Lubna Aslam is a self-proclaimed extreme soccer mom to Zayed (10) and Zara (9). From organizing school book swaps to playing basketball with her kids, she is an active and involved mom. When she is not acting as chauffeur to Zayed and Zara, she works as an Employment Counsellor at Spinal Cord Injury Ontario. She has called Toronto home for the past six years, but is a bit of a nomadic soul and has lived in India, Kuwait and the USA.
Motherhood involves a fair bit of adapting and learning as you go along. Being a mom with a spinal cord injury, involves an even greater degree of modification, not just of tools and practices, but also of people’s perceptions.
I had my son two years after sustaining my injury. Having a family was important to me. I like to say that my injury interrupted my life. It caused some delays in starting our family, but it did not change our plans. Once I established the new normal with my body we got back on track to starting a family. My injury did not affect my fertility or my libido and my husband can attest to the fact that it did not change his desire for me.
Both of my pregnancies went as planned and there were no complications. A few days after the birth of my son I realized there was a lack of resources in regards to post-natal care for mothers who have a spinal cord injury. I reached out to other mothers who had a spinal cord injury in my community and learned through their experiences. I also found myself listening to my instincts and being in tune with my baby’s reactions and behaviour.
I found certain products were vital, such as Baby Bjorns, that allowed me to multitask and move around with my kids. My most notable product modification I did was using an airplane seatbelt to attach my babies’ Moses Baskets to myself and my wheelchair. As my kids got older, I used the seatbelt when they sat on my lap. We had fun with this and taught my son when he was two years old to put his hands up and say “weee” anytime we went down a ramp.
I’ve developed a thick skin and I’ve become very diplomatic when responding to people’s interesting and sometimes imposing questions about my spinal cord injury. I’ve had people ask “how do you cook” or my favourite from a toddler, asking if I know Professor X from X-Men. I’ve been mindful to teach my children on how to respond to these questions with a certain level of tact. One time a woman said to my daughter “I feel so sad that your mom is in a wheelchair.” My daughter turned to her with a big smile and said “don’t be, she is such a happy person.”
Next week, on September 20th they will be on the sidelines cheering me on at the Wheelchair Relay Challenge & stROLL. I participate in many other charity events, but the Wheelchair Relay Challenge & stROLL, run by Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, is a one-of-a-kind experience. Participants, who use a wheelchair in their every day lives or don’t, race against each other on teams in wheelchairs.
My team is the Penguins. We all dress in black and white and wear bowties and we give out “penguin food” (i.e. Goldfish crackers.) My kids have a blast enjoying the festivities and cheering me on. They truly honour me. They have become my biggest accessibility advocates and will be the loudest cheerleaders at the event.
The Wheelchair Relay Challenge and stROLL is happening Sunday, September 20th at Monarch Park Stadium in Toronto from 9am and 1pm. Anyone can come and check out the festivities and you can still sign up a team for the Relay or as an individual stroller. Wheelchairs will be provided for Relay participants who don’t have a wheelchair. To donate or learn more about the event you can go to www.sciontario.org/Relaystroll2015 and to learn more about Spinal Cord Injury Ontario you can visit www.sciontario.org.