Becoming a mom is an exciting as well as scary time in a woman’s life, perhaps even more so for someone with a spinal cord injury. In honor of Mother’s Day, we asked a mom with a spinal cord injury to tell us about her decision and experiences. Here’s what she had to say.
I am a C5/6 complete SCI mother of two grown kids. I was injured at the age of 22. I had never planned on being a mom after my injury. How could I? I needed daily help taking care of myself. Meeting the needs of a child would be impossible. The unexpected pregnancy of our first child brought feelings of the most incredible joy coupled with sheer terror and guilt. Will I be able to take care of this child? Will my disability get in the way of them growing up healthy and happy? As with most people with disabilities facing a challenge, you figure out ways to adjust. Fortunately, my husband always had faith that everything would work out, and it did. After a couple of years, we decided to have another child and life got even busier.
I wanted to be everything to my kids. So having to rely on someone to get a crying baby out of the crib or scoop up toddler if they fell – because I couldn’t – was heartbreaking. When my kids were toddlers, I had any/all items for baby-proofing the house: baby leash, play pen, etc. Trying to catch an escaping toddler or pry dish detergent out of a clenched fist is impossible for me. Safety trumps happiness when push comes to shove. Instead of a changing table, I used a regular table that I could wheel under. If hand function is limited, opt for or modify to Velcro vs. buttons/laces. Websites like facingdisability.com and lookingglass.org were also very helpful.
As my kids got older, my challenges turned to things like not freaking out when they accidentally spilled something that I couldn’t clean up. When I would attend a sporting event, volunteer at school, or have play dates, I often felt pulled out of my comfort zone. I needed to be visible and be completely OK with that, even when my anxiety was off the charts. I never wanted my kids to be embarrassed by me or worry about me. To do that, they needed to feel that I was OK, as did the people around them.
The biggest challenge for me as a mom was keeping my frustrations with my disability from being transferred to my son or daughter. Is my reaction appropriate? Or is it more about my shortcomings related to my disability? I cannot do certain things just like other moms. The more I could accept that and roll with the frustration, the more relaxed and calm my kids were. I wish I could say I was always able to do that.
Through the years, I have been incredibly fortunate to be the recipient of ‘best mom’ cards, thoughtful homemade gifts, hugs, and kisses. My children have grown to be kind, generous, well-adjusted young adults with goals for their future, in spite of all my misgivings in the beginning. I am so proud and love them with all my heart! They have challenged me to be a better person. Mothering has its ups and downs, but it’s filled my life with happiness.