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Few things in life bring as much joy as a newborn baby. The first time you lay eyes on the life you’ve created will be forever ingrained in your heart. It’s normal to be a little anxious leading up to delivery as you prepare for something entirely new in your life. If you’ve got a disability, these feelings may be compounded.
The following tips can help you get your mind and body ready for your new arrival. Remember, however, there will always be unknowns, but if you take the time to prepare, you’ll have fewer things to worry about as you begin your parenting journey.
- Plan for health insurance and any applicable Social Security benefits.
- Make a prenatal appointment with a caregiver who understands pregnancy and your (or your partner’s) disability.
- Quit any bad habits, exercise, eat well, sleep well, and take your prenatal vitamins.
- Track your weight gain — added pounds may worsen mobility issues.
- Baby-proof and make any necessary home modifications. This may include adding handrails to the tub or increased lighting throughout the home.
- Start baby shopping in the second or third trimester. There are many great products available for disabled parents, such as low cribs and highchairs for parents in wheelchairs and visual monitors for the hearing impaired.
- Track your baby’s movements and speak with their pediatrician if you suspect problems. This is especially important if your disability is hereditary.
- Prepare for breastfeeding — there are special pillows that can make the process easier and relieve pressure on your arms and back.
- Prepare your hospital bag — include medications and adaptive devices you need help with starting out as your hospital team can offer instructions.
- Talk to your doctor about labor and delivery; they may want to schedule your delivery to ensure you are safe throughout the birthing process.
- Take advantage of online resources for disabled parents to gather as much information as possible.
Once you’ve used this Pregnancy Checklist, and safely brought baby home, you’ll need to focus some time on quality self-care.
Pregnancy can leave a mother depleted of energy, and coming home to around-the-clock care only adds to exhaustion and stress. Being sleep deprived during this time can lead to postpartum depression and even substance abuse so try your best to incorporate these sleeping tips:
- Set up the nursery close to you. If your disability involves limited mobility, this will be critical. You’ll get more rest when you’re not having to navigate to a distant nursery.
- Enlist help from a spouse of a family member that can stay post the delivery for all things other than self-care and feeding your baby.
- When your baby is sleeping, you should be sleeping.
- Get some exercise, even if it’s a short walk or stretch if walking isn’t possible. Exercise will boost energy and improve your mental health during this time.
The weight you put on during pregnancy is your body’s way of preparing for your baby’s nutritional needs. Eating well after the birth will help you shed excess weight and maintain better overall health. Here are some healthy eating considerations.
- Choose a colorful array of vegetables from red beans, orange carrots, to peas and beets.
- Eat a healthy amount of grains, including wheat bread and rice.
- Keep dairy selections either low fat or fat free.
- Choose lean proteins, such as chicken or fish. Nuts and beans also contain high amounts of protein.
Using these checklists before and after your pregnancy will help you manage complications that may be part of your disability. You can face these challenges head on by knowing what to expect and by taking good care of yourself. And like all parents, you’ll be a better care provider if you take the time to care for yourself.
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