She had a clear road map in her head of when she’d hit all her adult milestones, but life doesn’t always go according to plan.
Known around the world as the “paralysed bride”, in 2010 Rachelle Friedman Chapman saw her plans to get married and have children postponed after a playful push at her bachelorette party left her a quadriplegic. But fast-forward four years and, now happily married, Rachelle, 28, is about to become a mother.
This August, she heard the heartbeat of her child for the first time.
“That was so cool. It was so fast and so strong —I didn’t know it would be that intense,” Rachelle told TODAY.com after returning from an ultrasound appointment with the surrogate carrying her child. “I was trying not to let myself get excited up until this point because I didn’t want to be let down if there wasn’t a heartbeat, but now that there is, I’m crazy excited. It’s so real now.”
The baby is due in mid-April.
It’s been a long journey for Rachelle. Four years ago, she was left paralysed just below the collarbone after breaking her neck from an innocent push into a swimming pool. One of the first things she asked after the accident was whether she’d still be able to have children.
“They told me on the side of the pool, 'You’ll still be able to have kids,'” she said.
But her recovery delayed her attempt to start a family. She and Chris Chapman, 32, got married a year after her accident and eventually started looking into surrogacy. Although many paralysed women are able to carry and deliver babies, that wasn't an option for Rachelle because of medication she has taken since her accident to help regulate her blood pressure.
Soon, Laurel Humes, a university friend, reached out to help. She had been following Rachelle 's story through Facebook and said she was already considering surrogacy after her husband became a sperm donor for a same-sex couple they knew.
"When I heard Rachelle was looking for a surrogate, I told him, 'You helped a couple. I’d like to really make this offer and see if she’d be interested in me doing this for her'," Laurel told TODAY.com.
"I remember how exciting it was to see and hear my son's heartbeat for the first time in utero. It was really special to be able to share that with Rachelle this morning," she said.
Rachelle went through a ten-day IVF treatment that ultimately resulted in Laurel successfully being implanted with a fertilized egg earlier this month.
After news circulated about her efforts to start a family, Rachelle said some critics questioned whether she could be a fit mother because of her paralysis.