ITV?s popular documentary Me and My Guide Dog brings heart-melting footage of guide dogs, devoted pups and tales of those working hand-in-paw to provide mobility and freedom to blind and partially sighted people in two episodes on 9th and 16th June. Hetal Bapodra, aged 29 tells BritMums why she was so proud to take part.
When I was asked to take part in an ITV1 documentary called ?Me and My Guide Dog? chronicling the journey of ten guide dog puppies, from birth to qualification, I wasn?t sure where my story would fit in. It turns out that my little boy Jordan was born at the same time as the puppies. He is now 2 years and 4 months old. Whilst the puppies are out working hard with their owners; I am battling with tantrums and teething, as well as working full-time.
Being a blind Mum I have been asked many questions over the last 3 years like ?how would my husband and I cope?? To be honest when I was pregnant I had no real idea myself! We?d coped fine thus far reaching all the usual milestones in life like going to University, getting married and buying our first house but nothing could have prepared us both for being first time parents.
When I was pregnant along with the usual ?congratulations? and ?what a neat bump? I was shocked and horrified to experience some negativity. I remember sitting in a hot central London train carriage battling with the crippling sickness I had had throughout my pregnancy; wanting to get home asap. A lady started chatting to me about my dog Guide Dog, Nessie. ?What a lovely dog!? she said and ?How long does it take to train them?? So I answered her in my usual friendly and open manner when she suddenly noticed I was expecting. It was at this point that her whole demeanour changed. Her tone became suddenly very aggressive and hostile and she remarked, ?I don?t think people like you should be allowed to have children.?
Up until this point I had had nothing but positivity from family, friends and general passers-by. So I sat there reeling with an open mouth, aghast, as she felt the need to continue, by pointing out the many ways in which I would fail society, as well as my unborn child, by continuing with my pregnancy.
It was numerous experiences such as this that helped me make the decision to take part in the ?Me and My Guide Dog? documentary. I wanted to show people that our lives are no different from that of any other young professionals raising their first child.
The documentary shows my Husband and I, on holiday in New York, with Jordan at 16 months. What the cameras don?t show, however, is what a scary and stressful time it had been from the moment we landed in the Big Apple. Jordan had started to develop a temperature over the 48 hours before filming and despite my best efforts with Calpol and Calprofen his temperature was not coming down. At 5am on the day of filming Jordan started to have a seizure. As any Mum will tell you when your child is scarily sick: instinct takes over. We were in a foreign country with no family or friends around and had to get our little boy the help he needed as quickly as possible.
I looked after Jordan whilst my husband called an ambulance and got the dogs ready to go. Those 3 hours waiting in hospital were the worst hours of my entire life. He had had a febrile convulsion, due to his temperature being too high, as the result of a developing ear infection. This is very common in young children but it doesn?t make it any less terrifying when it?s happening to your baby.
Whether you?re blind or sighted parenthood is a journey into the unknown that nothing can prepare you for. Full of ups and downs and all the other things you can never predict, but, as parents you have to just keep going.
Becoming a Mother has been my greatest achievement to date but don?t get me wrong I haven?t been let off the hook! Jordan doesn?t care that I?m blind and the sleepless nights and tantrums continue all the same. There are however a few myths I want to dispel around being a visually impaired Mum:
1) Our guide dogs have nothing to do with childcare.
2) Our son is sighted even though both myself and his Father are visually impaired.
3) I will never be asking my son to look after me.
4) Both my Husband and I work Full-Time.
5) I pull my buggy behind me to keep Jordan safe at all times.
6) We do normal family things like going to the park.
7) We do receive help from family and friends but we don?t ask for or expect it ? we receive the same help as any new family would do.
8) We keep track of Jordan in the park and our garden by using bells attached to his jeans. We also use as toddler alarms.
9) When Jordan was a baby we administered medicine using a marked syringe ? now we use pre-measured sachets.
10) When Jordan was a baby I was unable to breastfeed but I made up bottles safely using talking weighing scales to measure the hot water for the formula.
I?d like to round off by saying that both my Husband and I are both very good at being blind; but we are both still learning as we go as first time parents.
To learn more about the stories featured on ?Me and My Guide Dog? go to www.guidedogs.org.uk/myguidedog To get advice on or support for visually impaired Mum?s or children please go to: www.blindmumsconnect.org.uk www.blindchildrenuk.org www.rnib.org.uk
?Me and My Guide Dog? on ITV1 Tuesday 16th June 2015 at 8pm and then available on to catch-up on the ITV Player.
About Kate Davis-Holmes
Kate Davis-Holmes is a writer and blogger. She is married with 3 children. After obtaining a law degree from Cambridge University, Kate spent 20 years working in local and national organisations. She has experience of project management. media relations, events organisation, advice-giving and the facilitation of learning groups. Kate?s interests include bargain-hunting, reading, travelling and cookery. She has a passion for helping good causes and seeing women get a fairer deal in society.