Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Beginning...Again

Our Three As!

Like so many young couples, Brian and I did not imagine that anything would stand in the way of our plans. Before getting married we talked about having a large family - three to four kids. Our only real concern was that fertility might be an issue (stop giggling). However, once we got pregnant with Avery Claire - and then 15 months later, Auden - we stopped being concerned. Hey, this was easy! Enter, Congenital Cataracts.

At one of Avery's post-op Ophthalmology appointments, we asked the surgeon if our future children might develop congenital cataracts. You can imagine our fear when he speculated that this was a genetic condition and that Avery should undergo testing...after all, I was 22 weeks pregnant with Auden at the time.  Since my sweet girl displayed developmental difficulties in addition to cataracts, we took her for genetic testing. They found that her visual impairment was a dominant trait passed down by poor Brian, and calculated that any children we had carried a 50% risk of developing the disease. There was no way of knowing whether my fetus had inherited cataracts, but according to the DNA results it was pretty much a coin toss.
Mama at 22 weeks with A2, two weeks after Avery's first eye surgery
Auden had his first examination for cataracts at about an hour old. From the day he was born he began Ophthalmology checkups every three months. To be honest though, once Avery had her two successful lens replacement surgeries and Auden passed 19 months (the age where AC's cataracts were discovered), Brian and I began to relax.

"Driving" Papa's boat at 23 months - the same age Avery was when she had her first eye surgery

Then suddenly Little Man began to act more aggressive and wide open than normal. We attributed his behavior to the premature birth and death of our third child, Beatrice. Beatrice - who we refer to as "Baby Bee" - was born and passed 10 days before Christmas of 2010. Her diagnosis at 20 weeks gestation of severe congenital diaphragmatic hernia and congestive heart failure required me to be away from my Avery and Auden for almost four days...and I when I came home, it was without a baby sister. Everyone in our family displayed their grief in different ways. Both of the As began to have behavior problems in school, and life was kind of a mess at that point.

That Spring our spirits improved. Unbelievably, I was expecting again! For obvious reasons cataracts were not our main worry during Pregnancy #4. Then we took our two As to the Ophthalmologist for their regular checkups. I wouldn't say we were shocked, but it was still a little surprising when the other shoe dropped.  Dr. Lambert found patchy areas of cataracts in the posterior lens of Auden's right and left eye. To illustrate his sight at that time, imagine looking through a window covered with grey tennis ball-sized dots. Your entire view is not occluded, but you are not taking in all the visual information you should be. Now imagine being 2 years old and trying to make sense the world. Even healthy preschoolers have difficulty.

AC (age 4) gets a follow-up check up while Auden (age 2) waits in his stroller. This was the day his cataracts were discovered.
Unlike Avery Claire, who had visible cataracts that covered her pupils like a gray film, Auden's were not visible to the naked eye. And also unlike his sister, Auden's disease was found at such an early stage that he did not require immediate surgery. I feel this was both a blessing and a curse. While I didn't exactly want to go through eye surgery with my second toddler, I absolutely loathed the thought of letting the cataracts slowly leech away my son's sight while I stood by waiting.

You see, the most unsettling thing about my children having cataracts was not that they needed surgery. And - once the surgeries were successful and neither child went blind - I accepted the inevitable teasing they'd endure for wearing bifocal glasses. The unnerving part of dealing with pediatric visual impairment is worry over the rapidly developing brain. How is a baby/toddler/preschooler supposed to learn when they can't see what they're being taught? They cannot verbalize what they are missing because they are 1) too young, and 2) don't know! Kids are amazingly adaptable and they do not always acknowledge they are having difficulties. As a mother I continually question my childrens' cognitive development. I am scared of how the lapse in visual processing will affect their futures. I will always wonder what knowledge Auden lost out on while we waited for his cataracts to get worse.

