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Blind Baby Daddy Blog 5: The Sounds and Scents of Babyhood 

 Kennan is working on being the next Target model.  Now he just needs a publicist to market him :) 

Kennan is working on being the next Target model.  Now he just needs a publicist to market him :) 

Well, I know its been way too long for this blog to come out and I apologize but I have been trying to figure out this daddy job.  Without sight, it involves quite a bit more trial and error as well as attention.  There is no glancing over the shoulder from the room next door to see what he has in his hands or mouth or how far he has moved from in just the past few seconds.  The use of facial expressions to determine what he is trying to convey is off the table unless of course I get right up in his grill like the college football coach after making a bonehead play.   With this said, I expect in a year or two that Kennan will ask, “Daddy, why are you always up in my face?”  As my vision continues to decline, I am beginning to rely more on the sounds and scents of babyhood.

As I mentioned, Kennan likes to let his emotions known through his expression of excitement. He loves to pounce on the ball pit balls like a lion going after their prey.

Baby Kennan is a kid with a personality and that is good.   He lets you know how he is thinking.  He grunts, moans, cackles, giggles, babbles, thumps on occasion and pitter patters.  Before placing him down in any room I make sure that I know what toys are in the room as I often use the sounds from the toys to know where he is.  If I am out of sight for too long I often hear a pitter patter on the hard wood floors followed by an eager drawn out groan of excitement.  If for some reason I don’t  get the above cues that Kennan is vigorously attempting to get to his daddy than I can just walk in his direction and I am sure to feel  the trail  of newly excreted drool on the floor.  There is a reason that we have nicknamed him “Bulldog” and its not because he’s fat and pudgy.  

The noises of Kennan bashing his baby walker into anything in this path. These are just some of the familiar noises that I hear on a daily basis.

It seems that just when I learn his little routine it changes and I start over again.  The typical pattern is I am awaken each morning at 6 AM on the dot either by screaming from Kennan in his crib most likely because he is hungry or by our furry family “Grouchy Old Man” Retina barking/wining because he wants fed or Gunther thumping around  like a bunny  in an  XXXL size body.  Immediately, I rescue Kennan from the inprisonment of the baby crib, walk through the grenade field of toys and other trash that he likes better than his toys and attempt to put the puzzle pieces of a baby bottle together all while holding the recently woken bear.   Raised dots on the side of his bottle mark the 6oz mark as I am unable to read any of the labels and I use the old drop of milk on the wrist technique for temperature.  Once the little kiddo either drinks the whole bottle or decides he doesn’t want it and starts blowing raspberries I know he is done and then it is time to go to the war zone (aka. play area).  My normal routine is to leave him in the war zone with some of his favorite trash (boxes, foam, bubble wrap and newspapers) while I make my breakfast  and a pot of coffee.  As I do this I often here drum-like pounding or bashing of toys together followed by excited babbling. On occasion I hear the thump of Kennan’s head or bottom knocking the floor which is followed by either laughing because he thinks that hitting his head is funny or crying.  Within 15 minutes of playing I go and smell his bottom and typically there is a nice scent of vinegar and its time to change the diaper.  

Kennan loves playing with the foam roller while dressed in his hippie hat and clothes. This is a great video to depict the many noises and excitement that makes on a daily basis.

One of my favorite things to do with Kennan is sit in front of him and make the sounds of barn yard animals.  I may not see the exact facial expression that he is making but I know when I hear his little giggles he has a huge smile on his face and those are his favorites.  At this point  he loves the Oink of the pig and the croaking frog the best.  Much of the time when I am making these animal noises  there is silence in the room as I am sure he is wondering what the heck his daddy is doing.  It is my hope that in the near future I will have a little friend to oink and croak along with me and we can make some good tunes.  

