Father’s Day is this Sunday, and I keep forgetting that I’M A FATHER. Most sons/daughters will do something special for their dad this Sunday to show how much they appreciate him, but I’m not expecting much from my 8-month-old daughter. If I’ve learned anything since her time on earth., it’s that she’s incapable of doing anything on her own, let alone for others—she’s selfish like that. In honor of Father’s Day, I thought I would share some of the challenges that I face as a father who has a visual impairment and how I combat those challenges. But first, I need to give a shout-out to my wife, Alyssa. It’s important that people know that my wife is fully sighted and had never met a blind person before she met me. Why’s that important? It’s important because it shows how courageous, empathetic and impartial she is as a person. These characteristics make her an amazing mother, which naturally helps me as I work through the challenges I face in my role as a dad.
1. Dirty diapers.
No shocker here! I’m sure you could see this a mile away…or smell it a mile away. Before Evelyn was born, I practiced putting diapers on a baby doll, and I became efficient at it. Then Evelyn was born, and I got my first chance to showcase my skills. I failed miserably. I basically made everything worse, creating an annoying situation for my sleep-deprived wife. There were a few main challenges. First of all, unlike the baby doll, my daughter moves. And when I say she moves, I mean she bucks around like a wild bull. Secondly, I was having trouble seeing everything in the “danger zone” that needed wiping up. My solution to the issue came in the mail 48 hours later in the form of a head lamp from Amazon. Now, when I change diapers, I’ve got a spotlight that covers the danger zone, allowing me to change diapers efficiently. (I measure my efficiency by asking my wife, “Okay I know you could do it better, but if you weren’t here, would you be satisfied with my work?”)
Evelyn still nurses, but we recently started feeding her baby food a few times a day. I watched my wife do it a few times, and of course she made it look easy. When it came time for my first feeding, it went like you’d expect…badly. I had a hard time seeing how much food was on the spoon, because the food was blending in with the spoon. I also had an issue getting the food in my daughters open mouth. At her age, you wait for the open mouth, then quickly make your move. I’m able to see her mouth open, but if she moves during the process, I can’t see to adjust the spoon to her mouth. This results in food getting everywhere but her mouth. My daughter had food in her nose, eyes, ears and hair after the first times I fed her. My wife fixed the first problem by buying a variety of colored spoons. Finding the right contrast not only allowed me to see the food on the spoon, it also helped me see the spoon better when guiding it to her mouth. Now I can pick a color that creates contrast with Evelyn’s clothes/bibs, which allows me to see the spoon clearly as I feed her. And lately, she’s been reaching for the spoon handle and helping me guide it to her mouth. TEAMWORK!
3. Assembling baby furniture.
This one is short and sweet. If you are blind or visually impaired, swallow your pride and take a back seat. Or at least have someone who’s sighted help you. I am all for independence, but when it comes to assembling swings, cribs, etc. the smallest missed detailed could cause injury or worse to your baby. Luckily, I have a handy father-in-law that is always willing to install/assemble these things.
4. Baby on the move.
Cherish the days of your baby lying still. Evelyn went from rolling over to crawling to pulling herself up before I could blink. Now, my 10 degrees of tunnel vision is no match for my speedy baby. It doesn’t take long for me to look down at my phone and back up to an empty carpet. Then I’ll find her crawling out the door or pulling herself up on something, which usually results in her falling and bumping her head. Two things fixed this issue. First, I use a little bell that securely fastens to her ankle. This allows me to hear when she’s on the move. The second is a secured playpen. Our entire living room has a fenced in play area. (I call it “Jail House Rock.”) The JHR serves as a safe haven for Evelyn and allows my wife and I to do laundry, cook dinner, etc. with peace of mind.
5. The unexpected.
Unfortunately, I can’t put a humorous twist on this subject. As a husband and father, there’s nothing in this world I fear more than unexpected emergencies. When I am home alone with Evelyn, I never let her out of my sight in order to prevent an accident. Not being able to drive while caring for an infant is not ideal. I advise anyone in my situation to add the EMSA option that the city offers. This can be found on the same page that residents use to pay water/trash bills, and it only costs a few bucks a month. Not only is this a cost-efficient way to use the ambulance, it offers medical attention the second the ambulance arrives at the house. Vision or no vision, sometimes these things can’t be prevented, but having a plan can help prevent a tragedy.
While visually impaired and blind parents face challenges, we can still care for our babies just like someone with vision would. I hope this blog sheds light on how visually impaired and blind parents combat daily challenges and shows that, with a little creativity, we can offer the same level of care as a sighted parent.