Preparing for Parenthood When You Have a Disability

Ashley from disabledparents.org has kindly shared the following article on 'Preparing for Parenthood when you have a disability'. Ashley is speaking from her own experience, as both Ashley, and her husband both have disabilities. They have been blessed with two amazing children, and have provided some great resources that they have picked up along the way. Thanks for sharing Ashley !

Preparing for parenthood

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Bringing a baby into your home can be the most exciting time of your life. It is also a little bit daunting. On top of learning how to take care of this fragile, sweet, infant, you also run on very little sleep. If you have a physical disability, that time can be even more challenging. But don’t let that deter you from entering the wonderful world of parenthood. It might be a little scary, but parenting jitters are universal. Your life will change – for the better.

 

People with disabilities can raise healthy, happy children just as well as anyone else. You may have to modify things just a little, but you’re used to doing that already. If you take a moment to think about it, you’ll realize that you’ve overcome many challenges in your lifetime, and adapted beautifully. Perhaps you had to get creative with your bathing routine due to impaired mobility, or had custom countertops installed to make your home wheelchair accessible. There are organisations that advocate for parents with disabilities, such as the Disabled Parenting Project, which offer tips and advice for parents with challenges. Occupational therapy can help you find ways to adapt to life with a baby.

 

Your life will change a lot, so make sure you’re as prepared for it as possible. You’ll need to look around your home and life and figure out what will require modification. You might get around just fine now, but can you do it with a baby on your hip or lap? Consider renovating some areas of your home, such as adding extra grab bars to the tub for when you’re giving the child a bath. Add nonslip rugs, mats and other safety features for your home. If you have low vision or are blind, you’ll want to label all of the baby’s food and drinks with Braille labels -- and printed labels, if you live with a sighted person. Make sure to clearly mark expiration dates, too.

 

Of course you’ll need to baby-proof your home just as any other parent would. Add bumpers to table edges, install baby gates, add childproof latches on cabinets and put away medications and cleaning supplies that could be dangerous for baby. Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors work and get a fire-extinguisher for your kitchen. Give your home a good clean too and clear out clutter and potential dangers, but don’t feel like you need to sterilise everything. Cleaning is a good thing, but trying to wipe down every single surface your baby comes in contact with just isn’t realistic. In fact, according to scientist Jack Gilbert, exposure to dirt and germs stimulates your child’s immune system. “Sterilising your home like a hospital could lead your child to have a severely hyper sensitised immune system leaving them open to allergies and asthma, even neurodevelopmental problems,” Gilbert said. The bottom line, cleaning and sterilising are two different things.

 

More adaptive furniture and tools for parents are becoming available. Parents who struggle with holding their child often find that harnesses or wraps can help. Try out baby seats and pillows that hold babies up, nursing slings and modified baby baths. There are car seats that swivel to allow easier access. Also, you can find bassinets that nestle up next to your bed, or co-sleepers that make it easier to reach your baby for middle-of-the-night feeding. You might also research organisations that will help you adjust furniture to allow you better access. There are even tools that aren’t specifically for disabled parents, but work just as well. For example, if you are low vision, blind, or deaf, you would benefit from a baby monitor that vibrates when your baby cries. Remember, just like any regular items you have modified for ease of use, baby items can be adjusted too. Check with your doctor or pediatrician first to ensure it is safe, and consider having a second set of eyes and hands to double-check that the item is sturdy and safe.

 

When prepping for baby’s arrival, try not to worry about how you’ll cope. If you’re carrying a baby, that added stress can affect your pregnancy. Go ahead and get connected with a network of other disabled parents so that you have support before, during, and after the new little one arrives. Be prepared, think ahead, but don’t obsess. Children raised by disabled parents are often more empathetic and have a greater understanding of the world.

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