This post is the first in a series on being a disabled parent.
I’m yet to experience pregnancy, childbirth or the first precious year of a baby’s life. But I have been step-parent to my gorgeous boy for 3 years now. Being a parent is never easy but being a disabled parent shouldn’t have to be any harder.
Someone once asked how I explained my condition to my stepson. As he has only known me as disabled, he has always accepted me as just as someone who loves him. When he started school recently he did start to compare me to other parents. Explaining why I am how I am was much easier than I thought it would be. Children are far more understanding and accepting than we give them credit for! The day will come when I have to explain what connective tissues are and how mine don’t work well but thats many years to come.
Thinking creatively about how you’ll parent is key. You may need alternative solutions for the way you do things and the products you use. You also need to be flexible in your decision making . I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I hope to do things when I eventually have a baby, but I have to bear in mind that pregnancy can do all sorts of things to the body and every child is different.
There are few products available designed specifically with disabled parents in mind, so it can be a case of trial and error to find what works for you. Small changes may resolve some difficulties that you come across but others may require specialist kit. You suddenly realise that carrying around an ever growing 10 pound lump of gorgeousness requires specialist hardwear!
With babies also comes the need for a lot of kit! If you already have a fair amount of mobility equipment around your home or little space to store the baby kit, products that have multiple uses (such as travel systems that can be used as a buggy and a car seat, travel cots like this one which can also be used as a changing station, bassinet and playpen) are often a good choice – as long as they are easy for you to use. Some travel systems are heavy to lift or have stiff buttons to collapse the buggy. Sacrificing functionality for space is never a good idea.
When looking for baby equipment go to a large department store/baby equipment specialist as early as possible after the first trimester. Try everything you need and replicate your own situation at home if its a product you’ll only use at home (like a changing table) and vice versa for products like buggies and travel systems. It sounds like common sense right? But still, I have gone shoe shopping without my orthotic insoles and ended up with shoes that are too narrow. I have also bought skirts without seeing how they look when I wear them in my wheelchair or scooter.
Remember to take as much time as you need. Take someone with you, ask questions, and take notes. Don’t feel pressured by any sales people into getting something. Read reviews, shop around, go back and try it out on a different day to be really sure it will work for you.
I have had some people ask me why I am considering having a baby as a woman with disabilities. My answer is why would you consider having a baby as a person without disabilities. As long as your condition doesn’t dictate any risk, ways and means can found to enable you to be the parent you want to be. Make sure you seek all the professional advice you can get. If parenthood is what you want, don’t be put off by uninformed naysayers!