Quite honestly, when people hear my daughters names, they are either intrigued by their uniqueness or politely groan as if to say… “Why did you name your kids that?”
My husband, as a way for him to honor his Irish heritage, chose both names. I am also of Irish descent and despite the influx of naysayers; I like to think our daughters will one day appreciate the meanings of their names. If, as adults, they are still unhappy with our choice, I will do what mothers have done for centuries; I will blame their father.
Nuala (Noo-La) is really the shortened version of the Irish name Fionnuala. It means “fair shouldered, exceptionally lovely,” the name has been in existence since the 13th century.
Aoife (EE-Fa) means “beautiful, radiant, and joyful.” In Irish folklore, Aoife is known as their greatest female warrior.
Nuala was due on Valentine’s Day, but was delivered via C-section at 39 weeks, on February 6, 2013. From the time I was six weeks pregnant until the day she was born; I was violently sick. In fact, I have never thrown up as much in my life as I did when I was pregnant with that child. At the time, I believed it was all due to rising hormone levels, but after going through pregnancy #2, I know nerves played a huge role in the daily sickness.
It had only been 6 months since I had lost my eyesight and I had literally graduated from mobility/white cane training; the day I found out I was pregnant. Here I was living halfway between the world of the sighted and the world of the blind and now, now I was going to have a baby! If you ever needed proof positive that the Good Lord has a sense of humor, look no further. Doctors immediately classified me as a high-risk pregnancy and ten months of worrying began.
I was petrified beyond belief, convinced that something would go wrong. The further along I got with my pregnancy, the more my optic nerves swelled, until at 7 months pregnant I woke up one morning with absolutely no vision at all. Little Nuala was causing her mommy a lot of health problems. My husband had to do everything for me, and I mean everything, from showering me to cutting my food. It had to be the most stressful time in our marriage. Before he left for work each night I would ask him to give me “the speech,” which went like this:
“The Baby is Okay.”
“You’re not going to be sick tonight.”
“You’re not going to die.”
Now isn’t that a cheery way to end your evening? But, that’s how it was.
The morning of the C-section countless nurses and doctors prepped me, in total and complete darkness. Everyone knew Holly Bonner, the blind woman, had arrived to have her baby. Everyone was waiting. People say when you lose your eyesight, other senses become heightened, and in my experience that has been exceptionally true. The sounds of the hospital were terrifying and the smell of the sterile environment, especially the operating room, petrified me. I was shaking so hard it took three nurses to stabilize me for the spinal block.
Then after all the worrying, Nuala was born, and of course in true Nuala fashion, there was drama. My husband told me, “she’s out” and then I heard nothing. The umbilical cord was tightly wrapped around her neck and doctors had to remove it, so there was quite a delay (at least to me) in her crying. When she finally did cry, I cried. They brought her to my face and pressed her cheek against mine. I was a new mom, something I had always wanted to be, but I couldn’t see my own daughter’s face. They whisked my new bundle away and knocked me out for the duration of the surgery.
Now the waiting game began. My doctor’s theory was the swelling in my optic nerves would diminish after delivery and hopefully some of my vision would return. Almost 5 hours later, I began to see shapes and shadows again. I was given my baby girl and I could see her. I knew she was beautiful beforehand, but being able to make out ten fingers and ten toes gave this momma a much-needed sense of relief. We were going to be ok. We were a family. Nuala made 3!
Two weeks after celebrating Nuala’s first birthday, we found out baby #2 was on its way. This time around there was no nausea and much less anxiety. I had no time to think about being sick or worrying because I was too busy chasing around my toddler. I was still considered high risk due to my prior health issues, but the doctors saw me less frequently compared to my previous pregnancy, at least until the third trimester. Thankfully, there was no swelling of my optic nerves with Aoife and my vision remained in tact, with very little change.
My original due date for Aoife was November 12th, but in early October I developed a bad sinus infection that caused me a lot of eye pain. Doctors opted to deliver her via C-section on October 29, 2014. They say the second C-section is much easier than the first. Whoever “they” are…LIED! I kid you not what I tell you I still have nightmares from bringing that child into this world. From the moment I walked into the hospital that day, her delivery was organized chaos. We couldn’t get a room to prep for surgery, so I was stuck in triage. Then they couldn’t get a vein for my IV. My blood pressure was though the roof (possibly from being poked with a needle for a half an hour) and when I finally was in the operating room, ready to go, the anesthesiologist couldn’t get the spinal block inserted because my stubborn Irish warrior was lying on my sciatic nerve! Aoife entered this world screaming her lungs out, and she has been doing it ever since.
Now 4, Miss. Nuala is a calm, imaginative, easy-going kid. She certainly has a flair for the dramatic and although more than half Irish, her love of pasta and cheese lends itself more to mommy’s Italian roots. Nothing bothers her and she epitomizes the “fair shouldered” quality of her name. She loves all animals (especially ocean creatures and dinosaurs), has a vocabulary that most teenagers can’t match, and she truly is the most observant child I have ever met. Good thing, considering her mom can’t see!
Aoife is 2 years old and her daddy named her right. When Aoife wants something, she gets it. Her determination is unwavering. She has to do everything herself, whether it’s holding the book someone is trying to read her or ripping the spoon out of your hand to try to feed herself. Despite her rough exterior and the affectionate nickname, “lil’ beastie”, she is the most loving baby on the planet. The second you pick her up, her head sinks deep into your shoulder, and then she wraps her arms around and kisses your cheek. There is nothing on this earth better than Aoife’s bear hugs and wet kisses.
My girls are the breath to my life and the beat to my heart. There is no sweeter sound then hearing my two little bugs call me “mommy” – even if it’s only because they need a refill on their goldfish crackers. God chose me to be their mother, even after I became blind, so I believe it’s my job to be the best-damned mother I can be and afford them every opportunity in the crazy journey we call life. Each and every day is an uphill battle, but we’ll get there, together as a family.
Pictured: Holly’s daughters, Nuala & Aoife.