Being a mother was something I had never really thought about until I fell in love. I was only nineteen when I met my future husband, but something slowly changed in me as we grew stronger and more mature as a couple. I'd often look at him and picture what our children would look like. What would we name them? What kind of personality would they have? You always hear about baby fever and I had wondered when it would hit me. Well… when it hit me, it hit me hard.
I had a plan for how my life was going to turn out. I'd graduate college at 22, get engaged, be married by 24 and have a baby in my arms by the time I turned 27. I was set. Chris and I graduated and a year later we found good jobs, bought our first home and I was planning the wedding of my dreams with the love of my life. But our plan would come crashing down.
On May 23rd, 2010 my bridesmaids and I were piling out of a stretch limo after having an amazing bachelorette party. We decided that it might be fun to go for a swim and we all ran upstairs to throw on our bikinis and we were ready. I went down to the pool and hesitated on the edge before jumping in. In a playful gesture, one of my friends came up behind me and pushed me into the water. I went in head first and ended up breaking my neck causing a spinal cord injury. I would now be paralyzed for the rest of my life.
The EMTs arrived and the very first question I asked was, “will I be able to have children?” The answer was yes. And though I lay there motionless I was comforted knowing my dream of having kids was still a possibility.
Chris, my fiancée had been three hours away camping with his dad when he heard the news. I remained strong for him and I didn't let him hear me cry. This tragedy didn't rip us apart but made us cling to each other even harder. He could have lost me and I had been given a reality check about how quickly life can change; how it doesn't always go according to plan.
The first year was difficult but I was distracted by a whirlwind of media attention and an upcoming wedding. But after we said "I do" and everything slowed down, we started thinking more seriously about having a child. I started doing some research and realized that not my paralysis, but my medications could be a danger to a fetus if I were to become pregnant. For instance, I have very low blood pressure and I take medicine that allows it to stay up. Otherwise I get lightheaded when I sit up. I can't be taking blood pressure medication while pregnant. I could have a salty diet and wear compression hose, but would it be enough? I don't know. If not I'd be looking at nine months in bed. I also take medicine for pain but at least pain is something I could attempt to fight through. I'm scared. I can't imagine lying in bed for nine consecutive months in excruciating pain.
Then I started looking up other options. In a perfect world I'd love nothing more than to find a surrogate who would want to give me the gift of carrying my biological child; a woman who realizes that I won't need my legs to be a good mom.
I play wheelchair rugby and since starting a few months after I was hurt, five of the guys have become fathers. I have had so many questions for them and I love watching them interact with their kids. Their children love pushing their chairs and getting wheelchair rides on their dad's laps. I find myself looking up adaptive ideas from other mommies who use a wheelchair, cribs you can roll under, baby carriers, strollers that attach to your chair, how they get their child dressed, bathed and ready to go.
I'll roll by the kids clothing section, and I just want nothing more than to be one of the moms roaming those racks. I'll see the cutest ideas on Pinterest for new mommies and their babies, but I won't save the ideas. I'm afraid I'll have a pin board of 1,000 DIYs, activity plans, arts and crafts projects, but won't ever get the opportunity to use them. Honestly, I'm terrified this won't happen for us. It really is the final piece to our happiness and I won't allow this injury to take something so important away from me.
I’m sure being a parent will not be easy but we are ready for the challenge. Who said raising a child was easy? Right now we hope to find that “angel” surrogate that will make a family possible for us. I wonder would the duties be split 50/50 between Chris and I? Probably not! We are both fully aware that if we have a child Chris might have to take on more than your average dad. I know I'm speaking for him here, but let me tell you, that man wants to be a father. He talks about the fun things he will do with his kid one day all the time. He's a middle school teacher who really connects with his students mostly because they love his goofy personality and caring nature. He's hilarious, sweet, compassionate, loyal, so loving and he deserves to be a father.
There is so much strength and love in our home, family willing to help and a support system so strong it won't be shaken. We've been through a lot over the past few years, but when it comes down to it, we are just a young, strong, loving couple ready to bring a child into our lives. Hopefully we will be able to share that strength and love with a little boy or girl one day.
We are hoping that our story will touch the hearts of those in the field of family building or maybe a surrogate willing to carry our child or an agency that knows a willing surrogate or an attorney that wants to share their services with us so we understand the complete process. The costs of surrogacy is expensive and we are not sure if the financial part is attainable for us. We are able to give a child a good life and would love to find someone to guide us in the process and the best options financially for us.
A quick share on social media or sharing with those that might be able to help would mean the world to us. Every family deserves a family. We have that bond that will give us the strength to overcome the challenges that come with this gift of life, so please show the love and share our story.
Their story has been featured on the Today Show, HLN, MSNBC, Inside Edition, VH1 and in Cosmopolitan Magazine. Rachelle is a blogger for multiple outlets including the Huffington Post and has been an advocate for the spinal cord injury community. "America followed their story and it even became international news when they were married . Those that followed their story are now wondering if and when they will start a family. A story that will make headlines again, showing the strength of this couple.
You can visit Rachelle's website at www.rachellefriedman.com
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