Into the Unknown: A Parent’s Perspective

A baby laying with a pink bow and eye patch.

Embarking on a Journey into the Unknown

It was my 4th year teaching special education, and I was expecting my second child, a baby girl. The excitement of having a girl filled me with joy. Rewatching Disney princess movies, styling her hair in ribbons and curls, and shopping for adorable outfits were all eagerly anticipated. Unexpected were the multiple surgeries she would undergo before turning two, the strict regimen of eye drops, the numerous eye patches we’d go through, and the challenge of inserting and removing specialty contact lenses from my infant’s eyes.

The thought of having a girl filled me with absolute ecstasy, eagerly looking forward to Disney princess movie marathons, styling her hair in ribbons and curls, and shopping for adorable outfits. What came unexpectedly were the multiple surgeries before her second birthday, a stringent eye drop schedule, endless boxes of eye patches, and the daily task of inserting and removing specialty contact lenses from my infant’s eye.

The Beginning of our Journey

I distinctly remember sitting in the eye clinic after hours and hearing… “Sutton, your five-week-old baby girl, has an anterior polar congenital cataract in her left eye. It prohibits any vision development in that eye and will require surgery to remove the clouded lens. We have a long road ahead of us, and we will do everything it takes to give her the best possible visual outcome for her future.

Tears came instantly. Being a special education teacher, I understood the potential impact on her development. I spent the evening holding my daughter, staring into her silver-tinted pupil, and asking myself, “What did I do wrong for her to be born with a cataract?” I wept for her future, our future, and all the unknowns.

The Unknown

The unknown. That is what it was. There was very little information available to me in a web search. While I was able to research what a congenital cataract was, there was very little information as to what to expect and where we would go from there. I posted to a couple of Facebook pages where I eventually came in contact with another mama, many years ahead of me on their cataract journey, who was able to add me to a Facebook page for families of kiddos with congenital cataracts.

HERE, I learned so much from the mamas who had become experts in their child’s vision care. It was here that I learned that the outcome itself is unknown, that we could do everything right, and that she may never develop any vision in that eye… Or she could develop glaucoma or even lose her eye… Or the best outcome, her vision would develop as hoped with no hiccups moving forward. Here, I learned that we would be okay no matter the outcome.

Sutton Sea at 15 months old sitting in a high chair covering her eyes, with her mom’s hand reaching towards her with an eye patch indicating Sutton did not want to wear her eyepatch.
“No eye patch!”
Sutton Sea sitting on the bottom step of an ophthalmology chair with tape on her forehead and cheek.
After a second surgery (capsule clean up)

Documenting the Journey

The unknown was the scariest part of our diagnosis; some days, it still is. Sutton received her first surgery at six weeks old, and I opted to document EVERYTHING from there on out. I wanted to document all that I learned from our experience so that another mama in my shoes could walk a little stronger into the unknown than I had. This is where our Instagram account, @seesuttonsea, was created. Sutton’s middle name is “Sea,” and I was determined for others to follow along her journey and to “See Sutton See (Sea).”

I began by talking about how we prepared for the surgery, items I purchased (Hello jammies with built-in hand covers!), and everything I learned during the first surgery. I documented the troubles that we encountered and how we solved those troubles. For example, we had to tape an eye shield onto her baby-fresh skin, and I felt so bad pulling it off every time we administered eye drops (I didn’t even know to expect eye drops, but duh!). To solve this issue, we laid a layer of tape directly onto her skin and then taped the eye shield to the tape so that we only pulled the shield off the first layer of tape, not off of her skin, each time she was due for eye drops. Her skin was so thankful.

Sutton Sea wearing an eye patch standing against a window where an array of toys are taped to the window for her to locate and pull off.
Light play

Professional Knowledge

As a special education teacher, I also documented an array of strategies I used that were recommended by the occupational and physical therapists that I worked with daily for my students. Some of the strategies recommended included things like placing her finger foods in all quadrants of her high chair tray so that she would visually and tactually scan using multiple visual fields, as well as encouraging fine motor development and taping toys onto a lit window/door for her to stand at and reach in all directions to remove them encouraging fine and gross motor development.

I was ultimately so blessed to have an array of professionals I worked with daily who allowed me to lean on them for support and suggestions that I could document and share. It’s always so amazing to see other families taking these strategies and utilizing them with their own children. I’ve received message after message from families worldwide asking questions, sharing successes, and simply connecting to others on this journey. I soon returned to school to become a Teacher for Students with Visual Impairments, and I love connecting with families on a different level, having navigated the world of vision.

Making connections with other families is key to becoming confident with the unknown. It is very rewarding to see families become confident as they navigate their child’s vision needs. As well as supporting them as they work through the same grief process.

Sutton Sea at 3 years old sitting on a counter covering her eyes as her mom's hand sneaks in the picture holding an eye patch.
Hiding from the eye patch

My Message

As you navigate into the unknown, reach out for support from other families on the journey. We are all here to share, learn from one another, and see that no matter the outcome. We can not only do this, we can rock this!

Sincerely, a Patch Momster.

Sutton Sea at 18 months hiding behind a chair (that you can clearly see her through) from her mom whose hand is sneaking into the picture holding an eye patch.
Hiding from the eye patch

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