Episode 39 Transcript

Published: Thursday March 21, 2024

Wheels of Change 🦽 | Welcome Dr. Lindsay Ulrey

Motherhood on Wheels: Dr. Ulrey’s story


Alycia Anderson: Welcome to Pushing Forward with Alycia, a podcast that gives disability a voice. Each week we will explore topics like confidence, ambition, resilience and finding success against all odds. We are creating a collective community that believes that all things are possible for all people.

Open hearts. Clear paths. Let’s go.

Welcome back to Pushing Forward with Alycia, I’m Alycia Anderson.

We have Dr. Lindsay Ulrey. She is a licensed clinical psychologist and a certified prenatal mental health practitioner. She runs her own private practice in Northern California, which means, she’s a total boss babe as well. She’s a Mama of two young boys and she’s got some passion projects that focus on motherhood for women who are wheelchair users. She does this work through Northern California SCI and also her own platform that she’s recently launched on Instagram called Wheel Good Motherhood.

Definitely, check it out and follow, if you’re looking for resources and just inspiration.

Lindsay, welcome.

Can you tell us a little bit about your connection with disability, whatever you’re comfortable with and kind of paint the beautiful picture of the woman that you are?

Dr. Lindsay Ulrey: Yes, I will. Yeah. So as you said, I am a boy mom to two amazing boys who I love dearly. They’re a big part of my life, of course. And I’m also super grateful for the work that I do as a clinical psychologist, primarily working with not only women, but men and women in that stage of life.

And, perinatal just to like clarify what that really means, is it usually… it means like from a birth to from, you know…sorry, sorry, pregnancy to birth to one year after birth. So, that’s typically where we look for things called perinatal mood and anxiety disorders that may be happening, and we want to support those people during that time.

It’s a very, like, specific time where you have a lot of environmental and biological things that are happening that can definitely impact your mental health.

So, it’s the reason it’s a specialty is because it’s a very kind of like specific time where if you went to more of like a General Practitioner, they might feel very differently about like what you’re coming in with, but we think about the environment, the environment, right. So like you haven’t slept in a while, have you? Like, you know what I mean. Like you haven’t… you… your identity has completely changed. Like all the old coping things that you used to have access to may no longer be a part of your repertoire.

So it’s holding a lot of that, and then thinking about how that can impact your mental health, how we address that and then thinking about your biology, right, like your hormones are changing and if you’re nursing, you have a lot of different things going on where you know, like you went from having your body be pretty much yours to being like, you know, on call every two hours.

So you could… we would call imagine there’s very like specific things that can be challenging about that, that could potentially impact your mental health, right. So it’s a very important. You know, it’s important to think about all of those things while you’re treating a person who’s maybe experiencing some symptoms of it. Depression or anxiety or whatever else it might be, and I love that work so much… like, I I’m so grateful I get to do it.

Alycia Anderson: Fascinating.

Dr. Lindsay Ulrey: I love. I love what I do. And, then you had mentioned my disability, and so I wanted to… yeah, so kind of share a little bit about that.

I’m still kind of… I’m to be super honest with you still trying to like find my disability identity. You know, just to give a little quick background. I acquired a spinal cord injury about two years ago, so not that long ago, you know, so I’m still trying to kind of navigate my new life in this new body that works in a very different way than it used to.

And so, I feel like especially my role as a mom and then having a disability and using a wheelchair full-time there’s a lot of like… I mean, initially there was a lot of conflict between those roles. And feeling like, I literally don’t understand how I’m going to do this, you know, and it’s evolved to oh, OK.

And mostly, this has come from meeting a lot of other wheelie moms who are like, you got this girl.

Like, it’s definitely a way of getting around in the world that’s different than you’re used to, but it’s so doable. And like look, we’re out here going to soccer games, going to school assemblies, you know… like…. and so being able to know other people are going through. I feel less alone in my experience, [and it] has helped me feel, I think, a little bit more like OK, like I can. I can do these things with my disability from my wheelchair and it doesn’t…like, I mean it changes the way I used to do things for sure, but it doesn’t like… mean it’s over.

You know like when I was in the hospital, and I wasn’t… and I was thinking a lot about, like, motherhood, like me as a mom. I only had a frame of reference as a woman who was on my feet, right, like and I didn’t have any other frame of reference.

I didn’t see anything. So… in, like, in the media, really portraying moms who use wheelchairs.