 I have made it one of my goals in his life to everyday do something that makes him totally start cracking up in laughter.  Not just make him smile but rather billow into a continuous flurry of giggles that he seems to be unable to control.  As you can imagine that this involves a little bit of work and creativity as the same trick that worked yesterday is probably not going to work again today.  Lately, I have begun to get down next to him in the starting blocks for the 50yd crawl dash and we have been racing.  I typically get out of the blocks faster than him but let me tell you that kid can get moving when he gets excited.  He initially thought this was very funny when I got down next to him in the blocks but now he doesn’t giggle as much.  I just attribute this to the fact that he is now seeing it as a competition.  As drool comes rushing out of his mouth he is now saying, “bring it on daddy!”  

Every day is a new day as a Blind Baby Daddy and I am sure that the sounds and smells are only going to grow and become even louder in the near future.  I hope you will continue to join along in my Blind Baby Daddy journey and please chime in on Facebook or via message if there are any specific topics that you would like to hear more about with respect to being a daddy while also being blind.  In the meantime, I will try to become more frequent in sharing my Blind Baby Daddy moments. 

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Blind Baby Daddy Blog 4: Blind Man Coming Through

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Last blog I spoke about some of the thoughts that went through my mind in the planning for the baby.  Now that baby Kennan is alive and growing faster than those weeds in the garden.  One milestone event in every parent's life is traveling with the baby for the first time.  Baby Kennan has now become a seasoned traveler and along with that has come a little chaos.  

The first time we traveled with Kennan, I thought we were moving.  We had the normals including car seat, stroller, car seat back, stroller bag, diaper bag, breast milk pump and a few articles of our own personal clothing but just enough to avoid being in the nude.  We also traveled with our small dog Retina who is very attached to Brittney.  This creates a problem when the dog wants to be on mommy's lap just as much as baby.  So we had Blind Baby Daddy (me), Retina the dog, baby Kennan and Brittney.  The picture of me with the baby carrier and my white stick  is a classic one.  

The first trip with Kennan went without too many memorable moments except that Brittney and I were unable to get seats together which created a bit of a problem when I had to return Kennan to Brittney to eat but couldn't find her.  Its a little awkward when a guy  is  pacing back in forth in the aisle trying to use some sort of visual cue  to recognize mommy.  I felt kind of awkward stopping at a random person and saying, "Hey, I'm looking for the mom to this child.  Its my kid but I can't find my wife."  Instead of doing this, I just started saying, "Brittney" multiple times hoping for a response.  It was kind of like playing my own game of Marco Polo. 

 Baby Kennan and Mommy hanging out in LA getting ready to head to LAX.  This is TOO cute!!!

Baby Kennan and Mommy hanging out in LA getting ready to head to LAX.  This is TOO cute!!!

Our most recent trip was to my sports manager Carie Goldberg's wedding outside Los Angeles.  This time Brittney's mom, also known as Gigi, came out to take care of baby Kennan during the wedding and then came back with us to Seattle to be grandma for a little longer.  The return flight home brought a little chaos.  Our flight was at 12:30pm and we were running a little late.  We left for the airport a few minutes before 11am but unusual Sunday morning traffic and long lines at the airport left us scrambling to make our flight.  I first went to the customer service desk with Kennan and my white cane knowing that  we would need some extra time and this was the only option I could think of to make sure we made our flight.  As we are trying to multi task putting the 5 pieces of luggage  we had to check, Kennan of course decides this was a good time to drop a deuce in his diaper but that one was going to have to wait.  

It took 15 minutes but we got all our boarding passes and scurried to security.  With Gigi being of age for a  senior she got premier access.  I quickly passed Kennan off to Gigi to take through with her premier access.  Brittney and I went through regular security and with new regulations they are now asking that all food items be removed from bags. We probably had 5 bins of stuff and the clock was ticking. At this point it was 30minutes before departure and Gigi was through security and headed to the gate as I recommended she do.  As our luggage went through security of course my stuff was picked for special check.  The clock was ticking and i told Brittney to just go to the gate and if I don't make it than at least they will get on the plane.  It was the definition of frustrating as there must have been 25 TSA workers  on the back side of security but most of which were just standing around chatting and conversing.  I feel like TSA officers have become the formerly stereotyped police officers all hanging out on the corner  but using five people to do one man's work.  There was now a back up of bags that needed checked but only one person doing the checks and passengers were getting restless.  Finally they pulled aside my stuff  and I had no idea what was suspicious to them.

