Put Protective Eye Wear on Your New Baby Checklist

The title of this post is intended to be humorous, as well as a warning to new parents. When my son was about 10 months old, I almost lost my right eye (it felt like it anyway).

When my sister and I were babies, my sister poked my father in the eye with a toe, causing extreme pain and the need for an eye patch. It was a funny story in our family, but as a new parent I came to wish I had listened to its moral.

My husband and I have families that live five hours away from us, my family to the north, his to the south. We try to visit each at least once a year, and the travelling has really put us through the tests of parenthood (and marriage). Well, we were visiting my husband’s family in Mississippi, and upon returning to our hotel for the night, I placed Sergio on the bed and began to play with him. We were in a good mood, having spent time with people we care about, and I was cooing to the baby near his face.

Suddenly, Sergio reached out and poked me in the eye with a tiny finger. I reeled back but the pain came a few minutes later. Something was wrong with my eye and I could not open it. It felt as if particles of sand and glass were rubbing across my eye when I moved it, even with eyelids shut.

The following 48 hours were pure hell. I could not sleep, I could not lift the baby and each scream seemed to stab into my eye. It was late at night, my husband had imbibed, and I was not interested in going to a hospital in Mississippi (I’m a total Yankee, sorry). So, we waited until the morning.

Nothing improved, so my sisters-in-law took me to an Urgent Care clinic, where I was told that my cornea, a thin layer across the surface of your eye, had been ripped in half, right across the middle of my pupil. They numbed it and patched my eye with gauze. I wish this had been the end of it.

The next day, a Sunday, I had to drive home. By myself. My husband is very serious about work and must travel many hours to job sites. I have a high pain tolerance, am often a martyr, and hate to complain. We parted at a gas station, my baby in the backseat of my car. Oh, I was mad, but I didn’t have any options.

The sun has never shone brighter than it did the day I drove home with one eye. Highway 55 was packed with crabby semi-truck drivers and impatient weekend-vacationers like myself. But I only had one eye! The pain, from the sun and my ripped cornea, was intense. I had to stop several times along the way, calling my mother and crying once or twice. A five and a half hour trip turned into a six and a half hour drive, a frustrated baby screaming in the back. It was get there or die (maybe not literally, but I still felt that it was dangerous).

My mother took me to an eye doctor the day after we returned home safely. He told me had to scrape off the broken cornea to allow a new one to grow (normally they completely replace themselves within 7 days). My cornea was so injured that it was just hanging there in shreds. The doctor pulled out a strange tool that looked like it had a small, circular saw blade at the end. My mother left the room. I gritted my teeth. He scraped my cornea off.

I can’t describe that feeling and I’m sure you don’t care to know it. It was stomach-turning. Thankfully, with the help of black-out sunglasses and many eye drops, my cornea recovered. However, that eye is much weaker now, twitches once in a while, and squints uncontrollably at the sun. I can still see fine, but something just feels different.

Be careful with those cute fingers and toes; they can cause a lot of damage. If you are going in for a close snuggle, close your eyes around flailing arms and legs. Also, don’t let your guard down; it has almost happened to me several more times.

It is difficult to imagine that my sweet, innocent son could cause me so much pain (way worse than labor) in such a short amount of time, but he did. Protective eye wear may not be a necessary item for parenthood, but two eyes on the road are always better than one.