While many people consider the day they bring home a baby the happiest day of their lives, if you are a parent with a disability, you may have some anxiety about caring for your new child. It is important to know that you are not alone.
Many people with disabilities are already doing this parenting thing — and crushing it! There are a ton of informational and inspiring resources out there about parenting with disabilities. As you look prepare for the practical aspects of caring for your tiny human, don’t forget that the whole job is more about love than anything else.
Raising a child can be expensive. The good news is that, if you are on Social Security Disability Insurance, there is a good chance that your child will qualify for the same benefits. Many children also qualify for Supplemental Security Income. Be sure to read the Social Security site carefully, and call your local office to discuss what benefits you might receive.
Federal Personal Assistance Services (PAS) are available to help a disabled parent who is on Medicaid. Unfortunately, these services do not extend to providing assistance or parenting to the child. However, by providing services like housekeeping and meal preparation, they can make a disabled parent’s life much easier.
PAS services are administered at the state level, so check with your local Medicaid office for eligibility requirements.
Planning for your baby
No amount of planning can truly prepare you for the endless exhaustion — or unfathomable joy — that comes along with a baby. No matter how prepared you think you are, the umpteenth diaper explosion is just as anxiety inducing as it was the very first time. Of course, you’ll also feel just as elated the hundredth time she laughs as you did when you first heard that sweet sound.
That said, all parents benefit from making significant preparations in advance of their babies’ births. What will you need to bathe your baby? What kind of baby clothes are easiest to put on and take off? How will you transport your baby?
Fortunately, the good people at lookingglass.org have put together a comprehensive list of baby items that are useful to parents across a broad range of disabilities.
Though it is by no means exhaustive, here’s a list of items that make life easier for anyone with a new baby:
For most disabled parents, sleeping gowns WITHOUT feet are much easier to put on the baby and less likely to cause injury to the parent. If you are worried about cold feet, socks are easier to manage.
Your specific disability will determine which type of carrier is best. The Baby Bjorn, for instance, is a good product for parents with limited vision or blindness. It can be put on with one hand, but it will not work for people with back pain. A soft-structured baby carrier like Pikkolo and Mei Tai is good for mothers and fathers who have chronic fatigue or loss of strength and fatigue from some other disease.
Everyone needs to ensure the safety of their home, but it may be even more critical for parents who need extra time to vacate the premises in an emergency. First things first, take a deep breath. Second, don’t be afraid to ask for help taking care of these tasks if you need it. “It takes a village” is a cliche for a reason. (It’s true!)
Make sure you have an up-to-date, combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector. Make sure someone in your family or neighborhood checks to make sure it is still working if you are unable to do so.
Be sure the fire extinguishers are accessible. Each home needs at least two of them. A wall-mounted fire extinguisher within the range of your reach will be easier to locate, grasp, and use. Be sure you read the directions on the extinguisher carefully so that you will know how to use it, if the time comes when you must.
Assess large items, like furniture and televisions, that could topple. Either strap them down or use two sided tape to safely mount them on the floor or on a solid, immovable dresser.
Raising children is pretty much the hardest thing we do in life. But most people would say it’s also the most meaningful thing we do. Embrace the challenges along with the joy, and you’ll be exactly the parent your child needs.
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