So, I was just kind of like, how do I do this like literally? And then it… you know, I think it became more and more comfortable for me to say, OK, like I can. I can definitely handle these things that I thought would be impossible with the disability.

Alycia Anderson: I can only imagine, honestly, how stressful that probably could be, where you are ambulatory one more moment.

You have something in your life that is significantly, I’m sure, traumatic.

And you wake up, and you go, “Oh my God. I have two kids. What am I going to do? Like, I have to figure this out on my own, and I’ve got kids!”

How do you process that initially?

Dr. Lindsay Ulrey: Oh yeah, I… that’s a really good question.

It was honestly…, it was just terrifying. It was terrifying.

And I think the way that I had to get through it or the way that I did get through it was, I mean, I’m a kind of person who always tried to find people who get it. Like who…, who like, who understand what I’m going through. And so I literally got on the Internet and was like searching… like wheelchair moms… like literally like… using those exact words to find reference points for myself, because I needed to see it… because I had never seen it.

I didn’t know a single person in my community who was a mom using a wheelchair.

And so, for me a big thing was like knowing just one other person was out there and like doing their thing. I was like, OK, if that person can do it, I think I can start to do this as well.

So, I think that was how I started processing it for myself… was just seeing other people, other examples of Mama’s, you know, doing their thing on wheels. So that was super helpful, and then… I think a lot of it too was… this acceptance… was a lot of grief, of course. Like a lot of grief… of like, I’m not gonna be able to do things the same way I used to do them. That’s just… that’s just facts, you know, and but it doesn’t mean that, like, I can’t do anything, you know, and that I can’t do it. It’s… it doesn’t mean that I can’t adapt and adjust.

And, you know…, and this was even from… and for someone who, like, didn’t really even know about hand controls. You know, like I didn’t even… I really didn’t know… I think I kind of knew, but like, I didn’t really know… like that… you could drive a car with hand controls only!

So, I was picturing, like, how am I gonna get them to…, to and from?

And, you know, and I’m like…, am I going to have to have full time care to?

So it was really from that, to like I don’t know, girl!?! I… you know…, I take my kids to soccer, I take them to the store and like, ohh… OK, so where do I begin?

OK, I get hand controls. OK, and so these moms who I met, who had been further along down the journey would like, break it down for me into a little more bite sized things that I could do. So I’m like, OK, here’s what I do, and so they kind of mothered me through, you know.., this…, this journey in terms of like, finding my way into being a mom who’s in a wheelchair.

Alycia Anderson: You know, I love that power of social media and the Internet for us as resources today, because that hasn’t always been there.

And the fact that we can Google, “mom in a wheelchair” and get a glimpse in the… in the day of the life of… in a real, authentic way, not something that’s made-up on TV or anything like that, and get some real tangible like advice and lessons and confidence and just visuals of how to navigate things.

I think it is extremely powerful, and like today’s society, for us as disabled people, right?

Dr. Lindsay Ulrey: Oh 100%, especially in this experience.

I think just in my own personal experience, having people first of all, so much gratitude for the people who put their, you know, put themselves out there and keep it real and say, you know, this is hard, but I’m doing it. But here’s how I’m doing it right.

Like so it is… and I think it’s like, I always feel like, yeah, just this overwhelming sense of gratitude because it takes effort to create content and put it out there and be vulnerable and all the things that come with that. So yeah, I think, you know, social media gets a lot of like, a lot of crap for being bad, but this part I feel like has been very helpful for especially, you know, in my community.

I’m the only person. I’m the only mom in a wheelchair in my whole community that I’m aware of right? And so, if I didn’t have social media, I mean…!?!

I could of very much isolated… very much more alone than I feel right now.

Just. You know, yeah.

Alycia Anderson: So we’re often times the only one right.

And so how does that translate?

How does that feel?

Dr. Lindsay Ulrey: Yeah, that’s a super good question.

And I think honestly, it kind of depends on where you’re going and who you’re with.

What I have found is… I mean, initially I felt just really, really awkward and that was me. I think a combination of me just being awkward in my new disabled body because I was like literally like, how does this chair work and how do you know what I mean like that part. But then also I think… it was like, you know I didn’t feel like they… had this big amount of confidence to like, roll into a room and be like I own my story. I got this, you know, like, I think, which I think comes with time and practice and just showing up to things.

And so, I think, yeah, I definitely initially felt really uncomfortable, but it it does, it really does depend.

