Going to the Park as a Blind Mama

The first time I took my daughter to the park was intimidating. I knew she was big enough to start going in the swing, but it wasn’t her I was nervous about. I wasn’t terribly comfortable with the layout of the playground. What if I couldn’t find the baby swings? Would other parents be grabbing me and dragging me around the place if they saw me trying to get oriented? What if all the baby swings were taken? How would I know and wouldn’t it be really awkward if I just stood there close by, listening to determine whether they were occupied? What if the other parents talked to me? Or, what if none of the other parents wanted to talk to me? What if all the children were attracted to Prim and she couldn’t do her job because she was being distracted? 

I know it sounds dramatic, but my heart was racing along with my thoughts as I directed Prim to the gate of the playground and we made our way toward where I thought the swing set would be. As I suspected, parents did immediately notice me and offered help, but it wasn’t in the sort of aggressive way I was expecting. They just greeted me kindly and offered help if I needed it. I had an immediate sense of simultaneous panic and relief, something like, “Oh no! They are talking to me!”, while at once thinking, “Oh thank the Lord, they are talking to me”

One dad let me know that he and his child were using the swing closest to me, but that there was one available right next to them. I was endlessly thankful he had chosen merely to give me useful information about the location of an available swing, rather than seeing me close by and rushing to move himself and his child out of the way, which sometimes happens and always makes me feel terrible. We struck up a friendly conversation for a minute while we pushed our little ones in the swings side by side, and I started to breath. This going to the park thing wasn’t so bad after all.

Every time I have gone since, it has gotten easier and easier, and today was down right delightful. Little Miss thoroughly enjoyed her time in the swing, then walked and crawled about, happily observing the other children at their play, climbing the steps of the jungle gym, and obliging me as I put her on the slide a few times. One mother admired my daughter, remarking, “She’s gorgeous.” and we had a casual back and forth about our little girls, while two other mothers recognized me from a mums and tots group we have taken part in and we chatted amiably the whole time. 

Once a cause for anxiety, trips to the park are becoming more and more a blessing, and the glimpse of possible friendships developing from it is an even more unexpected bonus. Add to that Prim’s great work taking me right to the gate of the playground, and then the baby swings, and the incredible weather… and I’m just feeling really thankful for trips to the park with my two sweet girlies.

Tummy Time with a Dog in the House

So here’s the thing, I know tummy time is important, but I have to confess I did not do it as much as recommended in the early days. Why? Well, my baby didn’t much enjoy it, so there is that, but more than that I was afraid of putting her on the floor much in general because we have a dog, a big dog, who likes to run to the door when she hears unfamiliar sounds, and I was afraid my baby might be trampled. Fortunately, there are some solutions. Here are the ones I have come up with.

1 Use a play pen 

If you have an especially hyper dog and you have space for a playpen, this seems like a good option while baby is on his belly. It is portable, so you can bring it into any room where you want to put your child on the floor for a while, and your pup can still hang out nearby without baby being in danger.

2 Use a baby gate to block a doorway  

Baby gates are handy because you can close off the room while still being able to keep an eye on your canine pal, and allow them to keep an eye on you, too. Plus, if you have stairs in your house, you will probably need a baby gate at some stage anyway, so why not get it early and put it to use for newborn tummy time?

3 Coordinate with your partner so they can take the dog for a walk while you do tummy time 

Especially in the very first few weeks, I found this was a win win solution for everyone in the home. My husband got a break from caring for mama and baby, Pup got a much-needed walk, and baby and I got to do play and tummy time on the floor undisturbed. 

4 Put your pup in their crate or on tie down 

My dog does not currently have a crate due to lack of space, but if we did have one I think I would have chosen to do this frequently in my baby’s first few months. Newborns do not do tummy time for long periods anyway, so most pups won’t mind the brief break in their crate or on tie down. Keep a special bone, treat, or other toy handy to entertain your pup while baby does their daily exercises, and soon they will eagerly anticipate this new part of your routine.

