Monday, May 28, 2018

How to Prepare for Parenthood With a Disability

By: Ashley Taylor

We often hear or read about parents to children with disabilities, but what if the story is the other way around?  Little is more exciting and more challenging than becoming a parent.  It’s a daunting responsibility, and as someone with a disability it can be especially overwhelming at times.  A parent is a parent, but when a disability is involved, it comes with its own set of unique situations and challenges.  With some steps toward organizing your home and your life, I promise you can face the challenges of parenthood with confidence.

It’s widely recognized that becoming a parent is one of the most rewarding missions we can take on, but this mom can tell you it’s also exhausting and, at times, terrifying.  Both my husband and I are disabled, and we have two beautiful children, but the journey to get here has had its fair share of obstacles.  However one of the best things I did was to prepare my home ahead of time.  The less you need to do when baby arrives, the better.  

First of all, as Parents points out you should go through your home and evaluate it for safety.  You may be thinking you have lots of time until your baby is toddling around, pulling things off shelves and delving into cupboards, but I guarantee you will feel as if you blinked your eyes and suddenly it’s happening - baby is on the move and the whole house is fair game!  Some simple home organizing and preparations will help keep your baby safe, so do these things now:

     Install baby-proof locks on cabinets throughout your home.
     Organise laundry areas with compartments for baby’s things or add a bin in the nursery.
     Safely stow medications, cleaning products and other poisonous materials in locked cabinets.
     Prepare an easily accessible drawer with items you will need regularly, such as baby spoons, bottles and dummies. 

Another important preparatory activity is to contemplate what equipment will be helpful to you and add it before baby’s arrival.  You may find more devices and gadgets to add later, or may need some modifications, but I can’t emphasize enough, the more you can do ahead of time the better!  Some experts recommend creating your own specialized equipment or finding someone who can do it for you if you can’t find commercially available products that meet your needs. 
Cots.  One of my favorite designs offers a swinging door for better accessibility.  There are also cots available with doors that lower and are lighter weight for easier management, as well as adjustable overall height.  Some clever designs can be manipulated with one hand. 
Carriers.  Baby carriers that work with wheelchairs and have easy to manage clips and straps will make your life so much easier!
Buggies.  Some buggies are designed to work in conjunction with wheelchairs, and some are lightweight and easily manipulated.  Some even include detachable baby lifters.
Pushchairs.  Look for pushchairs that allow for adjustable heights and come apart easily for washing. 

If you discover you need financial assistance in preparing for this big adventure, there are a number of grants available you should explore.  I found a great online resource through Disability-Grants. 

Be creative in how you manage activities, and you can even involve your child in the problem-solving process.  Sometimes babies can modify their behavior with signals from you.  For instance, one study found that a baby learned to curl up kitten-style for mum to be able to effectively place him in a carrier.  Her secret?  She tugged his clothes the same way prior to lifting him every time.

As you go into parenthood, it’s vital to be aware of your personal needs.  Believe me, parenting is exhausting and stressful, so I agree with the professionals who advise engaging in a self-care plan in order to have sufficient physical and mental reserves for baby.  Establish some healthy coping methods, eat right, and get enough rest.  And definitely don’t set the bar beyond reach; being too hard on yourself is a classic parenting blunder.  Guilt and stress are not your friends!

The bottom line is you’re going to be a great parent!  Make some preparations at home and gather your resources.  Stay creative through the process, take care of yourself, and get help when you need it.  Parenthood is a big challenge but you’ll be a smashing success!

Ashley Taylor                                   



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