By Guest Blogger Erin Gildner
A Baby Story (part 1)
I wish I could tell you that giving birth after spinal cord injury is no different than giving birth as an able-bodied woman, but that’s just not the case. I of course never had a child before my injury, so I can’t honestly say that from experience, but I know in my heart that it’s just different. Don’t get me wrong, becoming a mom that uses a wheelchair is rewarding. It’s amazing. It’s all of the things that are awesome. But it’s definitely different.
I remember when I finally came to the realization that I was most likely going to be a wheelchair user for a long time, if not permanently, and probably would never walk again. I had so many questions. What would dating be like? Would I be likable and find anyone who could see past the chair? Would rolling down the aisle be the same as walking? Would sex be the same? Could I get pregnant? What would pregnancy be like? Would I be able to be an effective and actively engaged parent? And I’m sure there were more because I’m a thinker.
All those questions were answered pretty quickly, and I’ve been quite satisfied with how things turned out. I can happily say that dating was fine; I didn’t date long before I met Mr. bad-boy-gone-good and fell in love. We’ve now been together for over 11 years, married for 10 of those. The chair was never an issue to my now-husband, so he was definitely able to see past it. Rolling down the aisle was just that, and I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. Sex was and still is great, maybe not as acrobatic as before, but I’m a satisfied woman in that department. I was able to get pregnant, just the same as anyone else, and I quickly found out what pregnancy was like, twice. As far as being an effective and actively engaged parent, I’m engaged actively, but sometimes I doubt my effectiveness; but I dare you to find a parent who is 100% confident in their effectiveness all the time. I certainly don’t feel like the chair has anything to do with or interferes with my ability to parent.
When I found out I was pregnant I was surprised and scared; not surprised because I didn’t know how I got pregnant (knocked up would be the term crude people might use), because we all probably know how that works (at least I hope we do), but surprised because I didn’t know what to expect as a wheelchair user. Scared is probably an understatement, but I tried to keep calm and carry on; I also kept calm and ate a lot of chocolate and cupcakes too, as some of those spoof posters say. I was scared for all of the reasons any able-bodied mother would be scared, but I was also scared of the unknowns related to SCI.
What would the contractions be like? Would I be able to feel them? I even thought of ridiculous unknowns just to make me worried for the sake of being worried. Would I have my baby in the toilet because I didn’t know I was in labor (found out later that it probably could have happened, but I’ve also heard of able-bodied women who did that too-at least I was aware I was pregnant ;-)) How would I hold the baby and roll at the same time? How would I be able to put the baby in the crib and get the baby out? All types of thoughts ran through my head, because like I said before, I’m definitely a thinker. But l carried on and made my appointments as soon as I found out and did all the things that any first time expectant mother does. I read the books, I scoured the internet for information and names (yes, I’m one of those dorky people who found her children’s names online-don’t judge). I also did some things that able-bodied expectant mothers don’t do. I sought out other women with SCI who had children, I asked therapists and doctors if they had any information I could devour about pregnancy and SCI (they didn’t), and I spent a lot of time on CareCure talking to mothers who had babies after their injury. I found information from Through the Looking Glass, but there wasn’t a lot that pertained to pregnancy and spinal cord injury. I had to prepare myself as best I could for what was to come…
To be continued…