My 13 month old recently got his first pair of glasses. It hasnt been an easy ride. Firstly there are our own issues as parents. The emotional drama of getting used to giving specs to such a small child, and realising that for the rest of his life they will be something he has to rely on, and hoping that he never gets teased. Knowing that just as for me, glasses are the first thing I reach for in the morning, and the last thing I take off before I close my eyes to sleep, his reliance on them might be even more dramatic. (Not that I know how, as I have issues taking them off in the shower until I’ve lived in a place 6 months or more. TMI? 😉 Sorry.)
It’s no longer unusual for a child as young as he is to have glasses. Look around in the street and at your kids schools, and you will see plenty of kids under 5 sporting the finest in NHS visual aids. Some have straps which go round the head (seriously geek chic) others like R’s have curly ear frames, some might even be designer frames, (glance down, these kids are probably wearing uggs also.) but is has definitely become more common. However, since glasses became a talking point between us and our various doctors, I have recieved a lot of the same responses.
Glasses? Really? They do that for babies?
Glasses? How will you keep them on?
Glasses? Won’t that annoy him? (less tactful types.)
This difficult choice has been much easier for us to grasp given the facts which have surrounded his visual impairment. All newborns are born virtually blind. Within the first few days, their vision improves so that they can see about as far as their mothers face when being fed. Over the first few weeks, it improves further, giving them their first glimpses of the world around them, teaching them security in their surroundings, and the ability to acquaint themselves with what is normal and familliar, and what is new and different. Each new step in vision, be it distance, or colour, or clarity, is a stage which affects all the other areas of development, and gives our children a bit more independence and understanding of their world.
As many of you know, although our son was born as blind as the rest of us were, it took somewhat longer for his eyes to mature. Until 5 and a half months, R could not see anything at all. Reliant on his other senses, he became accustomed to his surroundings, but at a much slower pace than his peers. While most mothers are eager to recieve the knowing smile that their child gives them between 4 and 8 weeks, I was given my first smile from my son at almost 6 months. The same is true with eye contact. At 7 months, when most babies are sitting up and playing unaided, and some may be starting on the road to movement, my baby boy was lying flat on his back, barely trying to lift his head up.
At that point, glasses were not an option. He didnt have a refractive error. In fact, aside from his nystagmus, which is the way his eyes move from side to side constantly during his waking hours, there was no error at all with eyes. If someone has suggested a way to improve his vision, we would have jumped at the chance. Anything to have our son look at us, smile at us, interact with us in any way at all.
And then God gave us our own incredible miracle. Pokeach Ivrim, our son was given sight. Day by day, we saw incredible leaps forward that made our jaws drop. By 9 months he was rolling in both directions, by 10, sitting unaided and playing with toys. By 11, crawling, and by 12, standing. At almost 14 months, he now walks around furniture and is reaching all the physical milestones that he should be at his age. Adding this to the new blessing of sight itself which meant he could interact and play with us, he was unreconisable as the helpless boy we watched struggle for so many months.
His vision is now poor for his age, but certainly manageable. As he gets older, we will know more about what and how he sees. Hopefully by the time he starts school, all his other development will have caught up, and he will be no different from any other child in his class.
So yes, glasses are a big deal. It’s hard getting him to agree to keep them on for longer than five seconds. It’s frustrating how every time he reaches up to explore what is on his face, he leaves baby sized fingerprints over the lenses, meaning I have to take them off and clean them. It was a challenge for us as parents to accept that he needs something on his face so constantly and obtrusively, when to us, his sight is so incredible already. It still takes a lot of effort for me to put them on him, when he seems to capable without them.
But when I think about my happy 5 month old, who would grin at the ceiling even though he couldnt see anything at all, who would play with toys with only his hands, his face turned in the opposite direction, I know that he has already come so far by himself. Anything that we as his parents can do to make the next part of his journey easier or less tiring for him, is nothing short of a priviledge.