They Said She Couldn't…She Did It Anyway

Hi there, Ann-Marie here from Wilma’s Blog where I co-blog with my buddy, Wilma.

Our blog is part of WomenLikeMe, an online learning program which encourages women to embrace living life differently by questioning the status quo and becoming skilled to live into their greatness.


The text read; “It’s a boy, all healthy weighing 2.94kgs. His Mum is in recovery and doing well’. I was filled with love, pride, happiness and immense joy for my sister, who had become a mum against all odds.

When my sister was born my parents were bombarded with a barrage of ‘She can’t do this and she’ll never do that’

Doctors were busy predetermining my sister’s life, squashing it into a box they called ‘having a disability’, named Spina Bifida.

My parents were devastated at first. Teary eyed, frightened and out of their minds with worry they hung onto every disempowering word the doctors said.

One thing that the doctors and society for that matter, didn’t count on that day was my sister’s incredible strength.

They didn’t see HER; her be-ing, her soul and her willingness to live this life to the full, a life that she, like everyone else had been miraculously given.

All through her life she faced the world with an ‘I can’ attitude.
So we included her, always. She played all the games we played, from jumping rope carried on our hips to snow fights to pushing a doll in a pram with a specially designed walking frame.

Upon reaching her teens my parents reluctantly passed the reins over to her. Up to this point she’d had operations every two years. From now on she could decide which operations she would have. She also got her drivers license and a car.
My parents had a hard time letting go, expecting my sister to be dependent on them forever, but she never bought into that.

When my sister was made redundant, she and her partner came to New Zealand for one year. I enjoyed introducing her to many things that year, one of them being integrity.

‘Below the integrity line, our behavior is one of blaming, excuses and denial. Above the integrity line our behaviors are ownership, accountability and responsibility’

She recognized these words instantly; they described what she was about. Upon returning to Ireland embracing this explanation made her even more conscious about how she created the life that she desired.
Then at Christmas last year she called to say “I’m going to be a Mommy”.

She continued to choose a successful career in the health system. She and her husband bought a house, she bought the car of her dreams, a Mercedes and she traveled to the places she had always wanted to visit; Mexico, Paris, New York and Australia.

My husband’s response to any expressed worry was; “She has an amazing attitude, she ensures things work out, so why should this be any different?”

And he was right. Again my sister did not buy into other people’s restrictive thinking.

While very few believed that she would carry her baby full term and most saw her spending months in hospital before the birth, her response was to
get on with a healthy pregnancy.

She did of course have a healthy one thanks to a rock solid belief in herself and her strong heart. While embracing her disability, owning it 100%, Spina Bifida became as much a part of her as her hands or face.


My sister has yet again passed another milestone; she has become a mother, having carried her baby full term.
I love and admire this strong, beautiful, generous and determined woman, my sister, who is so clearly the author of her own life.

By taking ownership she got the freedom to accept herself for who she was, it made her get on with life the same as everybody else and in the process she has become an incredible example on how to boldly live life. 

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jay Schryer November 8, 2009, 4:23 pm

    Now *this* is truly an incredible, awe-inspiring, wonderful post! What a great story! Kudos to your sister for overcoming the odds, and believing in herself more than the “experts”. We should all be so strong.
    .-= Jay Schryer´s last post…The Dark Side of Music =-.

  • Positively Present November 8, 2009, 4:45 pm

    Great article! So inspiring!!
    .-= Positively Present´s last post…words to live by: keep yourself positive =-.

  • Kristy November 8, 2009, 5:34 pm

    Anne-Marie, I am so touched by your story. I am grateful that you have visited my mom’s blog. I think your sister has embodies the Bold Life. As a person who was born with what society would define as a disability, I can relate to your sister and her life’s journey. My mom called me a few years ago after she received a call from a friend. Her friend was pregnant and was told her baby would be born deaf. My mom asked for my advice as a person who was born with a physical challenge. I simply said, “Mom, you treated me no different than my sisters. You never made excuses for me and as a result, I have chosen to live a life without the word “can’t” in my vocabulary.” Society does not teach us how to see people who are different beyond the physical attributes. What a tremendous gift your sister is to society and to those willing to receive her and her beautiful spirit. Thanks for sharing….

