Getting ready to be a parent means laying the groundwork for a new life for your entire family. The addition of a new child places demands on everyone. There are late-night feedings and diaper changes, safety precautions to take and new space to create. It’s an exciting, anxious time for the entire family. For disabled parents, it means finding new ways of adapting to day-to-day responsibilities, activities that seem routine to many of us, but force disabled people to create, or re-create, new ways of overcoming obstacles.
Make it work
That requires some creativity and ingenuity, particularly for disabled parents who have limited mobility. Having a new baby means you’re going to do a lot of holding and carrying, actions that make it difficult to multitask. For those in a wheelchair, you may need to find attachments that allow you to carry a little one as you move around the house, or move up and down the grocery aisle. Some people find ways to attach a baby stroller to the front of a wheelchair using a buckled strap or velcro and push their child along in front of them.
Path of least resistance
Changing a diaper calls for a certain amount of dexterity and freedom of motion, which can be a problem for some disabled parents. Rather than using a changing table or reaching up into a crib, many simply change diapers on a mat spread out on the floor. A well-planned and diligent Internet search can lead you to modified equipment that makes parenting a lot easier. Cribs with modified rails that allow you to reach through the side aren’t easy to find but are worth their weight in gold. So is a breastfeeding sling that fastens around your neck, a safe and comfortable option that features a padded strap.
A safe home
Home safety is the concern of any parent. For disabled parents with mobility concerns, it’s absolutely vital. Many of the most effective safety measures you can take are also the simplest, requiring little more than common sense and attentiveness. Keep flammable and sharp objects off tables and out of reach of little hands. That includes candles, which small children like to chew on, and picture frames, which are easy to knock over and can give your little one a nasty knock on the head. If you have a bookcase, make sure it’s mounted to the wall in case your child turns monkey and goes for an impromptu climb. Your television should also be attached to the wall, not balanced on a TV stand that could easily be pushed over.
Make sure power strips aren’t exposed and that all extension cords are put away. If your TV remote uses AAA batteries, or even smaller ones, be sure that the remote cover is secure so your child can’t pop a battery in his mouth. Crayons, loose change, small food items such as nuts or hard candy and any other choking hazards should be kept picked up.
Coping with stress
Disabled parents often have to concern themselves with circumstances that require special precautions, which can add to their stress factor. Controlling your stress means taking good care of your health by getting enough sleep, eating well and seeking support from friends and family when needed.
You know best
Only you know what works best for you as a parent, what your personal needs are and how they’ll affect your child. Planning ahead is the best way to pre-empt much of the stress that comes with parenthood. Providing for your child’s safety and well-being ahead of time will make you a better parent.
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.
Read more from Ashley on her blog DisabledParents.org.