Here, Heidi, 30, tells the story in her own words.
￼Packing up my desk to go on maternity leave, I felt excited. I was all set to meet my twin boys in nine weeks’ time.‘It’s going to be fun,’ I told my colleague, looking forward to being a mum.
But suddenly, I felt a rush of warm water. Hurrying to the bathroom, I realised my waters were breaking. It’s too soon, I panicked. Calling my husband, Bryce, 28, he raced me to hospital. It would have been overwhelming for any first-time mum, but I had an added challenge.
Eight years earlier, I lost my sight. It all started when I developed a strange stutter and felt dizzy. Within days, my vision was out of focus. Diagnosed with a condition called benign intracranial hypertension, where the brain has too much fluid, I was told my optic nerve was damaged. Worse, it was irreversible. Left with just 10 per cent tunnel vision in my left eye, I was devastated.
I was 22 years old and Bryce had asked me to marry him just days earlier. ‘You can call the wedding off,’ I sobbed. ‘I don’t expect you to have to care for a blind woman.’ But Bryce didn’t waver. ‘I love you, and that’s that,’ he declared.
As a beautician, there was no way I could carry on waxing and doing facials. Instead, I got a part-time job in human resources using high-tech devices to help me work.
After we wed in July 2012, Bryce and I tried for a baby. ‘My sight isn’t going to stop us being parents,’ I said, knowing other people with vision problems raised kids. Why should I be any different? Sadly, we discovered I had polycystic ovarian syndrome, meaning we had to try IVF. Cycle after cycle proved futile, and after two heartbreaking miscarriages, I feared I’d never be a mum.
Falling pregnant on our 13th cycle, I was scared to get my hopes up. ‘Let’s not tell anyone for a few months,’ I sighed to Bryce. But to our amazement, this time the pregnancy held. In all, we’d spent $165,000, but it was worth every cent. Even better, our scan showed two tiny heartbeats. But now I was being rushed to hospital, fearing for my bubs. Tests showed one of our twins, who we’d named Max, had an incompatible blood type to me and it was causing complications. ‘He needs to be delivered now,’ the surgeon said, prepping me for a caesarean. And our other boy, Freddie, would have to come, too. ‘Here they come,’ Bryce told me, squeezing my hand.
But when Max arrived, he was whisked away to the NICU at a larger hospital. I didn’t even hear him cry. Weighing 1.9 kilos, he was very sick. Bryce went with him, so I had no-one to tell me what was going on as doctors delivered Freddie. At 2.2 kilos, our second boy was more robust. But he needed an incubator, so he too was rushed away. Although I knew I’d never see my boys, not being able to feel them in my arms was so hard.
‘I want to hold them!’ I sobbed to my mum, Jacinta, 51. We felt helpless as the boys fought for survival. When Max’s weight dropped to just 900 grams, we feared the worst. Freddie had lost more than half a kilo, too. Please let them live, I prayed by Freddie’s incubator, while Bryce stayed with Max. Amazingly, our little miracles pulled through.
After three weeks, Max came to join Freddie. And finally, I had my first precious cuddle. It was a magical moment. ‘They smell different!’ I told Mum. She thought I was joking, but Max had more hair so he smelled more soapy. That’s how I could tell them apart.
In late June, nine weeks after the boys were born, they came home.I was nervous about the challenges, but Bryce was always by my side. ‘I guess I’ll have to get good at nappy changing,’ he laughed. In time, though, I learned to do it myself.
Bryce picks out their clothes but after nine months of practice, dressing them is a piece of cake. And I bathe them, too, putting one in the rocker next to me while I step in the bath or shower with his brother. At meal times, I sometimes feed them with my fingers. It looks odd, but it’s how I know they’ve eaten. Everything in our house, from toys to books and bottles, is bright yellow as it’s the colour I see best.
Bryce is an amazing father, I don’t know how I’d have coped without him. My mum and Bryce’s mum, Leeann, 51, are both very supportive, too. And thanks to special cameras attached to my computer, I can help monitor the babies.
The images are magnified so much that I can’t see their whole face. But I can see their mouth, their ear, their nose, and build up a picture. Their heads are different shapes, so that also tells me which boy is which. It’s always hectic but luckily the boys sleep through the night.
Though I’ve fully accepted my blindness, sometimes I long to see my beautiful boys smile back at me. Even so, I couldn’t be happier.I might have lost my sight, but the future is bright.
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