I’ve been told throughout my life that I couldn’t be a mother “because I’m blind.” When I was 15 my mother said my disease meant I couldn’t have children. Later a boyfriend’s mother said she was glad I couldn’t because I’d give her deformed grandbabies. For a while before I found the courage to leave him, my daughter’s father had me convinced my motherhood was dependent on him.
Thankfully rights and services are amazing now — even when I literally didn’t know anyone there were a plethora of agencies eager to help me establish independent motherhood, as well as succeed in whatever I aspire to. It does sadden me my little family could be disrupted by ignorance. And yes, to an extent it insults me that anyone would doubt my competence since against odds I’ve been an awesome “only parent” for most of my daughter’s life.
I spent my entire pregnancy distraught, though. I researched until my brain softened to oatmeal about visually impaired parents resources, techniques, tools, and stories amongst everything else mothers-to-be drive themselves crazy over. I was also doing a lot of introspection during those nine months envisioning what kind of parent I wanted to be. Most of what’s felt best for my daughter’s sake has synced with my capabilities as more of an afterthought — the natural birth, co-sleeping, babywearing, nursing, sign language/focus on communication, and so on.
I agree with much of the Attachment Parenting philosophy, which emphasizes on closeness and involvement in your child’s development — so I don’t mind times when my eyes require that I be extra engaged with my daughter. In crowds I’ve used a
leash — I mean adorable harness — but usually she likes to hold my hand tugging on my finger toward where she wants to explore. Ankle bells are helpful — at visually mellow places I like to step away encouraging her to be adventurous. That might be asking for trouble, but it feels important I give her that freedom to build confidence since she’s naturally cautious. If a blurry image seems suspicious I’ll either jump to my feet or ask a nearby parent if I can “Borrow their eyes for a minute.”
I’d describe our home design scheme as “preemptive.” My apartment was minimalist until my daughter had outgrown the “eats everything” phase and so it becomes more “homey” as she (we?) can handle. I’ve heard enough horrors stories to believe coffee tables are evil. I don’t want the anxiety of broken glass, so I use Melamine (fancy, plastic dinnerware) Other than that I do all the usual baby proofing. When friends come by they’ve said they enjoy not worrying their kiddo is getting into something. I enjoy not worrying about that, too.
I’ve had to make some compromises. Technology is extremely helpful for me, so I find myself in front of a screen a lot more than the example I’d like to set for my daughter. There are children books in braille, but I haven’t found any yet I’d want to read her. The happy medium is our small, nifty selected collection of funky books with large print, and we watch a lot of documentaries around here.
Living differently than the norm with a disability was riddled with obstacles even before I became responsible for a wee human being. Back then I’d often make personal sacrifices to accomplish goals I wouldn’t expect of a child. These days it’s a balancing act of happening upon alternative opportunities that are within my abilities, don’t require a car to get there, and because I don’t have childcare, toddler welcoming.
Some days it’s difficult not to sink into the exhaustion of my eyes and motherhood, the lull of playdates, “Mom talk,” appointments, naps, To Do Lists, amusing distractions, and cleaning where I’m one-dimensional. I could move back to New England where my family is who would love to help lighten the load, but decided it be unwise to uproot us somewhere not pedestrian friendly, nor shares my values as a parent or person, or has job/learning prospects. When my predicament weighs too heavy on my heart I have to remind myself I chose the Northwest because it’s our best chance.
Sometimes people ask me “What will you do as she gets older and __?”
Well, I suppose I’ll be creative, rational, improvise, make mistakes superbly and learn from them. I suppose I’ll do what every parent has done from the instant they first held their cooing babe — I’ll cross each bridge as I get there.