When Brazilian mother Rosemere Fernanda de Andrade gave birth to her first child, a heavy dose of confusion tainted what should have been a purely joyful moment – her child was white.
Given that both Rosemere and her then-husband are of Afro-Brazilian heritage, the child’s ghost-white skin and blonde hair were perplexing, to put it mildly.
It didn’t take long for doctors to figure out what was going on. The child had albinism – a genetic condition in which a person is born with no melanin, or color, in their skin, eyes and hair. Against all odds, two of Rosemere’s next three children were born with the condition too.
It didn’t take long for Rosemere’s neighbors to suspect foul play was involved.
“They even suggested [my husband] wasn’t the father and I had been with someone else,” Rosemere told Mirror. “It made me angry. When I am with my children, I get strange looks because we look so different. Once I was leaving a shopping centre with Ruth and Estefani, and a security guard asked where their mother was. It used to make me angry, but I am learning people need educating about what albinism is."
Though Rosemere’s children lead fully functional lives, their albinism requires daily attention. Long-sleeve shirts, SPF 100 suncreen and hats are a must when going outside. Even a few minutes of exposure to the hot Brazilian sun can cause severe sunburn.
"It can happen so quickly when the sun is fierce,” Rosemere says. “Now I know not to let them into the sun after 10 a.m. If they have to leave the house, I make sure they wear long sleeves, hats and plenty of sunscreen.”
Doctors told Rosemere that she and her ex-husband both carry a recessive gene for albinism. When two people carrying the gene reproduce, there’s a 1-in-4 chance the child will be born with the condition. Rosemere hopes her grandchildren will be free from the labor and stigmatization that accompanies albinism.
"Although I would feel like a normal grandmother and accept my grandchildren as I accepted my children, I wouldn't wish this upon them,” she says. “All the prejudices that my children also faced would make me fear for them.”