A stranger told Jennelle she shouldn't have children. Now she's a prou – Ausnew Home Care

A stranger told Jennelle she shouldn't have children. Now she's a proud mum

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Jennelle Schroder will never forget the moment a stranger at the bus stop told her she shouldn't have children.

For the young woman from Western Sydney, it wasn't the first time a person she didn't know had expressed an opinion about her life.

Ms Schroder is vision-impaired and has found all sorts of topics are brought up in small talk with fellow bus passengers.

"My favourite was, 'Oh your husband will understand' … like somehow I would only consider becoming a mother to please him," Ms Schroder said.

"I felt pretty affronted that people would actually say those things to me."

That encounter was five years ago and Ms Schroder is now mum to seven-month-old Rosie.

Jennelle Schroder gazes out a window with a thoughtful expression on her face.
Jennelle Schroder has had to deal with strangers sharing their opinions about her life.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

Choosing to have children involved lots of conversations with her husband Sam and she did wonder how she would manage some aspects.

"I worried about losing my independence because I was a very confident traveller before Rosie was born, and I'd heard that getting out of the house was hard enough for most people with a newborn," Ms Schroder said.

"My other main concern was that I wanted to be able to care for her as much as Sam, I wanted to be an equal parent."

Ms Schroder found one of the biggest challenges was finding a pram that she could use while also navigating with her cane.

After much searching, she connected online with a blind woman in the UK who gave her the name of a pram that Ms Schroder could pull alongside her.

Other helpful advice came from a support group for parents with vision impairment.

"It was great to meet people with lots of different experiences and to have that support from peers," Ms Schroder said.

Jennelle walking down a suburban street with a cane, pulling a pram alongside her.
Jennelle got advice on a pram she could use from a woman she connected with online.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

One of those peers was Sarah Evans.

The Brisbane mum of two lives with macular degeneration and is a cane user.

Ms Evans started out as a participant but now runs the eight-week course at Vision Australia, supporting parents who are blind or vision-impaired navigate the physical and emotional ups and downs.

"Young parents want to know how to cut their baby's fingernails safely and how to give their child medication," Ms Evans said.

Other topics include supervising children at the park, how to talk about blindness with kids and when to get a child's eyes tested.

Sarah Evans sitting at a meeting table, smiling at a man wearing sunglasses.
Brisbane mum Sarah Evans runs a parenting course with Vision Australia.(ABC News: Curtis Rodda)

Ms Evans said one of the biggest challenges for parents with blindness or low vision was the negative attitudes from family members and strangers.

"We've had parents report getting comments such as, 'How brave of you to have children', or on the other side of that, 'How selfish'," she said.

Ms Evans draws on her lived experience of raising her children, 11 and 13-years-old, who can both see.

"My children enhance my life just by seeing them grow and develop," Ms Evans said.

"To have parents come away from the group feeling empowered with strategies they can take into the future is wonderful."

Sarah Evans is holding a cane, smiling and standing next to her two children outdoors.
Sarah Evans hopes other parents with vision impairment can feel empowered.(ABC News: Curtis Rodda)

A parenting group for blind and low-vision parents didn't exist when Brisbane woman Karen Knight had her two children, now 19 and 21-years-old.

Blind since birth, Ms Knight also faced questions about how she'd manage.

"My response was that I would cope just like any other mum, I would learn as I went," Ms Knight said.

"My children would never know any different because I'm the only mum they had."

In the early years, Ms Knight's children would ask questions about her vision, wanting to know why she couldn't just "go to the doctor" to get it fixed.

They often preferred their sighted father over her.

"I was never upset by it, I just knew that was the developmental process they had to work through," Ms Knight said.

Karen Knight and her two adult children are sitting at a dining table with a board game and smiling.
Karen Knight says the joys of parenting have outweighed the challenges.(ABC News: Curtis Rodda)

As they got older and became more verbal, she would explain that her "hands were like her eyes" and that they needed to put things in her hands rather than point.

It was at the school gate and events where Ms Knight often felt "isolated and marginalised".

"I would go to pick-ups and drop-offs at school and no-one would include me, people didn't know how to approach me," Ms Knight said.

But the joys of parenting have always outweighed the challenges.

"I've tried to do things like take them on holidays because while I can't appreciate photos, I can appreciate experiences with them," Ms Knight said.

"That's how we've built our memories."

Jennelle covers her eyes during a game of "peek-a-boo" with her baby Rosie.
Jennelle Schroder is glad she didn't listen to the stranger at the bus stop.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

For Ms Schroder, being a new mother has brought her "infectious joy".

She's very glad she didn't take the advice from the stranger at the bus stop not to have children.

"Every day Rosie does something new and every day I get to watch her learn," Ms Schroder said.

"I've just fallen in love with her."


Source: ABC

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