Mallory Weggemann Wants to Destigmatize Parents With Disabilities
Poring over pregnancy books, Paralympic swimmer Mallory Weggemann found advice on everything from choosing a birthing method to hosting gender reveals—but virtually zero information on navigating pregnancy in a wheelchair.
"You read all your parenting books and nothing talks about how to navigate through adaptive parenting," Weggemann said in an interview with People published on Jan. 27. "You buy your products for the nursery, but nothing's out there giving you accessible options for integrating those products to care for your child."
Weggemann's pregnancy journey
Despite the frustrating lack of adaptive resources, Weggemann, a five-time Paralympic medalist swimmer, is "over the moon" to be nearing her March 2023 due date. The athlete has been vocal on social media about her journey to conception, including hurdles she and her husband, Jay Snyder, had to clear with male infertility and in vitro fertilization (IVF).
"[The process involved] two egg retrievals, a microTESE surgery, hormonal treatment for suspected endometriosis, an unsuccessful transfer, a mock transfer cycle, an operative hysteroscopy and 440 injections, and counting," Weggemann wrote when she revealed her successful embryo transfer in an August 2022 Instagram post.
"It has taken science, the best care team there is and a lot of love and here we are with our little miracle on the way!" wrote Weggemann, who has been paralyzed from the waist down since age 18.
Challenging the 'unconscious bias'
Since sharing the news, Weggemann has competed at the 2022 U.S. Para Swimming Nationals in December. At the time, she was 26 weeks pregnant.
"When I was getting set—I start with my knees to my chest and I rock forward onto my feet—Baby was giving me some kicks right in that upper-left rib area," Weggemann told People. "It was just that reminder of, we're literally doing this together."
Weggemann won a silver medal in the 50-meter butterfly but says her decision to race wasn't about placing.
"I knew it was less about the race and more about what the race and what doing it would stand for," Weggemann told NBC Sports after the meet. "Just showcasing what women are capable of and what individuals with disabilities are capable of."
Weggemann hopes she is able to inspire people with disabilities and female athletes hoping to become mothers. She revealed in a December Instagram post that she hopes to challenge "the unconscious bias we have in society that motherhood is an either/or scenario," which feels more intense "due to the fact that I am also a woman with a disability."
"Let's support the mamas in our lives," she wrote. "Let's drop the 'you should just…' and instead honor and empower them because at the end of the day, women are capable of remarkable things and that should be celebrated, not limited."