Approximately 53 million U.S. adults have some type of disability — 4.1 million of whom are parents. If you are one of the 53 million and you’re on the brink of bringing home a child of your own for the first time, there are some preparations to consider so that this exciting new phase of your life is safe for both you and baby.
1. Prepare A Safe And Clean Home
Regardless of disability, the requirements for childproofing your home are the same:
● Secure large bookcases, television stands, and any other tip-worthy furniture to the wall.
● Install childproof locks on drawers with sharp objects, firearms, chemicals, and medication.
● Make sure all handrails are secure.
● Cover sharp corners of furniture with protective guards.
● Place a gate across stairways to prevent an accidental tumble.
● Make sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order.
● Get a fire extinguisher for every level of your home.
● Ensure the safety of the crib — whether it’s a hand-me-down or newly assembled; remove copious pillows, blankets, and toys to prevent suffocation.
● Remove clutter. Consider hiring a cleaning service to give your home a thorough clean to ensure you’re bringing your baby into a germ-free environment.
2. Consider Purchasing Some Adaptive Parenting Products Once you’ve got the basics organized, consider adding some adaptive products to make it easier for you to take care of your baby with your disability. Some examples of items include:
● A stroller attachment for your wheelchair
● Side opening crib
● Two-sided nursing pillow
● Swivel base baby car seat
● Bibs with velcro closures
● A walking harness (when it comes time to aid your baby with first steps)
● Bath and changing stations that are at a height conducive to someone in a wheelchair
3. Make Sure You’re Taking Care Of Yourself
Raising a child certainly comes with its share of stress, but if you aren’t managing it efficiently, it can create an inflammatory response in the body that can prompt a difficult pregnancy and overall health complications. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself by eating well (incorporate stress-busting foods like whole-grain carbohydrates, avocados, and fatty fish), exercise as regularly, and meditate or practice yoga. Consider talking to a counselor if you are having difficulties managing your emotions or your new schedule.
Research shows you don’t have to spend a substantial amount of time to recharge your batteries. Some simple self-care strategies include:
● Turning on uplifting music
● Scheduling one uninterrupted hour with your spouse, friend, or family member
● Spend 20 minutes writing positive comments on social media
● Journal for 15 minutes
● Write down things that are causing you stress with an action item for each
● Post a goal or intention for the week on the refrigerator
● Choose one activity each day that you can truly savor and enjoy
● Download a gratitude app
● Take time for a catnap
4. Have A List Of Available Support Resources On-Hand
Raising children is challenging regardless of your health situation, but as a parent with a disability, make sure you’re getting the proper support you need. It can be difficult to acknowledge you need help, so that’s why it’s important to know your limitations and create a network of family, friends, social and disability services, and support groups to assist you on a physical and emotional level. There are several resources available online that can help you find support in your area.
Parenting is an exhilarating journey. Just as you’ve managed to master your disability, you will also be able to master the role of being a fantastic parent. Planning is key, so as soon as you find out you’re going to be a parent, start implementing the necessary changes to prepare your home — as well as your mind.