Meet Reedan Thiessen, a super-caring mom of 4 kids, a birth doula, a birth photographer that does not let her disability define herself or her motherhood!
Motion Composites: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your diagnosis? The reasons why you need to have a mobility aid.
Reedan Thiessen: When I was born, I was “normal”, and when I was 4 years old, I got diagnosed with different “back issues”; two skeletal defects, as well as Scoliosis, Tethered Cord Syndrome and Spina Bifida.
Apart from that I had a few doctors bringing back that possible diagnosis, but nobody will give it to me, so I never put too much thought into Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS). Then, when I was pregnant with Forrester (my first baby), my water broke at 30 weeks, very unexpectedly. So, while I was being prepared to go into my C-section a doctor asked me if I had been diagnosed with EDS in the past, and when I said no, he told me that he thought I had it and that I should go and talk about it with my family doctor. But of course, once I had Forrester, it was just not my priority.
After, once I was trying to get pregnant again, we had 3 miscarriages in a very short period of time. And again, someone asked me if I had EDS, but no one would actually sit with me and talk to me about it. I started informing myself about EDS, but since back then I was only having nerve pain, not experiencing any dislocations or anything like that, it was just not my priority.
Once I got pregnant with Thorin (my 3rd kid), and during the pregnancy I started noticing that my toes would pop in-and-out of place and my knees would start clicking while walking. I decided to wait until the pregnancy would be over to check on it, and see if things would get better, but unfortunately, they only got worse. The moment that I decided I needed to go with a doctor about this was one time where I was trying to get my kids out of the car seat and as I pushed the button to unlock their seatbelts, both of my thumbs popped out of place. I went to the family doctor the very next day and I got diagnosed with EDS.
In 2020, my EDS subluxations, as well as severe leg weakness and nerve pain, led me to have a repeat MRI to check on my tethered cord. What we found was that I had severe arachnoiditis in my lower spine, and no movement of my spinal cord below my previous scar tissue. This explained my quickly deteriorating mobility. I then started using a forearm crutch, and then when I could no longer tolerate any walking for more than a few meters, I transitioned to a wheelchair. Currently I can walk around the home unassisted (except for long lengths of standing), but out of the home I rely on my mobility aid.
MC: You are a mom of 4 beautiful kids (Forrester, Caoimhe Daisy, Thorin Argus, and Rutter)! What is that like?
RT: It is an ever-changing adventure! I went from being told that my body would never sustain the stress of pregnancy, to living my dream. It is busy, and chaotic at times, between the different stages each of them is in, and their personalities, but it also comes quite naturally … thankfully! It also helps that my kids are truly great kids!
Reedan with her youngest son Rutter
MC: Can you describe a normal day in your busy mom life?
RT: Usually my day starts early, surrounded by an assortment of children who needed a cuddle or had a bad dream through the night. I tend to wake up well before everyone and enjoy a bit of time by myself. Then once everyone wakes up, we have breakfast, and I have my coffee. From there, we will either start homeschooling for Forrester, and preschool for the little ones, or start the day with playtime. These days, their imagination is through the roof! So, I spend lots of time listening to tales of pirates, doctors, or princesses and dinosaurs play out in their room … usually leading to a massive mess that needs sorting. (Worth it!) In the afternoon, we play, or paint, or if the weather allows, spend some time outside. In the spring and summer, we will go for a family walk in the late afternoon to relax and set ourselves up for a chill evening. Once suppers have been had, it’s time for the kids to go to bed. We sing “Baby Beluga,” “Skinnamarink,” and “You are my sunshine.” (Thorin almost never makes it to the end) Ben will read a chapter from a book, and I will have some form of quiet time for myself, before we turn in for some Netflix time.
MC: How does your APEX C contribute to your day to day?
RT: My APEX C is my daily lifesaver! Whether we are at the Science Centre, or even outside in the campground, it gives me an enjoyable day. Before, I couldn’t truly enjoy an adventure or walk without ending up in so much pain that I couldn’t function. What first drew me to it was actually the weight and size of it. It gives me so much independence because I can lift it myself (it’s actually lighter than my stroller), I can push my kids in their stroller comfortably, and I can fit through isles and into small bathrooms no problem, but I can also carry my son in a carrier comfortably. My kids also love that there are armrests to hold onto when their legs are finally tired.
Reedan in her APEX C
MC: What have you learned about yourself since becoming a mom? Has that opinion changed over the years with the arrival of the new babies?
RT: After growing up surrounded by doctors always saying what was wrong with me, and saying what I couldn’t do, it took a long time to have some confidence in myself. I feared that if I ever reached a point where I could mother like the world says you have too, that I would fail. Over the years, even though my condition has changed, I have learned to forgive my body and no longer believe that it has failed me. Because it hasn’t. I have a newfound confidence in myself as I maneuver the days and thrive!
MC: Do you think your disability affects the way you are raising your kids? If yes, how so?
RT: In some ways, yes absolutely. We teach in our house to love everyone, no matter how they look, or what differences their life has to ours. We also adventure regularly as a whole family. It allows my children to have so much time with both parents, thankfully we are able to do that in our case, as I may not be able to easily take all the kids out and about while they are all so young.
MC: We have seen your work as a photographer, and we are mesmerized! The stories that you are telling about motherhood, in every step of the way are incredible and super powerful. Can you tell us a bit more about why did you decide to specialize yourself in bumps/births/babies and couples/portrait pictures?
RT: Thank you! Honestly before I had children, I had no idea that something like birth photography was an option, or that there was more value in maternity photos than just looking pretty. Forrester was born 10 weeks premature, via a general anesthetic emergency caesarean due to my spina bifida, and through that experience I found so much hidden value in the memories and feelings photos can contain. Especially in a moment when there is so much going on and you may not be able to see the beauty of that moment. Once she was released from NICU, I did my doula training, and a few months later, began doing birth photography, then eventually added the rest. Not only was I able to capture these moments of power and beauty for these mothers and humans, in a time they may not remember clearly, but it also provided me with so much healing from my own birth. I had my husband capture my other births, once in the OR which was wild, and I can say that those photos transformed those memories for me.
MC: Do you have any advice to future disabled mothers out there?
RT: Remember, you are strong. Motherhood, and parenting in general, is all about adapting. Adapting your schedule, your home, your body! So, my best advice is to take all the time you need to find out what adaptations work for you and take each moment in slowly! It goes by so fast! Wear your baby, find your groove. Create a community where you’re comfortable to ask for help. And as your children age, you’ll be surprised how resilient your family is.
We want to thank Reedan and her family for taking the time to connect with us! Make sure to follow Reedan on Instagram and to check out her work as a photographer and all the adventures that she embarks on together with her APEX C!