Parenting with a Disability: Reflections from a Quad Mom
In May 2019, I made an appointment for a consultation with a high-risk obstetrician to discuss the risks of pursuing pregnancy as a quadriplegic woman. At the time, I was still in a mental space where I questioned if I could handle parenthood: "How can I take care of a child if I can barely take care of myself?" I also wondered if I really wanted to add any more demands to an already challenging lifestyle. I know my feelings mirrored those of many other wheelchair users like myself who have not yet had kids. Looking back, I see things with more clarity and realize that those questions partially came from self-doubt.
Journey to becoming a Wheel Mom
As to the question, "How can I take care of a child if I can barely take care of myself?" —that's a myth I seem to have invented. I do take care of myself. Even though there is much I "can't do" (i.e., I don't get dressed on my own and I need help with activities of daily living), the fact is that I have organized my life in a way where I have figured out how to get these needs met nevertheless! Relegating certain tasks to a caregiver or spouse, moving closer to parents, applying for in-home assistance, coordinating help from friends and neighbors, identifying and acquiring mobility aids and adaptive equipment—all of these things ARE me taking care of myself. So I took that resourcefulness and applied it to our plan to become parents.
My husband and I were encouraged by the consultation with the doctor who explained that even healthy, nondisabled women face risks in pregnancy and that the Maternal and Fetal Medicine Clinic was the best place to be for more complex needs. My obstetrician has had a dozen or so women with mobility issues as patients. That gave me confidence as did all the "wheel moms" I've met in various online groups. If they could, I could.
Fast forward to our 8-week pre-natal appointment. I'm happily pregnant (having overcome many of the aforementioned insecurities) and getting my first ultrasound. The technician puts the wand on my then still flat belly, and before she can look up to the screen, I hear my husband who had the first view of the image say, "Why are there two?" Technician looks up at the screen then slowly turns to me and gives me a look with a single raised eyebrow and half smile that I can only describe as slyly amused. We all implicitly understand, and I yell, "Shut up!!" The two beans in my belly, each in their own little round "rooms" aka the amniotic sacs, are twins!
We feel elation, joy, shock. My mind races over all the planning I had so confidently considered for one baby and realize that picture is shattered. I realize I'm going to have to start from scratch and reconsider everything, draw resources and support and ideas from every corner of the disability community and family and internet on how to be a quadriplegic mommy to two infants at the same time.
Through pregnancy, Covid, giving birth, then not having as much help as I thought we would have thanks to the pandemic, everything has actually worked out rather smoothly, and I'm a competent and happy mama now to two adorable baby girls. It's very true that where there is a will, there is a way.
I hope you'll join my upcoming workshop at the Abilities Virtual Experience, the Disabled Pregnancy and Parenting Journey, where I'll share more about my journey, along with another disabled parent or two.
And keep an eye out for the upcoming documentary about my story, called DANI'S TWINS, set for release in 2021. Catch the trailer for the film here:
You can also find out more on how we manage as a family on my personal Instagram account @daniizzie or through the documentary social media pages @DanisTwinsFilm.
About the Author:
Dani Izzie is a disability advocate and wheelchair user, and a new mom to twins. She works full time with Spinergy as a social media manager and advertiser promoting their wheelchair and bicycle wheels. She holds a Master's in English Literature with a focus on Disability Studies. Her newest passion is elevating voices of disabled parents. Dani is the subject of a new documentary film, DANI'S TWINS, about pregnancy and motherhood with quadriplegia during the pandemic.