Mom knows best!

WONDER WOMEN

Mom knows best!

TRUE BONDING Priya with son Anirudh.  DH PIC Srikanta Sharma R

The best things in the world are not seen with the eyes or heard with the ears, but are felt in the heart, so say a group of gritty moms who have not allowed their disability to dim the joys of parenting. It may take a great deal of planning, discipline and organisation, but their impairment has never made motherhood a chore.

“I never allowed myself to miss out on the good things in life just because I cannot see,” says Madhu Bala Sharma (27), a visually challenged corporate trainer with IBM, whose two-year-old son Namesh enjoys every moment with her.  “This is not to say that I didn’t have problems when I was growing up. But I found a way to work around them. Motherhood is not any different. If you learn to think through the situation and identify the difficulties, you can find ways of tackling your problems,” she explains.

Smart moves & smart moms
To have a disability and to handle a baby needs plenty of preparation and proactive thinking. It starts with feeding the child which, the women say, could be dangerous as they cannot look at the baby’s mouth while feeding her.

“It is much easier to breastfeed the baby; the actual challenge is when the baby starts on solid foods,” says Tarannum Rathi (24), who has a nine-month-old daughter Sneha. Her solution is simple and practical. “Keep your left index finger near the baby’s mouth and take the food with your right hand close to it. Trust the hungry baby to do the rest! Sure, this needs practice, but when you’re doing it several times in a day, you are sure to master your moves,” she chuckles.

Here is Madhu’s recipe for bonding with baby: “I put my son on my lap and make him sit, facing away from me. I tell him to open his mouth wide, saying ‘aaaah’. With my left hand close to his mouth, I feed him. The ‘aaah’ works so well that when Namesh wants to pop something into my mouth, he comes to me and says ‘aaah’!”
In the case of Priya Dinesh (35), feeding her 6-year-old son Anirudh proved tougher as he grew older. “He would keep running around the house after every morsel,” Priya says, “when he came back for the next mouthful, I assumed that he was enjoying the food. But I learnt one day, from a neighbour, that he had been spitting out his food in the garden! From then on, I ensured that he sat in one place during meal time. There was a tussle between us but we worked it out.”
 
Trust your instincts and theirs
The moms also believe that babies instinctively understand their limitations and learn to work around it themselves. “If he is doing something that involves sight — like building  a tower  with blocks — that he wants me to inspect,  he will  grab my finger and make me touch it. So sensitive is Anirudh that he fetches things for me when he sees me groping for something,” says Priya.

With a demanding bank job to return to when her son was barely a year old, Priya had a hard time balancing home and work. “I had to carry Anirudh with me when I went grocery shopping. I would juggle the bags, my white cane and my baby. Given the chaos on Bangalore roads, walking a few steps to hail an auto would seem like a nightmare. Those were real challenges — the times when I felt the pressure of taking my baby home safe, but I guess these are things every mother goes through, not merely someone who is  blind,” Priya says. 

Support system
This is where, the women say, help from parents, in-laws or friends prove vital. Priya’s  parents care for Anirudh during the weekdays, while she and her husband Dinesh (who is sighted and a software engineer) take over during weekends. In Madhu’s case, her parents and inlaws have been a great source of strength and support.

“My mother-in-law takes charge of everything when I leave for work. But, these days I work from home, an option which companies like IBM offer, so caring for Namesh is easier,” she says.

Tarannum, who has low vision, says: “My vision is not sharp enough to keep tabs on my mischievous baby. I wear anklets and keep calling her name and she responds by gurgling. We need to be very sensitive to every sound our babies make.”

All the women I spoke with have a special fondness for books. They pick up picture books, and story books in Braille to introduce their children to the joys of reading. Madhu is a big fan of ‘Seedling’, a brand of books with Braille, pictures and print on them. “I have taught him basic Braille,” she says. “He’s too small to read, but he knows the difference between Braille books and printed ones. We are working out our own strategies when it comes to reading,” she says. 

However proactive or disciplined they are, the women agree that a few issues are beyond their control. Priya realises she cannot correct her son’s written work.
“He can beat any child of his age when it comes to verbalising skills but his writing skills need to improve. Personally, I find it frustrating that I cannot see his art work because he loves to draw and paint,” she says.
For Madhu, the fact that she cannot play outdoor sports with her son is “disappointing” but she’s determined to make a sportsman out of him.
“I have a few years before I start battling schooling challenges with my daughter till then I will trust my instincts,” says Tarannum with a smile. She’s right. A mother’s instinct cannot be impaired by any disability.

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