Today is Justin’s birthday. So hard to believe that it’s been 36 years since I first held that little miracle in my arms. So many thoughts and feelings overwhelming me at that moment—relief, pride, exhaustion, wonder, love, protectiveness, and yes, fear. And what new mother doesn’t experience fear? But when you are a totally blind mother with very little support around you, the fear can run as deep and piercing as a razor-edged dagger to your very soul.
And what did my fears consist of? That my child wouldn’t be healthy, would get hurt, feel pain, and be treated cruelly or unfairly? Well, to some extent, of course. But in retrospect, I realized years later that my biggest fear, the deepest and sharpest jab was that my blindness would limit my ability to be a “good enough” mother. And so I did everything in my power to keep this fear at bay. I Brailled all of his books and colors, I turned his rice cereal into pancakes so that he could eat them without my getting a mess in his curly hair, I hired helpers to go with us to challenging places, like the beach and duck pond, so that he never felt he wasn’t afforded the same opportunities as his peers. I spent countless hours on wet grass, clapping and cheering with the other moms at soccer and baseball games, even though I had no idea whether or not he had even been the one kicking the ball or swinging the bat. I vowed to not turn him into my reader, my guide, my driver, my eyes. And even then, even with all of these monumental efforts, I felt the fear, always lurking, always nagging, always there to remind me that “This one could be the proof—the one that would finally reveal the fact that your blindness has diminished your capacity to be a “good enough” mom. And the whole world would see, and your son would suffer, and your fraudulent face would be revealed to the world.”
Today he is 36 years old and we’ve been through a lot together and apart. I can now look back on those early fear-filled years and see what a “good enough” mother I was. By no means was I “perfect,” and I regret those times in which I was short-tempered, harsh-tonged, or too tired to fully listen. I think what I regret most of all, however, was that I didn’t believe enough in myself to know that I was the best mother I could be and that my blindness did not define my love for my child.
And how I wish now that I then had my wiser self, my more compassionate self, to talk to my newly emerging and frightened mothering self in the way I so needed and deserved to hear. I would have listened to her laments, “What if I’m not enough, what if I let him down, what if he resents the fact that I’m blind?”
And I would answer,
“No one loves your child as much as you and no one is better than you to help him see his value and worth in this world. You have so much compassion and love to show him, he is the luckiest child in the world right now to be held in such loving and protective arms. Be the wonderful model of kindness and compassion that you are and teach your child that sometimes life is hard, things aren’t always fair, and people can be at times cruel and thoughtless. . And even so, you will love him, value him, and let him always recognize his specialness in your loving and reflective eyes. What better gift to give your child? There is no one better than you to provide this most cherished prize.”
So, to all of you knew moms out there, those with eyes that can’t see, ears that can’t hear, legs that don’t walk, or arms that can’t bend, know that you are “good,” that you are “enough,” and that you are the very best one to grow this emerging life into a kind and valued adult. Talk gently to yourself, be accepting of your differences, honor your own strength and wisdom, and cherish the vast experiences in store for you both. Believe that you are the very best one to do this most amazing job and give yourself the credit and compassion you so deserve”