Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Do Your Homework!

I had a conversation with a midwife last week that inspired this post.  I think before I get started that I should throw out a little disclaimer.  I don't care how your baby comes into this world, as long as the baby comes out kicking and screaming their little head off, and as long as mom is safe and happy to be a mom.  Which means I support and encourage you to have a vaginal, un-medicated birth just as much as an induction with an epidural or repeat c-sections as long as its medically indicated and it's the wish of the mother.  No one has the right to make you feel bad or guilty for your decision on how your child came into this world.  And nothing is more important than educating yourself on the various ways possible so you can make the most informed decision possible to have the best birth experience possible.

So back to the midwife and I's conversation.  I thought the intent of the conversation we were to have was about educating herself more about women with disabilities and pregnancy.  Just as every able-bodied woman is different, so, too, is every woman with a disability different and their disabilities make their birth experiences vastly different as well.  At first I was pleased to find out that she had actually had two patients with varying degrees of disability.  Its rare to find practitioners that have actually worked with a woman with a disability through her pregnancy.  I thought she was getting a different perspective on a disability type she hadn't worked with before.  Her first question was about how I had given birth to my first.  I told her that I had had an induction at 39 weeks, and that she had never engaged in my pelvis, went into distress and that had ultimately led to an emergency c-section.  Then she asked if I had my son by c-section as well.  I told her I had, at which point she went into a tirade about the evil medical establishment and how I could have had a VBAC (Vaginal Delivery After C-Section) but doctors were too worried about lining their pocket books instead of doing what was best for me.  I got a little upset at this point, though I tried very hard to be as polite as I could about it.  She didn't know me from Adam and I was a little miffed that she forgot to do a very important thing before she went off on her tangent - she forgot to ask me if my second c-section had been medically warranted and if I had done any of my own research.

Because despite her good but intrusive intentions, I had done my homework.  In fact, I had done a lot of it after my daughter was born and was pregnant with my son.  I'll be honest - I felt a bit cheated of my wanted birth experience after my c-section.  People automatically assumed that I had had my c-section because I was in a wheelchair and not because of an emergency.  I was supposed to prove that despite my disability, I could give birth to children vaginally.  One of the first things I learned when I was pregnant with my daughter was that the uterus is an automatic muscle.  Its gonna do what its gonna do (ie.push out the baby) whether I help it or not.  So even though I don't have a lot of the strength down there that other women do, I should have still been able to push a baby out, thus showing everyone that women with disabilities do have babies the 'normal' way.  It didn't matter that she never came down past a -2 station even after being in active labor for more than 10 hours.  I still felt like a failure.

So with my son, I wanted to ensure as much as possible I would not have another c-section, if I could help it.  That's when I really started to hit the internet as well as having lengthy conversations with Judi Rogers, the pregnancy and childbirth specialist at the Through the Looking Glass organization, a resource for parents with disabilities among other things.  She helped me understand VBAC and encouraged me to pursue this despite my doctor and husband's trepidation.  But I don't just do stuff because it sounds good.  My doctor had warned me that he felt my pelvis was too small.  So I got a second opinion.  I went to another OBGYN to get his opinion.  He, too, said he felt my pelvis too small for a safe vaginal delivery.  The straw that broke my proverbial camel's back was a perinatologist I was already seeing that told me the same thing, but told me why.  During puberty a woman's hips spread.  But with women who were paralyzed and using a wheelchair full-time before puberty find that their hips do not, or at least not as much as if they had been able-bodied.  The truth was my pelvis never shaped themselves to allow a baby to come through - boy-shaped, he called them.  Devastated as I was, it was still good to know the 'why' even if having another c-section was something I did not want to do.

If this midwife had really be interested in my story, she would have found all this out first before assuming that I had just let my doctor lead me about by my nose.  And by the end of the conversation, I knew that all she was interested in doing was preaching to me about the evils of modern medicine.  I knew this because I tried to give her more information about Judi Rogers and Through the Looking Glass, but she really wasn't interested.  You'd think she would be interested, considering Judi has been compiling birth and pregnancy information for women of all types of disabilities for nearly 20 years, and its this midwife's life's work to educate the ignorant about VBAC. This information would be especially useful if she were to work with other women with disabilities in the future.

This conversation reminded me about how so very important it is to be educated, especially about your body.  If I were to be asked any advice about this topic at all, I would say immediately to be your own advocate.  If something doesn't sound right to you, find out why!  Doctors are not evil, nor are every one of them out to line their pocketbooks or schedule procedures to suit their convenience (though they are out there).  A lot of them do not have a lot of experience with disability and pregnancy.  So they may be running under out-dated misconceptions or be ignorant.  There are places to find out more information, and certainly if you find a physician who is willing to either work with you or find out for himself, so much the better.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Calm Before the Storm

As I'm sitting here typing, my house is pretty quiet.  My daughter is in school, and my son is entertaining himself with my husband's iPhone.  With my due date coming up in less than 60 days, I've started to really appreciate these times.  They won't be lasting too much longer.  Its been almost four years since we've had a newborn in the house.  Things have fallen into a crazy, wonderful routine since then and I think before my husband and I decided to get pregnant again, we were taking that for granted.  Now that part of me that really, really enjoys that routine is sort of freaking out.

