Baby Shopping Not so Fun for Disabled Parents
When I had my first child 23 years ago, pram suspension didn't exist so I had the pick of pretty much any pram I wanted for my baby, as long as it wasn't too heavy. By the time I had my son 11 years later pram manufacturers had just started bringing in suspension to their more expensive models of pram. It was marketed as a brilliant innovation, designed to allow the stroller to glide effortlessly over bumps in the road, allowing baby a smoother ride.
I chose an immaculate pram for my son, with a full carriage that converted into a stroller for older children. It had big wheels and a sturdy handle so I thought it could double as a walking frame and would be easy enough to walk with. How wrong I was!
Why I Hate Suspension
At our first trip out to the library, I realised I couldn't lean on it when walking. The suspension springs meant that whenever I put pressure on the handle, it bounced out from underneath me. My son was a large baby, too, and had been more than 9lbs at birth, yet he could not weigh down the suspension. As someone with cerebral palsy and hardly any balance, this was a disaster. I had to creep at snails pace to get to the library to avoid falling over and realised my beautiful pram would have to be returned.
I then bought a cheap and cheerful buggy, heavier than a holiday buggy but lighter than more expensive brands. In those days if you didn't pay much you could still get an array of buggies that didn't have suspension so it wasn't too difficult to find something that suited. Fast forward another 11 years and I was pregnant again. This time it was almost impossible to find a pram for my baby. All of them - and I mean all - had suspension, even the cheapest buggies on the market. I spent HOURS and DAYS searching the internet for a pram I could actually walk with but there in the small print was the term 'all round suspension' or 'front wheel suspension' even for £40 pushchairs. My heart would sink every time I thought I'd found one, when I realised I was wrong.
I emailed major baby stores to ask if they had anything suitable but all I received were replies asking me to try out their products in store - something pointless if they had suspension. I certainly didn't want an audience if I fell over.
Scouring 2nd Hand Shops
Eventually I found a secondhand pram in a charity shop for £10. This pram didn't appear to have any suspension springs, although the handle did move slightly when I leant on it. I bought it. As baby is still expected I have no idea if I will be able to walk with it, but at £10 it was worth the risk. If I can't, then I can't carry baby in arms either so my only option then would be to use a baby sling and sit in a wheelchair.
Baby-Wearing for Wheelchair Users - Something of an After-Thought
Finding a sling suitable for a wheelchair user was another epic adventure in itself. The vast majority of slings either have multiple areas you have to tie behind the back - something my CP affected hands can't do - or they have buckles that are too uncomfortable when seated. Clearly, baby equipment manufacturers do NOT think of mobility impaired parents when they design their products.
On the recommendation of another disabled mother, I found the Baby K'Tan sling, an ingenius design that simply pops over your head with no need to tie or buckle anything - allowing you to carry baby hands-free and steer your wheelchair at the same time! Naturally, I bought one and am planning on buying a second...but, it's disappointing that of all the slings there are, that one was the only brand remotely useable by a wheelchair using parent.
It is high time that manufacturers started making products that are inclusive of ALL parents and then baby shopping can be a pleasure for everyone.