We often hear adults identify the birth of their child as one of the most meaningful and impactful events of their lives. This is certainly not any different for parents who are blind or visually impaired. Blind parents experience the same kind of emotions, both of anticipation and later of joy and ecstasy upon hearing that first baby cry which often signifies a successful delivery. Yet, for some people, it always comes as a surprise and a shock when they realize, together with my wife, I have been able to raise a beautiful and successful young lady.
This is not to say that I was not nervous the first time I had to change her diaper or give her a bath. But then, what father has not really felt a bit nervous and apprehensive the first time he was called to handle his seemingly frail and beautiful baby! Fortunately, while in the hospital where my wife delivered, I encountered a nurse who observed me handle my baby daughter with such careful movements. She reassured me of her durability and resiliency. I think that observation, more than anything, helped me begin to realize that all I had to do was use my fatherly instincts and develop adaptive ways to accomplish the various baby care tasks, as I had always done in other situations.
And so, I quickly discovered ways to, yes, change her diaper and ensure she was clean. Give her a bath; feed her the bottle and later solid food. Take her outside for a walk in her stroller and holding my hand; help her practice her first written words. And later help her gain the confidence to let go of her training wheels.
So, you see, besides perhaps doing some of these things in a slightly different way, being a father as a blind person is not a different experience from the one enjoyed by every dad. We experience the same joys and excitement with every milestone achieved and, of course, we also agonize about their safety and their ability to make the right decisions as they grow and we begin to let go.
Each Father’s Day has been special, including those when my daughter would write her own poems to me and often managed to include a message in braille. She always knew what gift would make me smile! Seeing her progress through elementary, middle and later high school, I often marvel at those times when she reminds me so much of myself and/or my wife. Observing first-hand the impact we have had in the formation of her values and norms is obviously a huge responsibility. It is also obvious and reassuring to see how she is her own person, not so different but rather complementing us.
This Father’s Day marks my daughter’s graduation from high school. It also marks the incoming preparations for her moving from home to her college dorm, far away! My wife and I will miss her, but we also know she has the tools and the smarts to succeed and we are very proud of her.
Editor’s note: As Father’s Day quickly approaches On June 15th; we encourage you to take the time to honor the special men who are fathers, grandfathers and stepfathers in your life.