As my bag was checked, Brittney was calling to tell me that they were closing the gates.  Despite  Brittney explaining to the gate agent that her husband is blind and is stuck at security, the agent wanted no part of that.  While on the phone the woman at TSA returned and said, "You are all set to go sir.  Your Goldfish looked like explosives."  Without fully taking in what she said I said to Brittney, "Okay, I'm running.  Where is the gate?"  I whipped out my white cane and started just running.  As I was running I was kind of laughing to myself  about what others were thinking as they saw a man running through the airport with a white cane.  Just as I was thinking about this I was running down a slight ramp  and hit a small flat landing and almost took a nose dive.  Brittney saw me and started yelling, "Aaron over here.." Luckily, they had not closed the doors and as I said hello to Kennan he started to giggle as though he knew what was going on and thought it was funny.  

 WATCH OUT for those Goldfish snacks when traveling :p

WATCH OUT for those Goldfish snacks when traveling :p

As we walked on the plane I was still shocked that my bags got pulled out because the goldfish snacks that I had pulled out into the bin was the alert to flag my bag for further search as it was perceived as an explosive.  There may need to be further security training if the goldfish snacks were signaling explosives or maybe I need to further check what the ingredients of the cheesy goldfish snacks I have been eating.  If I was plotting something, I also don't think I would put my explosive Goldfish out in the bin.  Regardless of the hold up, the bright side was that it paid off to use my white can as a warning sign to, "Watch Out, blind man coming through."

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Blind Baby Daddy Blog 3: A Look Inside My Head Pre Baby

Preparing mentally to have one’s first child is nerve racking for even the most put together and organized person.  Add  in the fact that I am not one of those organized  people and when you are blind the first time for everything is always interesting made even the thought of having a child a little overwhelming.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am not the type of guy that would run out of the room if asked to hold a baby, but I am the type that picks up little kids and swings them around for hours until they are so beat they pass out in the living room and look like the boxer that just got TKO.

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I wouldn’t say I was the most educated on baby stuff prior to Brittney getting pregnant.  To be honest I had never even been to a baby shower.  I had been known to take a box housing a diaper cake from off the porch and put it in the fridge if that gives you a little idea of my baby knowledge.  This also may have been a reason that I was told I need to start reading some books on babies and fatherhood after we found out Brittney was pregnant.  No use going to the bookstore for me though as that is equivalent to going to the nearby dried out forest and setting a match to it.  I found a few on Audible that seemed to get good reviews and started listening.  One of the books I read was The Expectant Father by Armin A. Brott which is a sixteen chapter journey meant to guide expectant fathers through the emotions and stages of pregnancy and through early childhood. The book partially served its purpose but in reality it just created more questions in my head of what the heck I was going to do as a new daddy that is blind, working full time, trying to compete as an athlete and living across the country from family.  The added dimension of being blind and living in an uncertain world is what is of interest to all of you.  I know what you all want and that is to get into my head of what I am thinking and so that is what I will do in this blog.  

As I listened to The Expectant Father, it of course talked about all of the stages of pregnancy and the importance of being involved such as attending MD appointments and providing for the pregnant and often uncomfortable wife.  This is not as easy when you are blind.  Where a sighted individual can jump in a car to drive 30 minutes and back, this is less convenient and comes at a much higher price when you are blind.  Besides becoming expensive, this also brings up another aspect of being blind and living in an uncertain world. There is a constant internal and sometimes external struggle to keep a job and prove to your employer that you are just as valuable as your sighted counterpart.  Thus, the mental battle of deciding which  appointment and which situation is important enough to leave work and be present was very difficult.  Along with comes the added stress of keeping your job, knowing that a baby is on the way and your income and benefits are essential to support the family.  These were just a few of the thoughts that lingered in my head while reading the book and going through my daily life. 

