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Celebrating Parenthood with Michelle Van Dyk

As part of a new CNIB blog series, we’re talking to parents (and their children!) about their experiences parenting with sight loss and/or growing up with a parent who is blind or partially sighted and/or parenting a child living with sight loss. 

We asked Michelle Van Dyk if we could share a recent Facebook post she penned about motherhood and the things she wishes she knew when her daughter, Emma, started losing her vision.

Give it a read.

Emma (left) and Michelle (right) smile and pose for a photo in front of a beautiful green tree.
Michelle (right) and her daughter, Emma (left).

I have seen these similar writings several times, and I was inspired to write and share my own. Things I wish I knew when we were told our daughter Emma Van Dyk started losing her vision at 6-years old.

  • Emma will have alternating Optometrist and Ivey Eye appointments every three months for close to 10 years, and I will be stressed for days before everyone, afraid she lost more vision.
  • When it happens, I will have to stop, and look directly in her eyes, and tell her it's ok - we’ve got this - then somehow smile and laugh the whole way home.
  • Emma will be legally blind.
  • I will cry in the shower and on the drive home from work.
  • I will feel overwhelmed, exhausted and uncertain a lot of the time.
  • I will feel unsupported and broken.
  • Emma will be broken, and I will have to find the right words to put her back together and not make it worse.
  • I will know the principals of her elementary and high school by their first names - due to teachers not providing her legal accommodations.
  • People will tell Emma directly that it’s not fair to ask workplaces or schools to provide accommodations or that they would not hire her.
  • We will experience discrimination.
  • People will talk behind our backs and diminish the disability.
  • Some people are just not interested in asking questions or learning how to help.
  • Inclusion means so much more than I thought.
  • When people ignore the disability, it's patronizing; just acknowledge it, or it's awkward.
  • We will teach her to be fiercely independent.
  • We will teach her to advocate tirelessly for herself.
  • My marriage will be stronger.
  • Things will be ok.
  • We will be happy.
  • We will be grateful for CNIB Lake Joe.
  • I will watch her sister Ava Van Dyk grow to be compassionate, empathetic and a fierce supporter and defender.
  • True friends will quickly learn to adapt.
  • I spent way too much time worrying.
  • Emma will take Nursing at Western University.
  • I will forge deeply rooted bonds with people who “get it.”
  • We will do and experience things that will be AMAZING!
  • Emma will inspire, smash barriers and change what it means to be blind.