5 Practice tummy time with baby placed on your chest

This was the one way I always felt comfortable doing tummy time with my newborn. Baby was happier there, it was a sweet way to cuddle and bond with her, and there was no danger of an imprudent pups trampling paws. That said, if you do place your baby on your chest for their tummy time, be sure not to fall asleep with them there, as that can be just as hazardous as leaving them unattended in proximity to an animal.

It is always important to supervise your baby while they are practicing tummy time, especially with animals in the home. Still, you needn’t let anxiety about your pet’s behavior near your little one stop you from giving your baby time to wiggle freely on the floor. Above are a few measures you can take to make sure baby can practice tummy time safely with his canine friend close by.

If this article interested you, you can read more on my blog about raising a family with a dog in the home, or read more of my writing on dogs in general.

Blind Mama Pregnancy Vlog | Week 36!

We are finally getting toward the end of sharing my pregnancy journey with you. I enjoyed filming these videos so much, and am glad I will have them to look bak on in the future. In this update, I share about a doctor’s visit, virtual baby shower, and our final preparations for baby. Watch my 36 week update here.

Thanks again for joining!

Guiding Eyes Training (September 2017), Day 5|My Tiny Mack Truck

Friday, Padawan and I were first to go out at White Plains. She was happy to get her energy out first thing rather than wait an hour or more before hand.

For the preliminary few days, a trainer usually works beside the team on the left with their own leash attached to the collar of the dog. This gives the dog a confidence boost and keeps the trainer close so that they can easily communicate with the handler.  Our support leash came off halfway through our morning route

There was an immediate difference in the way it felt to work together.  It was a little bit freer and required more trust that Padawan would guide me safely. She did some excellent podestrian avoiding in a couple of street crossings, including an entire family with grandparents, children, and squeaky cart. There was also a small dog disraction. A dog passed behind us. Padawan looked, but quickly turned her attention back to me, and I got to reward her for her calm demeanor and attentiveness.  Immediately after that was the right turn… we have had a bit of trouble with this right turn every time.  There are multiple other obstacles in the way, so that we cannot turn directly to the right.  Padawan first has to curl a bit around me to get us around something to our left, and then avoid something on the right in order to continue on our way.  It took a little bit of finagling for both of us, but we figured it out.

A lot of what I am working on during our routes is learning to understand her movements in the harness.  Oleta was a gentle glider.  She was very calm and moved in a way that reflected that.  Padawan is more aggressive.  She’s a city traffic driver, not a country Sunday driver.  Her pul is very firm, and her movements are decisive. At our best pace, following her feels easy and clearly defined.  At our fastest, I feel like I am trying to keep up with a tiny mack truck (as my trainer referred to her once) plowing around curves down a mountainside.  The Mountainside Mack Truck pace is fine when we are out for a joy run on a track or something with no obstacles to avoid and no curbs to find, but on a busy city sidewalk it’s less desirable as it makes accurate obstacle avoidance a bit more challenging, if not impossible.  That means we are utilizing the “steady” command to slow her down at some points and refocus her attention when she gets a tad too excited, especially in areas with a lot of pedestrians.  I may have used “steady” a grand total of one time with Oleta, so it’s kind of new to me, but I think we are both getting the hang of it.

In the afternoon route, we encountered a 2 year-old, and thankfully didn’t knock him over, although I think it was close.  Children are difficult obstacles in some cases because they are unpredictable, so we did a bit of a dance with the child and the mother before we could go on our way.  We also had a small distraction with some men loading things into a van.  Padawan was briefly curious about who they were and what they were doing, but got right back on task with a leash cue.

Other than that, our routes were fairly uneventful, and we returned to GEB for our lecture and some time to rest.  Saturday, we have the same route again in White Plains in the morning, followed by individualized mystery work in the afternoon.  Can’t wait to discover what the mystery might be.