The first few months as a new parent are a time of intense learning.
For ABC’s National Disability Affairs reporter Nas Campanella, blind and living with a neurological condition, figuring out how to navigate motherhood is a wild ride.
“The first few weeks as a new mom for anyone are really ups and downs and it’s an emotional time,” Nas said.
“I struggled with eating, and was just trying to sort things out.”
Lachie is now four months old, and Nas says time just goes by.
“Lachie got really big and heavy. I can feel her belly and how long she’s been growing.”
Given her disability, Nas relies on her other senses to navigate motherhood, especially during playtime.
“I use a lot of mats with patterns and textures so I can hear them rustle and know where they are,” she says.
“We also have a lot of soft toys that make a lot of noise, so I often surround them with toys so I can hear them move.”
Changing diapers is a tactile experience.
“There’s no other way, and yes, it can get messy sometimes.
“I always make sure that I have everything within my reach when I carry it on the changing table, and I always have one hand on it while grabbing things with the other.”
Time on the floor becomes invaluable for Nas to witness Lachie’s progress and achievements.
And Nas says he’s well aware of the expression on her face, always going the extra mile to smile when he’s changing Lachie or playing with her, because that’s the most likely time he’ll look her in the eye.
“Just as his father smiled at him or his grandparents, I wanted him to know that I smiled at him too.
“He’s starting to recognize faces and see more people, and I know when he’s focusing on me.
“When I hugged him I could tell he was looking at me from the way he was breathing – he was breathing straight into my face. Sometimes he would stop waving his arms and that’s when I knew he was focused on me.”
Story time is also part of the daily ritual at home. To do this, Nas uses a similar technique he uses to read news on triple j and other ABC platforms.
Friends and family have recorded themselves reading children’s books that Nas has loaded onto his phone. Through the use of headphones, Nas listened and repeated what he heard to Lachie.
“I held the printed version of the book in front of Lachie and everyone recorded audio notes like when to turn the page. It worked really well.”
Activities outside the home have also proven beneficial for both mother and baby, including a sensory class once a week. Sessions involve a variety of activities, using lights, musical instruments and puppets.
“Classes help kids develop their senses and especially with Lachie’s visual processing, I wouldn’t be able to help her with that,” Nas said. “It’s an activity that I strategically chose so she has access to it and can do it with other kids.”
The classes are also great social events: “Meeting and talking to other moms going through similar experiences is fantastic and makes me feel like we’re all together.”
Of course Nas works through common parenting struggles such as sleep, eating and routines, but she says the biggest challenge is people’s prejudices.
“Often people are surprised to learn that I’m a mother and some even ask silly things like who lives at home with Lachie and me, as if my son couldn’t possibly be left alone with me,” Nas said.
“It is very difficult to hear such statements and such discrimination is often faced by many parents with disabilities.”
Nas hopes that there are lessons to be learned from pregnancy and her journey as a mother.
“If you live with a disability, I hope this teaches you that you can really be a parent, no matter what people say. And for people without a disability, I hope it teaches you that we are out there, we are part of it. from him, your parents’ group, and we’re doing an excellent job.”
Listen to Richard Glover’s interview with Nas Campanella on ABC Radio Sydney.
ABC Everyday in your inbox
Get our newsletter for the best of ABC Everyday every week
Posted , updated