Pregnant and Paralyzed: The Best Birthday Present

Posted by Kristin Beale in Life After Paralysis on January 12, 2023 # Health

Kristin and her husbandI found out I’m pregnant this September, on the morning of my 32nd birthday, after many months of trying. Take that “many months” figure, multiply it by four, and that’s how many negative pregnancy tests we’d bummed through. Seeing that single line was a big letdown, so it was a big risk to start my birthday. But I took the chance.

The best birthday present I can imagine: double lines (“positive”). It was surreal. I tried to surprise my husband with the news, but he claims he knew as soon as he saw the smile-tear combination on my face. It was perfect.

I’m paralyzed at my mid-torso, I use a wheelchair, and I have no functional use of my lower body. The idea of pregnancy and the prospect of parenting from a wheelchair is a grey area for me, but it’s just a matter of talking to the right people; I’m not the first person to go through this, and there’s a whole specialization of doctors to handle my variance.

Something doctors can’t help with, though, is the lot of everyday things I’ll have to work around. That starts with relearning how to accommodate my bigger body, eating to support a growing baby, slowing the heck down, and the list goes on. January puts me in month 5 of my pregnancy, so I’m not out of the woods or full of answers yet, but I’ll share some insights from my ride so far.

  1. Find the right doctor. We’ve jumped around to different OBGYNs to find the right one because it’s so important to feel confident in whomever you work with. The doctor you choose will likely be there for your delivery, so it’s important to “click” with him/her. In a disabled person’s case, one specializing in high-risk pregnancies may be a good place to start. Then, I had to find one who smiled big and laughed at my jokes.
  2. Decide how to deliver. I’ll be unable to push my baby out, but I still had a choice between a C-section or natural birth. I chose a C-section for my bladder control’s sake, but it’s a good thing to consider ahead of time.
  3. Time it right. I can’t feel pain below my injury level (T8) which, for giving birth, please believe is a full-on blessing. I won’t be able to feel contractions as fully as others, though, so my C-section is scheduled for 38 weeks instead of 42 – to be safe. That doesn’t make much of a difference, except for planning ahead. And I get to meet my baby sooner.
  4. Listen to your body. My nerves don’t fire the same as others’, and my body sends me fuzzy messages all the time, so pregnancy has been interesting. My body is changing every day, and it’s hard to keep up. The best I can do is know those changes are coming and look out for irregularities that might be warning signs.
  5. Take it easy. I saved the hardest for last, because this is definitely my hardest. I live my life in mode go, go, go, but my baby is demanding I slow down, lay down, and sleep. If I ignore it and keep going, I get nauseous, headaches, and killer back pain for days after. Not worth! Blame it on the baby, take it easy.

My belly isn’t huge, and my mobility hasn’t taken a big hit yet, but I know it’s coming. There’s no sneaking around that fact. So far, I’ve been blessed with a medical team to support me, family to feed me snacks in bed when I don’t want to get up, and the little bit of information I could find from people in similar situations as mine. There’s not a lot out there, so I’m happy to shine some light on my journey in pregnancy and motherhood. It’s all a little hard to believe.

Click here to read part two of Kristin's story.

Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of two books, Greater Things and A Million Suns, and a comic book, Date Me. Check them out and read an excerpt at https://kristinbeale.com/. Her comics can be found on Instagram @Greater.Things.Comics.

This blog is not intended as medical advice or to replace behavioral health care. Please consult your healthcare team.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.