Pregnancy with Paralysis
From the moment a plus sign appeared on our pregnancy test, waves of emotion flooded over A.J. and me. As is for most first-time parents, we had no idea what to expect. We were filled with excitement for this new phase in our relationship and the amount of growth to come. We were anxious over the new responsibilities of being parents and taking care of not just each other but another little life that would be so dependent on us. And we were especially surprised over how quickly I was able to get pregnant, considering we were told that pregnancy may not be possible when I was first injured.
Soon after, the reality of how paralysis would present challenges to this pregnancy set in. Although my body is supposedly perfectly fine sans feeling below my spinal cord injury level, there were many unknowns for our medical team. We had really little idea as to how it would affect the birthing process for me since spinal cord injuries vary from person to person. We had many questions: Can we do natural birth or C-Section? Do I have physical control over pushing? Would I feel contractions? Do we need epidural or no epidural?
We went through this journey into the unknown the way we did with everything else--faithfully, optimistically, and together. As with all pregnancies, there are many risks, but I knew that with A.J. by my side, everything would be alright. We just had to communicate well and do the best we could to prepare. I hope that as you're reading this post, you'll gain some insights into my world of paralysis, especially during this phase in my life. And if you have a spinal cord injury, I hope I'm able to share some solutions to help you if you experience any of these symptoms.
During pregnancy, I was careful to keep exercising, eating well, regularly visiting my doctor, trying to keep my emotions in check (a huge challenge!), A.J. always checked on me, and we carried on our days as normal as possible. With our medical team, we came up with a tentative game plan, knowing we would have to monitor and adapt as we went along. My pregnancy was classified as "high risk" due to the unknowns of my injury. To minimize some risk of me going into labor without knowing, we planned on an induction for the week before baby’s due date (Sept. 21).
I remember going into the doctor for the first time to confirm there really was a baby growing inside me. From the get-go, we knew this was going to be tricky. Even to weigh me, I had to have AJ carry me onto the scale. You can imagine the hassle that was to get him weighed first and then to pick me up each time as I grew and grew. We got my initial weight and that was the first and the last time being weighed on this baby journey. AJ would carry me onto the patient's bed when he was able to make my appointments, but as I had regular checkups and he couldn't always make it, I had to have nurses and the doctor carry me up each time, or sometimes the doc would just do sonograms and ultrasounds right from my chair.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Weird occurrences and bodily changes were expected in pregnancy, but I felt like I got a few niche wheelchair-related ones. For example, pregnancy carpal tunnel syndrome, how many have had it? ME! I definitely got it! From constantly pushing myself in a wheelchair, my hands would go numb after a few minutes, and it became progressively worse to where I couldn't push myself at all without a lot of pain. I wore a brace to keep my hands and wrists supported, but that eventually didn't help much towards the end. My hands were too swollen and just needed rest.
I have a history of bladder infections due to straight catheterization (that's how I pee), which is risky because having a bladder infection could send the body into labor sooner than it should. I took a pill each day to help my bladder maintain high acidity to limit bacteria growth and therefore, infections. And yes, those pills really were disgustingly acidic. I frequently visited the hospital to get my urine tested regularly.
Transferring in and out of the wheelchair to the car, toilet, couch, is already a tricky balancing act to ensure you don't fall flat on a face or break a leg. Trying to do it with a big belly, on the other had, was roulette. It was the most uncomfortable and biggest liability ever, and I fell several times during transfers--each time scarier than the last--definitely nerve wracking. I started using my bathroom commode to level out the transfer from my wheelchair to my toilet and limit those falls.
Incontinence (Bladder Leaks)
And let's not forget about all those leaks with each transfer!The beginning was awful as I would find myself completely soaked at work or random places as I was out and about and have to head home to change. But let me introduce you to my new best friend, Ms. Depends, my most dependable friend throughout the journey of baby vs. bladder. Towards the middle to last part of my pregnancy, AJ so kindly carried me in and out of the car as much as he could.
Trying to bend down over a round belly in a wheelchair? Forget about it. There's absolutely no room, no leverage, and it hurts! I know all my pregnant sisters feel my pain! The grabber stick was my second best friend. And for the record, I could feel every stretch mark each time they formed especially while attempting to bend, again, bending is not a good idea. It was very painful.
It was during pregnancy, that I acquired my first ever pressure ulcer--the scariest thing ever for someone who sits on her bum all day long. Pressure ulcers can progress very quickly to where you one day find layers of skin dead and a hole has developed and surgery needed, not to mention, the bacteria growth around it. This definitely caused some anxiety. Luckily, as soon as I noticed a sore forming, I did my best to stay off my bum whenever I was not in work and focused on more consistent pressure releases, where I used my arms to lift my bum off my seat for a couple minutes at a time. I continue to sleep with a pillow between my legs and a lumbar pillow to prevent sores, but periodic checks are also crucial. And have Terrasil on hand--it's the fast healing cream for pressure sores I've ever used. You can find more about the products below or on my "Favorite Products" page.
At this point, you bet I was wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into (haha). But I'm so, so grateful to be able to go on this journey. It's not the smoothest sailing ride, but it's a privilege and I'll never take it for granted.
Check out my journey through the birth process here.
**Disclosure: I have included affiliate links to products that I have used and enjoyed. These are for your convenience. I do receive a small percentage of every purchase without any increase to your own price. Thanks for your support!
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