F R I D A Y F R I E N D S
SPOTLIGHT ON HOLLY BONNER
“Blind Motherhood helps prospective blind parents learn the in’s and out’s for all things baby.”
My Visual Disability
My visual disability evolved over time as an unexpected side effect from chemotherapy and radiation treatments I received while battling breast cancer in my early twenties. The combination of these treatments affected me neurologically, preventing my brain from communicating with my optic nerves and therefore causing my blindness.
Adaptive Technology, Resources and Training
Living in Staten Island, New York and working as a licensed social worker, I was vaguely aware of some of the resources available to the blind community.
“Once my doctor completed the necessary documentation to declare me legally blind, I was able to receive excellent services from the New York State Commission for the Blind.”
The Commission linked me with Lighthouse Guild International, now GuildNet, a world-renowned not for profit vision care organization. After an initial assessment, I was assigned a low vision doctor, adaptive technology specialist, independent living skills teacher and orientation/mobility instructor.
Professionals Aid in Rebuilding Confidence
These four professionals worked collaboratively to ensure I knew how to navigate through every aspect of my life as a newly blind woman, including helping me attain “free” low vision devices and adaptive technology that maintained my employment. Aside from my low vision doctor, these professionals came directly to me, in my own home, which allowed me to build confidence in a familiar environment that had suddenly become much darker.
Six moths after being declared blind, I found out I was pregnant! My husband and I were in absolute shock. Both the Commission and Lighthouse Guild diligently worked with me in an attempt to prepare me for impending motherhood. But seriously, is anyone ever really prepared for motherhood?
“The main problem I encountered was two fold. First, no one seemed to be able to refer me to another blind mother raising a sighted infant. Secondly, finding baby products that worked with my vision loss was a process of trial and error.”
It was an extremely stressful time in my life that resulted in me feeling both anxious and isolated. I turned to the online community where I was able to find a few resources, but I have yet to meet anyone who had acquired their blindness as an adult and was parenting a sighted child.
I remember the fear I felt when I first held my daughter in my arms. Could I really take care of an infant independently? Was somebody going to try to take my precious baby away from me? Were my husband and I ready to be parents?
‘Legally Blind’ Label
There was a sign the nurses had placed over my hospital bed that read “Patient Is Legally Blind.” I remember thinking it was both a cruel and poetic reminder of everything I had endured to get to this point in my life. The label “Legally Blind” would follow my daughter and I for the rest of our lives and how my disability would impact her weighed heavily on my mind.
It took a few months, and the help of some additional training before I finally built up my confidence as a new mother. Reactions continued to vary when people saw me out with my family. Comments have ranged from innocent questioning to down right rude, insensitive badgering. But I have learned whether it’s changing a diaper or cutting the crust off my toddler’s sandwich, I am always able to get the job done; albeit somewhat untraditionally.
The Birth of Blindmotherhood.com
When I gave birth to my second daughter in 2014, I decided I wanted to create a website to help other blind parents raising children and www.blindmotherhood.com was born. Blind Motherhood is more than just a blog; it’s an online resource for individuals and their families who have been impacted by vision loss.
My mission is to demonstrate members of the blind & visually impaired community can parent safely, independently and effectively.
The stories I share seek to diminish any negative perceptions of parenting without sight; educating and enlightening both the sighted and the blind.
Key Focus of Website
The website has enabled me to combine my love of writing with my social work background.
Blind Motherhood helps prospective blind parents learn the in’s and out’s for all things baby.
Blind Motherhood explores childhood’s developmental milestones, celebrating the laughter and chaos in each fantastic moment.
Blind Motherhood is where we can talk about relationships; those we have with our human partners and the ones we have with our guide dogs.
Finally, Blind Motherhood has also become a place where sighted parents raising blind and visually impaired children can find support. I challenge these parents to look towards the adults in my online community and find comfort in knowing they too can one day become grandparents. Their blind or visually impaired child can grow up to become an educated, integral part of their community. It’s possible for them to find love, get married, and raise a family.
My children and husband remain my inspiration. While I have experienced much pain and sadness in my life, I believe God has given me the mission to advocate, educate and enlighten. I firmly believe “if we want to live in a world with more disability advocates, we had better start raising them.” I encourage every individual who is low vision or visually impaired to consider ways they can positively contribute to their own community. Together, we can break down barriers if we “never lose sight of life, love and laughter.”
Bio: Holly Bonner is a Staten Island based psychotherapist and Director of Education & Outreach for IlluminArt Productions. In 2015, she created her website, Blind Motherhood, chronicling her adventures in parenting. Holly navigates motherhood relying on help from modern technology, her guide dog, Frances, and help from her “mostly” wonderful husband. She lives by the mantra that even without vision, you should “never lose sight of life, love and laughter.”