by Guest Blogger Ashley Taylor (founder of DisabledParents.org)
Expecting a child is an exciting, life-changing experience, but it can also bring about questions and concerns, especially for first-time parents. These concerns may be even greater for parents-to-be living with a disability, who may be wondering how they can prepare themselves and their homes for parenthood.
The most important step is planning, and planning starts with questions like:
- Is my home babyproofed?
- Do we need to make changes to the home to make it babyproof?
- Do we need to make changes to make it easier for us to parent?
- What will I do when I feel stressed, overwhelmed, or need help?
- Are there resources that can help parents with a disability?
Preparing your home can start with a checklist. Go through your home room by room to see what can be removed or added that would make parenting easier, such as adding a ramp to the nursery if necessary, widening doorways with adjustable hinges, and buying adaptable equipment and products like wheelchair-accessible cribs. There are also changing tables with adjustable heights.
Getting practical advice from other disabled parents is helpful, and look for support groups in your community that you can join. If there aren’t any in your area, online support groups are a great resource. There is nothing like getting advice from others with real-life experience to help you solve problems and make choices, from tips on how to breastfeed to how to deal with occasional bias.
HELP FOR THE HOME
If you need to make physical changes to your house or apartment, you may want to consult a home advisor experienced in making homes accessible. When evaluating each room, think about functionality and convenience.
Nursery. Does this room have carpet that may interfere with a wheelchair, walker, or crutches? Are tables and shelves low enough? Would it be more practical to have the baby in your bedroom instead of in his or her own room?
Laundry room. Are your washer and dryer front-loading for easy access? Do they have buttons and knobs that are easy to use?
Kitchen. Do you need to add a lower cabinet to store the baby’s formula, baby food, and other baby items? If visually impaired, do you need a talking timer, clock, or thermometer?
Security. Make sure your home is well lit, and you can always add baby monitors (video and/or audio) for peace of mind.
If preparing your home is a financial challenge, sometimes small grants or loans are available to parents with a disability, so check with your community’s disability service coordinator or explore online.
HELP FOR YOURSELF
While preparing to care for your child, don’t forget to care for yourself. Parenting can be stressful for anyone, so don’t feel that you’re the only one who gets overwhelmed with the day-to-day tasks of parenthood. Feeling stressed is normal, so it’s okay to ask for help.
Family and friends can be a great resource in times of stress. But if you don’t have this kind of support system in your life, there are community resources available, such as parenting classes, in-home parenting instruction, childcare, respite services, home-delivered meals/groceries, professional shoppers, daycare, babysitters, support groups, individual counseling, and group therapy.
Another way to care for yourself is to be mindful of your physical and mental health. What we eat affects how we think and feel. Exercise strengthens the body, gives you energy, releases feel-good chemicals in the brain, and can lower stress. A great way to de-stress is by taking up yoga or meditation. This will help you stay calm and focused during trying times.
Planning and preparation can make parenting easier and make you a stronger parent. If you need help assessing or preparing your home and your life for parenthood, a disability specialist is only a phone call away. Also, your baby will need you at your best, so don’t forget about self-care.
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.