On Monday 20th September 2010 we discovered I was pregnant. We were having a baby! We were so excited we couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces.
“Wow! This is really happening!” I said to Craig as we lay in bed staring at the ceiling that night.
For years I had resigned myself to believing that my body may not be up to conceiving after the cancer treatment I had as well as the fact that I was 35 years of age. Our mindset was if it happens it happens but if it doesn’t we were more than happy with our lives as they were. We didn’t expect things to happen as quickly as they did, as we had only been trying for a few months.
Along with the excitement came the fear of being pregnant. I had no idea how long I could maintain my independence before the weight gain became too restrictive. Prior to falling pregnant we gathered as much information on pregnancy as we could find. Most of the information we found was all general medical info and we wanted more specific information relating to a T10 (complete) level pregnancy.
I was lucky enough to meet two amazing women Maria a paraplegic woman who bought up three children and Richelle a quadriplegic woman who had a 2 year old daughter. They provided us with wonderful practical advice. They were incredibly supportive throughout my pregnancy relieving all my fears. I trusted their knowledge more than doctors as they had been there before. This was invaluable to me.
My general practitioner was very encouraging and supportive of our decision to have a baby; however she wasn’t familiar with having a pregnant paraplegic patient, so she referred us to the local hospital obstetrics team so they could follow my pregnancy.
To my surprise my obstetrician was not at all concerned about treating my pregnancy any differently to his other patients. This did concern me a little as I had specific questions that related to my disability. I was allocated a social worker who suggested we contact the Spinal Rehabilitation Unit which was also located at the hospital. They were able to provide me with information about how the pregnancy was going to affect me physically. The doctors’ main advice was to continue doing all the same daily things as before I was pregnant. This was comforting as I was nervous that sitting in my wheelchair all day would squash the baby.
My pregnancy went pretty smoothly really. I did suffer from morning (all day) sickness for 4 months which I found really tiring. I struggled with the lack of energy and trying to maintain full time work. I decided to start my maternity leave early around 4 months. I’m pleased I did this as it made my pregnancy a little more enjoyable being able to have a nap at home when needed.
I constantly had bladder infections. Early in the pregnancy I was hospitalised for 10days so that I could receive antibiotics via an IV. It was a little weird being admitted into the maternity ward when I didn’t feel sick and barely had a baby bump! The doctors were just being cautious as apparently bladder infections can cause an early labour. I was then put on a “maintenance” antibiotic that I took everyday. This helped me immensely.
Towards the end of my pregnancy I needed to go to the bathroom every 2 hours which became very exhausting. I did struggle emotionally with the incontinence. Transferring became very difficult with the extra weight and with my swollen hands and feet, making it awkward and frustrating as I’m used to being an independent person. I just had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t going to last forever.
My obstetrician was confident we would be able to experience a natural birth. This was very encouraging; however I was quite concerned that I wouldn’t be able to notice if my waters broke due to the incontinence or if I would be able to feel contractions. He assured me that I wouldn’t miss going into labour.
Unfortunately it didn’t all go to plan. I awoke one morning 10 days prior to bubs due date not feeling well. Things seemed a little different to other days so once Craig finished work in the evening we decided to go up to the hospital to have a check up.
On arrival at the hospital my obstetrics team were unavailable and my medical records had been archived. After waiting for 3 hours I was examined by the on call obstetrician. To his surprise I was 6cm dilated. Without having my medical records, the doctors were in a bit of a panic as they were not familiar with of my situation and honestly were a little frightened by my condition.
As I was lying on the bed waiting for the doctors to get their head around my medical history, I could hear the blood curdling screams of a woman in labour in another delivery room. I started to panic and wondered how was I going to get through this labour business?
It came as a great relief when the midwife attached a monitor around my belly to view the contractions. It was confirmed I couldn’t feel any contractions. It was very surreal watching the contractions on the monitor yet not being able to feel anything. It was believed that I was probably in labour all day and with my incontinence I was unsure if my waters broke. So much for and I quote “You wont miss going into labour!”
Because I wasn’t in any pain, Craig and I were completely relaxed just waiting for the little guy to arrive. Unfortunately he was taking his time coming out so the doctors decided I needed a caesarean. It turned out that Jasper had the cord wrapped around his neck so it was a good decision in the end. I needed to have my caesarean under a general anesthetic as I don’t have any spinal cord in the area where they were to insert the epidural. Since Craig wasn’t allowed in the theatre and I was out to it, we both feel like we missed out on the whole birthing experience but we did end up with a healthy baby. Welcome little Jasper!
