SCI BC peer, Jana Husseini shares the challenges, struggles, and joys of pregnancy and childbirth with an SCI during COVID-19.
How can it be that life’s greatest joy could arrive in such a time of darkness? That was certainly the case for me and my wonderful husband Mustafa, when we were blessed by the birth of our daughter Malika last June.
I was born with spina bifida. Despite two operations when I was a child to improve my quality of life, I have no sensation below my knees, and I use a wheelchair for mobility. Even before Mustafa and I got married two years ago, we contemplated having a baby with excitement—but also with trepidation, given the challenges that might present themselves because of my disability.
Deep down, we knew we deserved a child to love and nurture as much as any couple. I was confident we would make great parents because of the way we love and care for each other. But I couldn’t prevent doubts from creeping into my mind—doubts that, after I became pregnant, led me to question every member of my team of specialists.
I fired out every anxious thought and ridiculously improbable scenario to whoever would listen. I’m eternally grateful for their patience.
Eventually, I found calm. Spinal Cord Injury BC put me in touch with mothers who provided emotional support. They shared stories and resources from their website about pregnancy and disability. And I was referred to a partner agency for help with customized baby equipment. I was reassured by the realization that mothers come in all abilities, not to mention colours, sizes, shapes, races, socioeconomic backgrounds, and nationalities. No one should be considered more worthy of motherhood than another, and if that’s what you’ve been led to believe, then you’re living in a sad world that’s making people feel broken.
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When I first saw Malika, the world was mine; I felt love so potent that I forgot I just gave birth. For the first time in what felt like a lifetime, I forgot about all my worries and insecurities and had a moment of clarity I’d never had before.
I will be honest—labour was a lot harder than I anticipated. It was a gruelling 20-hour process. But somehow, I loved every minute. As soon as I saw Malika’s face, I was overcome with motherly love. In a flash, it melted away the sadness of the COVID “No Visitors” rule, not being able to celebrate with a baby shower, and delivering during a pandemic while my own mom was stuck in Lebanon and couldn’t be here with me. All I could think about was, no matter what, Malika’s father and I were going to endure whatever chaos this world presents to protect our miracle baby.
Why do I call her a miracle? Again, I won’t downplay that this was a trying journey. But it represented my determination to overcome the adversity brought by my disability. My pregnancy was far from easy, but just knowing that my disability didn’t take away from my choice to conceive has helped me learn so much. I believe this world presents people with hardships that can help us understand the value of what we have in life.
Accepting and understanding this gave me the strength to endure my daily morning sickness, monthly gynaecologist appointments, dozens (maybe even hundreds) of other appointments, invasive tests, difficulties getting pregnant in the first place, and the ongoing bouts of insomnia that plagued me throughout the ensuing nine months after we conceived. Yes, she is a miracle—one that I have so many people to thank for.
Mustafa! You have been our rock. Thank you for always listening and understanding this journey. I love you so much. Alhamdulilah—praise be to God. We could not have done this without the tawfeeq (acceptance and blessing), patience, and strength from Allah.
To my amazing labour and delivery nurses at Lions Gate Hospital, thank you. I couldn’t have done this without angels like you. Thank you for understanding the needs of mothers with disabilities. You are my heroes.
Dr. Lipp, I’m so thankful to have you as my gynaecologist. Without an epidural, it was a very long and painful labour, but you handled it with loving expertise. Thank you for making this journey and dream possible. Thank you so much for taking care of us. Above all, Malika, thank you for making me a mother, and Mustafa a father.