Cecilia is 9 months old. The last few weeks have been amazing. She is crawling now, and seems much more aware of what's going on around her. I think she's starting to understand some of what we're saying. Michelle says I have to stop swearing. Damn it!
I thought it'd be interesting to compile a list of the things I feel have been more difficult because of being blind. As always, important to stress that this is my own experience, not necessarily the experience of all blind parents.
What's going well?
- diapers: If you do something ten times a day you eventually get good at it. It's like shotgunning a beer in that regard, right? I was nervous about this early on, but really no problems here. It helps that Cecilia loves being on the change table, so me taking a little bit longer is no big deal. My wife and mom (Yes, Michelle, these things are not the same!) were both really helpful early on.
- Clothes: Baby clothes are easy. The first few times Michelle put Cecilia in a dress I probably grumbled too much about impracticality, but mostly you just wrestle the right body parts into the right holes.
- Reading: A company called Seedlings produces kids books that also have braille. Michelle was on top of things and ordered a bunch before Cecilia was born.
- baby gear: In the weeks before Cecilia was born I figured out how to use the stroller, car seat, bassinet, diaper genie, baby carrier, Etc. It's all pretty blind friendly. Even managed to find a car seat manual online.
- bath time
Before Cecilia was born I was nervous about how I would connect with a person that doesn't talk for a year. Michelle has been a big help with this. When we're together she'll often narrate for me, giving me information such as "She is staring at you." or "She is fascinated by the pattern on the couch." As Cecilia gets older I'm getting more in tune with her moods, but especially in those early days the narration helped us bond.
It makes sense that being blind would make parenting more difficult. To this point it hasn't been as big a deal as I anticipated. I do expect more challenges as Cecilia gets more mobile.
- Feeding: so far this has been mostly a disaster for me. Between me spooning oatmeal into her eye, and Cecilia putting it there herself, I've found this to be a big frustration. Even when I get the spoon into her mouth, I'm left wondering if she spit everything out as soon as I took my hand away. this has left Michelle doing more than her fair share of the feedings. The last few times I've tried things have been improving, so I'm optimistic that by the time Cecilia no longer needs me to feed her I'll have figured out how to feed her.
- Groceries: When Cecilia was born we discovered the wonder that is Saveon Foods online grocery delivery. this is something I've been hoping to find for a long time. For only $6 I could pick out the groceries, and have them dropped off the next morning. This was hugely helpful. Now that the service has gotten more popular, the price has doubled, and availability of delivery time slots has gone way down. So we're back to mostly doing our own shopping. This doesn't technically relate to having a baby, but it sure would be nice for me to pop out and get the groceries while Michelle breastfeeds the baby and has a nap. Maybe I should have been a blind mother?
- Doctors appointments: There was a day a few months ago where Michelle and Cecilia were both sick. Michelle was too sick to drive, but I had to get Cecilia to an appointment. I ended up calling a friend, who was kind enough to drive us. Taking an Uber was my backup plan. Infant seats are pretty easy to zip in and out of cars. I wonder if this will be more challenging when Cecilia needs a seat with a tether? I guess I could learn to bus to our doctors office, but ain't nobody got time for that.
- Navigating in public: when Michelle and I first started dating there was a learning curve relating to what kind of help I do and do not need while traveling. We have taken to calling the officially taught method where a blind person grabs a sighted person's elbow "stealth mode." When grocery shopping, should I hold the cart, or grab Michelle's elbow? Now add a baby and a stroller into the mix. I think we mostly have the hang of things, but it did take a few awkward doorway incidents to figure things out. These probably would have been easier with more sleep.
- Going out on the town: Much like before having a kid, I find I am much less independent in unfamiliar surroundings. At home I know where the diapers are. I can cook, clean, and I know which of the tupperware containers in the back of the fridge to avoid at all costs. When we're out it's a different story. I sometimes find myself sitting on a couch drinking a beer while Michelle is racing around minding the baby. Especially around new people I often feel embarrassed about this. If I weren't so busy enjoying my cold beer I would tell them I really do help more when we're at home.
I wrote most of this list about a month ago but didn't get time to finish it off. Feeding is going much better. I still feel like Michelle has a magic touch, but Cecilia is now guiding my free hand to her open mouth to help me aim the spoon. Fascinating to see how she'll adapt to having a blind dad. She seems to think the clicking sounds I use for echo location are our secret language.
I’ve asked Michelle to write a post about her experience with having a defective husband. Can I handle the truth?