Ashely Taylor of Disableparents.org shares her advice on how parents with disabilities can best prepare for bringing home a child
Parenting while disabled does not mean you have limitations as a parent. You may have different experiences, but you can also have different rewards at the same time. Preparing for a newborn comes with challenges, but planning can help you through them.
Adapt the Home
Modifying a home takes a lot of preparation. You may have a head start if you have already introduced some adaptations, but parenting while disabled may require additional accessibility features. Survey your home and identify what might ease some parenting tasks. Grab bars can be a valuable aid when it comes to bathing baby. Additional ramps or the removal of doors can facilitate flow through the home. Alarms could be an excellent tool if you are visually impaired, while switching out handles for pull levers can make a lot of tasks smoother. If you are unsure what else might benefit you, consider reaching out to your medical team for further advice.
Home modifications sound financially daunting, but you could be eligible for aid at a federal, state, local, or charitable level. Legislation like the Americans With Disabilities Act serves to provide supportive infrastructure, while the National Council of State Housing Agencies provides a directory for services that may assist you.
Have the Equipment
Having adaptive baby gear can be a boon to new parents. It can come in many forms, from gates and strollers to breastfeeding pillows calibrated for disabled mothers. There are cribs that can be positioned alongside your bed that have collapsible sides that can avoid the need for lifting or other maneuvers.
No matter what equipment you are looking for, it's essential that you thoroughly research potential buys. It's better to be safe than disappointed by a purchase. Check out online reviews to find the products that would be ideal for you, but also look to alternative avenues, too. Reach out to forums, such as parenting sites, or organizations that may be familiar with adaptive equipment. An occupational therapist may have more recommendations as to what tools could make parenting more accessible.
Build Your Network
Support, whether from family and friends, your medical team, or organizations, will be important. Parenting is exhausting, and some tasks may be harder than they were before your baby came along. Others, depending on one's disability, may be impossible, such as driving to doctor's appointments. If that is the case, accept help from loved ones for specific tasks, whether that's chores or errands. Try to avoid feeling guilty about making requests of others. Those around you will cherish this as an opportunity to not only support someone they love but have a chance to be around your newborn. Also reach out to groups like Through the Looking Glass. They have information on national and local services where you can seek out support and advice on various aspects of parenting.
Plan Your Time
Becoming a parent is an indescribable privilege. There's no doubt about that. Still, the transition to parenthood can leave one strained for time. Our well-being helps our newborns, so as you prepare your life to welcome the tiny arrival, plan out how you might practice good self-care. Getting outdoors is important, so research what sort of community there is in your area for parents, whether disabled or able-bodied. Also look into what is available around you for your child, such as accessible playgrounds.
Think how you might maintain an active social life once your newborn has been brought home. Time will be hard to juggle, but try to come up with a schedule that accommodates your needs too. You could arrange regular brunches with friends, or you might take your little one on trips to the park. Whatever you do, avoid comparing yourself to others. No one is perfect, and no one can magically create free time. Do what you can.
Bringing a bundle of joy into the world can seem overwhelming. After all, there is much to consider and plan for. With the right preparation and support, you can nurture an environment where your whole family can flourish. This is the beginning of a magical journey.
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