Willing and Abled-Author (and mother) puts a face on disability issues

Maternity Rolls
Pregnancy, Childbirth and Disability

By Heather Kuttai  

Heather Kuttai chose to launch her book in her hometown of Saskatoon on the 34th anniversary of the car accident that caused her disabling spinal cord injury.

“I celebrate the anniversary of my accident,” says the author of Maternity Rolls: Pregnancy, Childbirth and Disability. “I acknowledge that I lost a lot, but I have a really rich life. I am who I am because of my disability, not in spite of it. My life enabled me to write this story.”

Kuttai’s first book is an autoethnography-an autobiographical narrative in which she explores her life experiences in the context of cultural theories.

“I wanted to put a face on disability issues. It is one thing to care about them and theorize from a distance. I wanted not only to share my story but also to situate it within the larger social context, so it would resonate with people.”

The idea for the book was conceived when Kuttai was pregnant with her second child in 2005. As a graduate student in the College of Kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan, she decided she needed to write about how sport transformed her life and encouraged her to become a mom. It became her thesis and then this book.

Kuttai was a young child in Battleford, Saskatchewan, when the accident happened. At age 16, she took up target shooting, going on to become a three-time Paralympic medallist and experienced coach. “In wheelchair sport, I met many people, travelled, and gained confidence.

She married her high school sweetheart, darrell, and gave birth to the couple’s two children, Patrick and Chelsea.

Kuttai dedicates her book to her children and husband with “143”-the text messaging abbreviation for “I love you” and the number of pages in the book.

“I have had remarkable people in; my life My daughter is my little agent. My son is quite proud. My husband helped me write it. He is in all the pages.”

The book’s serious material was brightened by the injection of music-Kuttai feels that quotes from some of the many songs that inspire her, help to connect her story to the larger social world.

“I hope that anyone who reads my book can see their reflection there. Some parts were very hard to write, especially the private parts with my physical and emotional struggles. But music makes it less sad of a text”

Kuttai hopes that her book will show everyone how they don’t have to be limited in life by the expectations of others. “Our greatest wealth is having choices. Terrible things happen. It’s not about pretending it doesn’t hurt.” she says.

“But we are able to re-script our history and see what can come of it.”

  • Liz Katynski for the Summer 2010 edition of Prairie Books NOW

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