expecting other people to raise our kids or do things for us. People feel like maybe we don't deserve to be moms,” says TaLisha. “As long as you're present and you're active and you have great intent and a great heart, anyone deserves to be a parent, let alone a mother.”
TaLisha adds: “I feel like that is a part of my purpose on this earth to kind of empower people and let them know — don't let anything stop you."
Video produced by Jacquie Cosgrove.
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