Parenting with a SCI
Being the mother or father of your dreams can still happen from your wheelchair. It's unbelievable how children adapt to their parents disabilities; when you have a spinal cord injury, it's a journey discovering this truth. Children truly only care about one thing, having your love and attention. If they have that, they will barely, if ever, see the wheelchair.
But we know it can't be helped - there are common worries parents with spinal cord injuries will feel:
The questions are many. The good news is that any concern you have can be overcome.
If you have a spouse helping you with the parenting, it’s critical to discuss your abilities, your schedule as well as your concerns and fears openly. Have these discussions before the baby is born if you can. Don't hide your fears about what you will be able to do, even if things start going wrong.. As you get more experienced taking care of your child, you'll find you can do much more than you thought.
Trial and error is an important part of parenting for all parents; it’s no different for a parent with a spinal cord injury when learning how to take care of a child. If you want, an occupational therapist can help you practice taking care of a baby, and figure out strategies for dressing, feeding, and bathing your child.
As well, there are several easy adaptations for taking care of a baby that can make a huge difference. One of the biggest is having a crib that opens sideways. If you know a good carpenter, this can be easily added to an existing crib. And for an easy changing table, any desk you can roll under will work.. Also, getting your hands on a big oversized pillow to place on your lap for carrying your baby while at home can help a lot. A nice padded space on your lap is a must for many different parenting responsibilities, from getting the baby dressed to getting it ready to go in a baby swing.
If you have limited torso control and want to be able to pick up your child, a custom-made harness, with comfortable straps that go around your baby’s arms and legs, is a great help. . You can lean over to grab the harness, and voila. As you work with your child to get things done, together you'll learn tricks and ways to get around things naturally.
As your children get older and don't need as much physical help from you, it's important to be as active as possible with them. Try new activities with them, go out one-on-one, anything that shows them you can have adventures together.
Watch the video below on parenting after a spinal cord injury, and remember, read the Takeaway Points below to make sure you remember the essentials.