Parenthood is a wonderful experience and one that you are sure to enjoy. But, as a disabled parent, there are a few things you should know before your bouncing bundle has you buckling under pressure.
There’s lots of stress involved. Parenting is filled with unrivalled love and a sense of hope for the future that you could never imagine. But it’s also full of inconsolable crying – sometimes by you and not the baby! – along with frustration, confusion, fear and worry. Between midnight feedings, unexplained fevers and hundreds of diapers each month, parenting is downright stressful. You have to take steps to keep yourself physically and mentally well in order to be the best parent possible. If you are struggling with parenthood, you are not alone. Don’t blame yourself and remember to take some time out just for you. This will help you feel relaxed and ready to tackle the new challenges you’re presented each and every day.
Yes, it really does take a village. You’ve overcome diversity in your life and you are no stranger to challenges. But like all parents, you are going to need help. Whether it’s in the form of a personal assistant to help with daily chores or finding a safe and loving environment for your child to socialise if and when you return to work, you will not be the only person involved in your child’s care. The sooner you learn to accept that and embrace it, the more prepared you will be to insert the right people into your baby’s life.
The fatigue is almost unbearable. The Science of Mom, a blog by Alice Callahan, PhD. describes sleep deprivation as the dark side of parenting. Not getting enough sleep can affect your mood as well as your physical health. Discuss nighttime nappy changes and feedings with your partner before the baby arrives. If you can alternate baby duty the first few months, you will both have a chance at getting some much needed shut-eye.
You need to get your house together now. Your disability has likely made it necessary to provide for yourself certain home modifications. The same goes when having a baby. There are a number of adaptive parenting products, such as large-screen video monitors for the visually impaired, that can make your job a little less daunting. But your first course of action is to eliminate hazards around the home. Sharp objects and under-cabinet chemicals may not seem like a danger now, but kids grow fast and circumventing these and other issues will keep your child safe as they turn from innocent infant into tinkering toddler.
Having a baby changes your relationships. Yeah, we know it sounds cliché, but having a baby really does change everything and not always for the best. It’s vital that you and your spouse keep a watch on your relationship. According to Family Therapist Catherine McCall, “The greatest gift you can give your child is a strong relationship between the two of you…” Don’t let the frustrations of parenting coupled with those relating to your disability interfere with your relationship with your partner. That is not to say that single parents are unable to model healthy relationships, they absolutely can. But if you bring a baby into the world with a partner, don’t let them bear witness to your personal issues.
If we haven’t scared you yet, congratulations, you are one step closer to being a devoted mum or dad. Keep in mind that your physical abilities, while certainly not a barrier to parenthood, will change the way you do things. But your child will grow up in a happy household and parents who are truly invested in their well-being. And even if you can’t play basketball or give piggyback rides, you can nurture your child from infancy to adulthood. Your disability may even serve to give your child a more compassionate and caring view of the world – which is exactly what the world needs.
The New Zealand Ministry of Education offers this list of groups and organisations that can help support you throughout your parenting journey.
– Written by Ashley Taylor, Disabledparents.org