Ona Gritz has had cerebral palsy all her life, but until she gave birth to her son she didn't really understand what it meant to be disabled. Her cerebral palsy affects her coordination and balance but not enough to have ever truly hindered her. "For the most part, I considered my disability a cosmetic issue", she tells us in On the Whole. "Just how obvious is it? Do people see me as pretty despite the limp?" But now she's got a new baby to care for, and no one has warned her what a physical job she has taken on. She can't bathe her son by herself or carry him up or down a flight of stairs. Nor can she feed herself or even open a refrigerator with a baby in her arms. And her baby will settle for nothing less than being in her arms. With lyricism and candor, poet Ona Gritz shares her son's first years with us, a time when she wanted nothing more than what all of us want - to be the perfect mother, only her imperfections kept getting in the way.
Ona Gritz is a columnist for the online journal Literary Mama. Her essays have appeared in More, the Utne Reader, New York Family Magazine, Brain Child, the Bellingham Review, and elsewhere. She is the author of two children's books, Starfish Summer (Harper Collins, 1998) and Tangerines & Tea, My Grandparents & Me (Harry N. Abrams, 2005) and a full-length collection of poems, Geode, which was a finalist for the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. Ona is currently at work on a memoir.
I've never read a story that takes such an intimidate, honest look at disability and motherhood. As a woman with a physical disability who wonders a lot about how I might mother, I'm so glad this book exists. I'll know I'll be reading it again.