Logically, part of me understands that this time around with an infant will be far more easy than it was when my son was an infant.  My two oldest are old enough to take orders, comprehend and execute (hopefully) without too much fuss.  But when my son was born, my daughter was only 2 years old.  And while she enjoyed loving on the baby and she'd occasionally get me a diaper, I felt like my time was spent chasing after her as much as it was being responsible for my son's needs.  It was one of the reasons I decided to stop breastfeeding him, though we didn't have many problems with his latching.  When you're sitting on your couch breastfeeding, and your daughter decides to start climbing the kitchen counters like Mount Everest, you can't just stand up with baby still attached and get her down.  You have two choices - you either let her continue climbing and possibly seriously injuring or killing herself while your son peacefully nurses, or you put the baby in his bouncy seat, or on the floor or in his playpen, screaming because he's not done, while you transfer yourself to your chair and make sure your child doesn't harm herself.  The bottle was really the reason my daughter is alive today.  With this current baby in utero, it gives me pause to think about what challenges his coming into the family will pose.

Regardless of my nervousness, I know I'm a bit better prepared for a lot of the eventualities that comes with a newborn that I wasn't with my other two.  For one - I learned a little late for it to be useful with Isaac about a contraption called the Moby Wrap.  With two kids to deal with and the absolute necessity of needing both my hands free, this will definitely be a life saver.  And its not just the hands-free aspect that is appealing.  Those darn cheap baby carriers don't work for me.  They were designed to hang properly when you're standing up.  So when it sits in your lap, its way too loose for it to hold the baby securely enough when you're pushing a chair.  Heck, half the time, people using those types of carriers are using one hand to hold the baby against them so the head doesn't flop around when they're walking anyway.  The Moby Wrap holds that little, tiny, floppy being right to your body - no flopping and no feeling like if you bend over they are going to fall out.  Its a Godsend for sure.

SNIGLAR Crib  Length: 53 7/8 " Width: 29 1/8 " Height: 33 1/8 " Bed width: 27 1/2 " Bed length: 52 "  Length: 137 cm Width: 74 cm Height: 84 cm Bed width: 70 cm Bed length: 132 cm  Another fabulous find this time around was this crib I found at IKEA.  Heaven bless those Scandinavians for making short cribs.  This crib is the perfect height for me to put baby in and out without either having saw the legs off the crib or me feeling like I'm just dropping baby in!  Its nothing fancy but it definitely will work for me.

And the last thing that will definitely make life a little easier for an infant and a wheelchair is this swing.  The leg's wide base makes it easy for my chair to roll close enough to it that when I put baby in it, my center of gravity is still pretty solid, even leaning over a bit.  The height of the chair is also perfect for that same reason.

The Boy Scout's motto is "Be prepared."  I think I'm about prepared as I'm going to be.  As much as any mother can be whether its your first baby or your third like me.  Now how to deal with sibling rivalry?

Sunday, April 3, 2011


I am not a perfect mother.  My kids can be brats.  I sometimes yell too much.  My house looks like a tornado hit it almost every single day.  So this won't be a blog solely about those precious moments you see on Mother's Day commercials with a beautifully coiffed woman snuggling her cooing baby to her.  Motherhood is messy and wonderful at the same time.  Then add a wheelchair to the mix.

I'm a full-time manual wheelchair user.  I have been since I was two and a half.  My awesome parents always encouraged me to do what I could do - which I did.  I wasn't a sports star.  I didn't break any records or discover new ways of doing things.  I just lived my life as best as I could and didn't let people tell me I couldn't do something.  I went to regular schools.  I went to college for a while.  I had jobs.  Then I met my husband and a year later we decided we were going to try to have a baby.

And thus my odyssey began.  I didn't see doctors very often at that point in my life.  I saw them a lot when I was little and my disability was new.  But after a certain time, my parents and I were sick of the constant round of doctors and physical therapist appointments that were only accomplishing the maintenance of my muscles but offering no hope of my walking ever again.  Plus, in the late 70s, so very little advancements had been made in the realm of physical rehabilitation, let alone information available to doctors and parents about how disabilities and spinal cord injuries affected the daily lives of people, that my parents and I just dealt with what we were given and didn't keep up with the disability community or advancements in physical medicine.  The few doctors my parents had approached about whether or not I would be able to bear children could only shrug their shoulders.

Time marched on and like any other young women, I started menstruating in my early teens.  Both my mom and I took it as a sign that something was working down there, but in the back of our minds there was always doubt.  And the doubt became concern when my husband and I were still not pregnant after trying for a year.  We were almost at the point of trying infertility treatments when that wonderfully pink second line showed up on the pregnancy test.

I don't think for this post I'll go into my pregnancies because I could seriously write a whole book by itself about that.  But suffice to say, that both pregnancy and motherhood have been a very rude awakening to someone who has always lived her life as if she weren't disabled.  The only way I can explain it is like being disabled all over again.  Your paradigm has to shift.  You cannot do things they way did them before.  So as a result you have to figure out new ways of doing almost everything.  The one positive among what could seem like a whole slew of negatives is that you have this gorgeous child that is your very own.  And they do one thing that sometimes seems so very hard to find from people if you have a disability - they love you unconditionally.  Your child doesn't know you have a disability (well, at least not until later anyway).  They don't care if your legs don't work or your eyes don't see, or your ears don't hear.  They depend and love you just the same as if you were able-bodied.  And they grow and adjust right along with you.

I've been a mother for six years now, or seven if you count the nine months I was pregnant with my oldest.  I've learned so much in that time, and I've got a lot more learning to do.  I have two awesome kids and expecting my third soon.  I'm very aware that life is about to get super crazy.  Probably even more crazy than I thought it would be, with a school-ager, a pre-schooler and an infant.  I think this blog is an attempt to find the funny in all the craziness.  Because really, eventually its all going to be funny to me.  Life goes by so fast, and I'm starting to learn that my kids are growing up way too fast for my liking.  So why not document how this all plays out and maybe learn something in the process.