Everyone needs a challenge. Without one, you would never learn, grow stronger, or feel the satisfaction of a job well done. Now you’re headed for the biggest one of your life: being a parent. However, your condition shouldn’t interfere in raising your child as best as you can. Why should it?
After all, there are already somewhere between 4 million and 9 million parents with disabilities spread throughout the country, and they experience the same hopes and joys (along with the trials and tribulations) as other moms and dads.
However, you’ll need to prepare for this stage of your life carefully to avoid getting overwhelmed, both physically and mentally. Here are a few suggestions.
Get Some Help
You may need some assistance at some point, and a good place to start is the Disabled Parenting Project, where you’ll find links to social services along with a message board, useful “how-to,” videos and a marketplace for some of that baby equipment you. If you’re in need of doula and/or wellness support, Carolina Birth and Wellness offers these services as well as classes for parents and parents-to-be.
Look for an Accessible House
Before your baby arrives, you may decide to upgrade your current home to one that can accommodate your needs. This could be a much easier decision than making several costly modifications to your current property. Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the local market (homes in Chapel Hill sell for around $408,500 on average), and determine how much you can realistically afford. Once you have an idea of what you can spend and the type of house you need, get in touch with a real estate agent who can guide you through the home-buying process.
Have a Ramp Built
Installing a ramp will make it much easier to get in and out of the house with or without the baby. Bear in mind that a ramp that rises 30 inches would be about 30 feet long, which costs between $3,500 and $8,000, according to a home improvement expert writing for Networx. That may seem like a big price tag, but it’s well worth it.
Install Slip-Resistant Flooring
Adding slip-resistant flooring will give you much greater traction for scooting around in a wheelchair while also preventing falls as you navigate with a walking aid. That’s especially important when carrying a baby around. Rubber and abrasive vinyl come highly recommended for the bathroom, which is often a major danger area.
Baby-Proof Your Home
Your child will be crawling around before you even realize it, and you may not always be able to keep up. To make sure your kid stays safe as they begin to explore their surroundings, the parents at Slate magazine recommend electrical outlet covers and furniture straps.
Practice Childcare Tasks
You won’t know which ones are the most difficult for you until you try, and you’ll get a head start by using a doll. Change their diaper. Wheel them around in a stroller. Strap them into the car seat. With some rehearsal, these activities will be much easier when the real baby arrives.
Buy the Right Equipment
Having the right equipment on hand will make those childcare tasks much simpler. A side-opening crib is a must-have for any parent in a wheelchair, as it allows you to put the baby to sleep without even getting up — and you’ll be thankful for your accessible baby bathtub for the same reason. While you’re at it, don’t forget a chest-harness baby carrier.
If you’re raising your child with a partner, then decide who does what. A clear answer to that question is the key to working effectively as a team, says a couples therapist speaking to the Fatherly website. And remember to collaborate rather than compete.
Find a Playgroup
For one thing, having a reliable playgroup will give your child someone to spend time with outside the home, and that’s important for their healthy social development. What’s more, you’ll benefit from having other parents to talk to, thus avoiding feelings of loneliness and isolation that can often be very trying on new parents.
Above all, remember to relax and smile.
You have so much to look forward, including the little one’s first steps, first words, and first day at school. That should get you motivated.