The secret to…
Having a baby if you have a disability
Find professionals who understand that your disability isn’t the first thing about you – that you’re a pregnant woman first and foremost. Chances are, you’ll be under a consultant’s care – their support is important. tant. A pragmatic, helpful and sensitive midwife fe is also critical. Find out if the same midwife can be with you during the birth.
Go to the hospital to check access routes if you use a wheelchair. When the time comes, check you can stay on the labour suite, even if you’re not ready to give birth – endless logistical to-ing and fro-ing is energy-sapping. Find out if you can labour and deliver your baby in water; you may find it easier to get into positions for a calmer birth.
Manage your expectations and birth plan. Your disability may limit them; it’s hard to “walk through” contractions if you can’t stand up. Talk about pain-relief options before you need them; conditions that affect the spine, say, can make an epidural more difficult. You need your partner, or someone physically able whom you know and trust, to stay with you all the time during labour, birth and afterwards. Ask for a side room on the postnatal ward. Make sure you can get into bathrooms and showers, and use the lavatory safely.
If you wantwa to breastfeed, get help establishing establish feeding. If you have difficulty using your arms and hands, you’ll nee need help learning to hold, cuddle and feed your baby. Carry your baby in a sling. It keeps your hands and arms free – and also sends a clear signal that your baby is, in fact, yours.
Prepare to be a novelty. Have some one-liners ready for the inevitable comments, however well meant. Being called an “inspiration” is tedious: it implies you’re special and perpetuates the myth that disabled people don’t have children. You’re not special. You’re just a parent. Get on with it.
Advice: Lizzy Gwilliam, haveyoutriedwalkinglately. wordpress.com; she is also a contributor to Scope’s Community blog and vlogs at YouTube.com/shopgirlygm Interview: Camilla Palmer