#SMASHTESSFAM FEATURE - SHERMEEN KHAN
Meet Shermeen – S+T Customer and visually impaired NICU Mama
ALERT- This is a definite MUST READ!
We are forever in awe of the stories that you, our #smashtessfam, share with us. We love that we are part of one huge, loving, caring and supportive community. It’s incredible to know that this clothing brand has grown into so much more than Rompers. It is a way of life, (or a Romper Revolution, shall we say).
Through our Giving Tuesday campaign, we met an inspiring woman named Shermeen. She is a strong, funny, and visually impaired mother of two, who just took her second little one home from the NICU. She reached out to Team Jilly, who shared her story with us. And well... after talking to her, we knew instantly that we wanted to share her story with all of you! Meet our newest #smashtessfam feature, Shermeen Khan.
Can you tell our readers a bit about who you are and your story?
I'm a mom of two incredible and resilient little girls, and my husband and I live and work in Kitchener, Ontario (not too far from Toronto). He is a music therapist and works in a community Alzheimer’s program, and I'm a lawyer and work in student services at a post-secondary institution. Our oldest, Semele (rhymes with Emily) just turned four, and our youngest, Stella, has just come home to us from a two-month-long stint in the NICU.
Oh, and we're both almost completely blind (my husband and I, that is--not the whole lot of us). This means we travel with guide dogs, read braille, use screen reading software on our computers, and basically do not rely on sight at all to navigate our world, raise our children, and work.
You were a recipient of one of our NICU boxes that Ashley curated after her experience with her own little Stella being in NICU. How did this help you during your time as a NICU mom?
It was among the most thoughtful things I have ever been sent. On October 23rd, two months before she was due to arrive, Stella decided to burst onto the scene with spectacular speed (probably to show us who's boss). It marked the beginning of one of the scariest and most profound journeys of my life--I think I reached the outer edge of every emotion there is: regret and insidious mom guilt, hope, fear, and the most crushing love for which there are no words.
It can be so much easier to shower new moms with gifts and kind gestures, but NICU moms tend to have unique needs. Because we're in a pandemic, the mask was comfortable and necessary (ripped that bad boy off to kiss my little girl, that's for sure), used the lavender pillow spray to drift off to sleep in as calm a way as possible given how flustered I am, and have already blasted through the all-purpose balm that's just as good for nipples as it is for little baby bums!
And, although this may not seem immediately obvious, the hands-free hand sanitizer was such a needed touch, as being blind, it can be difficult for my husband and me to locate the approximately 42523534398 hand sanitizer stations in the hospital without having to grope walls and all manner of gross Covidy surfaces.
What drew you to Smash + Tess?
I owe the discovery of this to one of my co-workers, who swore up and down that the rompers would flatter all body types (I'll admit I didn't initially believe her, because she's one of those people who can probably make most things look stylish).
I then heard more and more about them--especially from women in my mom groups, and I knew these were women of all different shapes and sizes, with bodies ranging from hugely pregnant to those healing from C-sections, rough deliveries, breastfeeding, post-partum weight fluctuations, and everything in between. I started to think these people were onto something.
Eight or so rompers later, I think it's safe to say I'm a convert. And they're a Canadian company. and the owners/founders busted out of a more mainstream work-life to make it happen. And hello, it's a complete outfit already put together. Blind girl's dream come true.
What is your fave thing about rocking a romper?
I cannot overstate how it being a complete outfit is so incredibly helpful. This takes so much of the stress of ensuring I’m wearing matching tops and bottoms away. As a blind person (and I'd honestly advise this to anyone), I often buy a capsule wardrobe--that is I ensure the majority of my tops will look good with the majority of my bottoms as much as possible, but the romper solves this for me basically 100% of the time, like a dress that you actually want to wear and don't have to pretend is comfortable. And because they are so versatile, there are just so many ways they can be styled. Hot on the heels of that reason, though, is the fact that they do not dig into or cling obsessively to any part of your body, skimming your frame and just making you feel like a million bucks.
What challenges do you face on a day-to-day basis that many people may not be aware of?
Being a blind parent, I think most people probably assume they know what my daily struggles might look like (changing diapers, feeding, etc.), but they would be wrong. I can change a diaper in the dead of night like it's nobody's business (the plus is that I don't need the light on, so don't need to wake up the baby, and as for the diaper change itself, clean skin feels clean). No, more than anything, my biggest challenge will always be transportation.
My husband and I do not drive (you're welcome), and so this means that we get around using a combination of walking, public transportation, and cabs. We intentionally chose a home where we can walk to as many useful places as possible, but because we don't have a car, transporting car seats is a nightmare.
If we take a cab, there's us, the car seats, both guide dogs, the kids themselves, everyone's stuff, and we're basically our own travelling caravan. Plus we have to take the car seats out and carry them around with us when we reach our destination and don't have any extra hands, so the struggle is real.
We have also come up with really creative ways to keep track of the kids as they become more mobile: squeaky shoes, bells attached to clothing, them naturally being used to being in closer physical contact with us, and a strict adherence to the rules about answering us when we call their name in public places. There's also a lot of baby-wearing until they are strong enough/can be trusted to govern themselves accordingly.
But there are advantages, too. I'll never forget the time when I knew Semele had an ear infection entirely based on the sound of her holding her breath when there were no other signs her ear was hurting. There is beauty and possibility everywhere if you look for it, and you can use so much more than your eyes to find it.
What is your fave pump up song?
"I've got a feelin...that tonight's gonna be a good night!!". Brings me right back to my days in university, when I was significantly less responsible and was just so carefree. I sometimes wish I could be 22 again but appreciate it this time!
What is one thing you would want our readers to know about raising a family as two visually impaired parents?
That everything is just a bit better while wearing a romper? I'm only half-kidding. Probably that in many respects, we have very similar goals and challenges, with the added challenge of transportation more than usual.
But also, that we've developed so many systems and techniques for achieving the same outcomes, and hope to raise thoughtful, open-hearted children who trust their community and who see excellence reflected in the differences around us, and who will grow up knowing the value of creative problem-solving, loving fiercely, and inter-dependence.
Who inspires you?
This was a hard one. Many people inspire me in the different areas of my life, but I'd have to say that the person who inspires me the most is my father. We lost him in 2014, but I will forever be in his debt for teaching me so many things: the value of education, perseverance with a wicked sense of humour, the far reach of generosity, and most importantly, how to be brave.
What does your ultimate Sunday consist of?
Snuggling with my family, eating delicious food but that probably isn't so great for me, and going fragrance-sniffing--all in a romper, obv!
Anything else you want our readers to know?
Just these things: Rompers look great on literally everyone - take it from a blind girl! This has been such a crap year, but crap experiences sure have a way of making the important things rise to the top, amiright? Finally, don't believe everything you think--about yourself, about other people, about your own capabilities. The most amazing developments in my own life have come about when I've changed my mind about something, someone, or myself.
Oh, and finally, for real this time, I'd like to give a huge shoutout to the NICU nurses and staff at Grand River Hospital, especially Mary Jane, Robbin, and Beth. It is largely because of your love that Stella is breathing next to me as I write this. Words are inadequate for how much I owe you ladies, not only for your work with Stella but also for being so open-minded about learning about blind parenting a NICU baby. We travelled that road together, and we won.