Leah O'Connell

families, Featured sessions, newborns

A look at adaptive parenting from quadriplegic mom of twins

mom in wheelchair with twins
I'm Leah!

I’m obsessed with stories of family, creativity, and simple joys.  A nostalgia nerd, educator, wife, and mom of 3, I believe life’s most fun when you’re dreaming big and having kitchen dance parties. 

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Meet Dani. She is many things, including quadriplegic, and now, joins only a handful of other quadriplegic mothers ever to give birth to twins.


What I loved immediately about her and her husband, Rudy, was their natural, positive disposition that felt so assured and confident. They navigated her high-risk pregnancy one step at a time.

And just as able-bodied mothers and fathers research carriers and cribs, they did, too— but with the added challenge of choosing items that were adaptive for Dani to use more easily from her wheelchair, and those items are not as readily available.

Still, there was no fear, no call for pity, no frustration voiced because their set of challenges going into parenthood was steeper than some — I’d wager that they have more gumption and grit than most, too.

In no way do they allow her disability to define her, their marriage, their fullness of life, her pregnancy, or now, their parenthood.

Now, the girls are 6 months old and thriving.



A piece of daily life

When I met Dani and Rudy at their country home on a beautiful end-of-summer day, my heart swelled to witness their rhythms and simple, beautiful joys with these beautiful twins — tummy time on the floor, going for walks along the gravel drive lined with fruit trees, listening to Rudy pick on the banjo and the birds chirping around the porch.

It was important to the family to capture these sweet pieces of their story, including the transitions…the HOW.

Because part of normalizing disability means sharing the possibilities, rather than dwelling on limitations.

I’ve learned so much from them but above all, this: for Dani and Rudy, it’s as if every hurdle isn’t really a hurdle at all, but an opportunity to innovate.


Their approach to life doesn’t eliminate the hard factor, but when you can see something challenging with an attitude of —“this is how it is and I’m going to make it work for me” – you’re able to choose joy, even when it would be easier not to.

You can be in charge of creating full, happy days, rather than letting life happen to you.

In Dani’s words from a recent post on her Instagram feed:

I get a lot of people telling me, “I don’t know how you do it.” Well it’s no picnic, but living life with a profound disability has increased my tolerance for dealing with hard stuff. […] Thanks to years of struggling, I’m hardwired to be patient, to adapt, willingly or not, to weather shifts in lifestyle and identity -while often experiencing isolation and pain -without being thrown into crisis. I’m no superhero, I dealt and sometimes still deal with the card I was dealt the way anyone else would, in messy ways—internal & external tantrums, loss of hope, resentment, loneliness. But it’s always easier to just let it go and be happy.

The joy of babies invites that and is a gift that makes up for ALL of it. I think the right word is Godsend. God sent angels.


Dani’s story through pregnancy and birth is being showcased in a documentary film set for release in early 2021. It will provide a rare, intimate look into the issues of disability, pregnancy, and adaptive parenthood – view the Official trailer!

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Hi, I'm Leah.
Family photographer, writer, educator.

I’m  one of the first to meet your newborn baby, the one who won't judge your clothes baskets and unmade beds, and the one who can capture the way your husband looks at you with a twinkle in his eye after 12 years of marriage. I believe in honoring people and telling stories.

I believe art has the power to light up the world in dark places, starting at home.