  • Carolynn November 8, 2009, 6:04 pm

    Sounds like the ones with the disability are the ones who choose to see the glass as half empty. Your sister sounds like an amazing woman, a powerful role model, and an outstanding example of a life well lived.
    .-= Carolynn´s last post…Silent Sunday – Nice Day =-.

  • Wilma Ham November 8, 2009, 6:07 pm

    Hi Ann-Marie and Tess and Kristy and all.
    Isn’t it a beautiful example of how life cannot stop us if we do not let our mind be influenced by ‘can’t’ , told to us by various people in our lives and society.
    And hey Kristy great to meet you; I read your mother’s book, so I feel I know you a little.
    Now what I am going to say might sound a bit weird but stories like these so remind me that we all are like Ann-Marie’s sister, you Kristy and blind farmer George and Helen Keller, all fighting a condition that could stop us from living a bold, going for it life.
    However while all my battles are going on invisibly inside me, Jeanine’s and Kristy’s are for all of us to see and to relate with.
    Aren’t we all told though, no you cannot do that because you were born on the wrong side of the railway track, you are too big, small, white or black or too loud (yes, you Tess!)?
    It is time that we all realize that we are one, we all can do what Jeanine and Kristy have shown us so beautifully, we all have what they have, so let’s follow in their footsteps, boldly following their examples and mowing down all the ‘I can’ts’ on our life paths.
    We can do that, can’t we?
    .-= Wilma Ham´s last post…Questions, the doors to our hearts. =-.

  • CherylK November 8, 2009, 6:28 pm

    I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so touched by a story. Words just fail me. Many blessings to you.
    .-= CherylK´s last post…Which came first. – chicken or egg? =-.

  • Mary B Sheffield November 8, 2009, 8:07 pm

    Hi Ann-Marie & Tess ,
    May we all live our lives to the full extent of what it has to offer as well as your sister does . What a wonderful role modle to every one . Her glass is more than 1/2 full because she made it happen w/ pride and courage .
    And how lucky she is to have a sister that reconizes what an awe inspiring sister and friend !
    Thank You for sharing such a wonderful post Tess ! And Thank You Ann-Marie for sharing your amazing sister !
    Mary Beth

  • Ann-Marie November 8, 2009, 8:47 pm

    Hello there Tess and everyone else.
    Kristy thank you for sharing. What a treat for us to hear your take on this. I loved your advice to your Mum’s friend; ‘treat her baby no differently’. To be with another in a non judgmental way is a pathway to having love be truly present in this world.
    Staying small and buying into other people’s beliefs about us, sucks the marrow out of life and has us play this game at a mundane level. To go beyond what stops us and shine in life creates the space for others to do so.
    To eliminate the word can’t from your life creates such a freedom that life becomes extraordinary. And this is available to us all.
    It is people like you, Kristy and my sister who are the role models, the gifts to society.
    I’m with Wilma here; we are all fighting against something that stops us from showing up in life. It’s time to bring it out into the open and get past it. We are all capable of doing it. Imagine a world where there is no limitation put on us by ourselves or society. What a wonderful world that would be. And with a boldness and determination, together, we can create just that.
    .-= Ann-Marie´s last post…Questions, the doors to our hearts. =-.

  • J.D. Meier November 8, 2009, 10:42 pm

    I love rebel stories … especially happy endings.

    I also like when people push boundaries and test assumptions … challenging what can or can’t be done.
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last post…Lessons Learned from John =-.

  • Zeenat{Positive Provocations} November 8, 2009, 11:13 pm

    HI Ann Marie and Tess,
    Such life..such inspiration….such a beautiful story…but a much better reality. I love your sisters spirit Ann Marie. She is truly an inspiration to us all.
    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful part of your lives here with us.
    LOts of love to you Ann Marie and loads more to your sister and her gorgeous bundle of joy. I wish i was there to come and hold that little wonder in my arms..but looking at the pictures made me feel like i was really there. Such dolls 🙂 your sis, here baby and you too!!
    .-= Zeenat{Positive Provocations}´s last post…Where You Stumble{Inspirational Quote} =-.

