Being a first-time parent can be an overwhelming experience for even the most prepared couple. Add limitations caused by a disability, and it might seem insurmountable when combined with the stress and emotions involved with giving birth or adopting a baby. It’s always best to prepare as much as possible before the baby comes. Thankfully, preparing a home to welcome a child is similar for everyone. The two major things to focus on are safety and supplies.
Most new parents have a sudden, acute awareness of the hazards around them, but don’t realize that their home might be one of them. As a disabled parent, you are used to overcoming obstacles, but why not take care of the obstacle before it arises? Do a complete walkthrough of your home and make sure any potential hazard is addressed. Perhaps you need to put up gates to block the stairs in case you aren’t able stop those quick little feet in time. Be sure large furniture pieces have been secured if they pose a tipping hazard, and that those incorporating glass or having sharp edges are removed. Make sure all assistive equipment and medications are out of reach. Now is also a good time to clean your home, as you might not have as much time once the baby arrives. Do so using baby-friendly products to avoid chemical residues that may be harmful. While you are in cleaning mode, do a little bit of decluttering. Chasing after a little one is a task in itself, but when you are maneuvering a wheelchair or any other assistive device, a clear path will make it much easier.
This is also a good time to replace smoke detector and flashlight batteries, and consider adding a carbon monoxide detector or fire extinguishers if you don’t already have them. If you do have them, remember that both should be inspected and replaced periodically. Taking appropriate precautions to prevent SIDS is also a critical step in your preparations. Guidelines for prevention change over time, so get educated and don’t rely on the advice of a friend or relative on this issue.
The top tasks, in addition to preparing the nursery, include stocking the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, purchasing postpartum clothing and medical supplies, and pre-addressing those birth announcements and thank-you cards. Stocking up doesn’t mean stockpiling, though. Babies grow fast, and their diaper and clothing needs will change quickly. However, the most important thing for you to stock up on will be anything that will make your job as a disabled parent easier, safer, and more manageable. Through the Looking Glass, a national organization dedicated to providing resources and training to parents with disabilities, has a great list of products to make baby/child care easier on parents. The list is several pages long, but some of the items on the list are a swivel seat, swivel sleeper, two-sided nursing pillow, hands-free pump, push/pull stroller, and even a bluetooth tracker to keep track of your little one at all times.
Likewise, every new parent’s needs are different. You may decide a particular product isn’t working for you, or that the pistachio ice cream you craved throughout the pregnancy now makes your stomach turn. With easy online ordering for everything from groceries to nursing bras, you no longer need to overcommit to a particular product. You may also want to consider preparing freezer-friendly or shelf-stable meals in advance to ensure you’re eating healthy meals while still cutting down on the time you spend in the kitchen. Your new bundle of joy will need a lot of your attention, but neglecting your own nourishment can be harmful to them, especially for breastfeeding moms.
While mitigating safety concerns and having appropriate supplies on hand are essential to caring for you and your new baby, don’t forget to spend some time nurturing each other as well. The baby’s needs cannot be met without their parents, so take care of yourself and your relationships through this life-changing transition. Once your home is prepared for your new arrival, lots of love and patience will get you through the surprises. Congratulations and good luck!
Written by Jenny Wise