Disabled Parenting: A Road Worth Traveling
By Ashley Taylor
If you’re expecting your first bundle of joy, congratulations. Having a baby is one of the greatest joys in life. But, as all new parents can attest, it also comes prepackaged with sleepless nights, never-ending worry, and a 24/7 workload. Navigating the early stages of parenthood is difficult for all parents, but may be especially tough for those of you who must also balance a physical disability that impacts your mobility, hearing or vision.
Babies, the best medicine
Regardless of your disability, studies have shown that having kids is actually good for you. Parenthoodcan lower your blood pressure, increase your self-esteem and make you overall happier. This is on top of the other benefits of parenthood, which include tax savings and having a built-in partner-in-crime when you want to make a mid-week trip to Baskin-Robbins.
Adaptive parenting made easy
Having a disability means that you’ve already learned to adapt to a world not built for you. But thankfully, there are tons of products and services geared toward a growing population of disabled parents.Adaptive parentingdevices, such as bedside cribs, wheelchair strollers and adaptive vehicles, are all readily available.
You can also use everyday materials and the features of your home to your advantage. For instance, if you have a visual impairment, you can attach tiny bells to your crawling baby’s socks to gauge his whereabouts inside your home. When bending and stooping are difficult or impossible, you can move bath time to the kitchen sink, so you aren’t trying to pick your baby up from the bottom of the bathtub.
It may sound cliché, but it is truly never too early to prep your home for baby’s arrival.Baby-proofingyour home won’t be much different for you than it will be for your non-disabled peers. You will still need to cover the power outlets and make sure that your child will never have access to sharp objects, chemicals or the top of the stairs.
The primary difference in how you modify your home in preparation for its new member depends on your specific disability. Hearing disabilities, for example, may necessitate security cameras and monitors in each room and visual sound monitors that go from green to red depending on the baby’s crying volume. You may also need to ask for additional assistance from your partner or closest friends and family to help you get your child back and forth to doctors’ appointments and to physically secure heavy items that you can’t lift.
A healthy parent equals a happy child
Your child isn’t going to care about your disability, they are going to insist that you run, jump, and play on their schedule. And you will because they’ll bat their eyelashes and give you a cute chubby-cheeked smile you can’t resist. Even if you’re confined to a wheelchair, you’re going to need the help of some energy-boosting tipsto keep up with your progeny: get plenty of sleep — at least seven to nine hours, drink plenty of water as dehydration can make you tired and cranky, and eat a rainbow of goodness at each meal. You can also add energy-boosting supplements and an ability-appropriate exercise routine to help keep you in motion.
Don’t worry about your child
While it’s perfectly normal to worry about the health and safety of your baby, one thing you don’t need to worry about is that your disability will negatively impact him or her. Children arespongesand easily adapt to their environment. There is no evidence that children raised by disabled parents suffer negative consequences of that upbringing. In fact, these children may grow up to show more compassion and awareness of the needs of those around them.
Again, congratulations on your forthcoming bundle of joy. Having a baby is a tough job, but one that you’re ready for. Your disability hasn’t stopped you from getting this far in life and it’s not going to stop you from giving your children a happy one.
Ashley Taylor is a disabled mother of two wonderful, amazing, energetic children. She met her husband, Tom, while doing physical therapy. Tom had suffered a spinal cord injury due to a car accident and uses a wheelchair for mobility. Ashley and Tom knew they wanted children and knew they would have to adapt their lives and home in order to make this dream come true. Ashley is happy to say that they are the proud parents of two healthy, wonderful children and their disabilities haven’t stopped them from leading a happy, fulfilling life.