  • Ann-Marie November 9, 2009, 1:21 am

    Hey there Jay
    Just imagine what could happen if we were all that strong. Huum.
    Hugs to you

    Hi Dani
    Thanks. So glad that you got something out of this post.

    Hello Carolynn
    Thanks for that. Life is all about choice and this story is what happens when someone chooses to play life, full out. Yep my sister is an amazing person, she rocks my world!

    Hey Wilma,
    Yes, Yes, Yes. We CAN mow down the ‘I can’ts’ in life. Through sponsorship and new explanations it is possible to live life differently. And we’re already on that road with WomenLikeMe and being buddies to each other. What an adventure!

    Hi Cheryl
    Thank you. Appreciate what you have said. Blessings to you too.

    Hello Mary
    I think my sister’s glass is overflowing at this stage. She has complete ownership of her life and it is incredible to witness how she creates opportunity after opportunity for herself. You mentioned courage; it is in all of us, waiting and willing to be expressed. Thank you Mary for your message.

    Hi J.D.
    Pushing the boundaries is what life is all about; looking for the alternatives that will work for us. Kids do this brilliantly, there is no such word as can’t, not in my toddler’s world anyway!

    Hey Zeenat
    Such sweet words, thank you, I’m touched. Our visit to Ireland to see my sister and her wee son was incredible. She, of course was being her amazing self, taking motherhood all in her stride. We even organized a night out on the town, dancing and laughing while baby stayed at home with his Dad. Such fun!!!

    Thank you so much for providing the space for me and my sister, bold women like yourself, to share our journeys. Your love and abundance in life knows no bounds. Big hugs to you x
    .-= Ann-Marie´s last post…Questions, the doors to our hearts. =-.

  • Patty - Why Not Start Now? November 9, 2009, 1:40 am

    Thanks so much for sharing this beautiful, inspirational story. The photos of your sister with her baby speak loudly too; clearly they both are in a place of pure love that will carry them through anything.
    .-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last post…Education: A Good Thing =-.

  • Megan "JoyGirl!" Bord November 9, 2009, 6:30 am

    That’s absolutely awesome, and such a phenomenal story of courage, self-love, strength and faith. I’m wow’d, and grateful to have read this today.
    Whenever I hear stories like this, it reminds me of my own self-limiting beliefs, which are such nonsense in comparison to what others, like your sister, are able to accomplish. Fear is perhaps the only thing holding me back… Reading stories like this empowers me, so I thank you!
    .-= Megan “JoyGirl!” Bord´s last post…$1 Therapy (Awesome Free e-Book) =-.

  • Evita November 9, 2009, 6:56 am

    What an incredible story Ann-Marie!

    It makes me think of so much….
    ….how much our medical system wants to treat people like neat little lab rats to fit a certain profile
    …how strong the human will and spirit is
    …how we can overcome anything we put our mind to
    …how inspiration comes from all around us, we just have to be open to it!
    …how personal accountability is such an amazing characteristic that can lead us to anything we want!

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story!
    .-= Evita´s last post…The Web of Ideas and the Future of the World =-.

  • Julie November 9, 2009, 7:07 am

    Hello, Ann-Marie. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story of loving strength and faith, those qualities held by your parents and your sister. The world can never tire of receiving such beautiful encouragement. ~ Julie
    .-= Julie´s last post…More in Love Than Usual: Celebrating Fall =-.

  • suzenj November 9, 2009, 8:43 am

    Wow – what an empowering story, person, lesson…..and more! To see your cup as half full not half empty and defy the “odds” or whatever ——- PRECIOUS!!!! Thanks so much for sharing this incredible woman’s experience here! This is just chock full of jaw-dropping inspiration!
    Hugs to all – especially that fortunate baby with the awesome mom!
    .-= suzenj´s last post…Tears of Fears – Veterans Day & Personal Story =-.

  • Tess November 9, 2009, 9:23 am

    I agree ”we should all be so strong.” And happy!

    Please pass on to those you think would appreciate it! I agree.

    I just love you! Thanks for passing on your wisdom from “ones who knows what it’s like” to live in a society that worships perfect bodies and rewards perfect minds.

    You nailed it. So true. Thanks for your input.

    My engine is revved up and ready to go mow! I love your analogy. Thanks for the compliments and for stopping by! You ladies are the best!

