Raising Children as a Parent with a Disability

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This week we have a guest writer, Ashley Taylor from DisabledParents.org. She is an incredible resource for families navigating parenthood while living with a disability or chronic condition. She had this to say about preparing for a baby and caring creating a safe and nurturing home: 

Raising a kid is hard enough, even for people with stable finances and a family network to help with childcare. But raising a child as a parent with a disability – whether that means a cognitive impairment, being wheelchair-bound, or living with chronic pain – can prove nearly impossible at times. Yet by some estimates, between 4.1 million and 9 million parents with disabilities in the US do it every day. If you have a disability and you’re expecting a child, here are some tips to prepare your life and home for parenthood.

Resources

Numerous “associations, councils, centers, and societies” across the country provide resources for parents or families with disabilities. (This is in addition to blogs, conferences, teaching tips, children’s books, and financial aid opportunities.) These include the Family Resource Center on Disabilities, the National Learning Center for Learning Disabilities, and the National Association of Parents with Children in Special Education (NAPCSE). Still other databases list child care services, health tips for parents, mental health counseling, transportation for families, and money management tips. Drawing on these advocacy programs may take time, but they’re here for you.

Reaching Out to Friends & Family

Who else is here for you? Family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, nannies, or anyone else in your support network. Consider joining a church or a disabilities center to widen your personal community. Ideally, you should have a bevy of people you feel comfortable asking for assistance; this might include babysitters you trust to watch your kids as well as your parents, siblings, or other family members who could stay with you through a night. Fellow worshippers from your church, mosque or synagogue may be willing to bring meals over for you when you’re busy. 

Remaking Your House

As a new parent, and as someone with a disability, where you live is important, so look around. You’ll need easy access to your child and your child’s nursery, especially since you may already have to deal with your own restricted ambulation. If you’re in a wheelchair, for example, you may want to replace some of your steps – either outside or in – with a ramp. Another spatial adjustment to consider is buying hinges for doorways and installing skid-resistant flooring to prevent slips. Porcelain tiling is dense and solid, and provides good slip-resistance, or you could just put down mats and carpets. They may not always be aesthetically pleasing, but they will lower the chance of anyone in your home taking a spill.

Granted, some of the remodeling tips above are doable only for people who either have a house or disposable income to tear down walls and put in flooring. If those renovation options aren’t available to you, think about moving in with someone you trust whose space is more conducive to your needs. If that’s not possible, draw on all the helplines and resources at your disposal. These might include social networks, websites that promote awareness about disabilities, and family groups and community engagement centers for children and families who have disabilities.

Preparing for parenthood is challenging for everyone. But when you’ve already spent years developing habits for navigating through the world with cognitive issues or difficulty walking or moving around, adapting your world to meet the needs of another – and helpless – human being can be overwhelming. Be sure to adjust your living situation in such a way that lets you nurture your child as deeply and comfortably as possible.

You Can Hate Pregnancy and Still Love Your Baby

I want to share what might not be a popular opinion but should be a healthy dose of validation for a lot of people. You can hate pregnancy and still love your baby. Disliking pregnancy or complaining about common pregnancy problems and being grateful for your baby are NOT mutually exclusive. 

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We hear it and see it often in different mom groups on Facebook, criticism for women who are honest about how they are feeling in pregnancy, venting about discomfort or morning sickness or ready to be done. “She should be grateful she was able to get pregnant…at least her baby is healthy and still growing…if she can’t handle this, just wait until the baby gets here…what did she expect?” Cut it out, friends. It’s not our place to tell someone how they should or should not feel, even if we think we know their story. Pregnancy is hard. It’s really hard and it’s ok to not love it. It’s ok to view it as a means to an end. 

As a mom who lost her first baby, I felt like I wasn’t allowed to complain about my subsequent pregnancy complications. I had never wanted anything more than I wanted to be a mother, so when pregnancy didn't come easy for me, I struggled. I had seen the posts in my loss community and I felt like if I was honest about how miserably sick I was or how much pain I was in, I would be met with judgment or even anger because I was able to get pregnant and I did get a healthy baby. There was so much fear and I had so many pregnancy complications, but those things didn’t negate my gratitude or excitement for my baby. Even with the people in my life who I felt safe enough to be honest, I feared they thought I wasn’t excited or wasn’t ready to have a baby. 

If you feel yourself holding back and not asking for support for fear of being judged, know that it is perfectly normal to not enjoy pregnancy and to complain sometimes. You are allowed to complain whether you have had a loss or not, whether this is your first or your fourth baby, whether your pregnancies were planned or not, whether it took years of trying, fertility treatments or just a honeymoon to get pregnant. It is not a reflection of how you feel about your baby. You deserve validation and to be heard. You deserve nonjudgmental support during your pregnancy and to be able to be honest about where you are right now. 

