Baby on board: parenting in a wheelchair

Niamh Ni Ruari

Niamh and her family

When I was first forced to change my mobility from legs to a wheelchair at 18, I thought ‘no one will ever love me’. I tried dating websites from then on, hiding my insecurity and slipping it in as a “by the way” when arranging to go on dates.

Five years later, I met my prince charming who didn’t care about the wheelchair aspect. If anything, he embraces it.

A couple months into our relationship, I became pregnant. I was so relieved when my boyfriend decided to stay in the relationship because he is, by far, the best partner I have had. I didn’t want my life to begin as a single parent. I knew the birth of my child would change my life completely.

Almost a year on, my partner and I are taking this parenting thing like a ducks to water, I’d say my parents are a big reason for why I feel this way. Our child is now 10 months old and attends a creche, so the difficulty of me having to mind him every day is now over.

At the beginning it was hard. I now receive help, but this is for only two hours per day. The assistance is for me only and does not include any help with my baby, which I will never understand why.

I would rely on my dad a lot to pick him up or put him down on the floor for me. He would very happily do this, but I was always aware that this was disrupting him from work.

When my son and I go out on our own, without my partner, we would often get a weird look from strangers as if to say “why is a woman in a wheelchair minding a baby”, unaware that the baby is actually mine, and like any good parent, I am taking him out to run errands and get fresh air. I tend to occasionally get a brave individual coming up and making conversation. In a comment, the person will always ask “is the baby yours?” I politely say “yes”, but deep inside me there’s an answer that wants to slip out saying ‘no, I stole him from a baby fair’ just to see what their reaction would be.

Babies seem to be a rare idea to imagine when it comes to wheelchair users, which I can understand. Some chair users may have a lot of complications. It is seldom a wheelchair user is seen with a baby, but don’t ask ‘is the baby yours?’, as this question comes across as ignorant, and gives me the impression that the person doesn’t have an open mind to accept the fact.

My partner comes home from university mid-evening and takes our baby to mind and share a catch up on both of their days which gives me a break. Now, he brings him home from creche most days and depending on who has work to do for the next day, the other will take him.

Life is tough for any family starting out, especially for those who haven’t finished creating their own future yet, and especially for those who have extra physical requirements. Life will always be a challenge, but a challenge is what I like.


Niamh Ni Ruari

Image Credit: Facebook