And what I’ve noticed is as I’ve, you know…, I have this really awesome neighborhood that has this, like, really big group of moms. I’m the only mom in a wheelchair, but as they like…, when I go outside and they get… gotten to know me. And they’ve gotten to kind of like ask me… really, really transparent questions about my wheelchair and they’re just, like, super open about it and they encourage their kids to, like, come up, you know, be like, hey, what’s this and be curious and cool about it.

Everyone’s like, it’s not a big deal.

It’s like some taboo thing that we… that every time that happens, we feel more and more connected and the chair becomes less and less of like…doesn’t even you know, it’s like a thing for me, and then it’s not a thing really for anybody else.

So that gives me more confidence to then like go to the assemblies and like go to the parties for school and there is always this level of very normal and natural curiosity about a wheelchair and that’s kids should be asking questions, right.

Like that’s what they should be doing.

I think so, it’s been helpful I think for both me and to feel more comfortable than for my kids to be like, alright, cool… like Mom’s on wheels, but it’s like she’s still getting around, she’s still showing up, and so I think that, that’s been a helpful part of it too.

Alycia Anderson: Let’s take a quick break. You’re listening to Pushing Forward with Alycia.


Alycia Anderson: Welcome back to Pushing Forward with Alycia, I’m Alycia Anderson.

We have Dr. Lindsay Ulrey. She is a Mama of two young boys and she’s got some passion projects that focus on motherhood for women who are wheelchair users.

We met on a sort of a women’s retreat, women empowerment group.

You’ve talked about how being disabled has given you a new, unique perspective or a new lens where you can kind of see from a child’s level perspective.

Can you talk through that?

I think it’s so powerful.

Dr. Lindsay Ulrey: So I was sharing. What I… what has really stood out to me is I mean from really from the day I came home from the hospital. And I was in my wheelchair, and I remember my 5 year old because my kids were five and two at the time and my 5 year old was like, Mom, look, we’re at the same height now, you know. And I was like, yeah, that’s funny.

Like, ohh. And now I can see the view from, you know, from how you see things, and I was kind of like laughing about it.

And I, was like no… wait, now I can really see the view of how you see things, and I’m, you know, rolling around our house. And I’m like, Oh my gosh, these countertops are like, so high and like, why is that cup up there? And why is the top shelf of the refrigerator so high, where the milk is… where, like, so, I had this this, like, pull into their world of like, living in a world that is not designed for them to succeed.

But I think from my point of view, it’s really helped me as a mom, of course, because I have so much more empathy for not only things being out of reach, but also like waiting for other people to help you.

And so for me, as a mom, I really don’t think that I’d be able to access this level of empathy, connection and understanding for their experience… then, if I… if I had never become disabled.

Alycia Anderson: There was a moment during my Christmas where all the nieces and nephews were around, the parents were cooking… everybody was busy, and one of my nieces really wanted attention. She… and it was like she wasn’t being heard.

It was a communication thing too. It’s a height difference. It’s not looking in the eye. It’s like, do you hear me? You’re not… You’re tuning me. You know, you’re… you’re busy. I’m down here. You’re up there. How do we meet each other too?

And then… So, I kept going like… like go on… like, pick her up, put her on my lap. How can I help you?

You know, like face to face because it was like. And that’s the same thing with us where, you know, I find myself waiting in line and an able bodied person will walk up, they’ll go right in front of me and they’ll look back and go. Oh, are you in line?

You know… it’s like this height difference of almost, you know, I don’t think it’s intentional of this…

Dr. Lindsay Ulrey: Hmmm.

Alycia Anderson: Regarding or something. I know in my life it doesn’t happen all that often, but when somebody actually kneels down to have a conversation with me and look me in the eye like that is very meaningful to me.

It’s almost like I feel like they… I don’t know…, not care about me more, but care about a meaningful engagement that isn’t your 5 feet tall. I’m down here at 35, sitting in this chair, whatever it is.

And so to have those connections like it would correlate to me, this person really cares about me, and so I don’t know how true that is or not so… But that’s how I feel as an adult too.

Dr. Lindsay Ulrey: I just got chills. I just got chills because you are reminding me so much of the first good hug I got in a wheelchair. It was when my cousin, he just like, got down on his knees and he… he’s the best hugger and he grabbed me and I was like, I really started crying. So, I was like, that is the best hug I’ve gotten since my injury.

