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.

#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 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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