Reason to Believe

In Mind, Body & Spirit, Reaching A Higher Level by Amy Blanchard

I was pretty shy growing up, perhaps in part because we moved to a new state when I was 10 and I never quite got comfortable with my new classmates. From grade school I went to an all-girl’s high school followed by two years at an all-women’s college before transferring to a co-educational institute. So my shy nature, coupled by my years of largely female surroundings, and no doubt compounded by my physical disability, made dating a bit of a challenge for me.

Yet it never crossed my mind that I would not meet a man to fall in love with and marry. I knew that I would eventually, somewhere, find that special someone who would love me for who I am and whom would knock my socks off as well. Then one day, some eight years ago, there he was, standing at a drafting table near my desk at my first post-college-graduation job. We’ve been together ever since.

It wasn’t until we found each other, though, that I considered having children. Before this, I never thought I really wanted kids. My main reason against it, though, was that I didn’t want to go through the pain of childbirth. But once I met my husband-to-be my desire to have children unearthed itself and grew very strong. I wanted to have children with this man. I wanted us both to instill our values and morals into our little one and teach him or her all about the world we live in.

After we had been married for a couple years, we seriously pursued our dream of having a baby. For us that meant first scheduling preconception consultations with my OB/GYN, neurologist and chiropractor. We had questions to ask and concerns to be alleviated.

What does the “typical” pregnancy for a woman with spina bifida look like? What was the likelihood of passing on the disability to the baby? Although none of my doctors had guaranteed specifics, they all gave us the rundown of what could happen for me (possibly putting me in a wheelchair by the third trimester, maybe scheduling a C-section instead of delivering vaginally).

Then, it was time for my husband and me to start trying. It took about a year of on and off attempts, but finally, on May 1st, 2002 “the test” showed two pink lines staring back at us. We were thrilled!

We waited until Father’s Day to break the news to our parents. All were over the moon with excitement. The only slight holdout, though, was my mom. She seemed more concerned than anybody else regarding just how my body would be able to handle not only a pregnancy, but also the pure physicality of raising a child.

We assured her that we had done all our research, and had seriously discussed between ourselves the necessity for my husband to be a very hands-on daddy. Between the two of us and my dad, I think we were able to alleviate her concerns enough so that her joy at being a seventh-time grandparent was more prevalent than her concerns with my particular situation.

Even though my mom’s questions and concerns surfaced at the announcement of my pregnancy, I don’t remember ever seeing her doubtful eyes as I grew up and wanted to try new things. It’s because of this that it never occurred to me, once my desire to have kids arose, that I could not have a successful pregnancy and child-rearing experience. Of course, I knew I’d have a different experience than other women, and that there were serious questions to consider before pregnancy. But I knew I could do it. Some how, some way, I could have children. Just like every other dream I’ve seen through to fruition – I could do this.


During my youth, as like any child, I had many exciting dreams I wished to pursue, both immediate (learning to ski) and for my future (growing up to be a ballerina). And to my parents’ credit, I was always given the opportunity to at least entertain any goal I set for myself.

I wanted to learn to roller skate when I was about 7 years old. My mom and oldest brother helped my fasten

my plastic Spider-Man skates over my braced shoes and held me up as I made my slow and clumsy way down our driveway.

I wanted to learn to ride my bicycle – sans training wheels. My dad took them off and ran along side me as I tried to pedal along without falling and scraping my knees on the sidewalk beneath.

Both of these adventures, along with many others (i.e. the ballerina career, for one) ended in my finding out for myself that my body was just not capable of performing such feats. But I also found many activities I could do (swimming and jump rope, for example). I thank my parents for giving me to opportunity to find out for myself just what my body was capable of.

Sure, I wasn’t happy with the realization that I couldn’t always do what I wished. In fact, I’m sure I put up quite a fuss about not being able to play at some of the activities my brothers and friends were. But in the end I had to admit that I was at least always allowed to try whatever I fancied. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for letting me experiment with my abilities.

Yes, my parents gave me the wings I needed to experience life. As a result, I’ve developed a great attitude toward both life and myself. I was never told, “No, you can’t do that. You’re disabled.” Consequently, that line of reasoning never even enters my mind now. If I want to do something, I find a way to do it. I believe in myself.

I’ve completed a walking tour of Paris, France. I’ve taken horseback riding and, yes, even skiing lessons. I’ve danced with my boyfriend at my high school prom, and then I danced at his. Then, after completing college and starting my first real job, I met and married a very loving and generous man who continuously fills my days with laughter and warmth. And I’ve delivered our daughter into this world and now look forward to every new day we three share together.


As for my pregnancy? It turned out great- very textbook. We found out at 16 weeks along that we were having a girl and that her spine – along with all her other parts – was perfect. I walked the entire pregnancy, never having to resort to a wheelchair during the last trimester. And I had a relatively smooth, quick vaginal delivery.

Raising her is a joy. Yes, I’ve had to make adaptations and adjustments – for instance, rocking with her on the couch to comfort her infant cries, and having her nap in her playpen in the living room because I couldn’t carry her up the stairs to her nursery. Only when she was able to climb the stairs herself did we move naptime to her room.

My husband is a huge help to me, as is the rest of our extended family. But with all the help I receive, I am proud to say I am able to manage my daughter very nicely on my own when I need to. From bath time to naps, diaper changes and lunchtime – I can take care of it all. I may need to put up child gates so that she stays in the room I need her in, or strap on her “walkies” so that she and I can go on outdoor walks together, but I can do it nonetheless. I know I can. There’s never been a doubt in my mind.


Amy Blanchard lives in New England with her husband, daughter and two cats. She works in the advertising world but strives to build her writing career. Amy regularly posts to her blog, Spina Bifida Moms, which details her journey into parenthood as well as her everyday experiences as a mom with spina bifida raising a healthy, active child.

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