Once you become a parent, things change. And for the better. But there are a few things you must prepare for before your bundle of love arrives. We’re not just talking baby monitors and burp clothes.
Your baby won’t do much out of your arms the first five to six months of his or her life. It’s a different story altogether once your baby learns to roll, then crawl, then walk. Do a perimeter sweep of the home and determine anything a curious kid might want to hit, lick, or pull. Your medications, chemicals under the sink, laundry detergent, and soap and shampoo are no longer everyday items but poisoning hazards to eliminate. Familydoctor.org offers more advice on home safety in this Q&A.
Consider visual, mobility, and other impairments and how they might define your roles as parents. You may need adaptive equipment, support from friends and family, and to set tasks for each parent. Washington University School of Medicine suggests having an occupational therapist visit the home ahead of time to make recommendations on ergonomic techniques, best feeding and changing practices, and adaptive baby care products.
Once children arrive, you’ll spend most of your time simply watching them breathe, sleep, and open their tiny eyes. You’ll start to neglect yourself in ways you never thought possible, and that often starts with how you eat. It’s vital for both you and your baby that you maintain your nutrition, especially if you have physical differences that require concentration. In the weeks before your son or daughter arrives, cook extra food with each meal and freeze it for later. You’ll want at least a week’s worth of healthy cuisine at the ready so you can keep your strength and mental clarity. A small chest freezer and vacuum food sealer will help you accomplish this.
Store shelves are chock full of trendy baby products that claim to make parenting a breeze. In reality, most of these items are just clever marketing and bring little value to the table. Look for practical items in and outside of the baby aisle. For example, a low-lying coffee table may serve you well as a changing table if you’re in a wheelchair. Don’t feel pressured to spend hundreds of dollars on the latest, “greatest” baby gear if it doesn’t work for you.
Even before you become pregnant, begin forming your support network. One of the best things you can do is find others who share similar struggles. If your disability makes it difficult to conceive, for instance, you can find answers to your questions about assistive reproduction from women and men who’ve been through the process. IVF is no longer a taboo subject. According to Qunomedical, “The success and availability of in vitro fertilization have given hope to many infertile couples who have not been able to conceive. Since 1978, 5.4 million babies have been born worldwide with the help of IVF.”
Finally, keep in mind that your experiences won’t be the same as other parents, even if you share a common concern. Rest assured, you’ll learn to adapt and be every bit as capable a parent as everyone else. It’s not easy, but it’s a life event that is worth every struggle, every sleepless night, and every home and lifestyle change made.
For more information and advice, check out the American Psychological Association’s list of resources for parents with disabilities.