During my pregnancy, one of the biggest concerns I had about having a baby was traveling with my baby. What the heck was the public going to think about a blind lady and her kid? I mean, really … it’s bad enough that people grab me when crossing the street, or tell me when the light turns green, or tell me I should turn left or right or stop. Yikes!
My concern was that if I could get annoyed at people grabbing me, I was VERY likely to get all mama bear on people grabbing my baby. After all, they grab my cane to guide me so why wouldn’t they grab the kid or the stroller to guide me? Was this thinking too far of a stretch?
If that wasn’t enough of a concern I was also nervous about safety and the logistics of actually using a cane and a stroller or whatever I chose to use to transport my kid. Again, yikes!
Instead of dwelling on my fears, which were rapidly mounting and making me queasy, I decided to be assertive and just do it! I figured I’d get informed, gather info, and just go.
I checked out a lot of strollers and a lot of different wearable baby devices.
And then, I kept checking out strollers and different wearable baby devices.
In the end, I bought 2 different strollers and 3 different wearable baby devices. I felt armed and ready to stroll.
In my info gathering phase I learned that everyone has their own preferences for transporting their child and it really varies from parent to parent. I would strongly encourage anyone who is a blind parent to check out as many options as possible and not just settle on one method. What works in one situation may not work in another situation.
For instance, I had this hang up about using a stroller and pulling it behind me and having the baby backwards. I found reversible handles so that I could pull and the baby could ride facing forward. Great solution, right? Well … not so much for me. I found these strollers to be big and heavy. As a commuter this was not a good choice for me.
Every time my husband saw parents pushing a stroller on the street, and he knew I hadn’t put my hands on that type of stroller, I would march on up to the parents and ask if I could talk to them about their strollers. If you are introverted this may not be the best method for you; but I am not and I have no problem walking up to people and initiating conversation.
In the end, a low vision coworker suggested I check out the stroller that he and his wife used. It was a jogging stroller. It was easy to maneuver with one hand and fold up with a small upward jerk with only one hand. It was really convenient for traveling.
As for wearable baby devices … wearing your baby is a personal choice you have to make. And, if you make it you can easily get overwhelmed with all the different ways you can wear your baby. On your back. In the front facing you. In the front facing out. On your hip. Across your front like you’re cradling your kid. Wrapped up like a kangaroo. And did you know you can breastfeed your kid while wearing them?
These are all decisions that only you can make. And the best way to make that decision is to get your hands on some of these items and take them on a test drive.
So how exactly did I get over my fears and concerns about traveling in public? I told you all the ways I chose my stroller and baby wearing devices, but not how I got over my personal hang up about the public’s perception of me.
I took it one step at a time.
A few days after Erik was born I started to wear him around the house. It was great to have my hands free and be able to wash dishes, eat, do laundry, etc. A few weeks after Erik was born, and when I was home alone after my family returned to southern California and my husband began going back to work, I found myself in dire need of getting out of the house and feeling normal again. So, Erik and I took a trip to Starbucks which was just a few blocks away.
That’s how I started. I started with a trip a few blocks away and gradually did longer trips. Trips to the doctor. Trips to the dentist. Trips to see my other pregnant friend. Trips into the city to have lunch with coworkers. But then, I was faced with a challenge I wasn’t sure I was up for.
When Erik was three and a half weeks old, my grandfather passed away. He had been living with my parents and was in hospice care during Erik’s birth. I really think he was hanging on just to see the little guy be born. We got the call at 7:02 a.m. on Sunday March 21. My mom said that grandpa wanted to say goodbye to Erik and I. The nurses thought my grandpa had about 24 hours left. I insisted I fly down immediately to be with my family. I hung up the phone and realized I was pretty freaked out. Not about my grandfather passing away, we had been expecting this and preparing for this for months. I was freaked out about flying to southern California. I had just recently made that trip to Starbucks. I had never flown with my baby. I had never dealt with the baby all on my own for such a serious trip. And, I hadn’t even breast fed in public yet. But, I wanted to see grandpa before he passed away.
My husband drove us to the airport. I had Erik wrapped up in the Moby wrap. No stroller. Just a huge diaper bag and an overnight bag for myself. My cane. And that was it. Even though I was terrified, I traveled with my child because I had to. I had to be there for my family. I needed to say goodbye.
I was able to do all of this because I didn’t doubt my ability as a blind person.
I might be nervous about doing something—and that’s okay—but I never underestimated my ability as a blind person. Sometimes, I thought those thoughts that we all think; sometimes I wanted to doubt myself; but I know too many blind people to let my blindness be an excuse for not doing something.
A friend of mine once said to me that I was so confident as a new blind mom. She said it seemed as if I always knew what to do. She was a new blind mom, too, and she wanted to know why she didn’t feel the same way. I told her I didn’t know what to do all the time but I just tried different things until something worked.
I think motherhood is a very natural job for me. I find that, being a good mom is precisely like being a blind person with great skills. There’s a lot of problem solving that goes on as a mom and as a blind person. As a mom you might not know how to do something but you work at it. Changing diapers, figuring out how to match clothes, figuring out how to travel with your kid; heck, all that stuff is not any harder than learning how to read braille, learning how to use a cane and independently travel, learning how to use JAWS. The only difference is, BEING A MOM IS PROBABLY MORE EXHAUSTING.
Signing off for now,
Bay Area Blind Mom