November 26, 2020

My journey with a son who can see less but surely inspire more – Aamna Zaidi

Aamna Zaidi Raza isn’t the usual mum you read about her online or meet somewhere. She is a special mum to a very special child.

Her attitude is a reflection of taking everything life throws up in a positive way. Mums and stories had this opportunity to interact with her where she shared her determination and challenges in raising her adopted child, who is blind by birth.

It was a blog she shared where she expressed her heart out and we decided to feature this inspiring mum.
Now she is a homemaker and growing up with her child as a special parent. Aamna used to work for a fashion production house before immersing herself in parenthood.

Aamna is also mum to baby Natasha, again adopted by Aamna and her husband Zain and the little baby is slowly getting herself acclimatized in this home in Brooklyn, New York.
“Nael is 4.5 years and Natasha is 9 months old. Nael was a perfect baby. Beautifully formed, gentle of nature and non fussy. I was hesitant when meeting him at the adoption center but once with him, I felt the tug of the most intense pull that I have ever felt. I fell in love deeply and totally.

However by 2-3 months of age, we noticed that he wasn’t tracking objects or responding to visual cues. After a round of doctor consultations, with most refraining from saying the dreaded but obvious, I blissfully decided that he was delayed and that all would be fine.

At 6 months of age, I brought him to United States and our pediatrician referred us to an ophthalmologist. She cheerfully took us into the room and sang nursery rhymes to Nael while examining. She gradually grew quiet, turned on the lights and said that we have to take him for further testing. I badgered her with why’s till she finally blurted out, ‘I fear he might be blind’. The world caved in. We came out of the doctor’s office and just looked at each other, shattered. I started crying and asking the inevitable questions, what are we going to do? Why did this happen to us? My husband was silent. Sensing the anxiety, Nael started crying. I realized that I was holding him very tightly. At that moment, clarity set in. This is not about us any more.

Our life has taken us to the road less travelled. He is in school now on week days till about 3 pm. He also goes to swim and horse-riding classes during the week. In the New Year, he will be taking music classes also. He loves music. He has perfect pitch and can play complex tunes. He picked out Beethoven’s Fur Elise recently. He loves to explore the world and use his hands as eyes and I must say his memory is uncanny. The little boy can remember stuff from 2 years ago. Nael also loves to listen to conversations and hear stories.

His favorite food is japanese and can name complex flavors upon tasting. He touches everything, loves to be tickled and is a very affectionate, cuddly child. I know one of the biggest challenges for blind people is mobility and independence. He is learning to walk with the cane. I hope he will eventually not rely on others but himself. Of course, even with best intentions, it is so hard as a mother not to make things easier for him but, for his good, this is something I fight with all the time. I still worry about his quality of life when he is an adult and not an adorable child any more.

He is very curious about other children but doesn’t know how to connect with them. His friends are mostly adults. Instead of play dates, he has activities. I hope one day he will make friends his own age. These are those sadness moments which I hope will go with time for me.

Nael has a wacky sense of humor and is the delight of his school. His other senses are heightened, especially sound. He picks up notes and plays tunes on the piano after hearing them once. He recognizes footsteps and far off noises that no one else notices.
He has twinkling, expressive eyes. His joy is reflected in them, his sadness and his love.

Now that he is an older brother, he is navigating that role very thoughtfully and gently with his little sister.
Raising a special needs child, requires vast amounts of patience and thinking outside the box. It is rich in emotion and fulfillment. My husband has been the pillar of this journey with me.

There have been times where I have been overwhelmed by despair or awash with gratitude, mostly the latter, but I have learnt how to embrace that and not expect life to follow a prescribed route.

There are a few things which Nael has taught me until now. He has taught me not to judge people on appearances. To focus on what is inside a person and how they present it to the world. He has helped me to use my other four senses in an enhanced way. He has guided me to translate the visual of color, sights, objects, seasons in a way that would relate to him. Needless to say I have become more patient, creative and adaptable because of him. And most importantly, not let my worries of the future, take away the joy of the moment.”

Mums and stories wishes Nael, Natasha and the very special parents Aamna and Zain strength, courage and ability to inspire others like the way they have been doing until now

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