Being a G-Ma

My son texted me the other day and sent me a photo. It was a sonogram. I called him and said, “That better be a baby.”  He laughed and said, “Yep, Mom, you are going to be a G-Ma.”  Well, I am already Nana to my oldest grandson, who is my daughter-in-law’s son before she married Tyler, my oldest child.  A baby on the way is going to exciting because Elex, my grandson, was 11 when Tyler married Ashley.   So, a baby on board is exciting news!

I remember the first day when I found out I was going to be a mom with Tyler. That was November of 1986. I was 22 years old and living in Las Vegas at the time.  I was so excited! My friend Lynn and I went to the baby store and came home with cribs, blankets, diaper holders, lamps and everything a baby could need. I wanted to be prepared. I even found a changing table I could roll under.

Being paralyzed for five years was going to change everything I knew with a baby on board. I needed to be prepared. I needed to make sure I really watched how I transferred, because I had precious cargo now. During the pregnancy, and after I got the first sonogram, Dr. Aberman, said, “Oh Madonna, this one is a boxer, lots of energy.”  Little did he know how true that statement would become!

Dr. Aberman was an amazing OBGYN doctor and came highly recommended in Las Vegas. Yet, he had never delivered a baby from a paraplegic, so he was on the phone to UCLA doctors and learning what to expect. The first few times transferring to the non-accessible exam table was challenging. It was 1986 and there were no such features on exam tables for people who could not stand. So, I had to educate his staff on helping me transfer up to the table.  At that time, I weighed 105 pounds and it was easy.  I would hold on to the back of my wheelchair and have the nurse put her foot on the footplate and grab my knees and up we went.  Later as I gained weight, that got a little more difficult, but the staff was amazing.

Six months into my pregnancy, I was having pre-term labor and was placed on bed rest. This little baby was ready to see the world, which almost gave my doctor a nervous breakdown. So, at home I stayed.  Then at seven months and a few weeks, Tyler decided it was enough and he was born in June of 1987, five and a half weeks early, weighing five pounds, six ounces. Thankfully, he was healthy. Now the work really began, and my life changed forever because I was responsible for this little life.

I had to figure it all out. There was no para-mom handbook. So, I had to learn how to keep a newborn on my lap in my wheelchair. I put Tyler on my lap and I carefully rolled with him, making sure to watch his hands and make sure he did not slide from one side or the other. I would wrap him up in a blanket like a little papoose, tightly snuggled so he felt safe on my lap. Later, he would just sit on my lap and it was natural to him, even as we did a wheelie off the curb.

As he got older and was on the floor, I could scoop him up under one arm and put him on my lap. Now of course, I would never do this with anyone else’s child, but I could do it safely with him to get him on my lap.  Diapering him was easy too, right on my lap.  Tyler lived on his mama’s lap until he started walking, which turned into running. The game was on.

Having Tyler was one of the happiest times of my life, as well as having all four of my children. Tyler was the test subject for this new momma in a wheelchair. He helped me learn who I was and who he could be. I hope that he and Ashley cherish each moment of her pregnancy, and this baby’s life, because I am going to a great G-Ma known as Nana. 

When I visit, I think I will take the baby outside and have coffee. My kids say that it is one of the best memories they have with my mother: having coffee on the porch with Grandma Ruth.  My mom would take the kids out on the porch in the morning make them a cup of coffee (mostly milk and a splash of coffee) and sit there and talk to them. This was one of the things they loved doing with my mom. If you asked all 22 of her grandkids, that is the memory they cherish the most.  So, I think making memories is the most important part about being a G-Ma.  Making G-Ma memories are the best. I hope I can do that with my first grandchild. 

About Madonna Long: Madonna works as a disability advocate to educate policymakers and congressional leaders on disability issues. She is a mother to four children and lives life on her terms, despite a spinal cord injury. Click here to learn more about Madonna.