We are here to listen. 

Preeclampsia During {and AFTER} Pregnancy

Preeclampsia, formerly known as toxemia or pregnancy induced hypertension is seen in at least 5-8% of all pregnancies, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation. It is a pregnancy related syndrome that affects the liver, kidneys and red blood cells. During pregnancy, your doctor or midwife is checking for high blood pressure and testing for protein in your urine, to monitor for signs of preeclampsia. The risks of eclampsia are seizures, coma and death so prenatal screening can help your provider monitor things and form a treatment plan if necessary.

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#TBT to 2012: My "Why" for Doula Work

Through that surgery and the life-threatening complications that followed, I learned what truly nonjudgmental support can do for healing.

Today marks the start of World Doula Week, where we focus on the work doulas do to improve the social, emotional, physiological and psychological wellbeing of whole families. From pregnancy, to birth and then to the postpartum period, doulas take care of their clients. For most doulas, it feels like a calling or a passion that sparks a career. It takes a heart of service and usually a story about why we decided to become a doula. My story started one way and had a pretty big plot twist.

I became a doula in 2010 because I loved studying everything about pregnancy, birth and babies in college. My “why” was a passion for everything I was learning about birth and babies in my undergrad internship at a birth center in Denton and a natural ability to support others. I was the person who my friends and family came to for advice about pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding and it felt like a natural career choice.

Here comes the real #TBT though…back to 2012. I had been a doula for 2 years and was working as a newborn nanny. I had a car accident and herniated two discs in my back worse than I knew. After a night in the ER for pain and subsequently losing the feeling in my legs and ability to walk altogether, I was admitted to the hospital. For 5 days, I laid in a hospital bed not knowing if I would walk again or if the pain in my back would ever go away. My mom and roommate (turned rock star postpartum doula), Samantha were there with me when the spine surgeon came in to tell us a 360 2-level spinal fusion was my option to regain function in my legs.

Through that surgery and the life-threatening complications that followed, I learned what truly nonjudgmental support can do for healing. For 37 days in the hospital, my mom, my friends and my nurses and doctors safeguarded my dignity, listened to my fears, reassured me and respected my wishes. They trusted me to make the best decisions for myself. Shoutout to all of the nurses on the med-surg unit at Texas Health Presbyterian Flower Mound. I had nurses lift me into wheelchairs and hold me on toilets and in showers, so I didn’t have to use a bed pan and could bathe myself. I had a certified nursing assistant French braid my hair because it had been a knotted mess for days. My mom listened and got me every snack I wanted when I cried and cursed in pain and frustration. She held my hair when I got sick and patted my leg when neither of us had the words to describe how scared we were. She put on a gown and mask to be there while they placed a picc line in ICU, never leaving my side. Samantha held my hand all night, so I could sleep through the hallucinations from my pain pump and helped me laugh again…and again. My surgeons fixed my spine and then went on to save my life. They answered every question, gave me a realistic idea of my new normal and had my back, literally and figuratively. 

I went into doula work because I loved birth and babies, but I’m still in doula work because I now know the difference nonjudgmental support can make. I remember how I was treated through one of the most intense experiences of my life and I want to give that same level of care to each of my clients. When you’re at your most vulnerable, you deserve the very best support and that’s my “why” as a doula. 

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5 Things To Do the Day Before Your Induction

So you’re going to be induced…this baby is really coming! Knowing you’re going into the hospital for an induction (or cesarean) is exciting, but it can bring up some anxiety and a big dose of reality. We like to have a phone call with our clients the day before their induction starts to talk about how they’re feeling, what the plan is and when to call us to join them. During this call, we try to remind them of a few things they can do to prepare for their induction and labor. If you’re wondering what to do the day before an induction or scheduled cesarean, I want to share a few ideas with you all too!

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Doulas are for Cesarean Births

Having a scheduled cesarean section can be just as overwhelming as an unplanned or emergency cesarean. There is so much excitement when your baby is born, but there can be just as much anxiety and fear when you’re headed into surgery. Although cesareans are the most common surgery performed on women in the U.S., they are still major abdominal surgery and that can make learning to breastfeed and caring for a newborn challenging.

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5 Tips for Your First Outing With a New Baby

Pregnancy and birth are (barely) behind you and you’re adjusting to life with a newborn at home. Maybe you’ve found your daily routine or you’re still trying to figure out how to do life with this needy, adorable baby bird. At some point, most new parents just need out of the house and they’re ready to take the new baby on their first big outing. These tips will help to make that adventure a little less stressful.

