A woman’s journey into motherhood after acquiring a disability

This Mother's Day, spinal cord injury survivor Jean, lets us in on her motherhood journey.

An adventurer at heart, Jean Ling had always harboured a dream to scale the mountains and explore nature with her children one day. But a tragic car accident nine years ago left her paralysed, and her dream dashed. 

“Am I able to take care of myself? Would anyone love me?” Thoughts like these popped up in Jean’s mind repeatedly. 

Alas, fate worked its magic and Jean met her husband, Jake Oh. And the rest is history. 

Their little family soon expanded into a family of four as they welcomed the arrival of their daughter Summer in 2020, and son Evan in 2022.  

Adjusting to her role as a first-time mum was a rollercoaster ride. As much as she enjoys motherhood, it was not without its challenges. 

She recalled the time when her daughter Summer was born: “Due to my mobility issues, there was a lot that I couldn’t do for her. I couldn’t run to her when she cried or carry her from the chair to the sofa.” 

Even carrying her child in her arms was daunting as there was a constant fear of dropping her baby. 

But these setbacks did not deter Jean from pushing past her condition to care for her kids.  

Focus on what is possible. Seek help for the rest. 

For Jean, playing games like catching or hide and seek with her children may be out of the question. But the 39-year-old constantly thinks of ways to engage her children, such as through role playing.  

This photo collage shows Jean playing with her son Evan on the left and daughter Summer on the right
Jean playing with her son Evan (left) and daughter Summer (right). Photo courtesy: Jean Ling. 

Recounting the time when Summer was a baby, Jean recalled that the limited skin-to-skin time led to her daughter not feeling as close to her. So now, even a simple move like lifting her kids in the air is a cherished bonding opportunity for Jean. 

While the spinal cord injury did not affect her hand function, it affected her sense of balance.  

Jean using a carrier to carry Evan as she goes down the slope on her wheelchair
Jean using the carrier to help her carry her child safely while moving down the slope. Credit: @sgdisabledmom 

“Because I have no balance, I was always afraid of falling forward from my wheelchair. The anxiety was worse when going down a steep ramp or road,” explained Jean. 

“This is why I don’t dare to carry my baby in front of me when going down slope. Thankfully, I found a carrier that allows him to sit in front of me safely while I lean backwards.” 

Though Jean tries to be hands-on whenever she could, there are still some areas in which she needs help. For instance, carrying her baby from say the chair to the cot. This is where Jean’s family and helper come in as her “hands and legs”, a help that she deeply appreciates. 

On doing her best as a mother 

Wanting to devote more time to her children, the former administrative executive left her job a few months ago. As she hopes to return to the workforce one day, she admitted that she was worried about how potential employers will view her career gap.  

“The decision to stay home was not an easy one as there were many concerns. But the time spent seeing my children grow and develop is priceless,” she said. 

“I feel guilty for not being able to do as many things as I hoped for with my children, so I want to make it up to them through other ways.” 

Jean and family celebrating Summer's birthday in school
Credit: @sgdisabledmom 

Every day is a busy but blissful one for Jean. Being able to accompany Summer to school and cheer for Evan as he attains his developmental milestones – these are the little moments that Jean cherishes. 

Striving to be a good mother to Summer and Evan, Jean’s personal adventures will have to wait, at least until her children turn older.  

Jean and her husband trying out adaptive skiing
Jean trying out adaptive skiing. Photo courtesy: Jean Ling. 

“I’ve tried horse riding, rock climbing and adaptive skiing, even after acquiring my disability. My next goal is bungee jumping,” she said. “But as my kids are still young, I have a responsibility to them. It’s never too late to try after they grow up.” 

A photo of Jean and her family
Photo courtesy: Jean Ling. 

It has been nine years since Jean’s life changed its course completely.  

While a part of her still hopes that she could walk again someday, she finds great joy in her life right now: “With a loving mother and husband, as well as two adorable kids, what more can I ask for?”