Kezzy is a year old now and I'm effortlessly easing into the "mother" role. Unlike when he was about to be born, I'm more confident and comfortable as I believe he knows me. On the other hand I'm a bit nervousas he is growing up and will need to go to school soon and interact with other children- who will have questions about me and my wheelchair. I have even considered sending him toa special school to protect him against prejudice!
Such concerns have made me determined to raise more awareness and change mindsets while working in the disability sector. I am well aware of the government's efforts towards inclusive education, but there are so many challenges: inaccessible buildings, teachers not sensitised to disability, not enough knowledgeable care workers, etc. It may take forever but, until then, we can start creating awareness and educating the nation by insisting on inoffensive terminologies: "there are no normal schools, as this implies that schools for children with disabilities are not 'normal' ramp and a lift doesn't make the building accessible"etc. South Africa needs to learn to ask and consult with persons with disabilities in order to properly understand the needs.
Oh, how I enjoy laughing and playing with Kezzy, spending time alone with him! We drive around together with him in his car seat, listening to music, taking pictures and videos of him to cheer me up when I'm not with him. And my mothering truly is effortless. After spending a month with him at the rehabilitation center I have learned to care for him as a mother and I no longer feel like a mother with a disability.
Kezzy is my angel, my miracle, my reason for breathing. I am truly blessed!!!
Vic McKinney, a C3-5 quadriplegic, and Emma married in 2009 and were keen to start a family. Friends and family contributed to their "Baby McKinney Fund" in lieu of wedding gifts and in 2010 they began their fertility journey.
Fertility doctor, Dr. Paul le Roux, advised Artificial Insemination as it is less invasive and a lot cheaper! Emma took hormones to produce more eggs and, when the time was right, Vic provided sperm. Rather than using fancy gadgets at a clinic they were more comfortable doingt his manually at home. Emma recalls getting stuck in traffic taking Vic's sperm to the clinic. The sperm had to be kept warm and, as it was a freezing cold day, she put the jar in her bra and waited in bumper to bumper traffic. Emma says that artificial insemination is much like having a pap smear and wasn't painfulat all. It was done in the doctors rooms and Vic was with Emma the whole time.
After four attempts they opted for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) as this increases the chances of falling pregnant. Emma was again on tablets and injections, which she gave herself and, she says, were not very sore. After a few days she went into theatre to have her eggs removed under general anaesthetic. The egg retrieval process was painless and quick and she went home after an hour. She felt a bit uncomfortable the next day but not in pain.
Vic' sperm was added to Emma's eggs the same day. The couple were disappointed that only two of the eggs fertilised as extra fertilised eggs could have been frozen and used if they decided to have more children, removing the need for more IVF and saving a lot of money!
A few days later they re-implanted the eggs with Vic there, the two of them watching the procedure on a screen. Two very long weeks later they were pregnant, overjoyed and relieved that they were not carrying twins!
Their journey was expensive and extremely difficult (both emotionally and physically) but, when they look at their beautiful little James, it all seems worth while.
"You are PREGNANT," words I heard from my Doctor confirming my home pregnancy test. That was the moment I thought I would jump off my wheelchair and start running - fear and joy running parallelthrough my veins.
"I am going to be a mother, a voice of joy and excitement whispered to me. Then the cons hit me and BAM! I remembered my disability. Foresight got the best of me and fear of how my unborn child might suffer as a result of my disability."
Falling pregnant is usually perceived as a blessing and a miracle to any woman. As a woman living with a disability it was the best news of my life - then I started bleeding. Panic hit me. Blood tests confirmed the pregnancy but the ultra sound suspected a miscarriage. The worst week of my life went by as I waited on further bleeding - would I become a chair Mommy or not? A month later we heard a heartbeat - my miracle had started!
Little did I know how much the little life growing inside of me would demand of my body: urinary tract infections, breathing problems, swollen legs and life threatening blood clots - all beyond my control. The resulting depression landed me in a psychiatric ward for two weeks. Miss positive me!! How could something so beautiful create such misery? No comforting answers, just in and out of hospital all the time with complications.
"Ultimate sacrifice" became my daily mantra, and prayer is all that kept me going. Surely it could not get any worse but then, at 35 weeks, the little life inside of me stopped growing due to placenta complications, the womb fluid reduced to next to nothing - the baby was at risk.
Like a noble bridge over troubled waters, I laid me down and will cherish for eternity the moment that my little miracle was placed in my arms.
My daughter is now three months old and I carry her everywhere, strapped to my front in asling. We go out with great regularity, displaying my new baby and new motherhood - wheeling proud. The anguish and pain? It was worth it!!
After our wedding in 2009 we decided to start afamily, knowing that we would have to go the IVF route. The emotional roller-coaster and cost was soon forgotten as we discovered we were pregnant in May 2010. Excited and nervous, we tried to anticipate the challenges we would face as a couple where one partner has a severe physical disability.
Sebastian was born on the 14 February 2011 by caesarean section. We were in complete awe as we first saw our beautiful son and our joy was indescribable.
Living in Jo'burg with most of our family in Cape Town, we didn't have much extra support. Thankfully my mom was with us for the first two weeks, but nothing prepared me for the sheer exhaustion of being the only one up all night in those first eight weeks and meeting all our baby's practical needs because my husband was physically unable to. At times it was hard and I can truly say it was Conrad's patience, support, understanding and common-sense that got me through those first few sleepless weeks and months.It's not easy for him either, -"As a disabled daddy it's frustrating at times not being able to hold and cuddle my boy and help my wife. I have realised what I can give is just as important."
We have settled into our new life and, at eight months old, Sebastian is a complete joy in our lives. Initially Conrad was able to hold Sebastian and even give him a bottle, but as he has grown and become stronger, heavier and more mobile, it is no longer possible to leave him on Conrad's lap unattended. Although Conrad can't change a nappy or hold Sebastian unaided, it doesn't diminish his role as Sebastian's father. Our son needs both of us to meet his needs.
Sebastian observes his father in his chair,touching it and pulling himself up against his wheels. Their relationship will grow and develop and will certainly be a unique and special one.