Craig and I were able to stay in a private room at the hospital for 5 days. This time was so precious in learning how to look after Jasper with midwives available for support if needed. They gave us tips on how to bath, wrap and settle Jasper. He took to breast feeding straight away and was happily asleep if he wasn’t feeding. A very contented baby!
I was excited to be taking Jasper home so we could start our life as a family. However I was very nervous when Craig had to go back to work and I was left to look after Jasper all on my own. He was just so tiny! I was frightened of breaking him.
Our nursery is accessible for me to look after Jasper independently. It simply contains a trestle table from Bunnings & a cot. Sitting on the table is Jaspers bath, change mat and a basket containing nappies and wipes all at the ready. The table is the perfect height allowing me to wheel under it. This makes bathing and changing nappies very easy. This has worked really well for me.
We purchased a bath with a sling so I feel very confident and completely safe when bathing Jasper. This was something that I was most nervous about doing initially. We decided that Craig would bath Jasper mostly. This is their “daddy time” together.
We are trialling the 3 in 1 Power Cot made by Pramar Pty Ltd. The cot is designed to help people with disabilities or someone with an injury to safely tend to baby. Aesthetically the cot looks just like any ordinary cot however it is motorised. A remote control is used to raise the cot to my ideal height so that I can pick Jasper up out of the cot & it can be lowered to ensure he won’t be able to climb out. I also use the area to play as Jasper is at a good height to interact with me. This cot is more convenient for me than the standard cots found in the shops. I became very stressed shopping for cots and not being able to operate them. The Power Cot has allowed me to independently look after Jasper safely.
We also purchased a car seat called Turn-A-Tot. It turns to face out the car door making it easier to access Jasper. I was frightened of hurting him at first when putting him in and out but I realised how resilient he is. It has gotten easier as he has grown older. It seems like he actually helps me out by tensing up and leaning forward when I pick him up.
When out and about I carry Jasper in a standard baby pouch on my lap. He loves it. He even falls asleep in there. I currently find it easy to lift him in and out, however I will need to change tactics as he gets heavier.
It took about a month to feel completely competent in motherhood. I have always been an organised person, so I found things easier to cope with if I had a set routine. I needed to know what the plan of the day was for both of us. Fortunately Jasper loves a routine as much as me.
Jasper wakes at 7am and has his morning breastfeed. He then plays until 9am before he starts getting tired and I put him to bed. He sleeps from 9am to 11am. I feed him again at 11am, he plays until12pm when he now has some solid foods and goes down for another sleep from1pm to 3pm. I feed him again at 3pm, he plays on this floor again until he starts to get tired which is usually between 4.30 or 5pm. He has a nap for up to an hour. I feed him solids at6pm, daddy takes him for a bath and play and then he his last breastfeed at 7pm. He is in bed by7.30pm and we don’t hear from him again until 7am.
I feel a real sense of achievement recognising when he is tired, and putting him to bed with no fuss so he can fall asleep peacefully. Then, seeing his smiling face staring at me from his cot as I open the bedroom door when getting him out of bed is simply a beautiful moment that I treasure each time.
He loves his nursery rhymes. His face lights up every time I sing to him. This has been a great way to interact with him. I also love to read him books. He is more than happy to sit on my lap and listen to a book. Being animated and pointing to each page keeps him interested.
Now that Jasper is getting older and increasingly inquisitive, watching him move around his rug on his tummy reaching for his toys is such a wonderfully proud experience. He will happily play on his rug with his books and toys where other children I know need to be carried about all day long. He is a very calm and relaxed little guy.
Hopefully things won’t change too much as he starts teething and crawling. We are relaxed parents and are able to adapt to whatever changes need to be made. I think being in a wheelchair has been an advantage in adapting to parenthood, as I’m used to adjusting to difficult situations on a daily basis and so having a baby is just the same. Life with a baby isn’t so daunting; you just need to work out a different way to do things.
Life was very satisfying and fulfilling before we had Jasper. But since he has arrived our previous life experiences have been washed into insignificance by the happiness and pure joy when seeing Jaspers beautiful smile every day.
I feel so blessed to have both Craig and Jasper in my life.