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A Review Of We Won’t Drop The Baby

March 26, 2012

This is a guest post by Andrew Bradford. It was originally posted here earlier today. Thanks to Andrew. It is also part of theDisAbility And Parenting debate.

Last night BBC1 broadcast the story of Laurence and Adele Clark as their second son Jamie was born. Both Laurence and Adele have Cerebral Palsy. One of the early scenes shows them taking their older son Tom, aged six to the swing park.

Being taken to the swing park as a six year old by two parents in wheelchairs is one of my earliest memories too. But that was 58 years ago, so I wanted to see what’s changed in just over half a century. The wheelchairs are far more high-tech and the playground equipment is much more brightly coloured, but it’s still newsworthy when two people with disabilities decide to have kids. There was no TV to speak of in 1948 so my birth was only reported in “The People” and the “Sunday Express”.

Laurence was in the operating theatre when Adele gave birth to Jamie, but the presence of any dad – let alone a dad in a wheelchair – in that room was unthinkable then. But just as Laurence was about to go in, a very embarrassed (male) midwife asked him if he would mind transferring from his power wheelchair into a hospital wheelchair – “it would be better for us”. I can’t imagine the reasoning behind this; Laurence very politely and firmly declined this request and the midwife’s body language showed that he was only going through the motions at somebody else’s bidding. He was clearly relieved when Laurence stood his ground.

One scene showed Adele talking to Tom about the imminent arrival of his new brother, and it was very interesting to see how he understood and accepted his parents’disabilities in such a matter of fact manner. I can’t remember having these discussions with Kathy and Charlie at six, but I do remember that as a nine year old I accepted my parents’ disabilities in just the same way. It would be very interesting to see a follow up program in a few years time and talk to Tom again.

I felt for the two grandmothers who featured prominently in the programme. Their childrens’ CP was of course the result of difficult births, so it must have been very stressful for them to wait for Jamie’s arrival, and the relief they must have felt when a healthy baby arrived was obvious.

I couldn’t help contrasting Laurence’s and Charlie’s working lives. They couldn’t be more different as Laurence is a stand-up (or should it be sit-down?) comedian, whereas Charlie worked on an assembly line. Charlie’s work was hard physical labour, but his hours of work and his level of income were far more predictable than Laurence’s. One of the most moving parts of the programme was when Laurence had to leave his young family to spend a month at the Edinburgh fringe. I was about to write that there were no opportunities for people with disabilities in the performing arts in the 1950s but then I remembered that one of the most popular entertainers of the time was Michael Flanders, a polio survivor like my mum and dad who performed in his wheelchair.

Towards the end of the programme Laurence and Adele mention that there are still peoplearound who don’t think that parents with their degrees of disability should have children. Nothing new there then. Adele pointed out that her children will always get the love and attention they deserve. She didn’t think that her life should be viewed as “triumph over adversity”; all she was doing was leading a normal life. These are sentiments that my mum and dad would have agreed with completely.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Rachel permalink
    March 30, 2012 1:42 pm

    When I saw the trailers for this program I did think that maybe Laurance had to much of a dissibility to be a father and would need alot of help after watching the program im gladly proved wrong Laurance and Adele are great parents there son Tom is a happy boy who isnt being treat any different to any other boy and Jamie is adorable.
    I was very moved for Adele and sympothised for her during the struggles of the birth, I dont have children but can imagin any woman after having a C-section finds it hard but she just got on with it,
    I am ashamed of myself to think that people with disabilities couldnt make great parents, im glad that the bbc have broadcast such a program to show how wrong I was, those boys wont ever go with out they have two amazing parents who love them and will give them all the attention they need and deserve, that is all that matters. Im glad that Adele has fulfilled her dream of becoming a mother and I hope that Laurances camedy carrys on paying the bills from the few short clips in the programe I would deffinately go and see him if he was ever down my way as I thought he was hilarious,
    I’m really hoping that the BBC revisit the family in the future to show the boys all grown up!
    Thank you Laurance & Adele with the BBCs help in opening my eyes to how small minded iv been and congratulations on the Birth of your lovely son Jamie.

  2. Catherine permalink
    April 2, 2012 7:29 am

    When training as a midwife we had a truly inspirational lady come and speak to us who was paralysed from the neck down, who even though she was divorced had kept custardy of her daughter. She was wonderful and a really vocal campainer for the rights of disabled parents. My eyes were really opened to the fact that disabled parents should be able to have children and should not be singled out in ways that are insesitive and unhelpful. I am glad that this show gives the wider public – through Laurence, Adel, Tom and Jamie.

  3. Catherine permalink
    April 2, 2012 7:30 am

    (continued) – the oppertunity to see and learn this too.

  4. Lucy permalink
    April 2, 2012 7:44 pm

    I missed it! Will there be a repeat?

  5. samedifference1 permalink*
    April 2, 2012 7:52 pm

    Hi Lucy,

    You are in luck (if you have recording facilities) it will be repeated at 2.25am on Wednesday, 4th April on BBC1.

    Best

    Samedifference1

  6. Brendan permalink
    August 29, 2012 1:54 pm

    The documentary has just been shown on TV in Australia tonight. They are an inspirational couple and clearly wonderful, caring, committed parents. There should be more of them

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