The se­cret to…

Hav­ing a baby if you have a dis­abil­ity

The Guardian - Weekend - - Contents -

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

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