Embracing the Ups and Downs of Motherhood

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In The News

Surrounded by her husband and her three children, Joni Vanderwoude celebrates the joys of motherhood. Joni broke her neck in a car accident when she was 20 years old, and became a quadriplegic. Through rehabilitation and accessible technology, Joni has gained independence in daily actions such as feeding herself and folding the laundry. Although she strives to be able to do things herself, she also understands that she is physically limited in certain aspects. Yet, her patience and determination have pushed and encouraged her  and her family, even through trying times.

“She has been, by far, the strongest person through this all. Don’t get me wrong, there’s days it just plain stinks, where it’s hard not to go, ‘Why did this happen?’ … But she takes it with a grain of salt. It’s life – and here we are."

In 2006, Joni and Jason consulted doctors who assured them that it was possible for Joni to conceive and have children. Quadriplegic and paraplegic women are able to get pregnant, as it is “a process that has no connection to a woman’s muscle ability or lack thereof,” explains Dr. LaTasha Nelson from Prentice Women’s Hospital, who also delivered two of Joni’s children. While pregnant women with paralysis require closer monitoring by fetal medicine specialists as their nervous systems are unable to regulate as they should, Dr. Nelson comments that “It’s amazing that things go right so often. It’s not a miracle. Not at all.”

Facing ups and downs together


quadriplegic mom holding her baby next to her husband and two daughters

Hence, with the support from her family and assistance from the community and aides funded by Medicaid, Joni and her husband are now proud parents of three children – Jacqueline, Ryleigh, and Zachary. But this is not without its own challenges, as Joni and Jason lost their second child, Nolan, when he was 9 weeks old. And their eldest daughter, 6-year-old Jacqueline, was recently diagnosed with Type I Diabetes. As Joni is unable to administer insulin for Jacqueline herself, Jason has to come home during his lunch break to do it.

Yet, the couple makes it work, directing their attention to the things they can do for their children. Joni and Jason have a shared effort in taking care of their children. For instance, Joni is able to feed her children by nursing or with a bottle herself. She recognizes that motherhood is a continuous growing and learning process. Just as her children grow up, so, too, does she grow as a mother.

“The important thing for me is to keep growing with them."

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