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 can be 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 your wheelchair.
But we know feelings of nervousness can’t be helped – there are common worries that parents with spinal cord injuries may feel:
- Can I still be a good parent?
- Can I be as involved in parenting as I would like to be?
- How can I make sure my home is safe for my young children because of my disability?
The good news is that any concerns you have can be overcome.
If you have a spouse helping you with parenting, it’s critical to discuss your abilities, your schedule, as well as any concerns and fears you may have. Have these discussions with your spouse 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 in taking care of your child, you will find that 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. If you would like, an occupational therapist can help you practice taking care of a baby, and they can also help you with figuring out strategies for dressing, feeding, and bathing your child.
Additionally, there are several easy adaptations for taking care of a baby from your wheelchair that can make a huge difference. One of the most important adaptations is having a crib that opens sideways. If you know a good carpenter, this feature can be easily added to an existing crib. For an easy and accessible 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 parenting responsibilities from your wheelchair, from getting the baby dressed to getting your child 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: you’ve picked up your child! As time passes, you will learn more tips and tricks on how to perform different parenting tasks for your child.
As your children get older and require less 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, take them to the park, do anything that shows them you can have adventures together.
Watch the video below on parenting after a spinal cord injury, and make sure to read the Takeaway Points below so you remember the essentials.
Video: Raising Children from a Wheelchair
- Don’t let fears of parenting post-injury stop you from becoming a parent.
- You can be a great parent in a wheelchair. Kids don’t see the wheelchair.
- Side-opening cribs are a great way to get a baby in and out of a crib from a wheelchair/
- Desks make excellent changing tables when you can roll under them.
- Try new activities and be as active with your kids as possible.
Awesome SCI Parenting Resources
- Parents in Wheelchair forum – Apparalyzed.com http://www.apparelyzed.com/forums/forum/29-parents-in-wheelchairs/
- How has the injury affected your parenting? (video interviews) – FacingDisability.com http://www.facingdisability.com/spinal-cord-injury-videos/marriage-and-children/how-has-the-injury-affected-your-parenting
- Through the Looking Glass (parenting resource for parents with disabilities) – http://www.lookingglass.org/index.php