Anytime a birth doesn’t go quite as planned, parents worry. They worry when the doctor comes to tell them that their child isn’t responding up to a normal standard on the APGAR score. They worry when the pediatrician tells them that their baby isn’t reaching developmental milestones. It’s normal to worry and it’s normal to be unsure of ‘what’s next.'
After all, most every parent imagines life with their new baby. They don’t imagine that life as including dealing with special needs. Having a special needs baby does require some special consideration in their care but it’s not doom and gloom!
They’re not made of glass!
Like any baby, a special needs baby needs buckets of love and attention, including snuggles and hugs. They might need some special care, but they’re like every other human: the thing they need most of all is a loving touch from parents and family! Don’t be afraid to snuggle them! You won’t break them but you will foster in them the same bond that you would have with a normal child. It’s so important for both you and the baby!
You’re not made of glass either!
You’re stronger than you think and while a diagnosis of any kind in the early days of your child’s life is a blow, it doesn’t have to be the kind that knocks you out flat. Yes, you need time to process your new reality, and theirs, but you aren’t made of sugar and you can do this! It’s okay to cry into your pillow, but then you need to dry up the tears and remember that they need you.
Parenting is hard no matter how you slice it, and parenting a special needs child is a little bit harder so think of your life as a marathon: you don’t want to be constantly sprinting and running out of energy. Slow and steady wins the day.
By focusing on the now, you’ll enjoy it more!
Since you are taking things one day at a time, this is a good time to remind you to be present in the now. The future needs considering, particularly if your child will need care all of their lives, but in the immediate, you need to be present. If you’re not, if you’re spending all of your time worrying, you’re going to miss out on some great opportunities to bond with and even learn from your baby! Read to them, play with them, blow bubbles in the tub with them. Do all the things you always imagined doing with your baby and know that each of these moments is precious.
Dump the preconceived notions of special needs parenting
There are perceptions of special needs kids that are so negative: that they are always unresponsive or far more difficult, crying all the time, or worse. You’ll be faced with these perceptions from day one. Upon hearing the news about your baby, others might try and impose their negative reactions on you, so much so that you end up consoling them!
But the reality is that babies are babies. They cry. ALL babies cry. Special needs kids aren’t necessarily more difficult than any other baby: it’s just a different set of challenges. While a normal toddler might have a temper tantrum because they’re angry, an autistic child might have a meltdown because of sensory issues. Either way, it’s a challenge. But if you let go of preconceived notions and spend time in the moment, you’ll see the blessing that your baby is. Your baby isn’t a ‘notion’. He or she is a person and an individual. See them for that!
It’s important to make time for yourself, and your other loved ones
While special needs babies do require more effort and time, you need to make time for you and the other people in your life, whether that’s a spouse or other children, your parents, siblings and so on. You need to give yourself permission to step away and breathe a little.
That’s where a respite care worker can come in and take over for you, for a few hours or even a few days. Having someone who is trained in dealing with special needs take over for you will give you the chance to rejuvenate yourself and your other relationships. If you are feeling rested and happier, your baby will too. It’s a win-win for everybody.