This post has nothing to do with birth, being a doula, or surviving postpartum, but it has everything to do with parenting and doing the best we can for our kids. And it’s important. I’ll get back to the more birth related topics another day.
My daughter is almost 8. She was just diagnosed with Amblyopia, more commonly known as “lazy eye.” The fact that it took this long to find may impact her sight the rest of her life. Why did it take so long? How could I, a reasonably competent parent, have missed this? Her eye doesn’t wander. I had no idea this condition could exist without her eyes at least occasionally being asymmetrical. She’s almost 8 and I’ve never seen an eye wander and I’ve watched for it. Relatives on both my husband’s and my side of the family have this and I was on what I thought to be high alert.
But we never took her for an actual vision screening at an actual vision clinic. Why? Our pediatrician did yearly “screenings” and said she was fine; no problems were detected. We thought that was enough. She’d never complained about headaches or not being able to see.
At her last well visit I had both my kids with me. The younger one followed big sis down the hall to watch her vision screening so I followed too. This was the first time I’d watched. She did fine in the right eye and then it was time for the left. She acted like she couldn’t see so the tech coached her and hinted at the letters until she got them right. The tech told me her vision was 20/20 when we all made it back to the exam room. I thought maybe I ought to get her a real exam just in case she really couldn’t. But I still wasn’t in a hurry.
Three weeks ago, I finally got her in. Her brain does not recognize sight from her left eye. Peripheral is fine but nothing straight on. Not even now with her glasses. Next month she gets to start wearing a patch on one eye for probably six hours a day.
Needless to say, I’ve spent hours reading and talking to people who’ve been through this with their children. Please, please don’t depend on your pediatrician’s eye screening (or the school’s for that matter) to catch problems with your children’s eyesight. Although, I still think they should have caught my daughter’s under the circumstances I witnessed, they are just not equipped to give adequate exams.
I encourage you—implore you!—to get your child’s eyes checked. If your child is under a year check out InfantSee. They offer free eye exams for infants under a year. In fact, did you know that the American Optometric Association recommends scheduling your baby's first eye assessment at 6 months? I didn’t. It’s likely there is nothing wrong, but the earlier a condition like this is caught, the better the outcomes.
So, in February we go back and begin the process of patching and strengthening her weak eye. This will take years and it might not work. I’m sad about it. The Mommy Wars are at their fiercest within ourselves. But, you know, to quote Maya Angelou, “when you know better, do better.” My three year old will be getting checked that day too.
Adina Nelson, CD(DONA)
I am a birth & postpartum doula and chlidbirth educator practicing in North Idaho.
She was there every step of the way for me and my husband...I thank Adina for everything she helped us with. She truly is a special person and we will be forever grateful for her! ~Erin