There’s a longstanding misperception that disabled people either aren’t physically able to be parents, or that they need extensive and ongoing assistance. Some people believe that an expectant disabled couple has twice as much work to do getting ready to be parents, having to accommodate both their disabilities and the demands of parenthood. In fact, they face the same challenges that any parent faces: their baby will need a crib and changing table, baby clothes, and the emotional support of loving parents. Getting up for a 3 a.m. feeding may be the hardest adjustment for any parent, disabled or not.
By the time they become parents, a disabled couple’s home has already been adapted to accommodate their physical needs. There may, however, be a few logistical arrangements to make depending on the nature of their disability. Most of these adjustments can be made with easily acquired special equipment. Just like any parent, disabled people are simply interested in making the job of parenting as easy as possible.
Taking care of the details
Getting ready for the blessed event means planning ahead, figuring out what you’ll need and what changes you might need to make. In most cases, standard baby equipment works fine, though it might be necessary to fine-tune things a bit. If your upper body mobility is limited, it might be necessary to adjust your baby stroller so that you can easily carry along a diaper bag, bottles, pacifiers and other essential items. If you’re in a wheelchair, you may need to purchase a special velcro strap that allows you to connect it to your stroller or baby chair, something many disabled parents have found a useful and efficient way to improve mobility. An adjustable crib is another highly useful item that makes things easier for parents and safer for baby.
Baby-proofing your home
Making your home safe for a child is a matter of identifying and anticipating potential dangers. You’ll need to get safety gates for the top and bottom of all stairways, and install baby locks that keep little hands from getting into cleaning supplies and medicine chests. Be careful to keep sharp kitchen objects well out of reach, and place special baby covers on the controls on your stove. If access is an issue, parents in wheelchairs may need to have a ramp or lift installed for safer front and back door access.
Get your rest
Well-rested parents may seem like an oxymoron, but you need to take care of yourself to give your child the care he or she needs. Set up a schedule so that you and your spouse take turns feeding your child and changing diapers late at night. Even if you’re an experienced parent, caring for a little one can be overwhelming. Try to arrange things so that you both get a little time away to recharge your emotional batteries. It’s an important consideration – you both need time to process your feelings and relax a bit.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) may be a viable option for parents who are having trouble conceiving. According to Qunomedical, the national average for IVF treatments is $12,000, while medications may cost as much as $5,000. Some insurance companies help cover the cost of treatments, but for most people IVF is a costly process. Consider borrowing from a retirement fund or taking out a home equity loan to avoid high-interest loans. It can be well worth it: 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.
Joys and challenges
Disabled parents anticipate the same joys and challenges that all parents expect. But being disabled does not mean they’re not prepared for the difficulties of caring for a little one. Preparation is the key, and anticipating needs that allow you make any logistical adjustments well in advance.« PreviousNext »