Mama and Auden (age 3) two months before his surgery

By the time Auden would have his surgery at age 3 1/2, the back of each eye was almost entirely covered with the occlusive film of cataracts. Interestingly enough it was still not visible to an untrained eye. The only blessing I've found in the situation is that, because of Avery, Auden was monitored for cataracts from birth. I seriously doubt his would have been discovered early enough had we not been prepared for the risk.

 I truly wish we had lived in St. Louis when Auden began losing his sight. Through their Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments, children from Birth to age 3 receive low-cost to free visual therapy - therapy that Auden would have qualified for, and therapy his sister Avery was lucky enough to receive. No such specialized early visual education is available here in Middle Georgia...although God knows we need it.

 The lack of therapy and support for Auden's visual impairment reminds me of how fortunate we were throughout Avery's ordeal. This is why I remain passionate about raising funds for the DG Center.  Although we have moved away from Missouri, I still feel obligated to support the children that are able to receive help. And this year in particular, I want to raise funds to honor my sweet boy's quiet struggle. Will you help me?

***Your donations are tax deductible - and who couldn't use that?! If you're in the St. Louis area, register to come walk/run with us! Speaking of tax day, we'll be making tee shirts for those who join our team before then. ***


Saturday, March 2, 2013

A2: Little Man

When we did our first fundraising team for the 2009 Run for Sight, it was in honor of my first daughter, Avery Claire. Since we insanely gave all three of our children 5-letter names beginning with the letter "A", Avery Claire is also referred to as "A1" or "AC." (Although she recently announced that she prefers to go by "AC" because: "my name is stupid.") Are you confused yet?

To read Avery Claire's story and see how our involvement with The Run for Sight all began, follow this link:
AC on her 4th Birthday, before her successful lens replacement surgeries

First Day of 4K - two weeks out from Right Lens Replacement

Because Brian and I are now the proud parents of TWO children with congenital cataracts, we've changed our name from Team Avery to Team A{Squared}. (Please dear God do not let Adler Grace develop cataracts, because "Triple A" sounds like a battery and I'm kind of running out of good team names...) We are flying into St. Louis from Georgia and hoping to gather up with a great group of our friends! We would love for you to help us give a generous donation to the Delta Gamma Center in honor of our two children's battle with visual impairment! ***Note: This is the part where you check your calendar and sign up to run or walk with us on May 5th***
Run or Walk with Team A {Squared}!  Sign up here.  If you can't make it, consider a donation:

For the 2013 season we are focusing on our middle child, Auden James Bryant Geary. When we aren't shouting his full name in furor over something he's done, we refer to Auden as "Little Man" or "A2." Often I feel as if his struggle has been overlooked, and by no means has he had an easy road. In a dream world, my son would not have required bifocal glasses at age 3. However, as most parents would agree, things could be much worse. While I may not enjoy watching my second child endure what my first child suffered, Auden is physically here for me to teach, cuddle, and love... for that I am beyond thankful.
Underwear Superheros - Auden and Mommy Christmas 2013 

If you have ever met Auden, the first thought that comes into your mind is: "What a Character." The next phrase to enter your head will be, "Wow - He is WIDE OPEN, ain't he?!" Honestly, if I had a dollar for every time that sentence was uttered about A2, I would be able to replace our garage door...The door Auden broke at age 25 months by riding it to the ceiling. Multiple times. I'm a little sad that I don't have a picture of these incidents, but I acted responsibly and rescued that sweet boy dangling 12 feet in the air (giggling and saying, "Mommy, I up here!") I had to sprint pretty fast to the garage, lest he lose his grip and smash that tiny body on the concrete floor. So no pictures. But I digress.

With two sisters and a personality that takes after his Father, Auden really has no other choice but to be our comic relief. And being the good mom that I am, I've amassed digital proof of his antics; proof that I like to refer to as "Blackmail." Should Auden ever attempt to date, I will pull these babies out and use them like Kryptonite on Superman. If the pictures don't scare away my potential replacement Auden's lovely lady, then I'm going to offer her some of my world famous cooking. Probably my homemade protein bars, or as Brian refers to them, "Breakfast Bricks." If she survives this assault and continues to date my son...well, then I'll know it's true love. Hopefully she'll forgive me, and maybe I'll even get to help her pick out a wedding dress. I do love to shop.