    Cheryl K,
    I feel like you. I had no idea what was in store for us when I invited Ann-Marie to join us today. I’m voting this as one of my top posts!

    Mary B.
    You’re very welcome from the bottom of my heart!

    “Imagine a world where there is no limitation put on us by ourselves or society. What a wonderful world that would be. And with a boldness and determination, together, we can create just that.”

    These sentences are worthy of another post! Wow this story rocks and I’m blessed to have it on my blog!

    I’m sorry about the messy format. Hopefully with the new editor plugin it will not happen again. However I don’t think anyone noticed, do you?

    Thanks for sharing this with the world. Tell your sister how inspired by her we are. I can’t wait to see what that little one has to teach us!

    Agian, thanks for the lovely inspiring story!

    I love the same…isn’t life grand?


    “Thank you for sharing such a wonderful part of your lives here with us.
    LOts of love to you Ann Marie and loads more to your sister and her gorgeous bundle of joy.”

    This comment of yours is why we love you!

    Yes love truly is what carries us through anything isn’t it? Not much else is needed!

    I feel the same! Now get your lawn mower out with Wilma and I. When were done mowing we’ll toast with a big glass of lemonade;)

    I’m so happy to know there are young people like you changing the world and following in our foot steps. You are way beyond your years and I’m happy to call you friend!

    You’re so right. The world will never tire…in fact I picture earth glowing with joy today!

    Chalked full of jaw-dropping inspiration. Don’t you love it! Thanks for being part of this wonderful story. Pass it on, please!

  • Daphne November 9, 2009, 11:21 am

    I work as an administrator in the rehab field and I am often impressed by the can-do attitudes of everyone I encounter, whether they have disabilities or not. The most important thing I learned was to focus on what each individual CAN do and to ignore what they cannot do. This is especially important when we work with our Veterans, who need support and encouragement as they adjust to life with disability from injury. All of us have limitations and no one should be judged because of them. Thank you for sharing this story, Ann-Marie, and thank you for hosting this guest post, Tess.
    .-= Daphne´s last post…The Great Clothing Clean-out Project =-.

  • Sara B. Healy November 9, 2009, 12:13 pm

    Tess — Thank you for letting Anne Marie share her story about her sister.

    Anne Marie — I just came from Sunny’s site where he interviewed Tia Singh about Laws of Attraction. The thing that struck me about this interview was how she emphasized “belief” and “intention.” What we believe about ourselves can determine what we do.

    It seems to me that your sister was given the natural ability to understand the Laws of Attraction better than most people:~)

    She is proof that if you set out your intentions and believe in them, they will come true…not because you’re just lucky, but because you willingly put heart and soul into what you believe you CAN do.

    Thanks for sharing this story:~)
    .-= Sara B. Healy´s last post…Picture Story: What do you see? =-.

  • Karl Staib - Work Happy Now November 9, 2009, 12:39 pm

    A heartwarming message. I know that I’ve tried to hide from my weaknesses. I can be quite flaky, but over the past few years I’ve been more accepting of this and actually try to use it as a strength. Hey, the most creative people need to flake out otherwise they would be too responsible.

    I love that your sister owned her whole life 100%. She used her condition to make herself stronger. We all need to be proud of who we are strengths and even weaknesses because it’s the only way we can truly love and trust ourselves.
    .-= Karl Staib – Work Happy Now´s last post…How Your Company Can Bring the Fun Back =-.

  • Angelia Sims November 9, 2009, 2:57 pm

    What an amazing, uplifting and encouraging story of your sister. That is a beautiful baby, just precious. I love her smile in all the pictures.

    I was raised by a man with a disability. He had Polio from a very young age. He walked on crutches and had a big metal brace. He was a college professor his entire life even towards the end when he taught from a wheelchair. He got his masters and he created a computer technology department that didn’t exist in that small town school. He constantly created and taught, married my mom with her four very young children. He raised us and loved us. His life reflected grit, determination and success despite all odds.

    I am awed by him and her. Thank you for sharing this.

    Tess-Thank you for an awe-inspiring post. Lovely!
    .-= Angelia Sims´s last post…Sunday’s Healthy Reflection =-.

