Lisa is a mom and a paraplegic in the US. You may have seen her top tips for a mom on wheels, and she took a moment to reflect on her first Mother's Day with her beautiful baby boy.
Some thoughts on my first Mother's Day:
I am about to get sappy folks, so strap in. My husband and I tried for years to get pregnant. Those close enough to me knew this, the rest received my “happy” face I donned to get through another failed IVF cycle or in too many cases, another miscarriage. That face even had to make an appearance at my 40th birthday party. Right before we were to cut the cake, we got the phone call I was dreading, my little blastocyst, that had made it all the way to heartbeat this time, would not survive. I hid away for a few minutes with my husband in the basement family room of my parents house. We held onto each other and looked into each other’s eyes gathering our strength. Then, like any “good” Irish-American, I sucked it up, put on my happy face and blew out my candles.
Even so, it was a great birthday to celebrate. I had made it to 40 years old. Though in IVF terms this threw me into a category of “advanced maternal age”, not long ago there was a question of whether I would make it to 40. I suffered a mid-back spinal cord injury (SCI) resulting in partial paralysis when I was 28 years old, making my future murky at best. The chances of not just surviving, but thriving could be bleak. Plus I was suddenly in a subset of a subset of people - those who’d suffered a SCI and a woman who’d survived a SCI. A minority of 1%.
Miraculously, I found a great guy to love me. Not that I’m not loveable, but remember the subset of subset? Well there’s only a subset of men confident enough in themselves and willing to look past the wheelchair to see the person who was sitting in it. To top it off, I’m an aggressive A-type. Though this trait helped me climb back from the despair of my initial injury, allowed me to power through the worst of rehabilitation, and allowed me to move on with my life, not all men are as modern nor appreciate that personality trait.
So as an A-type, my desire to have a baby would not be put off by age or disability. After finishing rehabilitation, founding a nonprofit, going to graduate school, starting a new job and finally getting married in 2009, we decided to try. And try we did, for four years.. Four years of painful treatments, doctors visits too numerous to count, and too many of those dreaded phone calls. But in November 2013, a miracle. We were giving it “one last try” because I just could not face another round of drugs, hospital visits, and ultimately agonizing disappointment. Nor could I put my dear husband through this again, for whom the losses were equally as painful.
The first month of waiting was agonizing, but we received good phone calls, not the dreaded. I didn’t sleep at all, clutching to my last bit of hope, but dare I? We’d had to push past Christmas without telling anyone our news, but as we proceeded into the second and third month, I did dare to hope. When those first little kicks became apparent at the 5 month mark, the love I felt bloomed in a way I could not have predicted. I imagine I was the most annoying pregnant woman, since my hand never left my belly except to push my wheelchair. I felt protective of this little peanut growing inside.
The ultrasound when we finally got to see his face pass by on the screen, a choked sob escaped my mouth from deep within me. Again, like a good Irish lady, I apologized to the technician who simply chuckled, having likely heard that sob regularly.
Over the following months, I talked to my belly-son, made future plans with him, and sang songs I made up for us. Always underlying was the ever present fear, so I also begged him to be ok and be born so I could meet him, hold him, hug him, and kiss him.
At 38 weeks I developed pre-eclampsia and my regular doctor visit suddenly became my delivery visit. I was assured the baby was fine and ready to be born as we waited for the doctor and delivery room to be available. During the wait, I rubbed my belly continually, knowing this would be the last time I would ever have this beautiful sensation and that we would ever be this close. I would miss never not being alone.
Since I had a cesarean, I couldn’t see my son being born, but I heard him, that sweet little voice cry out at the suddenness of the world. My husband, bless his heart, recorded the sound for us. In the background, you can hear me through tears of joy “that is the best sound I ever heard”. How true that was.
I’m discovering the ever changing and evolving nature of motherhood. Now at 10 months old, the best sound is his little baby babbles as he strings together the da-da, ma-ma, ah-bas. It’s also the anticipation that ma-ma will soon become Mama. It is the wondrous journey of ever changing “best” things. Seeing the light in their eyes for everything from being presented with a new toy to the sheer joy when you bust out the Cheerios box. It is having him sleep on my shoulder, coo when he breastfeeds, seeing the first smile, and making him laugh. It is missing him as soon as I put him down to sleep for the night. It is the freedom to release the trivial for what matters to me the most.
I’ve never been so tired, I’ve never cried so much, I’ve never felt fear this way, I’ve never felt so needed and wanted, I’ve never felt such unconditional love, I never understood what being a mother is until I became one and for that I’ve never felt so lucky.
Happy Mother’s Day