This uniquely courageous woman has a story to tell, a story in the making, and a future that is something we will all want to bookmark and follow. Not only is she drop dead gorgeous, she is the classic girl next door—sweet, sexy, smart, and quite the package! She has a smile that brightens up the room and she is every sailor’s and soldier’s dream. She is a girl’s girl too. The kind of girl that would be voted sorority president and will no doubt one day be voted PTA president too.
This truly remarkable lady has made a decision that defies what most feel is practical, plausible or even possible. She decided that she wanted a baby and didn’t need a man or an able body to get one. She has a network, support, pure determination, and a well-researched plan to become a Mother at 32. Did I mention she is a quadriplegic? And Single? This is a planned pregnancy, one that was chosen and created with the assistance of a sperm donor and Artificial Fertilization.
Her story is a true testament to what can be achieved by applying an intellectual and creative approach to overcoming what physical limitations one may have, and then making what most would think impossible to be simply doable. Everything from the cabinetry, laundry, changing table, and car seat down to a cradle in the bed has been strategically researched, then carefully planned and designed to accomplish her goal.
Jen was only 25 when she was injured in one of the most spine-chilling stories I have ever heard. Let’s make it brief, as this is a story about a bright future, not a nightmare to be relived on these pages.
The Past: One Horrible Day – 7 Years Ago
Jen was out boating on the lake with a neighbor. He had too much to drink and they were one of the last boats still out. She was in passengers’ seat facing forward when he fell backwards from the rear platform of the boat and his 220 pound frame landed directly on her neck, which acted as a springboard. She knew immediately after the first jolt of hot, searing pain that she couldn’t feel her legs.
She couldn’t actually move at all from the neck down but all she could think about was not being able to move her legs. She was still sitting in the seat as she told him what had happened but he didn’t believe her. He then sped off, heading out to the middle of the river. As her paralyzed frame fell out of the chair, he yanked her back into a sitting position. Jen begged him to call 911 and pleaded, “Do not move me again.” He continued to drive far out on the lake with her flopping around before eventually pulling her out of the boat and dropping her onto the concrete.
Jen begged him again to call 911, but he refused and continued to move her body, picking her up and repeatedly laying her back down on the ground. He finally carried her to his truck and shoved her lifeless body onto the floor board of the back seat with the help of another man. “What are we going to do with her legs?” They pulled them into the truck while she continued pleading for them to take her to the nearest hospital, call her Mother, or call an ambulance. He insisted she was “faking it” and he couldn’t take her as he was inebriated and would get into trouble.
So he proceeded to drive for 45 minutes, past hospitals, to the town where they lived. She lived alone in a house she had just bought, working as a successful, 23-year old medical rep. She was not dating anyone at the time and he was her neighbor. His plan? To “put her in her bed” and leave her there until the next day. She finally decided to use “words I had never used before” and with all the power left in her, demanded again that he take her to the ER. This time he agreed.
As the nurse came out to the truck to help move her inside, he said, “I have a girl who is faking it in the truck.” The nurse could feel Jen’s broken bones through the skin on her neck and told her later that if she weren’t so concerned about getting help, she would have killed him.
Jen is now a C-6 quadriplegic and her cord was literally outside of her spinal column due to the manhandling she received from that drunk and outrageously callous man who caused the injury. She ended up settling out of court because, at the time, she thought she would be walking again. She felt she would be the one that would make it, despite her doctor’s words, as this was the only way she could deal with her circumstances at the time.
While she is now “comfortable” financially, and lives in a home next door to her parents and “best friends”, she would never be content just sitting at home. Her old company insurance turned out to be really great insurance and provided her with long-term disability coverage that gave her the freedom to explore a new life and career. While she absolutely loved her old job as a sales rep, she is living in a rural area and even some of the medical offices and facilities are not accessible yet.
When she goes back to work, she will no longer have insurance so she wanted to try school first to see if she could do it and, after two years following the law school schedule, she now knows she can. She did so well on her LSAT that she received a full scholarship and it has been a great experience for her even though she said that she felt like the old lady of the group at 32.
She has school scheduled during winter and, after just two weeks into summer, is already getting bored around the house even though “it is insane around here”, what with construction going on from early morning for the new baby room. She gets up extra early so that she is “presentable”. Her mother helps her take a shower and get ready as she doesn’t trust herself transferring to the shower chair now that she is pregnant. Her mother spent 25 years in nursing, and how fortunate that she is an OB nurse at that! Her dad works delivering ice cream and they have been married for 36 years.
Jen considers herself “middle of the road” and is an Aries, who likes to “get things done”. She has built her house, got bored, and gone to Law School. She has done an externship at Disability Rights Arkansas and in 2014, participated in the “Roll on Capitol Hill”, lobbying legislators on the importance of technology and proper wheelchairs for those with complex disabilities.
While Jen currently has no special man in her life, she has had one long-term relationship with an older man who did not have any issues fully accepting her as a newly disabled woman. But his children were already grown and he wasn’t looking to have more. So while this relationship helped her to grow and adjust and feel accepted (she discovered that “piggy back rides” were a great way to get to where the chair wouldn’t go), she still feels she “wasted too much time” although having “learned a lot from the relationship”.
While she has not tried online dating yet, she is having a hard time meeting single men because all her friends are married with kids. Jen is 5’8 and says, she needs a man who is strong, and she promises to “stay thin as long as he can carry me around.” Her pre-pregnancy weight was 122 pounds and she is currently just 132 at 7 months.
While her OBGYN doesn’t specialize in SCI and her Little Rock hospital has seen maybe just one para, they didn’t appreciate the differences between a para and quad and felt they could be treated the same. “Have you heard of dysreflexia?” she asked. Now her doctor has been in contact with a spinal cord specialist. She has already met with an anesthesiologist, whose mentor in New York invented the epidural. They are doing the research and the plan is coming together, but they are still undecided as to whether it will be a natural or cesarean birth.
She hasn’t had any complications and even her blood pressure is almost normal at 110/65, which is not always the case for a high injury, especially when pregnant. It was really low during the first two years of injury. She has no special diet per se, she just eats when she is hungry. Her pregnancy cravings are salad and fruit and she drinks tons of water.
She is getting up to pee 2-4 times a night now and the baby is low. She still transfers from her bed to her chair in order to use a self-enclosed catheter. She has a co-sleeper and can manage in bed all night.
Highlights from the Podcast
What are you looking forward to most about motherhood?
“I am excited to finally get him into my arms, to experience that bond. I can’t wait to see what he looks like, especially as I haven’t seen the Dad!”
What are some of the things you are fearful/worried about?
“How will I chase after him? Who will teach him how to ride his bicycle? How will I push his swing? “My motto has always been we will figure it out.”
What qualities are most important to you in your life now?
“I need someone who is strong and can stand up and be the man of the house, as I am a strong woman. We can go into it as equals, face the world together, and have the sense of adventure to take on the world together and love Beckham as much as he loves me.”
How do you feel about being a “role model” or “inspiration”?
“I do really enjoy being able to show people they can do more than they think they can, as I know I can do more than I thought I could if I just try. Through all the therapy (Jen twice went to Shepherd Center), my initial goal was to get my arm high enough to scratch my nose. To have come this far, to where I am driving and living on my own, going to school and having a baby is definitely come a long way”
Do you ever feel pressure to make other people feel comfortable with your disability?
“In the beginning I did feel like I had to be the strong one in the room. I felt like I needed to put the smile on my face for everyone else, even when it is hard, like you are being watched. Now most of that is natural. I feel really confident and really have a lot of joy and happiness. I have never been more content and happy in my life.”
Jen’s Custom Home for her and baby Beckham
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