Phil who is blind, talks about his thoughts before and after his daughter (aged 2) was born.
These were a few of the many questions that were buzzing round my head when I thought about becoming a dad for the first time. I guess many parents-to-be feel like this, after all it is a life-changing event and one that brings great responsibility. As a blind person the sense of anxiety was even greater.
Thankfully many of the challenges I had anticipated beforehand were not impossible to deal with. It took me a while to learn the art of nappy-changing, I was very nervous to begin with about things like bathing and I never really cracked feeding with a spoon, however, it has all been a marvellous experience.
When our daughter was born, we had excellent support from the hospital and Community Midwife right from the start. I attended antenatal classes with my wife and every effort was made to make sure I was able to fully participate in what was going on. I was given several leaflets on tape and the midwives were always willing to answer any questions I had. We did have a bit of a rough ride with the local health visitor but I think that was more due to a clash of personalities!
As our daughter gets older I find myself facing different challenges at different stages.
I found it hard in the first few months to establish a bond – I could not see the smiles and make eye contact. Once she started making more noise and then saying her first few words I felt like I was starting to communicate with her.
When she started crawling I had to be very careful not to tread on her and found it particularly helpful if she wore brightly coloured clothes. Now that she is walking it is even harder to know where she is but again bright clothes help. I have not yet taken her to the park on my own as I am afraid of her running off and injuring herself. Other blind parents have found successful ways of doing this though, so I am sure in time I will venture out.
I am sure that part of the reason why her language skills are good is due to the fact that she soon learnt that just smiling at me and expecting me to know what she wants does not work.
I have found reading tricky. I do not have enough residual vision to use large print and my braille reading speed is not very fast but she is often happy to sit on my lap and tell me what she can see in the pictures on each page. Becoming a father has certainly taught me a lot about what I can and cannot do. It has been a steep learning curve and has had (and continues to have) its challenges. It has certainly been worth it though and I am looking forward to becoming a father for the second time at a later stage. I have learnt a lot but I am sure I have still got stacks more to learn. One thing it has done is give me a renewed confidence and desire to face challenges head on. It has not been easy but then again since when was parenting meant to be!