Written by Ashley Taylor
There are more than 4.1 million parents with disabilities in the United States, a number that continues to rise as more war veterans return home. If you fall into this camp, there are a few pre-emptive measures you should take before the baby comes into your life, so that the transition is safe and stress-free.
Preparing Your Home
Create an environment that makes it easy for you to care for your baby in a safe manner.
- If you don’t already have one, install a ramp in lieu of fronts step, so it’s easier to get a stroller (and your wheelchair if applicable) in and out.
- Place expandable hinges on the doorways, so it’s easier to get around.
- Contain hazardous materials and objects (think cleaning supplies, medication, firearms, knives, etc.) in cabinets with childproof locks.
- Remove all throw rugs and install skid-resistant flooring to prevent slipping when you’re carrying your baby.
- Prevent injuries by placing protective guards on the sharp corners of furniture.
- Add additional handrails where needed and double-check to make sure existing ones are secure.
- Add a fire extinguisher and make sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors have fresh batteries and are functional.
Preparing For Parenthood
- Being a new parent can feel like on-the-job training, so make sure you have an established support system, as well as some resources to help you through any daily struggles.
- Consider all of your baby’s daily activities in order to figure out the best way to make the routine work for your needs. For example, purchasing some adaptive products such as a side-opening crib, bath and changing stations that are designed for someone in a wheelchair, a two-sided nursing pillow, a stroller attachment for your wheelchair and bibs with Velcro closures.
- Educate yourself on what you can expect when you first bring your baby home. Knowledge is power and it will help you feel more confident in your parenting skills if you know how to handle specific tasks including breastfeeding, excessive crying and diaper changing.
- Prepare and freeze healthy meals in advance so you can ensure that you’re taking care of yourself after baby arrives. You don’t want to end up eating fast food and frozen meals. You’ll also need to keep up your strength, so proper nutrition is key. Invite friends or family over to help. Take advantage of the time you have together to talk over any pre-baby fears.
Preparing For Life Changes
While a new baby is one of life’s greatest pleasures, life as you now know it will never be exactly the same with your spouse or partner. Make an effort to make your relationship a priority by discovering new ways to enjoy spending time together with and without baby.
Don’t feel guilty about having someone babysit once in a while so you can spend some quality time together. Along with friends and family, consider interviewing professional babysitter candidates, so you’ll have a trusted go-to network. Make sure you establish balance in your life. Take time out for yourself to properly recharge your batteries — whether that means meeting a friend for coffee, engaging in a favorite hobby or interest, or getting a few extra winks.
Parenting with a disability is about adaptations, not limitations. Whether it’s online or through support groups, connect with other parents with a disability, so you can get additional support from those who understand what you’re going through. Above all, enjoy every moment and embrace the joys just as much as the challenges.