When you’re expecting a baby, it’s normal to spend hours on end thinking about the ways in which you will have to prepare your life and home for the arrival of a new family member. These anxieties are significantly amplified for expecting parents living with a disability. You may be keenly aware of how to adapt your life to your disability, but it’s not as obvious when you have to consider how a brand new life fits in.
But don’t worry – every parent goes through this. Your disability offers a different sort of challenge, but that doesn’t mean that preparing for parenthood has to be a logistical and emotional ordeal.
The challenges associated with parenthood will change as the child grows up. This means that, depending on your disability, you may have to prepare more for certain stages. Figuring out where your main struggles are likely to allow you to prepare for them more accurately.
For instance, mobility and accessibility are likely to be a more significant issue when the child is a baby or toddler since they rely on you to get around. Parents with physical disabilities will have to focus on items that allow them to carry and access the baby at any given time.
Once they grow up and start going to school, parents with educational disabilities like dyslexia and dyscalculia may struggle to help with homework. In this case, EdTech (educational technology) will be a useful tool, providing a child with the support they need at home while also maximising parental engagement.
Preparing Your Home
One of your main areas of focus will have to be the changes you need to make to your house, especially if you have a physical disability. You may have become comfortable with your home’s layout, but these habits and workarounds can become problematic or downright dangerous when you’re chasing a small child around the house.
This guide by Redfin details the many ways in which you can make your home safer and more accessible as a parent with a disability. This includes home modifications like replacing steps with a small ramp, expanding your doorways with offset hinges, or changing your flooring material to something slip-resistant.
If you are lucky enough to already live in an accessible home, you may still have to make some changes. For example, many people in wheelchairs keep everything in lower cupboards so they are within reach, but certain items (like medications or toxic cleaning products) should always be kept out of reach from children. Cabinets containing these should be securely locked or moved to a higher level that you can still reach.
There is plenty of tech out there to help parents with certain disabilities care for their children. For example, there are baby monitors for deaf parents that use sight and vibrations to alert you when the baby is crying.
For parents with cognitive disabilities that can impact memory and planning, there is a wealth of apps and devices that can help you keep track of appointments, school runs, feeding schedules, and more. This article by Forbes details some of the best available options.
There are anywhere between 4.1 million and 9 million parents with disabilities in the United States, so you are not alone. Their experience can help you figure out the changes you will have to make in your environment and the ways in which you can integrate parenthood within your life. This list contains useful resources that can guide you during this time, including advice by other parents and organisations that can offer support.
It’s a great idea to tackle these issues while you are still expecting instead of waiting for them to arise. By taking the time to think about this now, you ensure that the arrival of the baby is as stress-free as possible, and you can focus on the wonderful change that is coming to your life. Don’t forget that there are plenty of other parents going through the same thing and that there is advice and support available to you. In other words, you’ve got this.