Having a baby poses challenges for all new parents, but those with disabilities are often at a disadvantage on many levels. Physical impairments can make it difficult to prepare for parenthood. But it isn’t impossible. Here, we’ll share a few resources to help you prepare for your bundle of joy, no matter how many arms you may have to hold him.
While missing a limb (or other physical disability) isn’t a barrier to conception, many conditions that co-occur with congenital limb reduction can make it harder to become pregnant. When nature doesn’t take its course, infertility treatments are a viable option. In vitro fertilization is responsible for 99% of assisted conceptions across the globe. The success and availability of in vitro fertilization have given hope to many infertile couples who have not been able to conceive. According to Qunomedical, since 1978, 5.4 million babies have been born worldwide with the help of IVF. You can read more on assistive reproductive technology and persons with disabilities in this National Council on Disability publication.
Despite infertility being considered a disability in itself, most insurance providers don’t offer IVF coverage. And with a cost that can easily exceed $12,000 per round, you’ll need to prepare ahead of time and save for the treatments. Consider skipping week-long vacations for a few years are getting a part-time at-home freelance gig. If you have a supportive network of friends and family, you can start a GoFundMe page specifically for crowdfunding your IVF treatment.
When you have a disability that affects your mobility, you’ll need to take extra steps to ensure your infant has access to expedient care when he or she needs attention. Midnight feedings, for instance, can be cumbersome if you’re trying to put on a prosthetic arm or leg in the middle of the night. You can get around having to get up and down by investing in a bedside co-sleeper for your baby. Many disabled mothers report that moving freely through the home is a challenge solved with a baby carrier made for wheelchair users. The Mobility Resource asserts that assistive parenting gear need not be made for persons with disabilities. Many ease-of-care products are readily available at big box retailers and online stores.
For the most part, existing home modifications, such as having an accessible bathroom and lowered appliances, will also come in handy as you venture into the world of parenthood. However, you will need to take care when choosing which products to baby proof your home with. For instance, there are two types of baby gates. Pressure-mounted gates are those that press against either side of the doorway in order to restrict a child’s access to off-limits areas. Typically, these gates maintain their position by utilizing a slightly raised threshold that extends across the bottom of the entryway. These are not easily passable via wheelchair. Frame-mounted gates, by contrast, are installed with hardware directly into the wall or doorframe and may be opened completely with no further obstruction. If you have front-controlled appliances, add childproof locks to easily-reachable knobs. For more information about home modifications, check out the UDS Foundation at UDServices.org.
All new parents face challenges in the early days of learning to care for their expanding family. You will be no different. Even the most able-bodied newby parent can benefit from a few helping hands. There are numerous night nurse and caregiver respite services that can help get you over the hump as you learn to adjust. Whether you crave the knowledge that comes from someone who’s cared for children before or simply believe you need to sleep through the night in order to better care for your baby, don’t be afraid to ask for help
Regardless of your disability, you have the same rights to parenthood as everyone else. Don’t be afraid to take steps to achieve your dream of becoming a mom or dad. It takes planning and foresight, but raising a child when you have a disability is not that different than the experiences of every other parent in the history of the world… it just takes a little more determination.