A couple months ago we noticed that The Dude’s eyes were appearing crossed when he was trying to focus on things. Usually, if he is in his high chair and trying to focus on something across the room, such as the television, or if he’s trying to focus on us, we’d notice one eye cross a bit.
At his routine checkup with his pediatrician, he passed his vision screening, but we told her we were concerned about the crossing or lazy eye, and she referred us to a pediatric ophthalmologist. (Sidenote: Let’s take a moment and talk about how grateful I am for a pediatrician who does NOT dismiss our concerns, even if she doesn’t see the same need. I learned when battling infertility that being on a team with your doctors is key. And that if they don’t listen to you, they aren’t the doctor FOR you. So shoutout to Dr. M for listening and acting)
Alright, so this week, after a ridiculously long wait for the appointment to arrive (about a month), we had The Dude’s eyes checked.
Now, in my mind, I remember going to the eye doctor as a child, and what I remember is a nice doctor showing me some cards, asking me to look in certain directions, and an overall pleasant experience where it was discovered that yes, I did need glasses.
This was not that.
We did start with a rather pleasant nurse, who asked us a few questions about our own vision and medical history, along with any genetic issues we were possibly aware of. The Dude was pleasant, playful and happy, though still a bit shy. After she left the room, however, he was all about exploring and wanted to fully investigate every piece of equipment available, including the doctor’s chair.
We waited about 15 minutes or so, and then the doctor arrives. She came in like a gust of wind, with her lab coat flailed out behind her and her words coming out quickly and I knew, somehow, that this was about to be an experience. First of all, the babe instantly clammed up, as he tried to adjust to this frantic paced energy, and he instantly squeezed his eyes shut when she began to try and take a look. After about the third time he buried his head into my armpit rather than allow her to see his eyes, she starts rattling off some other ideas about things to try, and presses a remote that activates a little barking dog robot on the wall. He could have given a crap less about the dog, and is pulling my hair by this point.
Almost immediately, she decided that this wasn’t working, and that she’d have to dilate his eyes to do a full exam. Assuring us that she does this procedure on babies as small as preemies, she let us know that a nurse would be coming in to administer a few drops of anesthetic and then drops to dilate his pupils. Keep in mind, after a 15 minute wait to see her, this all happens in a span of like 4 minutes. She’s out of the room almost as fast as she entered, and he is calm yet again.
When the new nurse comes in, she is friendly, but lets us know that he is not going to like her very much, and that she’s sorry about it. She instructs us to hold him down as she administers the drops, and as expected, he is LIVID. But when she’s done, even as he’s still crying, we hear him exclaim “YAY”, and he’s happy and smiling once more. This is repeated once more, with another pleasant nurse, in the span of 20 minutes as one of his eyes doesn’t dilate. And again, once all is said and done, he’s a happy baby.
And here’s where things start to suck.
When Dr. Quickshot comes back, she notices that yet again, he’s clammed up and won’t allow her to actually look into his eyes. She decides we have to move to the “procedure room” where they can lie him down on a table and get a better look at his pupils. Once in this room, my husband and I, along with the two nurses, are told that we’ll need to hold him down AGAIN, so that she can finally see.
When I tell you I was internally freaking out, while trying to remain calm on the outside. I held him, watching every part of the procedure, where they used tools to keep his eyes open, which again they assured us wasn’t hurting him thanks to the anesthetic, and I held back my own tears while trying to keep saying, “You’re doing so good, Dude! You’re alright!” I felt my husband bury his head into the back of my shoulder because he couldn’t deal. And I gotta tell you…at this moment of the appointment, with this brusque doctor shining things into my son’s eyes, and my husband’s hand clinching my back, and my child’s scared face burned into my memory forever,….I descended into my own sunken place.
I began to examine my journey as a parent, question my decision to allow this all to take place, and wonder how I’ll feel if at the end of all this torment, my baby’s eyes are perfectly normal and should have just been left the hell alone. Should I have said something before we got to this point? Is this actually normal? What the hell is going on? From down in these depths of doubt and sadness, where I’m barely drowning out his screaming, I finally hear the doctor say,
“it’s a good thing you brought him in. He is severely farsighted in both eyes. He’s going to need glasses. And he’s going to need to wear them all the time.”
And still holding back my tears, I am relieved. NOT that he needs glasses, but that I was correct in following my instincts. That I hadn’t put him through this whole ordeal for nothing. They let him up, and again through his own tears he says, “Yay”, and “All done”, and finally, most humorously, “BYE BYE!”.
We leave with a prescription for pretty thick glasses, a +6, which she says is about 4 points higher than most, and a list of pediatric eye wear companies. The nurses are visibly shaken and one even tells us how sorry she is to have had to make him cry. He gets stickers and sunglasses, and is happy and smiling once again.
Once in the car, he is happy and singing, and I sing with him, and play his music over the bluetooth, and I tell him how great a job he did and that he’s a tough guy. But we don’t pull off right away. Instead we sit, and we try and calm down, and I see my husband’s eyes well up, and I tell him, “There’s some consolation in knowing that there was a problem and we didn’t ignore it. And he’s fine, and we did a good job, and the right thing.”
They drop me off at work. Where I go to my desk, and I’m glad it doesn’t face the public, or anyone else really. Because I finally let myself deal with the procedure, and the fear I saw in his eyes, and the realization of how hard it’s been for him to see clearly. And I cry for a few minutes, before taking on the bravery of my toddler, and pressing forward.
Parenting is rough.