by Rachel Schroeder
As long as I can remember, I’ve always believed that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. I’ve been totally blind since birth, but that has never been an obstacle to deter me from doing anything I set out to do. I attribute that attitude in large part to my faith in God and people I’ve been blessed to be surrounded with all my life. There have been many other individuals — teachers, mentors and friends — who have guided and encouraged me throughout my life, but that would be a subject for another article.
I am the youngest and only blind person in my family. I have two older brothers, one older sister, and parents who provided a loving and nurturing home environment for all of us. I shared equally in all the aspects of family life. Whether it was enjoying vacations to the beach or mountains, participating in church activities, hanging out at home taking care of the typical kid household responsibilities, or playing outside with friends, I was encouraged to get in there and experience it all. And of course, being the little sister also meant I was subject to being picked on by my siblings when they wanted somebody to throw around in the pool or try out a new wrestling move. Mom and Dad set the foundation for my life by teaching me early on to look at my blindness as just an obstacle to overcome rather than a characteristic that defines me as a person.
The values and attitudes that were instilled in me as a little girl have served me well as a woman. In my career and in my work with ACB and as president of ICB, I have been able to bring to the table the belief that the quality and richness of life as a blind person can be wonderfully fulfilling if we let go of the limitations set upon us by ourselves or others. Yes, we might have obstacles and difficulties along the way, or we might have to fight for causes in which we believe. However, our goals matter, and we should expect that we have the same rights and freedoms as anybody else to accomplish them.
This strong, confident mind set is what I carried with me in my personal journey to become a mother. Being a single woman who was blind, I knew that this journey, whether I wanted it to or not, was going to look quite different than most. Throughout lots of prayer, contemplation and encouragement, I set out on the scariest and most rewarding journey of my life. I admit that I was shaken a few times, but I knew I had to keep moving forward because in the end, I would experience the most incredible accomplishment of my life.
I faced numerous rejections when inquiring about options to adopt a child. Agency representatives gave me every reason they could come up with as to why pursuing my dream might not be a good idea. I was asked directly by some representatives how I would feed a baby or keep track of an active toddler. Others just came right out and said they didn’t know whether biological parents seeking to put their baby up for adoption would even consider a blind single woman to raise their child. It was then that I turned to the possibility of a fertility specialist to inquire about having my own child. To my amazement, after so much discouragement from the adoption agencies, the specialist was immediately onboard with my plan and promised to work with me throughout the process of numerous appointments, ultrasounds, procedures, and inaccessible means of administering medications. This was not a road they had ever gone down before, but I was assured we would figure it all out together. That we did, and I eventually was blessed by a baby girl I called Delaney.
What I discovered shortly after Delaney’s birth is that my confidence and determination would continue to be tested by concern from doctors and hospital personnel that I was taking on more of a job than I knew how to handle. I told them, like I have continued to tell other individuals who have expressed doubt or concern when I’ve been out and about with my daughter (who is now seven), that a child doesn’t come with an instruction book. In the process of raising them, we’re going to make our mistakes and we’re going to have our successes. We may do some things differently, but ultimately, if things get done safely and effectively, that’s what matters.
These are values I learned early on from my family, and the legacy I carry with me every day from my mom, who is no longer with us. Thanks Mom, Dad and family for blessing my life in this way.
My situation isn’t unique. There are many of you reading this who, like me, are incredibly blessed to have had the wonderful foundation of strong faith and a loving, supportive family that help to carry you through life. I know also that there are many of you who have gone through tougher times in your lives and have struggled to maintain such positivity and strength while trying to attain those important life goals. I hope that my story encourages you not to be afraid to go out and accomplish your goals. Be confident that you can get what you want out of life. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and will remind you that your goals matter and that blindness may be a word that describes you, but it doesn’t have to define you or limit your opportunities.