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“There’s a blood test for that now,” said the neuro-ophthalmologist, my fourth in 15 years. I had sensed that my last specialist was missing something. I was right.

Some background: When I was 23, I started losing my eyesight. Over a two-year period, my once-20/20 acuity dipped to 20/30, 20/40, 20/50. Meanwhile, visual field tests revealed sizable blind spots in my central vision.

Doctors with increasingly long, intimidating titles took turns ordering bloodwork, CT scans, MRIs, even a spinal tap. The problem was clear – my optic nerve was deteriorating – but the reason was not. One said I probably had multiple sclerosis, another that I’d likely go mostly blind.


Fortunately, both were wrong. At 20/60 corrected with gaping bilateral blind spots, it suddenly stopped getting worse. That was 2004; mercifully, since then my eyesight is largely unchanged – shoddy yet stable.

Fast forward to present-day. Apparently, a blood test now existed for the malady that, for over a decade, had been my diagnosis by default: Dominant Optic Atrophy. A rare, often progressive disorder generally not detected until adolescence, DOA ranges in severity from asymptomatic (no measurable vision loss) to legal blindness.

Loosely defined and erratic in impact, dominant optic atrophy is a vision impairment wildcard. Mine stabilized, but others aren’t so lucky.

That brings us to “dominant,” which is medical jargon for “hereditary.” For someone with an 18-month-old son, that’s one hell of a word to place in front of “optic atrophy.”

Too see, or not to see

As it turned out, the test was inconclusive.

“You probably still have it in one form or another,” my doctor said. Despite a lack of clear-cut DNA evidence, my symptoms – when weighed against the ailments already ruled out – still pointed to some variation of dominant optic atrophy.

It was, at best, a semi-relief. In this case, no news was “less-bad” news.

Of course, I’d been prepared for bad news. My condition, and longstanding diagnosis-via-educated-guess, was well-trod territory for my wife and I as we decided to become parents. It wasn’t as if my offspring would certainly, or even probably, develop DOA. But the risk was – and still is – there.

But this latest failed attempt at a precise diagnosis plunged me into the depths of this decision-making process. If new, more worrisome news about my condition’s hereditary nature surfaced today, would it stop me from having another child? Under what scenarios are the risks too great to justify having kids? At what point does procreation’s selfless genesis intersect with ill-advised selfishness?

For now, my questions are hypothetical – since Nicholas, my son, is not. But for prospective parents with chronic hereditary medical conditions, exploring this has merit. Here are three important considerations:

What are the exact chances of passing this condition to my child?

My two-year, diagnosis-less ordeal gave me a precarious peek behind the retractable hospital curtains. My scariest surprise: Getting a straight answer out of a doctor can be amazingly difficult.

Doctors hem, they haw. They’re afraid to lose credibility, lose a patient, lose a lawsuit. And they love to insist you’re imagining symptoms that are literally right in front of your eyes (or in my case, aren’t).

Genetic disorders have a broad range of pass-along rates depending on their nature. A doctor – even a specialist – may not fully understand the likelihood of your offspring developing your ailment, especially if your illness is rare. So ask questions. Be persistent. Be annoying. And if you’re not satisfied, get second and third opinions.

Your future child’s well-being is too important to take “I don’t know” for an answer. Your goal is to find, within reason, the exact chances of your children contracting your disorder.

Could my child live with this?

We want the best for our children, but for prospective parents with hereditary illnesses, the best may be far from perfect. For us, having kids is a gamble, and the genetic slot machine may align unfavorably. We must consider the “what ifs.”

Suppose your child contracts your illness. Many chronic hereditary conditions – myoclonic seizures, for example – have variable expressivity; the effect on one person may be mild, while another suffers worst-case symptoms. It’s a known unknown.

Often, all we have to go on is our own symptoms. It’s honest assessment time: “Can my child live a happy, fulfilling life with this condition?”

My visual impairment is frightening, frustrating, and frequently humiliating. Everything from driving to reading to watching TV can result in throbbing headaches. I can’t golf (what ball?), ski (what tree?), or play paintball (friendly fire!). It affects nearly everything I do to some degree.

I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. But this isn’t about wishing. It’s about living.

Despite these struggles I have a wife, a promising career, wonderful friends. My life is not only livable but enjoyable. I am cautiously optimistic that my son’s will be as well.

What are the psychological factors?

My two-year period of acute vision loss was one prolonged panic attack. When it finally leveled off, the calm-after-the-storm left me mired in deep depression that requires professional help to this day.

This isn’t about toughness or fortitude – it’s about your child’s chances for happiness. No doctor can deduce this; it’s up to us to assess the known facts as objectively as possible and decide based on truth rather than instinct. Our natural biological imperative must be temporarily ignored for sane decision-making.

As cold as it sounds, sacrificing someone’s long-term happiness for the short-term joy of holding a baby in one’s arms is selfish. Though I concluded there were too many X factors to pass up fatherhood, if my son is legally blind 20 years from now I may regret that decision – and it will be on me, and me alone. I’m not ready to face that – I can barely type it – but it’s true. We must consider the consequences.

Because of course, there’s a third path between procreation and childlessness. Hereditary illness is a key reason parents choose to adopt. Perhaps no better example exists of something wonderful arising from something terrible.

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.

Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

This article was sponsored by Pipette. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Military families give up so much for their country, particularly when they have small children at home. Those of us who have never witnessed this kind of sacrifice first-hand could use a reminder of it once in a while, which is just one of the reasons we're so happy to see the beautiful photoshoot Mary Chevalier arranged for her husband's return home from Afghanistan.

