The static noise of the baby monitor blares behind my head. I can hear my three-year-old calling me, “Mommy, I’m awake.” I’ve slept the entire night in our Lazy Boy recliner… again. I look down at my chest and can barely make out my 18-month old daughter who’s been curled up on top of me since 3 am. She is the image of perfection, even to this blind mother. I carefully run my fingers through her hair, caressing her curls. I touch her cheeks with my palm, in an attempt to gently rouse her from her sleep. My day of Blind Motherhood begins.
The three-year-old begins to grow impatient. “Mommy, I’m wet can you change me?” “Mommy, do you hear me? I’m hungry.”
I carry a half-awake baby into my kitchen and place her on the floor while I rummage through my cabinet looking for my eye drops. I find the right vile, and instill one drop in each eye. Then I wait. It takes several minutes before my morning blurriness becomes slightly clearer.
I am completely blind in my left eye. My right detects shapes and light. I look down at my kitchen floor and see my daughter happily staring up at me. “Baba,” she says and sticks out her arms. I scoop her up, placing her on my left hip. I head over to my kitchen counter, grabbing a bottle that’s already pre-filled with formula powder. I grab the pitcher of water next to it and listen intently to the sound of the bottle filling. It’s the morning beat to my drum, and in perfect rhythm, I instantly know that I’ve hit 8ounces. I don’t need to see it. I just need to hear it.
I pop the bottle in my baby’s mouth and move back to the living room. I lay her on the throw rug in the play area, reaching for a box of baby wipes and a diaper. Gingerly, I open the zipper of her footsie pajamas, terrified I might catch the zipper on her skin. She’s changed and thankfully unharmed. I place her in the pack and play while I run upstairs for my other girl.
I run my thumb across the top of the baby gate that guards the nursery, pressing down on the large button that will give me entry. My rambunctious toddler is already out of bed, having a very detailed morning meeting with four stuffed dinosaurs. She runs and hugs me. “Mommy, can we go downstairs? Can I bring my dinos?” “Of course,” I reply and begin the balancing act of carrying her plus these plush friends down the stairs.
I count every stair in my head – one through twelve. When I get to number thirteen, I know I’ve hit the landing. Two stairs left and one more baby gate. I breathe a sigh of relief that we made it down safely again this morning. Another baby gets a diaper change, play clothes are put on, and the television is set to Disney Junior. My daughters babble away to one another, as I sneak into the kitchen to make breakfast. Bananas are sliced, cereal poured and I carry sippy cups back to my hungry crew. We sit on the couch – the three of us – and enjoy the start of our day.
By 10 am, Daddy is home from working the midnight shift. He hugs his daughters and spends a few precious moments with his family. Exhausted, he heads up to bed, leaving his blind wife in charge. My husband has confidence in me, never doubting my ability to mother, even with my visual impairment. Shortly thereafter, the baby is ready for nap time. I make the dreaded stair climb yet again, carrying her, a stuffed dog, a bottle and a blanket.
Back in my living room, my toddler is now requesting a string cheese. I fight with the packaging to get it open, tearing her snack in half. When she sees my handy work, she begins to scream. “I don’t like it like that” she yells. Back to the fridge to get another string cheese. This time, I take extra care in opening the packaging to her satisfaction. I give her a coloring book and put on another cartoon. More eye drops go into each of my eyes to fight the constant burning sensation I feel. Finally, I can work.
For the next two hours, I juggle laundry, prepping dinner, and my part time job. My home office is my kitchen table and I listen to emails audibly before I respond to each of them. My daughter interrupts me periodically looking for a snack, a toy, or to put on Netflix. It’s a dance we do daily; a parenting waltz that she mostly leads.
The day seems to evaporate and suddenly nap time is over. I bring my baby down to the living room, change both diapers yet again and prep lunch. I find my favorite saucepan, fill it with salted water and make my way over to the stove. I line up the handle of pot so it’s centered on the burner. I listen to the clicking noise as I turn the dial. The flame ignites and I wait for water to boil, listening for the sound of emerging bubbles.
My daughters are locked out of the kitchen while I cook for their own safety and the little one screams for me behind her baby gate. I try to soothe her by talking to her, never leaving the pot for fear of an accident. After several minutes, the pasta is done and I use my potholder to feel for the handle. As I move to the sink, I hear my girls fighting. I get distracted by their cries and splash boiling water on my hand. It stings with pain.
My husband is awakened by the kids and comes downstairs, finding me in the kitchen nursing my burnt hand. He helps me butter the pasta and place it on plates for the kids to have lunch. He tells me to be more careful, but he has no concept of the juggling act that makes up my daily routine. I smile, promising I will try and he goes back to bed.
I play with my daughters indoors for the rest of the afternoon. I can’t go out alone. I can’t travel without assistance. My blindness makes it impossible for me to keep track of my energetic toddler on the playground while watching my baby in her stroller.
The Solitude of Blind Motherhood
This is my life. I’m sequestered to the solitude of my home. No play dates. No mommy and me classes. No visitors. It’s just our little nuclear family, together, in my living room.
Dinner time arrives and my husband emerges yet again. I pull a chicken from the crock pot and take mashed potatoes off the stove. A bag of steamed vegetables comes out of the microwave. It’s classic comfort food for days like this, when I feel I’m in desperate need of “comforting.” My husband and I discuss work, finances, and the girls. The kids love to see their daddy. An hour passes, mealtime has ended and bath time commences.
I fill our kitchen sink, testing the water repeatedly to make sure the temperature is just right. In goes my toddler. I set my voice activated kitchen timer, which alerts me to when bath time is over, otherwise she would want to stay in the sink for eternity. When the alarm says “time is up” she whines about getting out; eventually conceding. I dry her off, covering her with lotion and putting her in comfy pajamas. Her sister is next into the sink. She’s happily splashes until her time is up. Out she goes and she too is lotioned and dressed for bed. By 8pm, both girls are back in the nursery, tired from a long day.
More medicated eye drops are needed. For the next hour and a half, I get my house back in order. As I run my fingers over shelving units and containers, toys are retuned to their assigned spots. One wrong move and I won’t be able to find a beloved toy for days. It’s worth the effort to avoid a toddler meltdown the following day. More laundry is washed and sorted. By 9:30pm my husband is awake, ready to head back into work for another midnight tour.
I sit alone on my couch, a laptop across my legs. I begin to write, blogging about my blind motherhood adventures. It’s my nightly ritual and I need it. Hell, I relish it. It’s my only outlet to express how I truly feel about being a disabled parent, the good, the bad and yes, the ugly. As my husband’s car pulls out of the driveway, I put in one last round of eye drops then it’s back to the couch to finish writing.
The house is quiet. I listen to the sound of the refrigerator hum, the static on the baby monitor and my fingers hitting the keys to my computer. I replay the days events in my head. I wish the eye pain was easier. I sometimes wish I could see more clearly. Despite being blind, I am truly thankful for my children and the support of my husband.
Suddenly, my baby wakes up and I am interrupted yet again, a blind mom’s work is never done.
*This article originally appeared on PuckerMob on April 6, 2016