Four things people with a disability should do to prepare for parenthood
My husband and I both have disabilities. We’ve always wanted children and knew that because of our disabilities, becoming parents – and parenthood in general – would require extra planning and preparation.
Today, my husband and I have two amazing kids, and every day we feel blessed.
Being a parent may not come with a one-size-fits-all guidebook, but if you’re among the 4.1 million parents in the U.S. with a disability – and comparable per capita statistics elsewhere in the world – there are guidelines that can assist you through this beautiful, yet challenging phase of life.
1. Make Home Preparations
It can be difficult to find resources for a disabled individual that cater specifically to preparing to bring a child into their home, versus an elderly person in need of additional assistance. While many of the changes you make to your home environment will be similar, there’s the daily – even hourly – activities that come with parenting.
Aside from typical home renovations such as wheelchair ramps, stair lifts and specialty doorknobs and handles, it’s important to add extra precautions when bringing a child into your living space. Non-slip rugs, grab bars to assist with bathing and changing, and textured tape or Braille (if applicable) to aid with meal preparation are just a few of the ways you can prepare your home. Regardless of having a child, removing clutter that can translate into potential hazard – like tripping – is a must for anyone with a disability.
If cost is an issue, look into funding sources such as specialized loan and grant programs, tax breaks and public assistance.
2. Get Ready For Baby
- Choose proper equipment: From strollers designed for wheelchair users to appropriate nursing equipment to side-opening cribs and accessible bathtubs, there are many daily items designed to support a parent with a disability. Ask your health care provider if you’re having problems resourcing a particular item to suit your needs.
- Night care: A baby requires constant care, so depending on your disability, it may be beneficial to keep your baby’s bed in the same room as you — even next to your bed — to make nightly diaper changes and feedings more convenient.
- Bathing: This is a process that’s terrifying for many new parents regardless of disability, so consider support from a trusted source like a spouse, friend or caretaker if you are apprehensive about bathing your child. If this is not an option, adhere to the first rule regarding proper equipment for a disabled parent.
3. Manage Stress and Mental Health
- Take advantage of what you can do: Focus on the strengths you still have regardless of a disability. Embrace the fact that you have access to prosthetics, canes and wheelchairs, and copious adaptive technologies and tools to help you succeed each and every day.
- Establish realistic goals: Patience is a virtue for anyone with a disability, so setting realistic goals is key if you want to avoid setbacks and feelings of discouragement.
- Make an effort to maintain interests: It’s important that you try to maintain some semblance of your past in order to maintain your present and future. Keep dates with friends and family, and consider joining support groups with like-minded people.
4. Prepare For Times When You’ll Need Help
Note that accepting help doesn’t make you weak, but instead, it can make you stronger. Refusing assistance will only delay or worsen your progress on a physical and/or emotional level as you incorporate a child into your life. Take advantage of the numerous resources for disabled people that are designed to provide support.
Being a parent is a rewarding and stressful situation regardless of your health. Remember you’re not fighting a losing battle. Making preparations ahead of time will ensure that you’re ready for the mental and physical changes that you’ll endure as a mom or dad.
Ashley Taylor is a mother of two and founder of disabledparents.org.
Ashley Taylor created DisabledParents.org to provide information and resources to other parents with disabilities.