One more thing that the book did was make the nine month journey more real.  Just like being the man in a relationship, being the father in a family comes with societal and implied expectations.  It is when confronted with these expectations where the path gets more opaque and a different path may be best.  Let’s take a look at some of the mind boggling conversations   that I had with myself as my mind drifted reading the book. 

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Conversation 1:   “Baby just pooped, or did he? I undo the diaper and I luckily have enough vision to tell if its poop or not but there is no way I will see the infamous blue line on all diapers.  I get the baby’s poopy diaper off and grab a new one.  I begin cleaning  what I see and like everything in life get down there right in the action to try to get it all.  It is probably pretty important to get him all cleaned right?  There is a chance I may miss some and God forbid he blew out his diaper and it squirted onto the onesie.  I wouldn’t want my child to get an infection because of my poor cleaning job.  They have bud-ays that people sit on for this reason as adults why can’t I just create one for the baby.  A good old hose job couldn’t hurt the little guy.” 

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Conversation 2:  “The book keeps talking about the importance of reading to the baby both in the womb and out.  Well this is all fine and dandy but I don’t think they mean having a computer synthesized voice read books out loud to the baby.  Granted, companies have definitely improved the quality of text readers from the old R2 D2 robot of ten years ago but I don’t think that Peter of Boris (a few of the computer voices) are close to matching my voice yet.  In addition, the visual pictures of the book are probably more important than anything else once the child is born so I least need the book. I don’t know Braille and it is kind of an outdated language anyways so Braille books are out of the question.  I guess I will just make up the text of the book and the book will change every time I read it to the baby.  This will work for the first year or so I am sure but babies aren’t dumb and at some point he is going to realize that daddy’s stories don’t make sense at all.”

Conversation 3:  “The baby needs fed and also needs his medication.  Do they make large print baby bottles or audible syringes to measure small amounts of medication?  I don’t think so and the  black lines for liquid ounces on the bottle that I drew in permanent marker washed off during cleaning the bottles.  There is plenty of milk but the bottle warmer has only tiny print and I have tried to memorize buttons but it keeps changing the time.  I know the old put it hot water trick but I have a screaming baby that wants to be fed now and a daddy that is taking pictures of the bottle warmer on the iPhone and blowing them up to read the screen.  This may be a solution to the problem but it is not milk and the baby is still screaming.”

Conversation 4: We have arrived at the time when mom is back to work and baby has to go to  child care.  I need to help out in getting the little one to and from the sitter.  I can’t drive so that option is out the door.  This means  the baby will learn to ride the bus early in life.  This also  means that I no longer will be able to roll out the door late and run frantically to catch the bus.  I can't imagine that running with the baby in the stroller down the sidewalk when its early in the AM and dark would be a smart thing to do when you don't see so well.  Next thing you know, the stroller hits a crack in the sidewalk and you go flying over the stroller and the baby gets shaken up and never wants to go in the stroller again.   If we make it to the bus, the question arises, "What happen when there is an older man with a walker sitting in the front seats for passengers and people with disabilities?"  I now have a baby stroller that needs to be belted in and I myself have a disability but don't outwardly show my blindness.  I don't want to kick the old man out of his seat but blind baby daddy has to sit somewhere!!!

Above are just some of the many conversations that have gone through my head while preparing  and having our first child.  There will be many more stories to come and I hope you all have enjoyed this read. 

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Blind Baby Daddy Blog #2: Prepping For More Than a Baby

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I'm assuming that all of you have read Blind Baby Daddy Blog 1 and know how baby Kennan was conceived, let's move on to the immediate aftermath after conception.  Immediately after  we found out about Brittney's pregnancy, the house shopping began.  As men, I think we like to tackle one of these major life changing experiences at a time.  Women however want to get the house, remodel it, deal with pregnancy and continue working all at one time.  I don't know if this was how it went for all of you reading this but this was how it went for us.  There seems to be a delay in reality for men and we may not snap into reality until reality hits us in the head.  

