HopeXchange is pleased to welcome our latest guest poster, Ashley Taylor, who has a unique and helpful point of view. Ashley is the creator of DisabledParents.org. Here, you can find helpful resources for parents facing challenges that come with living with disabilities.
What to expect when you’re planning on becoming a parent looks different to different people. Perhaps that’s why there’s no super deluxe Instruction Manual available when you make the decision to start a family. A couple managing a disability will include some personal planning than a couple who is planning a family with an infertile partner.
But being disabled doesn’t have to mean parenting is more challenging. Instead, it’s important to remember that your situation just makes parenting independent from the couple sitting next to you in Lamaze class who’s also planning for their first child.
If you or your partner is disabled, use these tips to start your preparation.
- There are resources available. On both the local and national level, there are organizations that are designed to help you. For instance, locally you can rely on the Department of Aging and Adult Services, which helps adults with disabilities and their families maximize self-sufficiency, health, safety and independence. The organization Through The Looking Glass is a nationally recognized center whose mission is researching, training and providing services for families in which a child, parent or grandparent has a disability.
- Carefully consider necessary home modifications. Every new parent should complete a checklist of home modifications before welcoming home their new bundle of joy, but if you’re disabled there may be specific changes you need to make based on your disability. For example, if a parent is blind, you’ll need to label food with Braille labels. Or, a parent with a wheelchair or decreased mobility may need to remove area rugs or wall-to-wall carpet from critical travel areas.
- Become a voracious reader. You can’t over educate yourself when it comes to preparing for a child, so hit the local library or your favorite bookstore to pick up plenty of books. Make sure to read books on how to prepare to be a parent, as well as books on parenting.
- Look for products that will make managing your disability easier. From wheelchair accessible cribs, to adjustable high chairs and Velcro bibs, there are products designed to help in your parenting efforts so be sure to look for things that will make your job easier.
- Understand the importance of self-care. Before you can take care of your newborn child you have to be able to take good care of yourself, and this means whole-body wellness. A comprehensive self-care plan will include adding things to your lifestyle that improve three core elements of wellness: 1) physical health, 2) mental health, and 3) spiritual health.
- Attend some classes. It will be helpful to attend some classes that teach the best prenatal and postnatal care. You can do this and shop at the same time with a visit to Carmel Blue.
- Establish a support group. There may be times when you need an extra hand, and it’s always a good idea to ask for help versus becoming overwhelmed. Before you give birth talk to friends and loved ones about their willingness to help you. Having a strong network in place beforehand will give you a good reliable go to when the time comes (and it will come).
- Have a baby budget. Your budget will change with the birth of a child, so discuss with your spouse beforehand mutual expectations and goals to avoid any money stress issues that may arise. The folks at Quicken Loans recommend these nine critical steps.
- Create a nursery you love. You’ll be spending a lot of time in your baby’s nursery, so make sure it’s cozy and to your taste. A comfy rocker is something you’ll want to be sure to include.
- Let go of perfection. Being a parent requires a great deal of flexibility and self-compassion. You won’t get everything right, all of the time. So instead of being critical of your efforts, recognize that it’s all part of the normal process.
Being a parent is likely one of the biggest choices you’ll make in your life. Raising a child from birth to adulthood takes delicate care, keen understanding, and a lot of love. Being prepared in advance, will make those parts critical parts of the job that much easier.