The pretty, athletic blonde broke her neck as she hit the water – a freak accident that left her paralyzed from the chest down and made national headlines. She became known as the paralyzed bride.
One of her first worries was whether or not she could still have children.
"I knew it was bad because I remember looking down and not being able to feel the coldness on my legs," Friedman, now 28 and a motivational speaker and blogger for several national websites, tells PEOPLE.
"It was very scary," she says. "I knew I was paralyzed and the first thing I asked the paramedics was whether I could have kids. I was ecstatic when they said yes."
It turns out the answer wasn't that simple. Doctors later told her the medicine she takes to keep her blood pressure up could be dangerous to a fetus, she writes in her recently published memoir, The Promise: A Tragic Accident, a Paralyzed Bride, and the Power of Love, Loyalty, and Friendship.
Now, though, Friedman and her husband, Chris Chapman, 31, a middle school science teacher in Raleigh, North Carolina – they married a year after the accident – are picking out baby names, thanks to a college friend the couple hadn't spoken to in almost a decade.
Laurel Humes, a stay-at-home mom, had followed her college friend's story from afar for years and saw Freidman's post on her blog about needing a surrogate. She reached out immediately.
"My husband was a sperm donor for some of our friends, a same-sex couple, and that inspired me to think about surrogacy," Humes, 31, of Asheville, North Carolina, tells PEOPLE.
"I'm really excited," she says. "I know Chris and Rachelle will be great parents and I can't wait to see the looks on their faces when they get to hold their baby for the first time."
"We're just so excited," Friedman says.
Friedman hasn't let her injury slow her down – she blogs about playing wheelchair rugby, surfing and how she still has great sex – so she doesn't expect it to hinder her parenting, either.
"I always thought I would run around the pool and the beach with my child," she says, "and while I'll miss not being able to do that, there are so many things involved with being a parent that I'm fully capable of doing. I can do a lot more than what people think I can."