Parenting Made Accessible

I’ve been paralyzed and dependent on a wheelchair for almost two decades and, I tell ya, becoming a mom has required more of my creativity, problem-solving skills, and brain power in adaptations than anything I’ve gone through.

Beale and child

The main reason is that pregnancy and motherhood have forced me to account for more than just myself in everything I do; it’s not just me anymore, so I can’t be as [calculated] reckless with my body as before. Most times more than I’d prefer, that fact has opened me up to people’s help (unnecessary or not, annoyingly or not) and some of the most beautiful workarounds I’ve seen. It has been a wild ride, folks.

Since the beginning of my pregnancy journey and still now, there has been a giant learning curve – socially just as much as physically. The learning curve is my “wild ride.”

I talked about accommodations I made all I was pregnant, but there’s another book I can write about accommodations for new motherhood. There’s also little to nothing published in terms of a guide, so I’ve figured most of this on my own. That’s a familiar consequence of disability because we’re all so different, but I can at least give a head start.

First and foremost, my best hack is a transfer sling I use constantly and every day. I couldn’t be a mama without it. It’s made for people who want to put their baby in to rock/sling them to sleep, but I use it to move baby to surfaces, onto or off my lap, on and off the floor, and anywhere I put him. Without dependable core strength [and especially as he gets heavier], the sling is a must.

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Speaking of the floor: I’ve worked to master a floor-to-chair transfer fairly seamlessly, but it’s considerable effort – there’s no getting around that. And I’m proud of this: I bought an electric bath lift chair I can transfer onto, push a button, and be brought to the floor in one minute time (and vice versa). Cue: crying baby, my full bladder, and/or me just not feeling like the effort, and please believe how in-handy my elevator chair comes.

Now, the star of the show: an accessible crib. This has been a game changer and, now that I’m nice and spoiled by it, I can’t imagine not having crib accessibility. Unless you’re willing to drop some serious money ($27,000+), there’s nothing on the market for us in this category; everybody I talked to has their own DIY crib solutions. So, I found mine: my father-in-law put a crib on blocks to make it taller (so I can roll under); he split the crib’s side in half (so I can open it); and he put both halves on sliders (so it rolls open/closed). Now that my son is heavier, vertical transfers are easier than horizontal ones, so in his crib is where we do most everything, especially the things I want at eye level. Most notably, mashing my face inches away from his, just watching him live. It’s love, it’s not creepy!

This next one is my own problem, but maybe it’s a relatable one: accepting that I need help, recognizing my limitations, and/or getting over my ego. For me, it’s and, not or. If one exists, I haven’t found a way to be independent with putting him in and out of a highchair or car seat. Being pregnant taught me to ask for help, but that didn’t stop when I gave birth. This year has been humbling, to say the least. We all need help sometimes, and it’s okay. I remind myself of that daily.

“Humbling” is a word for my pregnancy and introduction to motherhood, but it’s among a few others: revealing, transformative, and challenging. With confidence, though, I say it’s a blast and worth every second. Disability is my cherry on top.

About the Author - Kristin Beale

Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of three books, Greater Things and A Million Suns, Wide Awake, and a comic book, Date Me. Instagram: @kristin.gupta

Kristin Beale

The opinions expressed in these blogs are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $10,000,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.

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