Growing up I had many ambitions. University and marriage I had already ticked off, but motherhood was my Everest.
My pregnancy had been planned down to the minutest detail, putting into practise all I had read about looking after myself and my growing baby. I chose to have a homebirth to give my newborn the most loving welcome. It was a 27-hour marathon, but my gorgeous girl was worth every minute.
When Áine was ten weeks old we flew to Canada to spend the summer with my parents. Their support freed me to immerse myself in my new role, and simply enjoy my daughter.
We had noticed Áine’s roving eyes, so on our return home, to Ireland, we took her to our doctor. “Very long-sighted,” he thought, and recommended we see a specialist.
Áine’s nystagmus – the medical term for her involuntary eye movement - precipitated further investigation under anaesthetic. When told “Áine’s eyes looked perfectly healthy,” we rejoiced. But our relief rapidly dissipated when we learned Áine was being referred to Mr O’Keefe, an ophthalmic surgeon, at the leading children’s hospital.
Within minutes of that next examination, her eye condition was given a possible name. Tests, however, would be required to both confirm the diagnosis and rule out other possibilities.
And so electrodes were attached to my ‘baba’s’ head and her wee arms were prodded and bruised in search of tiny veins. A CAT scan was the last ordeal she had to endure. Though my heart ached, I sang to her continually the one lullaby I knew. It seemed to soothe her.
Go to sleep my little one, little one
Go to sleep my baby, my own.
Turn around and you’re two
Turn around and you re four
Turn around and you’re a young girl going out of the door.
In early December we received the results. All were negative, except one.
“Your daughter is blind.”
It was the first time the word had been used. At that moment it struck with unspeakable force. In time I came to realize that nothing significant had changed. I still had a beautiful healthy daughter and I was still the mother I had always wanted to be.
My amazing Áine is now twenty-one. Determination and perseverance has seen her accomplish more, in sports, academics, and music, than most might achieve in a lifetime. But I believe that it will be her strong moral compass, for the Earth and all its inhabitants, her love of languages and her grace with words that will make her one of the trail blazers of her generation.