The idea of getting out and about after the birth of a child, is daunting and a little scary for any new parent. When you add in a physical disability, that fear is expanded tenfold. When you’ve spent your life always having to be wary of what you’re capable of physically, the idea of then being responsible for the physical well-being and safety of a baby, when you don’t 100% trust your own body, is terrifying. After the birth of my first child, I didn’t leave the house by myself for the first three months. I was absolutely terrified. I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to safely get her in and out of the car, let alone do anything else. Finally, a friend I hadn’t seen in months requested a catch up and my husband had to work that day. I couldn’t cancel on my friend yet again, after all that time, so I just had to bite the bullet and figure out a way to get out and about. Since that success, and another child, I’ve learnt a few tricks to make it easier for myself. These tips can help you, whether it’s your first child or you have more than one. My five top tips for getting out and about starts with planning.
I realised early that if I knew where I’m going and what I’m going out for, it takes away a lot of anxiety. I can figure out what I’m going to need, how difficult the trip is going to be for me and the timeframe I’ll need and how to work it around my baby.
Whether you’re just going grocery shopping or your meeting friends, plan it out beforehand. If you’re not rushing, you won’t be as stressed if something doesn’t go exactly right.
This was a big one for me. My biggest fear really. It’s why it took me so long to go out with my baby the first time. I was just so worried that I wouldn’t even be able to get them in and out of the car. I took my time and I thought out a routine that works for me. I realised that because of my physical restrictions, I would have to take the baby to the car in the pram. From there, I figured out a safe way to get the baby from the pram to the car. This then worked in reverse, once I arrived at where I was going. Everything about parenting is trial and error, every child is different and they don’t come with an instruction manual. It doesn’t matter if you’re a parent with a disability or not, each child is going to be present challenges and the way you do things is going to be slightly different to suit them. You’ve just got to find a way that works for you and your baby.
Like I mentioned, my first trip solo was to a place I was familiar with, a trip I’d taken many times. I planned to meet a friend, who I knew would help me if I absolutely required it. I then slowly worked my way up. Once I knew I could do it myself, there was no stopping me. Next, I figured out a way to safely go to the shops with my baby and then longer on further distances. Don’t rush yourself. It’s like everything with a newborn, it can be a slow transition period. I know some able-bodied mothers that were never able to leave the house within the first four months of their child’s life. They had similar anxieties about going out with a baby. On the other hand, if your first trip out is not as successful as you hope, don’t give up. Reassess and figure out how you can change things and try again. You’ll find a way.
This is a big one. Even before I tried, I was worried about going to busy places, because I knew there would be other people around, potentially judging me. Due to my disability, I’ve dealt with prejudice my whole life, but suddenly as a new mum, I felt even more vulnerable. There are so many pressures placed on mothers and those even higher for me, as I felt that I had something more to prove. When you have a disability and you happen to be a parent, the level of judgement is often unconscious. To people the idea of a parent with a disability is not something they’re prepared for and their behaviour reflects that. Remember, it’s no reflection on you. People are always going to judge what they don’t understand. All you need to do, is take care of yourself and your baby. No one else’s opinion matters.
Last but not least, is the most important of all. Like everything else with parenthood, things do get easier. The more you do it, the easier it gets. Trust me, when it comes to going out with your child, once they get older things get much more manageable. Suddenly, they can cling onto you and actually help you getting them in and out of the car. Then they can climb into their car seat themselves. You’d be surprised how quickly all of this can happen. By the time she was a year and a half, my daughter could get herself in an out of her own car seat. By the time he was four months old, my son knew holding onto me when I was moving him from the pram to the car seat or vice versa was better for us both. By six months, he was even taking his arms out of his seatbelt and reaching for me once I’d unclipped him. Children are amazing with how quickly they learn and develop. They’re the most adaptive creatures in the world and they love to help. They actually want to independence and to feel like they’re assisting you by being a big kid. Embrace that and let it work for you and your capabilities. Trust me, practice is everything. It will build your confidence and it will help things get easier for you and your children.
Everyone needs to get out of the house. You need it for your own mental health and your child needs it, so that they can engage with and learn from the world around them. Don’t let anything hold you back. Find a way that works for you.