  • Ann-Marie November 9, 2009, 3:11 pm

    Hey Patty
    Yes, when our hearts are singing loudly anything can happen, even miracles x

    Hi Megan
    You got it. Those self limiting beliefs keep us caged in and fearful. It’s time we all got over it. Learning and talking together is the way to do it. Use this empowerment to break through the nonsense girl. Come with us!

    I love how you question life. This thinking leads to change and a different world for everyone. Go girl x

    Thank you Julie,
    Hearing these stories does empower us to move forward with our own disabilities. Here’s to many more like this one!

    Hey Suzen
    Wonder what it would take us personally to defy all odds as well. Huuumm
    Hugs to you

    Hello Daphne
    You’re right. When we are listened to as ‘You CAN’, it is possible to overcome our limitations, big time!

    Hi Sara
    Yes, my sister has always had an ability to live from her heart. Her intentions are clear. And the Universe has always responded accordingly. Self belief is the biggest gift we can give to ourselves.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Hi Karl
    I feel the same. “We all need to be proud of who we are strengths and even weaknesses because it’s the only way we can truly love and trust ourselves”

    Hello Angelia
    What a man! He certainly lived life to the max and did the things his heart desired.
    The words that strike me the most is that “he constantly created”. He didn’t give up and whatever he desired he created. What a wonderful example of playing a bigger game in life.
    Thank you Angelia for being part of these inspiring stories.
    .-= Ann-Marie´s last post…Questions, the doors to our hearts. =-.

  • Sharon Irving November 9, 2009, 7:06 pm

    Your sister made a choice – we all have them, just some of us don't choose.  She chose life and what a life, a Sister and Mum! That wee lad too will continue with his Mums strength and he will touch all he meets!xxx

  • Keith November 9, 2009, 7:08 pm

    Hi Ann-Marie & Tess!

    WOW!  I love this story!  What a wonderful example of achieving and overcoming in the face of opposition!    Your sister's attitude and inner strength is an example for us all to follow.  Reading her story inspires me to not give in to my own fears or the limiting beliefs others try to put on me.  I read this story twice!  My heart feels encouraged and I thank you!!
    Tess, you always have the coolest guest posters!!

  • Patricia November 9, 2009, 9:36 pm

    Ann-Marie a very inspiring post and a good one for me to read tonight. My best friend when growing up had SB and she never let it hold her back.  We did lots of child care jobs together and that was fun and helpful for children not to be afraid.
    Patsy died at age 34 – she would have loved to have a husband and a baby she was so determined and inspired, but she was happy with herself.

    My oldest daughter's best friend was a poet with Cerebral Palsy and at 30 they still keep in touch via the internet….She owns a graphics arts business and does most of the menu's in town for the restaurants so we see her work often.

    It is so wonderful to be the best you can be and live your fullest life….
    Thank you for sharing your story with Tess and with us all here on her spot.

  • Peggy November 12, 2009, 9:31 am

    If ever a blog post needed a standing ovation, this one is it.

    Thank you, Ann Marie, for sharing your beautiful sister with us!
    .-= Peggy´s last post…Music As My Writing Muse =-.

  • Jannie Funstering November 12, 2009, 8:45 pm

    I really don’t know much about spina bifida, but I can tell this is one special determined lady.

    This was so beautifully told by a sensitive and loving sister. I like the reminder of owning up for our selves. Happiness does seem to go hand in hand with personal responsibility.
    .-= Jannie Funstering´s last post…First Pictures With My New iPhone 3GS =-.

  • jan November 13, 2009, 6:10 am

    Anne Marie,
    What a beautiful story and wonderful way to start my day (little late getting here, but glad I did). Your sister’s courage is very inspiring, as is your belief in her. What a blessed pair you are. And just think of all the people who you two will come across in your lives who will be positively affected by your attitudes, choices, faith…Enjoy the love.

  • Jose@Quad Pushchairs January 26, 2010, 5:16 am

    Kudos to your sister. I wish we all were so strong as her. But then stories like these inspire us and motivate us to be strong in life. It’s more like attitude towards life. No matter what people think or say, just believe in yourself and you will succeed. Happy motherhood to your Sis! God Bless!

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