Rose Siggins was born with a rare spinal condition, but she’s defied experts to become a mum-of-two thanks to her determination
Originally published: 9 April 2012
As a teenager, Rose Siggins didn’t think she’d ever fall in love or marry – and she was certain she’d never have children.
Rose was born with a rare disorder that causes abnormalities in the spine, leaving her with badly deformed legs.
After having the lower half of her body removed aged two, she learned to walk on her hands – then began using a skateboard to help her get around.
But, despite her worries for the future, she went on to find love with husband Dave and have two children – even though doctors had warned it would be impossible for her to carry a baby to full term.
Now a busy mum to Luke, 13, and Shelby, 6, she’s able to get them ready for school, drive them in her specially adapted car, do all the household chores and, amazingly, still work occasionally as a mechanic.
'I've got through all the challenges life has thrown at me, and I'm thankful I have two amazing kids and a loving husband'
However, for the first time in her remarkable life, Rose is finding that her hands and arms are literally wearing out, due to their punishing workload.
Inspirational Rose, who’s just 2ft 6, says: “I’ve got through all the challenges life has thrown at me, and I’m thankful I have two amazing kids and a loving husband. But I’ve finally realised I’m not Superwoman.
“I’m developing arthritis and my big fear is ending up in a wheelchair. My skateboard’s so important to me – it is the difference between feeling trapped and feeling free. I couldn’t get by without it. And the kids think it’s cool!
“When Luke was young, we’d skateboard together. At first, he wasn’t able to stand on the board, so he’d sit and push with his hands like me.”
Rose, 39, from Pueblo, Colorado, USA, was born with sacral agenesis, which affects one in 25,000 babies. At two, she had her lower body removed from her hips down, leaving her genitalia intact. “It was like taking the legs off a Barbie doll,” Rose explains. Aged three, she learned to walk on her hands.
Though she was fitted with prosthetic legs aged six, Rose found them painful and cumbersome and would take them off, preferring to get around on a skateboard.
“I annoyed the hell out of my teachers, as they’d find my legs left around the school where I’d slipped out of them and got on my skateboard,” laughs Rose.
But in her early teens, she began feeling more awkward.
“All my friends were getting boyfriends. I thought I’d be on my own for the rest of my life,” she recalls.
Feeling isolated, Rose threw herself into her passion for mending cars, something she’d learned from her dad James, a Vietnam war veteran.
After being turned down for countless office jobs, she decided to train as a mechanic – hauling herself up to the engines with her super-strong arms – and qualified aged 22.
Then, in 1997, she met Dave Siggins, who worked at a car parts shop she regularly used.
“There was an immediate attraction for both of us,” says Rose. “He treated me just like any other woman and told me I was beautiful. Eight months later, we began dating.”
In 1998, Rose and 5ft 11 Dave – who have a normal sex life – were astonished to discover she was pregnant.
“I was stunned,” Rose says. “After all, my mum was told when I was young it probably wasn’t possible, even though everything works down there, because sacral agenesis often causes damage to the reproductive systems.
“When I went to see my specialist, they told me no one with sacral agenesis had ever gone full term and said a baby could crush my internal organs. One doctor even advised an abortion, but I refused. I knew the chances of passing on my condition were almost nil. Luckily, it was an easy pregnancy and Luke was born healthy by C-section in January 1999.”
Incredibly, Rose – who married Dave in July 1999 – looked after Luke alone while Dave, 42, was at work during the day.
'My doctor has been telling me to slow down... But I won't use a wheelchair. I can't handle the idea'
“Carrying Luke was hard, but I found ways around it,” she says. “I put Luke in a bouncer and slid him around the floor at home. If we went out, I’d put him in a baby carrier on my back, climb downstairs, get on my skateboard to get to the car, buckle him into his car seat and drive off. I was happy when he learned to walk!”
Amazingly, Rose even played sport with Luke as he grew older, adapting a board to use on an ice-rink by fixing three blades underneath so she could teach him ice hockey.
She adds: “I’ve always asked my children’s teachers to let me come in and answer their classmates’ questions about me – it’s only ignorance that causes teasing. When I tell the pupils I ride a skateboard, they think that’s really cool!”
When Luke was six, Rose fell pregnant with daughter Shelby. But this time, the growing baby pressed against her internal organs and damaged them as it grew.
Rose says: “I had bleeding, breathing problems and abdominal pains. My body took a battering and, when I had my C-section, I also needed my appendix and gallbladder removed. Since then, I’ve developed diabetes and suffer from pancreatitis, which is so painful it means I can’t work as a full-time mechanic any more.”
But Rose is still able to care for her family. She says: “On an average day, I get the kids up, help Shelby dress and get their breakfasts, get them in the car and drive them to school. I then drive home and do the dishes, the laundry and the cleaning, go grocery shopping and pick Shelby up.
“Then I’ll prepare dinner – I pull myself up to the worktop on barstools and use them to ‘walk’ around the kitchen. After that, I’ll sometimes take the kids to after-school clubs.”
But Rose’s incredibly busy lifestyle takes a punishing toll on her arms, wrists and shoulders.
She says: “My doctor has been telling me to slow down and Dave and Luke – who’s already 5ft 10 – help me pick up heavier objects. But I won’t use a wheelchair. I can’t handle the idea.
“My skateboard does cause problems, as it’s so low to the ground and my arms are always curled, aggravating the arthritis. Now we’re designing a ‘freedom board’ which will be lighter and more comfortable for me,” adds Rose, who’s raising money to have it made.
And Rose’s kids couldn’t be prouder of her. She says: “Shelby loves that I’m so short, because I’m always on her level. She says she loves having the world’s shortest mum!”
Luke adds: “Once, I was hanging out with friends and we started talking about who has the coolest mum. I won because my mum rides a skateboard and works on cars. That beats baking cookies and cakes any day!”