Sunday’s episode of I’m Married To A… introduced us to Dana, a television news producer who’ll do almost anything for her husband–including literally carry him on her back. Married to Michael, a quadriplegic who is paralyzed from the chest down, the two may require a little more time to get ready in the morning, but remain committed to each other and the child they hope to have one day.
Through their extreme candor, we learned about the struggles quadriplegic’s can face when it comes to conceiving, and watched as sat in doctor’s offices, tossing around more than a few words that would make your mom blush. “I definitely never thought I’d say the words ’ejaculate’ and ’vibrator’ on national television,” Dana says. With the episode’s happy ending and positive test results–they can get pregnant!–what’s next for the couple? VH1 spoke to Dana and Michael following Sunday’s episode to find out how their lives have changed, and how soon we should start shopping for baby clothes.
What has the response been like since the episode aired?
Dana: Oh my goodness, I can’t even keep up with all of the comments we have received on social media, on our blog, and all of the text messages I’ve received in the last week. I’ve heard from so many former co-workers, people I went to college and school with, even childhood friends. We have so many people supporting us and praying for us, it’s amazing!
How did your family react when you told them you were going to be on TV?
D: They were all excited. Since I’m a TV news producer, I think everyone in my family has actually been on TV at one point or another, so they were all very excited for us, and did everything they could to be a part of it.
Did you have any reservations about putting your life on television?
D: The only reservation I had was worrying about how fat I would look on TV! Otherwise, no. We share our story openly on our blog on a regular basis, so putting ourselves out there is nothing new to us. In fact, I view being open as “free therapy,” because it’s through that that I’ve been able to make contact with so many other wives and girlfriends in my position, and I’m so glad. I used to feel so alone. Now I’m never alone!
How have things in your life changed since the episode aired?
D: When the episode was taped, we had only been in Virginia Beach for about two weeks, and I was just days into starting a new job. Now, we are settling in, and getting used to the demands of my new job, which comes with an overnight schedule. We are enjoying getting out and enjoying life with our dog, Brokaw, many friends who live in this area, and of course spending time with my family. Our life is full of joy. We are so happy here.
What is the most difficult part of each of your days (physical and emotional)?
D: For me, getting Michael up and dressed is the most difficult part of my day, physically. Generally, we are in a good place, emotionally. It only becomes emotionally hard when something goes wrong, which thankfully, is pretty rare these days.
Michael: And I hate seeing how my disability is a burden. Since taping, we brought in a wonderful young woman who helps out three times a week. This gives Dana a break from the heavy lifting and time at the gym or just taking care of her non-Michael chores. Even time to catch up on social media.
Given the subject matter, what was the most difficult thing to share with the cameras?
D: The most difficult thing to share was details of what we’ve done at home to try to make a baby. It was also difficult to share our morning routine. As Michael said, “That’s a lot of Michael out there for everyone to see!” He was so brave. I was worried that by showing that, people would end up feeling sorry for us, which we don’t want.
M: Looking pitiful was definitely my worry, too. I hate looking pitiful. Friends actually responded at how my picking up chores around the house was impressive. I love that being part of the story. I think it’s an important part of our balance.
Michael, you talked a lot about the positive test results being an affirmation of your manhood. Can you expand on what that means both physically and emotionally?
M: In so much of our day-to-day life I’m helpless. There’s something about giving my wife a biological child that means a lot. That part was completely unscripted and surprised me when I said it. An unaired segment of my conversation with my brother really got me thinking about how that is important to me, but I had resigned to not hoping for it.
Are you apprehensive about being parents?
D: Definitely apprehensive! But, honestly, in a way that most people are. I’m worried about losing sleep and still having to function at work, and as a caregiver. I’m worried about the practical, financial challenges of starting a family, and worried that I won’t know how to be a good mom. I think everyone has those same apprehensions. Obviously, I worry about a little more–like being the only one physically able to care for the kid until she is a few years old, then I can leave her with Michael, but honestly, most of the apprehension is the normal stuff–sleep, money, worrying that I won’t know what to do…
M: We definitely are looking for ways for good ol’ dad to chip in. Since we have a great network of friends sharing the same experiences they have posted about all kinds of adaptations for disabled dads.
Things ended on a happy note, but we’re were also left wondering: are you currently trying to get pregnant? What’s your family’s status?
D: We are not pregnant yet. Ironically, since the episode was taped we’ve been adjusting to so much–new job, new schedule, new town–that we honestly haven’t tried getting pregnant. Actually, I’ve been thanking God that He didn’t answer that prayer according to my timing, because He knew best! My job is very demanding, and working the overnight schedule is tough. I think it may be best to have a baby when our lives are a little more “normal.” But, hopefully we will have something to report by Christmas?
M: Now everybody and their mother are giddy about us having a baby. I guess that was an unintended effect. We really do appreciate the enthusiasm.
What are you most looking forward to about having a child?
D: I am looking forward to sharing life with our child. I’m looking forward to sharing the pregnancy experience and the parenting experience with Michael. I know he is going to be an amazing dad, and our kid will be so blessed to have him as a father! I’m looking forward to growing closer to God through that experience. I’m looking forward to our kid growing up with my brother’s new son who is coming soon, I’m looking forward to so many laughs, and being able to see the world through a child’s eyes. Gosh, there’s so much to look forward to!
Is the possibility of having a child made more difficult knowing you won’t be able to do everything you’d like to with him or her?
D: I don’t view it that way. Michael and I are so used to our life, the modifications are just a part of everyday. I’m constantly amazed at how he manages to find creative ways to do this or that. I have a feeling he will be rigging up some crazy contraptions and ideas for our kid. Plus, our kid will probably be advanced in certain developmental areas, because they will be helping their father! I sometimes get sad when I think about Michael not being able to get on the ground and wrestle with our kid, or not being able to kick a soccer ball with them, but I envision us coming up with our own ways. I can always transfer Michael wherever, and let the kid climb on him! I think the values he will be able to instill in our child will be life-lasting, and I think so much of parenting is not physical, but it’s spiritual, mental, emotional. And in all of those departments, I’d put Michael up against any Dad out there.
M: Kids are more resilient than adults. They learn and adapt. My cousins and nephews who grew up with me being disabled just roll with it. Things like swimming will be a challenge. I may not be as hands on in some things, but I’ll be very involved in our children’s lives.
Did anyone disagree with your decision to try and get pregnant?
D: Not that I know of, yet.
What do you want your participation on this show to do for other people in similar situations?
D: I hope it encourages them! I think it has. I’ve heard from many blog readers, and people in the spinal cord injury community that are in a similar place as we are in life and marriage, and it’s nice because we can stay in touch, and go through this together.
What other subjects featured on I’m Married To A… are you interested in learning about?
D: It’s been interesting watching the other stories. I’ve definitely seen some things I’ve never heard of, and I’ve had to do some Google searches! I’m so thankful for this experience. The crew was fantastic to work with, and we are just so grateful for the chance to share our story, and thankful that you guys worked so hard putting it together.
M: We were convinced we would be the most boring couple on the show. I shrink when someone dismisses the other couples’ stories. Just because I don’t identify with every couple does not make their story less real. Marty and Michelle’s story parallels ours so closely, except he’s much cooler than me. Brian’s real love for Allison [the dominatrix] and his daughter was something everybody can admire. When Louis’ mom just laughed along with PG I thought about the great relationship Dana has with my mom. I certainly applaud everyone who has put their lives out there for this series and shared their love story