The things that will never make it in the baby books and other musings from a stay at home mom

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Genetic roulette

I was about 16 weeks pregnant with Julia when I was diagnosed with colitis. Apparently, the stress of pregnancy caused a disease that had been lying dormant in me for years to flare up in a most unpleasant way. I've had only a few episodes of the disease since and all things considered, I've been very lucky. But I didn't feel one bit lucky when I got that diagnosis.

It was one of those pivotal moments when I knew that I was becoming a mother. Instead of worrying about what colitis was going to mean for me, I was wholly concerned about what it might mean for my unborn child some day. There's colitis on Paul's side of the family, too: a double whammy for our kids where genetics are concerned. Add into the mix our bad eyesight, my chronic migraines and a variety of other ailments and conditions and I was starting to feel pretty damn bad about the genes we were passing along to the next generation. "Everyone's got something," my mother reassured me. "What were you going to do, not have kids because someday they might have headaches or gastrointestinal issues?" I reluctantly agreed (what choice did I have at 4 months' gestation?), but I didn't feel completely reassured.

I had pretty much forgotten about that conversation until today, when I got my first glimpse into the results of our game of gene pool roulette. Julia had her 4 year checkup today, and as I stood and watched her squinting at the eye chart and mumbling "I don't know" over and over as the nurse pointed to letters, I knew that we were on our way to an optometrist referral. "Technically, she passed the exam, though just barely," her pediatrician told me as she looked at the results afterwards. I shook my head. "The nurse was making allowances for a 4 year old child who might still be confusing letters," I told her. "Julia's reading. When she said the F was an R, that's because she couldn't see it, not because she wasn't sure what it was."

Our pediatrician repeated the exam, then handed me the referral slip I'd been expecting. "I don't think she's going to need glasses right away," she told me, "but it sure looks like you're headed in that direction. Given her family history and the way this exam went, it seems like a damn good time for a baseline exam."

Sorry, Julia. Your parents both wear glasses and contacts, and our parents did, too. I guess 20/20 vision was probably too much to hope for when your grandfather can't even see the big E on the eye chart. When the time comes for glasses, I'm sure you'll look adorable in them. I'm also sure that you'll hate them at some point -- just as I did -- and you'll probably hate me for my bad eyesight genes, too. I'll tell you then what I'm telling you now. I apologize for passing on this gene to you, but it could be so much worse. Hell, it could be colitis.


At 5:09 PM, Blogger Steph said...

Definitely could be a whole lot worse. And, I'm sure that you're right, she'll look awfully cute in her little glasses, should the time come for them.

My kids both already inherited my asthma and allergies, and the eyesight is sure to come at some point too. Even though I asked about it, M's pediatrician doesn't do eye exams until 5.... however, see today's post on my blog about a search for a new pediatrician.

At 9:33 PM, Blogger Lisa(lildaus) said...

Right, colitis would be worse (my dh has colitis, too). Still, glasses on a 4 year old would be tough going at first (but, yes, damn cute! Especially when said 4 year old is already reading. Freakin' Einstein, is what she'll look like!!!)


At 6:46 AM, Blogger Susan D. said...

As one who's worn glasses since age 6, I can attest to the fact that it stinks but can be lived through. Prepare for constant expense, though - even the neatest, least boisterous kids can be expected to break or lose a couple of pairs of glasses per year. And you've got another one who'll probably need'em, too!

At 1:38 PM, Blogger Kristy said...

Um, Rebecca? I hope you were knocking on a big piece of wood when you wrote that last sentence of yours. For your sake as well as Julia's.


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