And then also, I’ve also started noticing when people… it tends to be the people who are more attuned to other peoples kind of vibe, but they’ll… when I notice them… when they’re like, you know, if we’re at a park or whatever, they’ll sit down.

Alycia Anderson: But it is a rare day that, like you get a like body to body because our knees are in the way. So like a like a chest to chest. Hug where it feels like you’re embraced like I know. Like my husband is also a wheelchair user and the only time we have like body to body embrace is when we’re either lying in bed or in the pool.

We cannot get… our knees are in our way. We’re in the sitting position and you missed that like that full body like touch. That you… is really not easy to navigate when you’re in a seated position.

OK do you want to share with me a little bit about some of your advocacy work, your Wheel Good Motherhood platform? And like the work that you’re doing there?

Dr. Lindsay Ulrey: Yeah, exactly. Yes, I would love to.

So, Wheel Good Motherhood is something I’m just starting, so it’s definitely like in its infancy, but so it’s a the whole idea is that I’d like it to be a safe and supportive space for Wheeling Mamas to come and get resources, get support, see other wheelie mamas. Meet other wheelie mamas.

I also would really like it to be a space where maybe like prospective Wheeling Mamas, so like women who use wheelchairs, who are, like, maybe curious about what it might be like to be a mom on wheels, to come to and you know, learn about from other wheelie mamas or even just like anyone in disability community or non-disabled who want to come and support, understand and kind of like, you know, build more awareness about the wheelie Mama experience.

So those…, those are my goals for Wheel Good Motherhood. I’m also starting to host a free support group that I’m going to facilitate, it’s through, so I’m partnering up with Norcal SCI, which is my well…, not mine, but it’s the Northern California which is where I live that’s why I said my… the spinal cord injury nonprofit that really was like the first place that I felt really safe and comfortable, and then really helped me kind of figure out those initial stages where when I was first injured, and so they were really excited about this idea about… because they have a bunch of other different support groups.

But I was like, what about a weekly mom support group? And they were like, heck yeah.

So, I’m going to facilitate that. It’s going to be the third Tuesday of every month at noon Pacific Standard Time, and it’s free. You do have to register for the zoom to get onto the zoom, and it’s… so if you go to Wheel Good Motherhood on Instagram. There is a link in that bio and you can sign up there.

I think a really good resource just for moms in general. There is this wonderful resource called Postpartum Support International or PSI and it is a really valuable resource with lots of free support groups for mom… moms and dads.

Moms and dads … and they also have a lot of information, just they have a hotline where you can just call and be like am… I should be concerned about this, like with mental health kind of concerns. And then they also have a directory of providers who are… who are, like myself, have a, you know, the certification and that’s very specifically designed to support that population, and so you can go search your local provider list and see who’s in your area.

Alycia Anderson: Thank you so much for spending some time with me. I think you’re absolutely amazing. So happy our paths have crossed.

Dr. Lindsay Ulrey: Likewise, babe, I… you’re… this podcast is crushing it and your advocacy work is amazing. And the fact that I, I feel so loved and embraced, and I feel like I’m kind of like new on the scene, but I just like, I don’t know… who cares, right. I mean you… we met and you’re like girl come here, and now we’re friends forever, and I love it.

Alycia Anderson: OK, well, I’m gonna wrap it up then. Ohh, no!

You’re pushing forward moment. We can’t wrap it up. What am I?

Dr. Lindsay Ulrey: Oh my goodness!

Alycia Anderson: What is your little nugget, your inspiration to gift out.

Dr. Lindsay Ulrey: I would say, “If you find yourself in life in a transition that you did not anticipate or maybe you did anticipate and it’s going much differently than you expected…”

I’d say, “Allow yourself to grieve and to provide that space to grieve and feel all the things that come with that, but also as much as you can try to stay open during that time.”

And what I mean by that is staying open to what you might be, you know, like what you might learn, what you might be able to be curious about and what you might be able to learn from… from, going through that transition.

And so, stay open, stay curious and never stop learning. Boom!

Alycia Anderson: Alright, boom! You did it. Your first pushing forward moment. But I bet ya you’re gonna have more, too, one day. So, we’ll see you the next time you’re on.

Thank you so much for your time and your friendship.

You’re amazing.

Thank you so much to our listeners for tuning in again this week.

This is Pushing Forward with Alycia and that is how we roll on this podcast.