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‘We might not be able to see Anna with our eyes, but we can feel her grow’ – Blind couple opens up about raising their child

Sharon and Adrian Davids have always wanted to start a family even though they are both blind and Sharon was told that she might never be able to have children of her own.

Sharon has an eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa, a group of rare, genetic disorders that involve a breakdown and loss of cells in the retina — which is the light sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye. “Although I’m declared legally blind, I can still see a little bit, but not too much. I am not able to read texts anymore,” Sharon explains.

Adrian explains that although he is blind, he has some light perception. “I can see when the light goes on or off and on a good day, I can see some silhouettes. When I was born doctors had to insert a shunt to drain the excess fluid from my brain. When I was 11-years-old, that shunt got blocked which created pressure on my brain and damaged my optic nerves. So, I’ve been blind since I was 11-years-old.”

First comes love, then comes marriage and a baby carriage

“Before Adrian and I got married I told him that doctors told me when I was younger that I would struggle to have kids, and that I might not even be able to have kids at all. I have severe high blood pressure and a condition called Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which means your heart muscle becomes abnormally thick, making it hard for your heart to pump blood. But all he said was that he has no doubt that we will have a child of our own. I believed him,” says Sharon.

Adrian adds that although Anna Zoe wasn’t planned, they always knew they wanted kids. “I knew Sharon had a deep desire to be a mother and I knew it would eventually happen for us.”

“I was at work one day and not feeling well. My back was wet and I was really hot. I phoned Adrian and we went to the doctor who said I had a panic attack and premenstrual symptoms. He gave me some meds and we went home.  But, about a month later I told Adrian that something wasn’t right. I wasn’t feeling like myself. I haven’t had my period. I wasn’t eating and I was nauseas all the time,” Sharon recalls.

ALSO SEE: 13 subtle (and not-so-subtle) pregnancy signs

Adrian adds that he didn’t want to take any chances with Sharon’s health because they are both on so many meds with their different conditions. “I told her if she feels like she’s pregnant, we should rather go to the doctor and get the facts so we know what the next steps are as medication obviously has an effect on the baby. We didn’t want any complications because we didn’t have the facts.”

“The doctor sat down and looked at us and he said: ‘Adrian, Sharon, congratulations you guys are pregnant.’ Sharon was about six weeks pregnant and we were just bawling our eyes out – because of happiness,” Adrian laughingly tells us.

“While I did feel ill at times, I didn’t let it get me under and I actually had a pretty good pregnancy. I could walk, I could dress myself, take the bus to work like I always did. I had a healthy pregnancy – there were no complications,” Sharon remembers.

Adrian says he thinks their Guide Dogs, Lily and Wisp, picked up on Sharon’s pregnancy. “They started acting differently – it’s as if they were more protective and a little more careful than usual.”

An act of kindness

Sharon recalls being told to look at her baby making flip flops, rolling around, and waving during her scans. “We couldn’t see all these movements during our scans, but then the team from Little Gram 4D scanning studio made a 3D scan for us so we could feel our baby’s face – I was so impressed. Her little nose felt so funny to me – and it really is even now.”

Blind parents share how they are raising their baby

Image: Anna Zoe is a happy, healthy baby with normal eyesight

D-Day

“I was induced at 37 weeks. The doctors explained to me that Anna was ready to come, and she was already lying in the right position for birth. Adrian and my mom were with me the whole time. I was very proud of myself. I actually handled the pain really well. I heard women screaming and performing around me, but I knew that the screaming wasn’t going to help me. I was very calm,” Sharon says.

ALSO SEE: 6 ways to manage labour pain

“When Anna was born, we were very excited – once again bawling our eyes out. For months we felt the little flutters and kicks and then there she was – this little bundle of joy we’ve wanted for so long,” Adrian tells us.

Blind parents raising baby on their own

The proud mom and dad with their new baby

Sharon says Anna’s eyesight is perfect and she’s a very healthy baby. “We named her Anna because it means ‘God has shown favour’.”

Taking Anna home

Sharon gave birth in March, just before the hard lockdown was implemented in South Africa. “The lockdown was actually a blessing for me. This meant that Adrian was at home all the time and I needed that support from him.”

ALSO SEE: How the lockdown helped pregnant moms and babies

“We may not be able to physically see our child smile, but we can hear her laugh and we can hear her smile. We can feel her grow and feel her strength in the way she does things. We do things ourselves – we bath and dress her and feed her.

Yes, we do have challenges. Sometimes she makes a poop (and we can’t see) and sometimes it’s a messy poop – I would then have to feel if it’s clean and if it’s not my hands would be full of poop, but as she grows, I grow,” Sharon laughingly shares.

“We live with my parents so there’s always family around to help if we need it. But we try to do things mostly on our own. We try and find ways of doing things that work for us – but there are also things that we don’t do – like cut Anna’s nails,” she adds.

Adrian adds that his in-laws have been really amazing throughout their pregnancy journey. “We couldn’t have asked for a better family and support system.”

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