Pregnant and Paralyzed: Making Adjustments

I’ve been paralyzed for 17 years, and I feel like I have my disability under control; there’s not much that I haven’t seen or that I can’t overcome. adaptive cribThat’s not saying that a wrench isn’t thrown in every once in a while, but nearly two decades in a chair lends itself to me problem-solving my way out of more obstacles than I can count. And that just comes with the territory of disability.

The latest and arguably most consequential applications of my problem-solving are my pregnancy, having a newborn baby, and mothering from a wheelchair. In watching able-bodied mothers interact with their children, I’ve taken note of the limitations in front of me:

I’m not confident enough in my core to carry the baby across surfaces (bed to lap, lap to car seat, into highchair, etc.).

My back muscles won’t support lifting my baby off the ground.

              I can’t reach over the side of a crib to lift the baby out or put it back in.

              Baby can sit in my lap, but what if he/she falls off?

              I can’t push a stroller while rolling my wheelchair, so how will we go on walks or in public?

Those questions hit me like a wrecking ball. That is, all at once and hard enough to knock me down. I haven’t dealt with insecurities around my disability for years and I thought I was past that stage in my recovery, but good grief. Pregnancy and motherhood brought it all back.

It took me a while to realize I’m not the first to do this; there are thousands of moms with disabilities who have already found the workarounds. My insecurities were all just problems to be solved, and most of them already had been.

My inability to move a baby across surfaces was at the top of my list. This is a big one because it means I couldn’t do much outside of wagging my fingers in his face while I waited for someone to help. For the solution, I discovered baby wrap blankets - specifically ones with handles. Wrap blankets allow me to snug baby in a blanket and move him wherever suits. I’ve already tried it on my dog, and she hates it, but we’re hoping for a more tolerant baby.

   Join Our Movement

What started as an idea has become a national movement. With your support, we can influence policy and inspire lasting change.

Become an Advocate

Next is the impossibility of a crib: the side is too tall for me to reach over and access the baby. Somehow our market hasn’t caught onto this need, so the crib needed a DIY solution: my father-in-law split the crib’s long side in two, put it both ends on sliders, and lifted it off the ground so I can roll right to it. It’s perfect. There are a few variations of this solution on the internet, but all, unfortunately, must be custom-built.

The next two hurdles have similar solutions, depending on the situation. The possibilities of the baby falling off my lap, getting injured, and/or being excluded from things due to my inabilities were both bummers. I “solved” both with a baby front carrier and an infant seating aid that attaches around my waist. I plan on using them wholly: to take walks in our neighborhood, move him around the house, sit at my desk with me, and take him to his father whenever he has a stinky diaper.

I’m kidding about that last part, but only kinda.

There are things I’ve had to step down from, too, things I’ll just have to accept help on: putting baby into a car seat, into a highchair at mealtime, and general movement once he’s too big for the wrap. I’ve had to accept that I’ll need help with some things, and that accepting help is okay. But please believe the first thing I’ll teach him is how to crawl himself onto mama’s lap.

This isn’t a complete list and it varies depending on your abilities, but just know that you aren’t alone and aren’t the first to bear a child with a disability. The answers and the support are both out there.

About the Author - Kristin Beale

Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of three books, Greater Things and A Million Suns, Wide Awake, and a comic book, Date Me. Instagram: @kristin.gupta

Kristin Beale

The opinions expressed in these blogs are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.