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As someone that is blind, I would be lying if I said I was a researcher and planner.  The increased time required, lack of accessibility and limitations on transportations makes this less efficient than the sighted world.  Those that know me  also know that I live quite a busy life in general and so in order to make sure that all ends are met I often rely on others  and use strategies that I have learned to maximize time.   You will never find me going into a Home Depot with a list of items and attempt to use my magnifying glass and binoculars to find a two inch long screw.  I would be more successful finding a micro machine car in a corn field.  Instead, I would immediately find a worker, tell them I'm visually impaired, and have them help me find the two inch screw.  In this same way, Brittney did much of the research in finding houses that met our needs.  I pretty much gave her full reign with a few major requirements that were based upon my needs due to vision.  The house had to be in a walkable area and public transportation needed to be within close proximity as well.  I would never put the burden on Brittney to take Kennan and I everywhere nor would I allow my child and I to be stranded out in the countryside without a way to get food and go for morning runs in the Bob stroller safely.  Another requirement was that we have a yard for the dogs and baby Kennan.  Considering that outside of 10ft I could mistake my dog for a blanket or patch of dirt, it was important to have containment. The last thing that we were going to do was get a home that our dogs and our child had to be on a leash.  I mean, I probably will end up using a leash on Kennan but just not at my home. 

We were fortunate to find our future house on the first time out with the real estate agent.  With the cut throat housing market of Seattle, we did take a rare opportunity to use the blind card to persuade the owner why this home was perfect for us.  We were very fortunate to get a great home and we had a great team of landscapers, mom and mother-in-law (Mary and Becky) and a very inexpensive contractor (Dad Mike).  Well, we did have to hire quite a bit of help but we couldn't be more thankful for the help from family that we received.  Home remodels and using large power tools are also not one of my strong qualities.  Although there are many blind individuals that are very handy, I am not one of them.  I have still yet to find audible tape measures, audible drills  and electric saws that notify you before cutting appendages off.   Although having a home with slanted picture frames, walls with paint drips and door frames that creek would be so up my alley, it probably wouldn't fly with all the sighted folk that walk into the house nor would it help the resale value of our home.

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The remodel marathon began immediately after closing in early June and continued through our move in on September 1st.  Most of my work on the house came in the form of carrying tons of large boxes, hacking down a jungle of blackberry bushes and hauling over five tons worth of yard waste to the dump.  If you ever need a mover, I am your man.  I can go forever and Brittney gladly offers my services to all her friends that our moving. 

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Life never seems to give us a break as just one week after closing on the house I was walking around the wooded trails in our backyard and spotted a huge tree smashed into our already rickety fence.  My first instinct was that I would go find a chain saw and cut the tree up.  This idea was vetoed and right fully so by the wife.  I had never used a chain saw and the last time I saw a blind man with a chain saw was on the NBC TV series Growing Up Fisher where Mel Fisher told his family to stay well out of reach of a giant tree that he was about to saw down in his front yard.  I did not go get a chain saw however I did go in the old shed in our backyard and pulled out a hand saw.  As blind/VI individuals we are often seen intentionally or unintentionally as incapable of being independent and therefore we feel as though we always need to prove ourselves.  With a little bit of this  mindset as well as a little bit of my own competitive tenacity, I was going to find a way to hack that load of lumber off my fence.  So with an old hand saw that was probably bent and rusty I went to town.  I sawed and I sawed and about an hour later I had some results to show for it.  I split the nearly two foot  tree trunk and then proceeded to pull it off the fence.  I was pretty proud of myself.  There is one thing that I haven't mentioned yet and that is that the tree had split in multiple places and so there was another huge  tree trunk that extended 30ft over the fence into the neighbors yard  in addition to the part I had already shredded off.  Needless to say, I called a handy friend of ours to help me cut down the remaining trees and saw them up into pieces.  He was pretty impressed with my manual labor work on the large trunk I had done wit the rusty old blade.  This gives you a little insight into a few of the things that we had going on as Brittney went through her first six months of pregnancy.  Things got even more chaotic as baby Kennan came closer to his debut into the world.

