Every day, the parents of Mehlani get to hear the nicest comments from strangers. Everyone wants to tell them just how beautiful their daughter’s eyes are. They are big and bold and absolutely cute. But for mom Karina Martinez and her partner Myron, it is hard to take the compliments without a grain of salt. The reason is that her eyes are so big and beautiful because of a defect with her eyes.
Although the nurses told Karina that something seemed strange about Mehlani’s eyes when she was first born in the hospital, the new mom didn’t want to hear it, so she took Mehlani home and tried to ignore it. But the truth about the little girl could not be hidden for long.
Mehlani received a diagnosis. And although strangers often compliment Mehlani on her eyes, her mother doesn’t know whether or not to reveal that her eyes are only that way because of a congenital defect.
Karina opened up about her secret fears in a post on Love What Matters on Facebook. Here’s what she shared:
“My pregnancy with Mehlani was overall normal and healthy. I was 18, I didn’t have any serious medical issues, every doctor’s appointment was quick and easy. My labor was the same way, everything went smooth, and after 10 hours of labor, our baby girl was born.
“Mehlani’s father and I were in awe of our precious baby and ecstatic to receive our first child. We had no idea anything was different with her eyes, not until our last day at the hospital, it was a Friday, and we were going to finally be able to check-out and bring our baby home, but not after her newborn screening.
“That’s when we learned that something didn’t look right, the nurse that did her screening didn’t give any specific information, she just let us know that a pediatric ophthalmologist would be in soon to take a better look at her. The ophthalmologist arrived after a few hours but couldn’t tell us much either because he didn’t have all of the correct tools he needed to evaluate her eyes really, so he told us we would just have to take her into his office Monday morning.
“We were left without any answers, just the fact that something was seriously wrong with our daughters’ eyes and we didn’t have the slightest idea of what it was. Needless to say, that weekend was emotional, her father Myron, and I tried to stay optimistic and just focus on caring for and loving our new baby.
“Monday came around, and we took her to her appointment where she was further evaluated, and that is where she was diagnosed with Axenfeld-Rieger syndrome. Her doctor gave us a further explanation of the condition. Our daughters’ eyes were underdeveloped, her iris didn’t completely form in the womb, so she only had bits and pieces of it, her eyes were mostly pupil. Which results in her being extremely sensitive to light. He then threw a bunch of other disorders that usually come along with Axenfeld-Rieger syndrome in the air, including Down syndrome, heart defects, and glaucoma.”
After the diagnosis, Karina started to blame herself. “I couldn’t look at my beautiful baby without feeling like I had already failed her,” she wrote.
She knows that Melhani is in for a challenge as she gets older.
“Although the comments are always sweet and it warms my heart that other people too admire her beauty, I feel conflicted, because it makes me realize that others notice the difference in her eyes and that alone puts me into protective mama mode. I start thinking about how it’ll be for my daughter once she’s old enough to start school, and kids approach her about her eyes.”