After a busy Wednesday evening of cooking, cleaning and waving my husband and two elementary-aged kids out the door to church, my one-week-old son and I were enjoying some peaceful time together as I plopped him in the bathroom sink. Suddenly he let out an uncharacteristic wail — the kind of sound that makes a mommy’s heart stop. Had I inadvertently dropped a diaper pin in the sink? Was he having a stroke? (Even experienced third-time moms have incoherent thoughts like that when they’re sleep deprived.) Before I had time to imagine a poisonous snake had come up through the drain and mortally wounded him, I saw blood on the counter. Lots of blood.
Thankfully by that time my common sense had reappeared and I realized he had sliced his tiny finger on an uncovered edge of the wall mirror above the sink. His first scar. The first time his perfect little body had been damaged in any way. The first of many times, and it was my fault for not protecting him. Guilty.
My postnatal hormones and I wailed right along with him.
I was fully aware that the mutated X chromosome which causes colorblindness was passed down from mother to son (and rarely — but occasionally — even to daughter). I knew it ran in my family and was not surprised when my son’s diagnosis came. What hit me unexpectedly was the grieving process which began the second I started researching the implications of the condition, and has continued for more than two decades. I waffle between guilt and just plain sadness for passing the condition on.
My friend Valorie recently received the surprise diagnosis of red-green colorblindness for her six-year-old son. She had no idea that colorblindness ran in the family until a routine school screening revealed the handicap. Her grandmother later confirmed that, indeed, her grandfather had been colorblind as well.
She said she cried for a week. The red-hot emotions were a combination of factors. First, Valorie is a nurse and “understands the screening tools” which are available for such conditions. She was bothered that the diagnosis took six years. She immediately began researching the implications for her son and looked at photos which show the world that the colorblind see.
Her family had also recently moved and completely redecorated their living space in browns, greens and reds. These colors look virtually identical to the red-green colorblind. She has spent the summer buying blue and yellow accents to make the home more visually stimulating for him, but knew he had not been enjoying the new surroundings as much as she had been.
“I cried because I knew, especially outdoors, he didn’t see what I did,” Valorie said. “The next day he was brushing his teeth and he was wearing red shorts and a green shirt. I asked him what color his shorts were and he said ‘red.’ Then I asked, ‘What color is your shirt?’ and he said ‘brown, green.’ I was trying not to cry right then.”
“It kind of surprised me that it bothered me that much,” she said. “What really bothered me about it is there’s nothing you can do.”
Yup. There’s no pill for that.