In the next blog, I will share some of my concerns, expectations and even some of my brilliant ideas towards becoming a daddy while also being blind.  How much did I know about babies before actually having one?  What was my plan for doing the dirty work of changing diapers?  How would we transport baby Kennan around?  All of these things will be covered in the next episode of this ongoing blog series.  The next blog is sure to get you laughing as well as spur you to push the "share button"  to a friend.  Until then, so long.  I have to get back to making up stories while reading to baby Kennan.

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Blind Baby Daddy Blog #1: Before The Baby Was Conceived

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My idea for the Blind Baby Daddy blog arose when I began thinking about all of the unique, funny and sometimes scary situations that I would be confronted  with as a Blind Baby Daddy.  We here all of the stories that people have of their pregnancy and post pardon experiences but how often  do you hear about it from a blind man's perspective.  The Blind Baby Daddy will be a full on account of my thoughts, fears and actions as a guy with little sight but a lot of responsibility.  

I know you all want to hear about my wife finding excess poop left on Kennan's leg from my bad diaper changes and the occasional licking bath from our dog Gunther  on Kennan's face  when he is too far out of sight for me to notice but that's going to come later you just wait.  In order to get a full account, we need to go back to the beginning when baby Kennan was just a thought.  

 Punnett square depicting  the way autosomal traits are passed along. My genetic make up has 2 recessive alleles for Stargardt's like the affected child above.

Punnett square depicting  the way autosomal traits are passed along. My genetic make up has 2 recessive alleles for Stargardt's like the affected child above.

My wife Brittney and I always knew we wanted kids but we wanted to reduce the chances of our child having my genetic eye condition if at all possible.  In the fall of 2016 we got blood work done to first see if in fact I inherited the condition from one copy of the recessive gene from each of my parents or from a genetic mutation.  The latter would have been very rare and was not the case.  My parents were both carriers and therefore I received one copy from each of them for the genetic condition known as Stargardts (Juvenile Macular Degeneration).   A major twist was thrown into the mix when we found out that Brittney, who has no known family history of blindness, just happen to be one of the 2% in the general population that are carriers of the condition.  This was totally unexpected and immediately directed our focus to using In vitro fertilization (IVF).  With the crazy technology they have these days they can determine the genetic make up of each egg and with a special probe that is specific to my condition determine whether the egg would be a carrier for Stargardts or not.  At this point we were ready to put up the $30,000 to use this unbelievable technology to eliminate the chance of our child having Stargardt's.   

At this point there were many thoughts going through my head.  I would never wish upon someone to be blind like me but I know from my own experience that blindness is not a death sentence either.  In fact, for me it has molded who I am, taught me to look at the world different, not take the little things in life for granted and has given me enormous opportunities that I may never have had without the condition.   On the other hand, as parents, we knew we would feel horribly responsible if we gave our child a condition that we knew we could have prevented.  In the end, we decided that if we could eliminate the chance of our baby having to deal with blindness we would.

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Yet another wrench was thrown into the mix after we got our fertility testing done.  The test results claimed to suggest that Brittney was very infertile and the viability of producing an egg that was usable and tested negative for the Stargardt’s condition was next to nothing.  At this point we had two options.  We could pay a bunch of money and use a donor egg or we could try  naturally and see what happens.  Obviously this was a difficult decision.  With overwhelming support from the MD, we decided to attempt the natural route.  We realized that maybe we were trying to control the situation but this may be God saying that it's in his hands and we need to let him take over.  With this knew mindset in play, I went in the bedroom that weekend and worked my magic and that very night Brittney was impregnated and that is how little Kennan was conceived.  Before he was born he was already a superstar, defying science and  kickstarting a major change in mama Brittney. 

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