Albinism isn’t rare, but it isn’t all that common either. And it’s not something you expect your baby to be born with unless you have a family history of the condition. Leena Similu, a mom from Los Angeles, had a surprise of her life when her son was born with albinism and now shares his story to help people become familiar with this often-misunderstood condition.
Leena had three miscarriages before she became pregnant with Cosmo, she wrote in her story for Love What Matters. Doctors had warned her that the pregnancy might be high-risk, but she had a feeling that her baby would be fine. What’s more, he would be special – the mom just didn’t know in what way.
Leena’s due date came and she had a difficult labor, but she knew her little boy would be alright. What she didn’t know was the surprise that couldn’t be seen before the baby came out.
Once the boy’s head emerged, Leena’s ob-gyn expressed fascination. Writing for Love What Matters, the mom recalled:
While Cosmo was crowning, my OBGYN stopped attending to me and looked at my husband to say, ‘WOW, check out the hair!! Does anyone in your family have blond hair?’
When the boy – who Leena and her husband named Cosmo – was out, doctors and nurses knew he wasn't just blond – he might be an albino.
Cosmo’s diagnosis was confirmed, and his parents had to make some adjustments. The boy has to wear sunglasses whenever he’s outside and also has to use sunscreen, as his skin is more sensitive to the sun.
The boy’s mom and dad have some concerns about his vision (albinos are prone to eye problems) and his ability to adjust in the future once he starts school. But now, Cosmo is just a happy little boy and his parents love him just the way he is. Leena wrote:
For our small family, Cosmo is completely normal. He’s our only child therefore we don’t have another context to compare him to. We hope people will embrace our outlook, leave comparisons at the front door and celebrate individuality for the beauty that it is.
How common is albinism?
Albinism – a condition in which a person’s skin, hair, and eyes lack pigment – isn’t common.
According to Medical News Today, about 1 in 5,000 to 15,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa have albinism. The condition is even less common in Europe and the United States; according to the website, about 1 in 17,000 to 20,000 people in Europe and the U.S. are affected.
Albinism doesn’t affect a person’s general health, but some specific health problems are more common in people with the condition. Albinos are prone to eye problems, and their skin is more susceptible to sunburns. Other than that, people with albinism aren’t much different from the rest of us.