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.
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.
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.”
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.