Wednesday, July 22, 2009

the comparison game

one of the things that i've discovered in this thing called being a parent is that it entails a lot of comparison. 

it starts at the very beginning with what your pregnancy was like (nausea? sleeplessness? weight gain? heartburn? backache?) 

and continues through to what your labor was like (complications? how many hours of active labor? how long did you push? all natural? drugs? how soon did you get drugs? c-section? c-section after pushing?) 

and then it keeps going once this little human is out in the world and has become a part of your family (colicky? how good of a eater is your baby? what type of temperament-mellow? fussy? how well does she sleep? how fast is he to roll over, scoot, crawl, cruise, walk, eat solids, potty train...)

i am not being critical; much to my own chagrin, i am the queen bee of having issues with comparison. and i've asked just as many of those questions as the next parent, whether i like to admit it or not. once i found out that little m was deaf, i was like, "oh great, now i'm really going to have issues with comparison." at least i know myself well enough to know that much; sometimes i do compare little m's language progress to that of her hearing peers, and it puts me into a dark and discouraged place. 

when she was very small, the words that would most pierce my heart would be because other moms would complain that their infant couldn't sleep if it was noisy or that the baby would startle easily. i would just get quiet when other parents talked about how their baby loved this musical toy or the song on their mobile. i would see little newborns turn toward the sound of their parent's voice and it was like i was dying inside.

now my sweet daughter is getting older, and so are her little baby friends. sometimes it isn't even a baby i know that triggers my sadness; it can be a random infant in a store or at the park that is at least 6 months younger than my daughter and is making sounds that i have never heard come out of her mouth. 

babies that are 
6, 8, or 10 months younger 
than my daughter 
are babbling dada 
or mimicking speech sounds 
or speaking actual words. 

and little m is not. 
and i grieve it every single time. 

i almost started bawling the other day when a baby months younger than little m pointed at the bubble container and said, "bub-bub." little m looked on and smiled and continued climbing the stairs. i teared up and repeated, "yes! those are bubbles." simultaneously i felt such sadness that my own daughter was nowhere near expressing herself that way, and guilt that my first thought was loss rather than rejoicing in this little one's verbalizing.

it's complicated. 

because i don't want a different baby. 

i don't think my daughter is broken. 

i love all of her, and she may not be defined by her deafness, but it is a huge part of who she is and who she always will be. i don't begrudge the celebrations of other parents as their child first babbles, says words, strings together a sentence, sings a song. i don't want to feel envious or compare my child to theirs, but i do. i don't want to cry when i hear a baby echo the voice of his mom of dad, but i do. i want other parents to be able to tell me that their baby just said a first word or a sentence, and not worry that i will downward spiral or resent them. i should be able to celebrate this thing that i want just as much for my daughter. instead it still feels like a tender, recent wound.

the funny thing is that it's easy to compare to the norm. it's easy for me to be sad that my daughter is a few years behind her hearing peers; with her cochlear implants she will have access to speech and language... she will be able to speak and listen someday. but there are children who get implants when they are much, much older, and have a far more difficult road to acquiring language; some of those parents are comparing their child's progress to a child like mine, who has been implanted early, with a crunch in their hearts. besides, there are children who have far more hurdles to overcome than my little m, with syndromes or complicated diagnoses or multiple developmental delays.

some days are hard. some days having a deaf daughter breaks my heart for twenty different reasons. some days i struggle with feelings of discontentment, or weariness, or grief. some days all i do is compare, compare, compare. some days i don't like myself very much.

but i am learning, through this beautiful child of mine, to have gratitude in this journey. i would hope that i am learning to listen, see, feel in ways that are not marked by comparison and envy, but by grace and joy. 


  1. Outstanding, Susannah. You have such a way with words and always capture so succinctly (and beautifully) many of the same thoughts that I have but have never found their way to paper or blog...

  2. I appreciate your honesty and bravery. She will talk one day but I can relate to the frustration. Even Jude was a late talker at almost 3 and sometimes even now when I see my peers toddlers chatting away I realize, I missed big chunks of that. Just remember that all the Speech therapy does pay off and you will trump all your peers when it comes to knowing the speech banana, ling sounds and you will know when other kids need speech therapy!! Peace my fellow sister on the road of deafness.

  3. It will come, it will all come. Just think about the shape of the learning curve -- when you're at the beginning, the curve is so shallow, and progress is so slow. But as you go along, the curve swoops up sharply.

  4. What a great post, susannah. Comparisons are constant in my life too. Walking has actually been a much sorer subject that talking for me right now for some reason. Lucas is only starting to take a few steps at 19 months! I meet 10 month olds who can walk! It's tough, no matter what. I think you're great!!!

  5. Sweet Friend, Thank you for sharing your heart. Your beautiful words ring so true.
    It can be hard for me to see milestones come so (seemingly) easily for other kids when Viv has to work so hard for every little micro-milestone within a milestone.
    Susannah, you are traveling this often-difficult road with grace and joy, with so much love for your Sweet M. I am so thankful our paths have crossed and that I can count you as one of my sisters on this journey.

  6. I couldn't agree with you more, although Kemper is only 3 months Ive already started playing the game. I see babies in the grocery store a few months older making noises, and looking at thier mothers when they speak and I get so jealous because I know K won't be doing that for a long time. I know in time it will all come but it still hurts, but it's nice to know that we are not alone and others understand. Thanks for your post.

  7. What a great post. You really do have a way with words- you should write a book some day.


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