My daughter Dylan was born more than 5 months ago now. It feels both like we’ve had her forever and like that time has flown by (I can hardly remember the last full night sleep I had). It has been a wonderful and challenging experience. After learning I would still be able to have kids after my injury, I always wondered what it would be like to care for a child in a wheelchair. What I’ve learned is, like almost everything else in my life since my injury, I just try it and figure it out. So far, there are very few things that I can’t do.
Carrying Dylan around the house and other places was something I wondered about. How was I going to hold a baby and wheel my chair at the same time? One of the best ways to do this when I’m in my house is to use a boppy on my lap. A boppy is a horseshoe shaped pillow that is designed to wrap around one’s body to make holding a baby easier. I can sit the boppy on my lap and then have Dylan on that. When she was younger she would lay on the boppy. Now that she is a bit more stable she sits on the boppy and leans against me. I sometimes still need to put a hand on her to stabilize her but I make it work. When I’m somewhere that I can’t use the boppy, like out in public, I will often use a baby carrier, a device that basically straps her to my chest. She does well with this and I can use both my hands to push my chair. I pick her up from daycare every day and use the baby carrier to carry her to my car. As she gets even bigger and more stable I’ve heard that there are devices that strap babies to chairs (used as a substitute to a highchair) that I could use to strap Dylan to my waist so I could wheel with her. Like all things, I’ll just need to experiment with it.
For a long time Dylan was sleeping in a bassinet next to our bed. It had one side that could be pushed down so it was easy to get her in and out. When she got to about 4 months we decided it was time for her to sleep in her crib in her own room. The problem was going to be me getting her in and out of a crib because I wouldn’t be able to reach into the crib and pick her up. So we modified our crib by cutting one side in half, putting hinges on these two halves and locks in the middle. Now we just unlock the two sides and one side swings open. I can then get to Dylan easily. It is great and works really well!
Picking her up
Another area I worried about was how I was going to get Dylan off of the floor when she is either on her play mat, or, as she gets older, when she is crawling on the floor. My fix with the play mat is to have it on our table instead of on the floor. I have it in the center of the table so she’s safe (and we’re always with her when she’s on it) but it means that she is right at my level. This way I can pick her up and put her there easily, but I also can talk to and play with her easily. It works great. A few times she hasn’t been on the floor and the way that I was able to pick her up was actually to lift her by her onesie. If she is wearing an outfit that has pants and top all connected I can grab a handful of it around her belly and I’m able to lift her straight up off the floor and into my lap (while my other hand stabilizes myself on one of my wheels because I don’t have much trunk stability). I have also heard that you can similarly do this with overalls. I already have a number of overalls to dress her in when she gets a pit bigger and is crawling and moving around the floor more.
For the most part I learned all of these things by trial and error. A few of them I got as tips from others that are parents in wheelchairs. The info that other people in wheelchairs have is incredible and can be so helpful. That said though, so much of figuring out the best way to take care of Dylan has been trial and error. So far, there are very few things that I’ve found that I can’t do by myself. Zeke has been gone a few nights randomly and I’ve had to do everything to take care of Dylan and I’ve been able to do it. It is great to know that even with something as unknown as a baby I’m still able to find ways to adapt everything.
As for the Dylan update. She’s doing great! She is generally a really happy kid these days. She will be content sitting on a lap or playing with toys on her play mat. She gets fussy when she’s hungry or sleeping but no more of this random fussiness and screaming for no apparent reason. We have started more foods for her and she’s doing better with them. It is kind of hit or miss whether she’s interested in solid food or just wants her bottle – I think it has to do with how sleepy she is and if we can catch her at the right moment of hungry but not too hungry, and not too sleepy. She loves sweet potatoes! That’s been her favorite so far. She has her 6 month check up in a couple weeks and it will be really interesting to see how much she weighs and if she’s continuing to go up in her percentiles for her weight – it sure seems like she will! Dylan is still smiling a ton and very interactive. Our latest challenge is to try to get her to laugh. Zeke thinks he got her laughing once but we’re still working on it again!