Community Letter: A guide for disabled parents
I have been very fortunate to receive letters from around the globe offering encouragement on the challenges, and interest in the charities supported. Now and again I get letters from inspiring people out there wishing to offer learnings from their experiences - and this is a letter really opened my eyes to a new perspective. Maybe you are, or maybe you aren't a parent living with a disability - but the below insights shared by Ashley on this topic are eye opening and can be very helpful. If you know anyone living with a disability, please share her message, and connect with her at disabledparents.org.
Thank you again Ashley for sharing this :)
If You’re a Disabled Parent, You Need to Read This
Is there anything more exciting than getting ready to welcome your first baby into the world? But as wonderful as this time is, there’s a lot that needs to be done before you’re ready to bring your tiny human home. And when you’re a parent with disabilities, the standard baby prep checklists don’t quite line up. Here’s what you need to do to fill the gaps.
Make sure your home is fully adapted
Having a baby is the end of just getting by with a house that doesn’t quite meet your needs. Now that you’re going to be toting around an infant, carefully making your way up steps or prepping food on counters that are too high for comfort isn’t going to work. For the safety of your little one (and your own sanity), you need your house to be as easy to use as possible. In addition, you’ll want to ensure that your home is baby-proofed to keep tiny hinds from reaching into even the smallest of spaces.
Now, we all know that a baby on the way means your wallet probably isn’t bulging with cash. But not being able to afford major renovations doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause. With a little creativity, you can come up with low-cost solutions to the problem areas in your home. A low kitchen island or butcher’s block offers a seated workspace without replacing your counters, expandable hinges widen doorways without changing the door frame, and a DIY ramp is fairly easy to build and a whole lot cheaper than hiring a professional.
Find baby gear that works for you
You’re not going to walk into Target and find baby products marketed toward parents with disabilities. But that doesn’t mean you won’t find gear that works for you. Especially with the resurgence of baby carrying, there are a lot of products on the market that parents with disabilities rave about. Breastfeeding slings, swivel car seats, and baby clothes that use Velcro instead of snaps are some favorites.
Finding the right products takes some trial and error, and you’ll spend a fortune if you buy everything off the rack. Ask parent friends if you can try out their car seats, high chairs, and other baby gear, search for secondhand products at thrift stores and yard sales, and research what other parents with disabilities are using. The how-to videos at the Disabled Parenting Project are a great resource for learning how other parents with disabilities get things done. However, keep in mind that just because a product or technique worked for someone else, doesn’t mean it’s going to suit your needs. Everyone’s ability is different, so it’s a good idea to test and practice before your little one arrives. You may find that you need to have some products fabricated specifically for your needs, like this wheelchair-accessible crib from New Mobility.
Don’t underestimate the power of a well-organized home. Having everything right where you need it, accessible without digging or fumbling, makes caring for an infant SO much easier. Set up a baby station in the main living area where you can change diapers, make bottles, and get your baby dressed in one small space. By eliminating the need to cross the house for simple tasks, you save energy and reduce the odds of an accident. You can also use a wheeled cart to make your station mobile, just make sure the wheels can lock when baby is on it.
Finally, make time for yourself. It feels impossible to step away when you’re caring for a newborn, but if you try to do everything alone, you’re going to run yourself ragged. That’s not good for your health — physical or mental. Share parenting duties with your partner, ask involved family members to lend a hand around the house, or hire a babysitter for a few hours (even if you’re not ready to leave your baby alone, simply catching a good nap is a godsend). You need to stay well for your little one, and sometimes that means letting someone else step in.
You can contact Ashley directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you Ashley, and thank you all for reading her message :)
(blog image supplied by the author via Unsplash)