It’s Not ‘Selfish’ For A Paralyzed Woman To Choose Motherhood
A woman who made national news four years ago as the “Paralyzed Bride” has just announced that she will soon become a mother via a surrogate. This is causing some critics to ask whether or not it’s selfish for a woman who is paralyzed to become a mother. This reaction may (or may not) be well-meaning, but it is also ridiculously short-sighted and ignorant.
Four years ago, Rachelle Friedman Chapman was at her bachelorette party when a friend playfully pushed her into a pool. The pool was only 3 1/2 feet deep, and Chapman landed headfirst, breaking her neck and leaving her a quadriplegic.
One of the first things she asked while laying on the side of the pool was, “Will I still be able to have children?”
The fact is that many paralyzed women are able to carry and deliver babies. Unfortunately for Chapman (as she told the Today Show),Â she is on a necessary medication that would be harmful to a fetus, so pregnancy is not an option for her. When she and her husband Chris (they married a year after the accident) decided to pursue surrogacy, a friend from college named Laurel Hume reached out an offered to be a gestational surrogate for the couple. Hume’s husband had recently donated his sperm to a lesbian couple who were friends of theirs, and Laurel was moved by that to help another couple achieve their dreams of parenthood.
After raising the money needed for IVF through a Go Fund Me fundraiser, the couple recently discovered that Hume was pregnant, and just saw their baby’s heartbeat for the first time. The baby is due in April.
Chapman is well aware of the criticisms that some people have about her decision to parent. Here are a few examples from news articles about the pregnancy:
And here is where some education comes in. Not all quadriplegics are paralyzed the same way. Chapman, for example, has the use a quite a bit of her upper body — her biceps, wrists, and shoulders all function well enough for her to push herself using the wheels of a manual wheelchair. What she does have trouble with is the use of her fingers, but as someone who doesn’t have any fingers on one hand, I can tell you that you would be amazed at what you can figure out how to do despite a disability.
Chapman participates in wheelchair rugby, cycling, surfing, and has learned how to drive again. She will be able to hold her child, as well as dress, feed, and change them. Her husband is completely on board, and the couple has family nearby who are ready to help.
And most importantly, they have love. They want this child, and that is a lot more than can be said for many people who become parents. Even if Chapman was unable to move anything below her neck and had to move her wheelchair by breathing into a tube, I would not disparage her choice to become a parent. Because disability does not mean stupidity, folks. I have a hard time imagining a quadriplegic who would decide to have children without a plan for taking care of them. When you have that level of disability, planning is part of every minute of your life. There aren’t a whole lot of decisions that ca be made on the spur of the moment, because everything takes a lot of time and a lot of maneuvering.
If anyone is aware of the difficulties that may lay ahead, it is Chapman. She lives this every single day of her life. She isn’t having a baby that she is unable to care for. And anything she has trouble doing, she and her husband will figure out a way to make it happen, because that’s what you do when you’re physically disabled. If anything, this is one of the most unselfish decisions she could make — her life is complicated, and she is going to turn it over to the care of another person. Which is exactly what all of us do when we choose to have children. We all have our issues and complications and hurdles to overcome, but we make it work because we want to be parents. If she is selfish, then all of us are.
That child is going to be loved, wanted, and cared for. And it is none of our business how exactly she is going to make it work — she’s got this.