1.     Pack the diaper bag the night before.

Make sure you have plenty of diapers, wipes and clean clothes. In the early months, 2-3 changes of clothes for the baby aren’t a bad idea. If you’re bottle feeding, take enough formula or breast milk for the feedings you’ll need, and maybe one extra. If you’re breastfeeding and like to use a cover, pack that too. I always kept a change of clothes for myself in my car too, because babies don’t care about your “I’m going out in public and want to look human” outfit.

2.     Make it a low-pressure outing.

Try to choose something that doesn’t require getting out of the house by certain time. Give yourself plenty of time to get ready and to get the baby ready, allowing for surprise diapers, long feedings or an unexpected bath. A walk through downtown McKinney with lunch at Spoons Cafe or even just a quick trip to Target can be enough.

3.     Practice using your stroller or baby carrier at home first.

I’ll never forget struggling with a brand-new jogging stroller in a parking lot, while snow (yes, in Texas) hit me in the face and the baby cried in her car seat. Take your stroller on a practice walk around the house or down the street. Learn how to fold it, strap the baby in and where to put your things. If you plan to wear your baby, practice using your carrier at home so you’re a pro with it when you’re out in public. We really like the ease of Lille carriers and they’re not bad on your lower back either.

4.     Be mindful of germs, especially during flu season.

Be sure to ask your baby’s pediatrician if they are healthy enough to go out in public just yet. You can wear your baby and tuck their hands in, to keep well-meaning strangers from touching them, or use an open-top car seat cover like this one, since it can double as a nursing cover and is breathable. Wash your hands often and wipe down shopping cart handles.

5.     Treat yourself while you’re out.

Go find something that makes you happy. Grab your favorite coffee from Snug on the Squarea cup of that great soup at Harvest or a new lipstick if that’s your thing. Getting out and about with a new baby is hard work sometimes, so reward yourself. If you want to make it even easier on yourself, take your postpartum doula with you. She can help you feel confident, hold the baby while you shop and make sure you’re taken care of while you take care of your little one.

Where was your first outing with your new baby?

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New Parents, You Are So Brave

As I look back on the last year and reflect on all of the families who welcomed new babies, I keep coming back to the word brave. As doulas we get to see bravery come in so many different forms and it’s striking even in the simplest moments. New parents, you are so brave.

You struggled to get pregnant or stay pregnant. 

You were surprised by a pregnancy. 

You weathered pregnancy complications that were painful and scary. 

You breathed through one more contraction when you thought you couldn’t do it anymore.

You pushed one more time when you were absolutely exhausted and your baby was born.

You laid down in a cold operating room and endured major surgery to bring your baby into the world.

You joined the millions of parents who came before you.

You watched as your partner coped with pain you had never seen before and you trusted her instincts.

You asked for help when you just wanted to be able to do it by yourself.

You fed your baby from your body.

You gave your baby formula when it wasn’t your plan, so she would grow.

You pressed on when you lost everything in your birth plan.

You took beautiful care of your new baby through exhaustion and frustration.

You set boundaries for your new family and limited visitors when you needed to.

You knew your limits and you made hard choices.

You went back to work when you just wanted to stay home with your baby a little longer.

Every day in big and little ways, you are brave for your family and it’s an honor to get to witness that as your doula. On days where it feels like you can’t possibly keep at it or things aren’t going the way you imagined, reframe your thinking and own the ways you have been brave.

 

 

Pinterest Has Nothing on This Brown Bag Turkey Recipe

Growing up, I liked turkey but it was never my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal. I loved my Dad's homemade mashed potatoes and Mom's dressing she made from scratch the most. Last year I made my first Thanksgiving dinner as an adult and I might be biased, but it was amazing! All of my sides came from Paula Dean recipes and I went through a few pounds of butter, but the turkey is seriously what stole the show. I used Kidd Kraddick's Brown Bag Turkey recipe that I had been hearing about on the Kidd Kraddick Morning Show on the radio for years and it didn't disappoint. You will not believe how moist and flavorful this turkey is and it's super easy to make! 

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Missed The Boat...Why I Should Have Been Floating in Pregnancy!

I am always looking for things that will make my clients lives a little easier and help them to really focus on self-care during and after pregnancy. Last week I met Ray Thoma, the owner of The Float Spot in Frisco, Texas. I told him I wanted to learn more about floating and to try it myself before I recommended it to clients. I did a one-hour float and now I'm sold! For that hour, I had none of my usual back pain, I got to truly clock out and rest and I didn't have to care about a thing. 

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5 Gift Ideas for NICU Parents

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is the unit in the hospital where premature babies or babies with medical complications can stay for days, weeks or even months. This often-unpredictable time for families can come with fear, disappointment and unexpected hardship. The experience of a NICU stay, no matter how short or how happy the ending, can leave parents feeling overwhelmed and anxious for their new baby.