The photoshoot was extra special because while James Chevalier was serving a nine-month deployment, Mary gave birth to their second son, Caspian.

Getting ready to meet Dad

"During the laboring and birthing process of Caspian, I was surrounded by family, but that did not fill the void of not having my husband by my side," Mary told InsideEdition.com. "He was able to video chat during the labor and birth, but for both of us, it was not enough."

While James had yet to meet Caspian, their 3-year-old son, Gage, missed his dad a whole lot, so this homecoming was going to be a big deal for him too. That's why Mary arranged for her wedding photographer, Brittany Watson, to be with them for their reunion in Atlanta.

Gage was so happy to see his Dad 

"[He] had no idea he was going to be getting to see his daddy that day," Watson wrote on Facebook. "The family met at the Southeastern Railway Museum for Gage to go on a special train ride... little did he know, he'd be doing it with daddy!"

Watson did a beautiful job capturing the high emotions of every single family member, from Gage's surprise, to the delight on baby Caspian's face. It's no wonder her Facebook post went viral last week.

"Caspian is natural, a very happy baby, but both James and I felt like Caspian knew who his father was almost immediately," Mary told Inside Edition. "He was easily comforted by me husband right off the bat and seemed to have an instant connection. It was very emotional."

The moment this dad had been waiting for 

If we're sobbing just looking at the photos, we can't even imagine what it was like in real life.

"We are all so blessed and take so much for granted," Watson wrote. "I cannot contain the joy I feel in my heart when I look at these images, and I hope you feel it too!"

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During both of my pregnancies, I was under the care of an amazing midwife. Every time I went to her office for check-ups, I was mesmerized by the wall of photos participating in what may be the most painfully magical moment of a woman's life: giving birth. But there was a painting that always drew my attention: a woman dressed in orange, holding her newborn baby with a face that could be described as clueless. The line above the canvas read, "Now what?"

I felt like the woman in the painting as I kissed my mother goodbye when my daughter was born. She came from my native Colombia to stay with us for three months. When she left, I realized that my husband had been working as usual during those first 90 days of our new life. My baby was born on a Friday and on Monday he was back at the office. (No parental leave policy for him.)


Now what? I thought. The quote "It takes a village to raise a child" suddenly started to hit home, literally.

After a few years in Miami, I had some friends, but it truly didn't feel like I had a village. Some were not mothers yet, most of them worked full-time and others didn't live close by. My nomad life left my best friends spread out in different places in the world. I found myself signing up for "mommy and me" classes in search of new mothers, immigrants like me, alone like me.

It seemed like a utopian dream to think about when my grandmothers became mothers. Both of them had 6 and 10 children and they were able to stay sane (or maybe not? I don't know). But at least they had family around—people cooking, offering help. There was a sense of community.

My mother and father grew up in "the village." Big families with so many children that the older siblings ended up taking care of the little ones; aunts were like second mothers and neighbors became family.

When I was about to give birth to my second baby, my sister had just had her baby girl back in Colombia. Once, she called me crying because her maternity leave was almost over. My parents live close to her, so that was a bonus. Hiring a nanny back there is more affordable. But even seeing the positive aspects of it, I wished I could have been there for her, to be each other's village.

The younger me didn't realize that when I took a plane to leave my country in search of new experiences 19 years ago, I was giving up the chance to have my loved ones close by when I became a mother. And when I say close by, I mean as in no planes involved.

It hasn't been easy, but after two kids and plenty of mommy and me classes and random conversations that became true connections, I can say I have a mini-village, a small collection of solitudes coming together to lean on each other. But for some reason, it doesn't truly feel like one of those described in the old books where women gathered to knit while breastfeeding and all the children become like siblings.

Life gets in the way, and everyone gets sucked into their own worlds. In the absence of a true village, we feel the pressure to be and do everything that once was done by a group of people. We often lose perspective of priorities because we are taking care of everything at the same time. Starting to feel sick causes anxiety and even fear because it means so many things need to happen in order for mom—especially if single—to lay down and recover while the children are taken care of. And when the children get sick, that could mean losing money for a working mother or father, because the truth is that most corporations are not designed to nurture families.

In the absence of that model of a village I long for, we tend to rely on social media to have a sense of community and feel supported. We may feel that since we are capable of doing so much—working and stay at home moms equally—perhaps we don't need help. Or quite the opposite: mom guilt kicks in and feelings of not being enough torment our night sleep. Depression and anxiety can enter the picture and just thinking about the amount of energy and time that takes to create true connections, we may often curl up in our little cocoon with our children and partners—if they are present—when they come home.

Now what? was my thought this week while driving back and forth to the pediatrician with my sick son. I can't get the virus, I have to be strong, my daughter can't get ill, my husband needs to be healthy for his work trip next week, we all need to be well for my son's fifth birthday. And so, it goes on. I texted one of my mom friends just to rant. She rants back because her son is also sick. She sent me a heart and an "I'm here if you need to talk."

I am grateful to have talked to her at that random postpartum circle when I first became a mother. She's a Latina immigrant like me and feels exactly like me. I will do it more, get out of my comfort zone and have—sometimes—awkward conversations so I can keep growing my own little village.

It may not look like the one I'd imagined, but still may allow me to be vulnerable even through a text message.

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Halloween is around the corner, but if you are like me you are still trying to figure out what to dress your family (especially the little ones), so here are some cute ideas inspired by famous characters. There's something for everyone—from cartoon lovers to ideas for the entire family!

Here are some adorable character costumes for your family:

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