Welcoming a new baby to your life is a joy that can’t be measured. When you see that little one’s face for the first time, you’ll experience love like you never have before. But that bliss also comes with a lot of responsibility, especially preparation. If you have a disability, you’ll need to prepare a little bit differently than other parents. Fortunately, there are many ways to adapt your life to welcome that little sweetie home.
If you have a disability, likely your home is already adapted to your needs. With an infant, you may need to go a little further in your adaptations. Things that are a little annoying to you now will become a big hassle when you’re parenting. Perhaps you’ve only made one entrance to your home wheelchair accessible.
With a baby, having that extra ramp in place will save you valuable time and hassle. Maybe you avoid certain areas of the house because you just haven’t worked on their accessibility yet. When your child starts crawling and walking, you’ll need to be able to follow him or her to any part of the house. Consider installing folding door hinges to make doors more accessible and skid-resistant flooring to prevent falls.
Like any parent, your home will have to be childproof, so start looking around at things that need to be secured. Add child-locks to cabinets and doors, cover electrical outlets, put the cords on your blinds away from a child’s reach, put away medicines and cleaning supplies, and install baby gates. Don’t forget to make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors work, too. While you won’t need all these things right away, taking care of it before baby comes home means you won’t have to worry about it later, when you’re exhausted from lack of sleep.
Start looking at adaptive baby furniture. There are more options on the market than ever before. You can get a side-opening crib, a front baby carrier, Velcro baby bibs and more. If you can’t find something that meets your needs, consider having something made. Carpenters and metal fabricators would love the challenge of creating a unique product. Also, check with your local disabilities services and organizations. Many will provide grants and volunteers to help.
Some disabled parents suggest working with an occupational therapist before the baby comes. An OT can help you design ways to handle your baby around your particular needs that you may not have thought of, and you’ll be better prepared for baby when the time comes. Overcoming obstacles isn’t new to you, so the more ways you can find to do it, the better off you’ll be.
Remember that parenting is hard, no matter your situation. So when you get frustrated, tired and unsure that you can do it, remember that all parents have the same thoughts. Your disability doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It’s just one aspect of your overall job as mom or dad. Reach out for help as much as you need to. People are willing to help you, even if it’s just someone to lend a sympathetic ear when you’re exhausted.
While there might be some things you can’t do with your child, the benefits of being raised by parents with physical challenges are great. Children raised by parents with disabilities are often more sensitive and responsive to others’ needs, as well as more empathetic, compassionate, responsible and mature. They will also have a better self-esteem because they will be able to see the contribution they can make in the world. They will learn that obstacles are to be overcome, and they’ll become more resilient in their own lives. Enjoy every minute of your new role as a parent.
Written by Ashley Taylor