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Confession: I’m a Birth Doula and I Had an Elective Cesarean

I have to start this blog post with a heartfelt apology for the doula I used to be. When I started out as a brand-new doula in my senior year of college, I had a whole lot of passion and a whole lot of bias. I was immersed in the natural birth community and I was an activist for everything “natural” birth and breastfeeding. I understood that those things weren’t options for everyone, but in an effort to raise awareness for them and support those who were choosing them, I alienated and likely hurt other parents and for that, I’m so sorry.

There was a time when I thought the perfect birth looked a certain way and I didn’t understand why people would willingly choose anything else. Then, I found a doula training organization that challenged me, made me acknowledge my bias and made me a better doula. It might not be a popular opinion, but I no longer believe I can be an activist and a truly nonjudgmental doula. I had to unlearn a lot of things and really change my perspective. I can genuinely say that the perfect birth to me is perfect because the parents think it is. I feel like the best doula when my clients feel heard, supported and encouraged through their birth experience, no matter how their baby comes into the world. I leave every birth knowing that my clients only got nonjudgmental support for all of their choices from me and I truly believe they made the best decisions for their family.

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6 Tips for Road Trips with Infants and Toddlers (or Both!)

As a follow-up to our post on flying with infants and toddlers, here are 6 of our favorite road trip tips for babies and toddlers. My daughter has never liked riding in the car for any amount of time and by that, I mean she screams like she’s being tortured for hours, so big trips take a lot of planning and a lot of patience. We still have to limit our road trips with her, but we’re hopeful she’ll outgrow this soon. The only thing worse than navigating Dallas traffic, is navigating Dallas traffic with a howling child six inches behind you, so hopefully these tips help you as much as they have helped us and our friends.

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6 Tips for Flying with Infants and Toddlers (or Both!)

This week we are talking all about travel with little ones. My daughter was just under 7 months old when she flew for the first time and it was just me and her. I was pretty used to a double team defense strategy, so being on my own with her for her first flight was a little scary, but we found some helpful tricks for traveling with a baby beforehand. I’ve also added a few to my list from friends and family.

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A Cleaning Schedule for the Busy Family (With Free PDF & Pantry Organization Tips)

After we had our daughter, our clutter multiplied and our time for chores became super limited. She’s 17 months old and we’ve only just started to get into a good cleaning schedule and not have to throw things behind closed doors really fast if the doorbell rings. If you’re struggling with postpartum anxiety or just feeling overwhelmed, it can be helpful to create systems and schedules with predictable times, places and ways to clean and organize the house.

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The Effects of Fear on Labor

There is a strong relationship between fear and birth. Fear is normal, but can very easily become consuming and interfere with the body’s labor process. With any unknown, and each birth is, no matter how many times you have done it, there comes some degree of fear or anxiety. It’s hard to relinquish control and to go into something so huge with so much at stake. Common fears for birth range anywhere from perineal tearing, interventions like inductions or episiotomy, or sometimes surgery or a c-section. Every fear, no matter how small or how big is valid and deserves to be processed. We all bring baggage with us to our birth in the form of emotions, fears and experiences. We need to condense that baggage down into a nice, small carry-on size before the big day so it fits nicely into the process and doesn’t interfere with the “trip”.

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Attuned Doula Services at Bloom: A Night Out for New and Expecting Moms

Collin County Moms Blog is hosting Bloom: A Night Out for New and Expecting Moms this Thursday night at Gather in Downtown McKinney. Attuned Doula Services is proud to be a table sponsor at this fun event. 

Doors open just before 6:00pm and attendees will be able to mingle, enter giveaways, enjoy some light treats and mocktails and check out their awesome swag bags. This is a night to get to know other moms in Collin County and meet local businesses whose job it is to support, spoil and make life easier for families. 

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What if I Don’t Want to Surrender in Labor?

 

There is something to be said for the metaphorical duck calmly gliding through the water, but frantically paddling its feet beneath the surface. Some people are really good at hiding their anxieties, fears and tension and projecting an image of grace and control. I am one of them and I know it’s not always as easy as just relaxing in labor. 

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Top 10 Ways to Support a Friend with Infertility

Infertility is becoming less and less taboo to talk about and that’s really good for the 1 in 8 couples struggling who can find themselves feeling isolated, depressed, or hopeless. It has been found that people who are navigating infertility can have the same level of emotional trauma as those diagnosed with cancer, HIV or chronic pain conditions. It takes a toll on individuals, couples and families. Sometimes it takes couples years to get pregnant and stay pregnant for the first time and other times, they conceive easily with their first and face secondary infertility when trying to conceive subsequent children. No matter where they are in their infertility journey or what decisions they have made about their fertility or family planning, these couples all deserve to be loved and supported.

 

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