by Dayle Kane and Elizabeth Sammons
Editor’s note: Just in time for Mother’s Day, two APH VisionAware peers contribute their considerations, advice, tips, and tricks for other parents or prospective parents who are blind or low vision.
Elizabeth counts the costs of parenting
I never wanted children. My international life felt complete without them, and, as an only child, I lacked any significant experience with babies. Additionally, my life was full of enough challenges without adding those of another person, particularly a tiny child fully reliant on what I could or could not do. I realized day-to-day hassles—finding reliable transportation, filing paperwork, or asking friends for a few favors now and then—would redouble if I had a child. Finally, in my case, the potential for passing on my eye condition was a real possibility, and I had no desire to risk that for myself or for a baby.
These considerations and many more are realistic when someone with a disability is weighing the pros and cons of becoming a parent. Some people have stronger support systems (family, friends, finances, etc.) than others; some people live in areas with a better infrastructure for travel, emergency accommodations, and additional resources than others. While I had a string of decent jobs, many had no guarantee of continuation or of promotion. One must weigh the financial costs of becoming a parent, as well as the emotional outlay which is a 24/7 endeavor.
On the other hand, there are positive considerations: the desire to love and be loved in a parental relationship, to contribute to the development of a new life in the world, or to plan one’s own future in light of the possible family ties that develop with the arrival of a child. One must weigh the pros and cons of becoming a parent.
As it ended up, I became pregnant unexpectedly in the third year of my marriage. I was horrified and frightened. But I resolved that the tiny life inside me was joined to my own, and I would protect this child with God’s help as well as I could. Twenty-six years later, I have no regrets about that decision.
Dayle reflects on her innate desire to become a mother
I was the neighborhood kid who organized play groups and spent time with younger children whenever an opportunity arose. After several years of marriage and no babies to fill the void, I began taking care of infants in my home. I felt very confident in my ability, and parents trusted me with the care of their little ones. Like magic, after just five months of caring for the first little girl, I found myself expecting.
Most parents read books or articles, accept bits and pieces of advice, and otherwise learn by experiencing the process. There are few hard and fast rules; the parent/child relationship is unique. The parent who is blind or low vision, however, learns additional parenting strategies such as organization and consistency, which often require extra steps to manage and ensure safety.
Our assorted tips and tricks for managing the care of small children
- Bottle feeding—Use a funnel and properly sized measuring cup for filling.
- Administering medicine—Buy droppers of various sizes to give the proper dosage.
- Spoon feeding—Try resting one hand gently on the baby’s chin to know exactly where the child’s mouth is, avoiding unnecessary searching or spills.
- Avoid loss of objects—As children start throwing items from the highchair or table, try tying the loose objects to the leg of the chair.
- Bathing an infant—Lay out everything you need in an organized fashion and in order of use. Always make sure to fill the sink first, then push the faucet back so you don’t accidentally poke the baby’s head or face.
- Ignore the telephone—When bathing a young child, no call is worth your baby’s safety. One distracted second can be tragic.
- Cover electrical outlets—A crawling baby should not have access to outlets.
- Avoid the use of tablecloths or placemats—Fabric can be pulled along with any connected objects.
- Know where your baby is at all times—Place the child in a highchair, playpen, or crib if you are otherwise occupied. Mobile babies can move quickly! Small bells can be attached to a baby’s shoes or clothing to help you keep track of their location.
- Laundry—Lingerie bags can be used for keeping outfits together.
When walking, front or back carriers which attach to the front of the body are great and keep your hands free for the use of a guide dog or cane. As a baby gets old enough to walk, insisting on holding hands or using a wrist-to-wrist soft tether to keep the child close. If a small child learns the hand-holding rule from the very beginning, it typically becomes second nature. It doesn’t hurt to encourage other adults to use the same rules you have for consistency and best practice.
Teaching Numbers and Letters
As children get older, braille/print books and magnetic plastic letters are a great way to teach numbers and letters. Children can use raised line drawing kits with you, allowing you to explore and create along with your child.
If reading fluently is difficult, remember, telling a good-night story is just as good as reading it if you use expression and humor.
Most parents you know will be happy to add a few suggestions or share experiences; just ask! Additionally, you’ll create your own set of tips and tricks as situations develop. We encourage parents and potential parents to carefully consider parenting, use the provided tips, and always share what you learn with your own friendly family and other network!
- National Federation of the Blind’s Blind Parents listserv and brochure “Parenting Without Sight.”
- American Council of the Blind offers ACB Families | American Council of the Blind.
- APH VisionAware has a blind parenting series in Spanish.