Real Life

Double trouble for wheelchair mum

Sarah Belgrave knew she was expecting - but not twins.

Making the decision to try for a baby is huge for any woman. When you’re in a wheelchair, things get a bit more complicated. From the moment Sarah Belgrave fell pregnant, she knew being a paraplegic mum was going to be tough. But what she didn’t know was that things were going to be twice as hard – she was having twins.

Now the proud mother of Odin and Sophie, Sarah (35), along with partner Evan Pope (28), still can’t believe they have two little bundles of joy. But she admits there were moments when she wasn’t sure she could cope.

“I was thinking, ‘What the hell are we going to do!’” Sarah recalls. “I was petrified and wondering how I could handle one baby in my chair and all of a sudden there were two!”

As she breastfeeds her two-month-old twins in tandem by holding one in each arm like a rugby ball, an exhausted but ecstatic Sarah says despite her initial fears, she wouldn’t have life any other way.

“Life is pretty tiring and frustrating at times, but I wouldn’t change a thing,” she says. “It does get difficult sometimes. I’ve been absolutely exhausted and I was a zombie to start with, but Evan has helped by feeding them so I can get some sleep. He’s a fantastic dad and he loves it.“

After falling out of a tree 12 years ago, Sarah lost the use of both of her legs. Although she was both devastated and overwhelmed at the news she would never walk again, she says she quickly learned how to be independent in her chair, and focused on work, travel and friends.

It was this hard-fought independence that Sarah lost during her pregnancy, as she realised she wouldn’t be able to do the things other mums can.

“I’m jealous of mothers who run along the pavement with their babies with a pram – I just can’t do that. It’s upsetting and there have been a few tears. I can’t have that independent lifestyle that other mothers have with their babies.”

Having conceived the twins naturally and with no history of twins on either side of their families, Sarah and Evan were completely shocked when they saw two “blobs” on the ultrasound.

“I was laughing and crying and laughing,” remembers Sarah as she wheels her way around her Auckland home, stopping at a specially modified cot to deposit Sophie. Sarah says she’s been lucky to have the support of her family and friends who helped her through a difficult pregnancy.

“For the last month of the pregnancy, things got really difficult as my tummy was so big. I couldn’t push my wheelchair up hills that would normally be no problem, as my stomach was in the way!”

Luckily for Sarah she and Evan, who got together five years ago after meeting at work, were both fully prepared when Odin and Sophie were welcomed into the world in February and are now celebrating the completion of their family.

“It still feels surreal. It’s how I still feel with my wheelchair as well. I look at my chair or see myself in the mirror and think it is all very weird and strange. Now, it’s like, ‘I have two babies!’ They are gorgeous and lovely but I’m still shocked.”

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