These are some of my internet-friendly favorite photos of Little Man:

In Daddy's shirt, carrying his murse (aka "Man Purse") 
Vacuuming in the buff
Looking pretty in AC's headband

Smiling at himself in the Princess Vanity mirror...

Taking his football for a stroll

Wearing my rainboots and picking his nose

Climbing up and dangling off our breakfast table at 11 months old

Barbie love
"I feel the need - the need... for speed."

Auden doesn't sleep with stuffed animals

Princess heels
Reading - in the Toy Box
Houdini destroying the zipper and escaping from his third - yes, third - crib tent. 

It's cool to pick your nose!

Completely asleep. Standing up.

For those of you who know our Auden, consider running, walking, or donating to our team in his honor May 5th. And for those of you who don't know him - come out and meet him!


Saturday, February 23, 2013


So, quite a few things have changed since I last blogged - um, two years ago? ( I'm not known for being terribly focused when it comes to writing...there's even a rumor that I have only completed ONE out of all my children's baby books. That's SO not true. I haven't even finished that one! Sigh. But don't count on things improving with my recording skills because, as I stated, things have changed....

We are now a family of FIVE! 

I had been keeping a little secret the last time I blogged about the Run for Sight, but those who saw me on the race course may have had their suspicions when I was walking instead of racing. A mere 3 months after the devastating loss at 21-weeks of our tiny baby, Beatrice Heather, we were completely shocked to find out we were expecting again. Fast forward to Thanksgiving, 2011. At 11:01pm, on 11/25/11, we welcomed our 3rd beautiful daughter: Full term, healthy, 5lb 14oz Adler Grace Geary. There are no words to describe the happiness this brunette lovebug has brought into our lives. To quote my favorite lullaby: 

Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue

And the dreams that you dare to dream,
Really do come true.

As I type this blog, Miss Adler Grace is bouncing around our kitchen...15 months of energy; a wonderful, wildly wicked Toddler. She has fit in to this family without a hitch, with one exception - as of yet, she does NOT have congenital cataracts! Whoo hoo! We are hoping her brown hair and dark eyes ward off this visual impairment, but just like her other siblings she runs a 50% chance of developing the disease. Which brings me to my other, not as great news...

Auden developed cataracts.

Those of you that follow Facebook closely already know this. For those of you that don't: Right after our last Run for Sight in 2011, his routine checkup with Dr. Lambert showed the beginnings of congenital cataracts in both eyes. As the year went on, his visual problems increased and his behavior got worse, until it was recognized by all parties that surgery was required. We missed the 2012 Run for Sight as a result. I have an entire post to write about his surgeries at age 3 (the good, the bad, the ugly, and the stupid comments made by morons), but that's a vent for another day. To summarize, Auden's bilateral cataract extractions with bilateral lens replacements went smoothly, and he is now the proud owner of a pair of kelly green bifocals. And, being the character that he is, Auden rocks his "sunglasses" like he's Karl Lagerfeld himself. Now if only his big sister would wear her bifocals...

So let's get real - why am I blogging again? Because I need your help - It's that time again! The St. Louis Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments is having their annual Run for Sight, and The Geary Family (aka TEAM AVERY) is, once again, Representin'. 

This May we are loading up our crew of 5 and heading to The Lou to raise money for a GREAT cause! For our fourth Run for Sight, however, we are changing our team name and our colors to honor of our sweet son Auden. Also, Brian and I are not "blind" to the fact that we are now parents of not one, but two children with visual impairments. If anyone has a responsibility to raise funds and bring attention to the burdens visual impairments bring to a family - emotional, physical, and financial - it is us. This is a challenge we joyfully accept. Will we see you May 5th?


XOXO Erin Geary