Mothers’ Day is fast approaching, and I wondered about who I should write. Should I write about my own mother who has to a large extent shaped me into the mother I am today? Should I write about the ‘Mothers of the faith’, who have prayed me through many a difficult life challenge? Should I write about my dear friends who are mothers? I acknowledge my appreciation and love for all these ladies but I remained undecided. Fortuitously, I came into contact with a young mother, who has forever shaped my perspective on life.
Meet Nikita. She is twenty-eight years old and is the mother of two wonderful boys ages four and seven. Each night before school she helps them to prepare for the next day- homework is finished, shoes are polished, bags are packed, and these two precious souls are scrubbed, creamed and put to bed. By 4:45 she is up the next morning and she gently wakes them, prepares their breakfast, they get their showers and by 7:30 a.m. she sends them off to get the bus for school.
After they have left, she works her way through her remaining daily chores. By now someone is asking, ‘What could be exceptional about this young lady? This sounds like what millions of mothers the world over have to do on a daily basis’. I agree this is boring, hum-drum, jejune- however you choose to describe it. But here is why I think she is exceptional. Nikita is legally blind.
Her story is one which demonstrates the innate power we each possess to be phenomenal and to positively impact the lives of others, especially our children.
She was the typical twenty-year-old, working in an office but making sure she was a cut above the others by doing more than just what was asked of her. She really was not the type to go to many parties preferring to remain at home with family and friends. She became pregnant and was looking forward to a normal pregnancy with a healthy baby to raise at the end. However, this was not to be. She realised one day whilst pregnant she could not see from one eye for a few days. This was followed by loss of sight in the other eye and then came the realisation that she could not see at all. One can only imagine what a devastating blow this would be to this young woman, pregnant with her first child and now confined to a world of complete darkness.
What was her response? She was angry; she became depressed and did not want to interact with anyone. And who could blame her? All her hopes and dreams in a matter of a few short weeks were drowned in a sea of blackness. Community is important as we are not meant to live without interacting with friends and family. Someone contacted Mrs Eudalene Wickham-Ashby of BARNOD (Barbados National Organisation of the Disabled). With her encouragement and the input of a psychologist, a ray of light expands over her dark world and things began to look up. I mentioned her work ethic earlier and at some point during those sessions, she made up in her mind that she would be the best mother for her son…. she would raise her baby boy with as little help as possible.
Things seemed to be going well, and she became pregnant again at age twenty-four. When her son turned two months, she awoke to the realisation that her left side was numb and she was unable to control her arm and leg. After investigation, she was diagnosed with Neuromyelitis Optica. This is a rare condition that affects the spinal cord and the optic nerve (main nerve in the eye) which can cause blindness and paralysis (muscle weakness).
One would think that with another blow like this Nikita would be devastated. What was it that kept her going? Her children. In the initial stages after her diagnosis, she could not do anything for herself. She had to be bathed, fed, taken to the bathroom and all of this for the average person would be demoralising and probably lead to a life of gloom and despair. That was not the life she wanted for herself and her children.
She exercised her limbs, persevered and kept as her motto ‘Get up and do something for yourself!’ So where are we now, four years after her diagnosis?
She is ably taking care of two young boys who are excelling at school. She helps them with their homework by getting her older son to read the instructions to her and then explaining with an example if he does not understand. With her younger son, she writes out the numbers and letters for him and even draws pictures which sometimes go downhill. I laughed with her as she told me this as I felt this intense sense of pride in her accomplishments.
To the amazement of family members she is able to cook and bake from scratch, and the only two things she is unable to do, are press and make cou-cou. Using television shows as a guide, she is able to tell the time if her phone is not nearby, and Nikita hand-washes all the clothes for herself and her sons.
It has not been easy by any stretch of the imagination. She still has pain and numbness in her limbs and some days she cannot feel with her fingertips. However, the resourceful Nikita uses the backs of her hands as guides. She has never seen her sons, but she uses those loving motherly hands to feel out their features, dry their tears and comfort them in the midst of challenging circumstances.
My life changed for the better after it collided with that of one of the most remarkable women I have ever met. I am encouraged to persevere in the face of challenges and I say to myself, ‘If Nikita can get things done, so can I!’ Happy Mothers’ Day to all mothers especially to an exceptional mother, Nikita.
(Renee Boyce is a medical doctor, a wife, a mother and a Christian, who is committed to Barbados’ development. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org)