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How to Prepare for Parenthood if You’re Disabled
Parenthood can have a very positive impact on disabled parents. According to research, parenting serves to normalize, allowing disabled parents to live similar lives as their non-disabled peers. It also fosters the family’s ability to form unique bonds, particularly a strengthened spouse-to-spouse relationship.
But there’s more. Disabled parents report a higher level of satisfaction having overcome personal limitations, and this helps build self-esteem. After birth, disabled parents also report a stronger positive identity, accompanied by more motivation.
With all these benefits, you might be readier than ever for parenthood. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll face some unique challenges on this journey. So the next best step is being prepared. Here’s some advice on what to consider when you start planning.
Visit Your Doctor (if the Mom-to-Be Is Disabled)
Access to maternity services that take into account all medical conditions and disabilities is critical, so schedule a preconception visit. Make sure to discuss with them:
- How to plan for your pregnancy.
- How your particular disability or medical condition might affect your pregnancy and subsequent birth.
- If you need any appropriate medical tests.
Prepare Your Home
It’s important to make sure your home is ready for your new bundle of joy. The following steps can help:
- Make sure you have smoke detectors, and test to see if they are working.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector on every floor. If you already have them, make sure they work.
- Purchase a fire extinguisher.
- Make sure any heavy furniture and large televisions are securely anchored to the wall. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, every 30 minutes, tipped furniture or falling televisions send a child to the emergency room.
- Put corner guards on any furniture with sharp corners.
- Install safety latches for any cabinets within reach.
- Don’t leave any dangling cords, particularly window blind cords.
- Install stair gates.
- Lock away any medications or potential poisons.
Some Baby Care Tips
Night Care and Feeding – Depending on your type of disability, it might be easier to keep your baby’s bed next to yours. This will make nighttime feedings and diaper changes easier.
Bathing – Bathing a child brings about fear for most new parents, and depending on your disability, you may want to consider having support for this, either from a spouse or family member. Babies and water make for a slippery combination, so get some help if needed.
Carrying – Infants need to be held and carried. Many disabled parents report that a traditional carrier worked best for them while walking. If you’re in a wheelchair, some parents choose to use a Lap Baby as a seating aid for their infant.
Find the Right Equipment
Finding baby equipment that works with your particular disability can be a challenge. Always go to your local baby supply store and try things out. Here are some options to consider:
- Many baby strollers are designed with an easy one-hand fold.
- Height-adjustable cribs are available should you need something lower to the ground.
- Adjustable-height baby bouncers will allow you to be eye to eye with your infant, from sofa height up to dining table height. This also makes handling your infant easier.
- Check out these 10 products for disabled parents.
The Importance of Help
It’s important for disabled parents to know their limitations, so they know when to ask for help. Make sure before your baby arrives that you’ll have plenty of support from your spouse, family members, and friends.
Your Life Will Be Changed
You’ve done your research and asked your parent friends for information, and you’re ready. The truth is, no matter how much you prepare, pregnancy, birth, and bringing home your new baby will cause some level of upheaval in your life. Count on emotional exhaustion and tap into some ways to overcome it.
Following this advice will get you ready to bring home your new baby. Have faith in your preparation and focus on enjoying the events ahead. You’ll never get this time back, so be present and absorb every wonderful moment along the way. And find comfort in this parenting advice from famous pediatrician, Dr. Benjamin Spock, “Trust yourself, you know more than you think you do.”
Ashley Taylor is a freelance writer, photographer, and advocate for people with disabilities. She created DisabledParents.org to provide information and resources to other parents with disabilities. When she isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children.