No One Told Me Parenthood Would Come With Eye Injuries


A mother holding her hands up to her eyes

Parenthood grants you a lot of gifts. Hugs. Little voices saying, “I love you, Mommy.” Gobs of handprint crafts.

And eye injuries.

I write this post with one eye covered with an eye patch, looking like a pirate, after my second corneal abrasion (tear in my cornea) in my nearly four years of parenthood. Everyone prepared me for all the other gifts of childhood, but no one prepared me for the eye injuries.

And it’s not just common folk, like I, who suffer eye injuries at the hands of their children. In November, Today co-host Samantha Guthrie suffered retinal detachment thanks to her toddler hitting her with a toy train. Boston Red Sox utility player Brock Holt found himself missing games at the beginning of last spring when his son poked him in the eye and caused an abrasion. “One of his fingernails got me good,” Holt said to reporters at the time.

Holt and I share a similar story. My first corneal abrasion happened when I was changing the diaper of my then 1½-year-old two years ago. I finished the job, and my squirmy toddler stood up, looked me in the eyes, proclaimed, “Eye!” and promptly poked his finger in my left eye.

After hours of blurry vision, pain, and tearing up, I went to urgent care. The nurse looked at my eye and said, “Let me guess — your kid poked you in the eye.”

“How did you know?”

“Because we see it a lot.”

Referred to an ophthalmologist the next day, the doctor walked into the exam room and said, “I hear you have a corneal abrasion. Do you have kids?”

“How did you know?”

“Because most of the people I see with this injury suffered it at the hands of their toddler,” he laughed.

Cuts in your cornea sound and feel awful, but they’re very treatable. A round of eye drops and a few days of an eye patch or sunglass-wearing indoors and you’re as good as new… except that you’re not. See, as my ophthalmologist informed me, corneal abrasions never really go away. You might be sitting at your desk nearly two years later, blink, and bam! It re-tears.

Like it did to me.

I was sitting at my desk at work, typing an email, when I blinked — and BAM. It was back. And within hours, the pain was worse than it was the first time. Tears dropped down my face and onto my laptop like I was watching the saddest episode of television ever created (or, to be honest, the ending of Super Bowl XXV). I went to the emergency room because the pain was so bad that I thought it must have been more than just the return of my old eye injury.

The resident came into the exam room, examined me, and of course asked, “Did someone poke you in the eye?”

“Two years ago. My son.”

“Yup, that’s how that usually happens.”

So to newbie parents, I offer you the following advice: Some of you are going to get poked in the eye by a well-meaning, but curious, child. Or you may take a toy to the eye. Or you might catch that lovely pink eye going around your child’s class. Have an eye doctor in your phone contacts, have an eye patch of some kind in your first aid kit, and just know that if eye injuries happen to you, you’re far from alone.