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Becoming a mom after spinal cord injury

May 08, 2015

Many young girls have the dream of one day getting married and starting a family. Carrie Sunday knew at a young age that she wanted to be a wife and a mom.

Carrie sustained a spinal cord injury when she was 17 in a car accident. She was riding in the trunk of an SUV with a bunch of friends. The teenage driver ran a stop sign and a drunk driver hit their vehicle.

She came to Craig Hospital shortly after the injury for rehabilitation. “We think of Craig as a family,” says her mom Treva Koch. She comes with Carrie during her outpatient appointments every few years.

When Carrie visits Craig Hospital she likes to spend time with other young women in rehab with spinal cord injuries. She wants to make sure they feel supported and understand that life can still be how they envisioned.

“If they want to get married, have babies, go to college, they can do it,” she says.

Carrie, now 29, lives in a rural town south of Topeka, Kansas. She holds 10-month old Reagan on her lap. She says her spinal cord injury was actually a sort of impetus to go to college, get a job and start a family.

“If anything it made me want to prove myself,” she says.

Always the overachiever, Carrie did her homework before getting pregnant. She has been living with a spinal cord injury for 12 years and knew there would be some challenges. She still wasn’t prepared for all the unsolicited advice she received from people she knew, as well as strangers.

“How will you take care of a child?” “How can you get pregnant?” “Is that a good idea?”

Carrie and her family handled it with grace. She had faced similar questions when she was engaged to marry her husband Greg. At that time people were concerned what his life be would like marrying someone with a spinal cord injury. Would he ever be able to have children?

“We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve cussed,” Carrie’s mom says.

Carrie also had her own concerns about getting pregnant. She researched complications, read scholarly articles, and joined an online support group. She found a small group of moms with SCI on The women all shared their pregnancy stories and gave tips and tricks for once the baby arrived.

Carrie’s injury is at the C6 level, so doctors weren’t sure if she’d be able to feel the baby or even know when she was in labor. Carrie recalls the first time she felt the flutters of Reagan kicking. She asked her mom if that’s in fact what she was feeling. She also felt her contractions.

Today, Reagan is a healthy, happy 10-month old baby girl. She has gray-blue eyes and round cheeks. Carrie still gets questions from people. “Is she yours?” “Is she adopted?” She handles them in stride.

“Watching her personality grow is my favorite thing,” Carrie says.

For Moms-to-be with SCI Carrie recommends: – a forum for people with SCI – a blog about a mom with paraplegia raising three boys
Mama Zooms – a children’s book about a mom in a wheelchair