The Journey to Meet Our Daughter
As you've most likely seen already, we are the proud new parents to our now 9-week old baby girl Eleven Parker McKenzie. The past couple of months have certainly been a whirlwind of waiting, labouring, celebrating, recovering, learning, healing and getting back into a sense of routine.
After suffering a crushing Spinal cord injury 21 years ago when I broke my neck in the murky Murray River at Echuca, I awoke 2 weeks later and was told I would never walk again and have only limited use of my arms - it’s fair to say I was completely shattered. For the next two weeks my time was spent adjusting to all that had shut down in my body; bowel, bladder, lungs, muscles, more or less everything from my nipples down, externally and internally. I even had tubes in my throat - it was really a terrible time and being a single fella the thoughts circled of what was to come of me... would finding love and having kids even be possible now? I was to be moved to a rehabilitation facility where I would spend the next 8 months learning how to live in a wheelchair. The first week I was there I was fortunate to meet a Chinese Doctor Terry Lim who informed me of a new practice of removing my sperm immediately before the quality decreased - incase I wanted to father children in the future. Well fast forward 20 years and here is our beautiful daughter Eleven. Thanks Doc and the IVF program!
I had met Jess a few years earlier in the corridors of the rehabilitation facility that I visited in my role as a Peer Support Volunteer for people going through the same as I had. Jess always had a camera in her hand and nose down for a story and I had a lot of respect for her role in helping people with disabilities and she saw all people regardless of wheelchairs as people and after a new interest by myself in photography I quickly organized a one on one in lesson in photography and the rest is history.
Stem Cell collection was something that we'd organised a few weeks prior to the birth, and something that I've always hoped to be able to do as soon as I learned about the research into using stem cells to repair spinal cords. Although costing a few thousand dollars to store it, we'd signed up to a payment plan, and were excited to have the collection done. Not only is it something that could potentially help me with medical therapy (and possibly walking again one day) but it's something that our daughter might be able to access if she ever has any health problems. Sadly it was not to be, as the night baby came was New Year's Eve and we were advised half way through labour that the collector on duty was in Katherine, a three hour drive away. I was devastated.
The birth of our baby girl made up for it however. She was the first baby born in Darwin in 2017 which was grouse as it allowed us to share our miracle baby story.
Now, a few weeks later, we've been through the ups and downs as new parents. We love her more than anything and is a source of real joy for us, and now she's smiling she's even more of a joy if that's possible! However it's also been a time of adjustment and of course sleep deprivation. I haven't spent this much time in bed since... well since my last hospital stay! But I'm loving my morning snuggles with my princess.
My proudest innovation so far has been getting the fitting for my wheelchair to allow the baby capsule (car seat) to sit in front of me. I discovered there had been another design made by a company in Darwin, but it would cost $2,200, plus the cost of the new baby capsule – I already had a second hand capsule, and my own thoughts on a design so took it to the SEAT clinic at the hospital and asked if they might consider making it for me. Sure enough they were happy to (as long as I took full responsibility for it not adhering to safety standards), and they were able to come up with the below; a steel t-bar on my foot plate that allows for the baby seat can come straight out of the car and clip in to t-bar with the other end sitting on the seat between my legs.
With no tricep muscles picking Eleven up is impossible for me and changing nappies is another I can't do, but Jess is great always passing her to me and I do my fair share of cuddling, burping, and settling her by doing laps around the house or jiggling her on my arm.
So on a whole life is grouse.