Mothering On, a story about Christa Couture
From Al's latest book The Power of Disability, 10 Lessons for Surviving, Thriving, and Changing the World
“At this point, the experience of losing my leg and having a disability feels like I’ve been to a country most people haven’t been to, and I have this perspective which is so rare and feels precious. – Christa Couture
Resilience is born from suffering and reflected in celebration.
Singer, songwriter, storyteller, and self-described cyborg Christa Couture is no stranger to grief and loss. Her left leg was amputated when she was thirteen as a cure for bone cancer. Then her two baby boys, Emmett and Ford, died for different reasons, one at a day old, the other at fourteen months. In between, her father died. Later there was a divorce.
Recently she had two surgeries on her neck—the first to remove a thyroid cancer, the second to address an arterial bleed that erupted shortly after and which threatened her singing voice and her destiny, a destiny that was foretold by the indigenous elder who, in honor of her mixed Cree heritage, gave her the traditional name of Sanibe, which means “singing woman.” “Grief is a very lonely feeling, and so getting to make songs about it and share those songs was a way that I could be less alone,” she told a radio interviewer. “It’s how I have survived the hardest parts of my life.”
Despite her candor, Couture is careful about what she shares publicly. She simply knows there are parts of grief that naturally reveal themselves to others. So she makes those parts beautiful through her songs and blog posts. The rest remains private. Her philosophy might be summed up by the advice that a drag queen once gave her: “If you can’t hide it, decorate it.” A good example was her decision to post pictures of her recent pregnancy. Not seeing any pictures of pregnant women with disabilities online, she made her own. It was the first time she had taken off her state-of-the-art prosthesis for a photo. The leg, decorated in a floral fabric, leans against the wall as she sits cross-legged, looking directly at the camera. The pictures went viral. “I knew people might do a double take, because they’ve only been fed images of certain bodies,” she said. “But we need to normalize these differences.”3 She hopes that other disabled women will come across her images and feel that their difference is powerful. “Go get all glowy with your pregnant self,” she wrote. “Whatever body you’re in.”
Although the surgeries changed her voice, Couture is still singing. And she is learning to celebrate. “I don’t just accept my disability—I can celebrate it.” She says she had become so focused on not letting her pain be swept under the rug in our get-over-it culture that she forgot to shine a light on her joys and many accomplishments—which include becoming the mother of a baby girl, hosting a radio show, and writing her new book, How to Lose Everything. It is scheduled to be published in late 2020. “It’s not that it gets easier, but it does change,” she says.
This is an excerpt from Al’s new book, The Power of Disability – 10 Lessons for Surviving, Thriving, and Changing the World.
Learn more about Christa…