A CWMBRAN woman has talked about her experiences giving birth during the coronavirus pandemic - and how being severely sight-impaired altered her experience.

Thirty-two year-old Kirsty Davies’ sight loss is caused by nystagmus, which involves constant, uncontrollable movement of the eyes, and she is only able to see close-up.

On April 29 at 12.10pm her second child Lewis was born, weighing 9lb 5oz - but the birth was not as planned.

Originally due for the Royal Gwent Hospital, the birth was moved to Neville Hall Hospital in Abergavenny and via caesarean, due to the coronavirus pandemic hotspot at the former.

Guide dog Ricky has taken a shine to new arrival Lewis

Mrs Davies was lucky to be able to have her husband Chris by her side. She said: “All our perfect planning to get support from hospital midwives went up in the air because of the pandemic, so we opted for a C-section and hoped the baby would not come early.”

Mrs Davies is unable to see more than 30cm in front of her and the potential challenge of having to go through the birth without her husband would have been frightening.

“The other mothers on the ward knew I had my partner with me and were wondering why they could not have theirs. They didn’t understand that I needed him to be there.”


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Even without the pandemic, it was a significantly different birth to that of daughter Phoebe nine years ago. During Phoebe’s birth, she was able to see more clearly, being partially sighted at the time.

“Giving birth is scary anyway. [But with sight loss] you have to repeat yourself constantly.

"I need the staff to tell me what they are doing, where they are putting my food.

"You should be concentrating on having a baby, but you are constantly asking for their support. It takes the shine off what is supposed to be a momentous day - you don’t want to keep repeating yourself.”

It was still a magical experience for Mrs Davies, and she had supportive medical staff during the operation.

She said: “One midwife, who had an uncle with sight loss, seemed to understand. She asked where to place the baby to make my experience the same as everyone else’s.”

Mrs Davies was given guide dog Ricky in December 2018, and he has also adjusted well to having a baby in the house.

Mrs Davies said: “He was not really interested in the bump at first, then he realised what was happening and became really protective, lying on my stomach as I was trying to cool down in the bedroom.

"He goes up to the baby and has a look if he cries.”

Mrs Davies was born with nystagmus and her world was constantly moving from side to side, she only needed magnifiers to read print and was otherwise able to get on with life.

"This was the case when she had her daughter as she had enough vision to be able to see most of her surroundings and assess any risks for them. It didn’t seem too different from any other new mum,” she said.

But on July 3 2017, she woke with a migraine. “I wasn’t too worried as it was a common occurrence when your eyes are constantly moving, but despite taking medication I had I couldn’t get my eyes to focus on anything and was only able to see things that was arms length without it blurring.”

A month later, she was told that the nystagmus had changed in such an unusual and irreversible way that the vision she now had would be the new normal.

Aids and gadgets were helpful to allow her to get her everyday skills back including using the kettle and finding buttons on a microwave but the addition of Ricky has created a new normality for Mrs Davies and her family as they adjust to life with a newborn baby in the middle of a pandemic.