Monday, June 11, 2012

the big day

when i was pregnant with m, i was terrified of the labor part of having a baby.

i remember thinking that it is one of the things in life where there is no turning back, there is no pause button, there is no "i just need a few more days until i'm ready to take the plunge." it seemed so scary to me- the unknown of labor. somehow i felt like if i just knew how much it would hurt, or exactly how it would feel to push a baby out, then i wouldn't be scared. of course, if i really knew ahead of time how extremely painful labor was, i think i would've been even more paralyzed with fear.

but then on the evening of april 7, 2008 i started having contractions, crazy painful from the very beginning. of course they only grew more and more painful & strong until 18 hours later i pushed my 8 lb 13 oz baby out. once i was in it there was no choice but to do it, to move forward, to work through the pain, even though i thought i couldn't do it, even though i thought i was about to die. i barely had time to be afraid i was so busy working on the business of birthing a baby.

and then there was this living, breathing, amazing human being laying on my chest, squirming around on me and i (mostly) forgot about the pain. (i wish i could completely forget about it, but people- labor hurts freaking bad.) after labor i felt like a warrior, having gone through so much pain but having conquered it and birthing this little person.

the next day, m didn't pass her newborn hearing screening, but i didn't think much of it. even when matt commented to the nurse, "so she could be deaf? of course we would love her just as much if she was deaf, but is that what this test could mean?" i thought to myself, "but of course our baby isn't deaf. who has a deaf baby?" i didn't even think about the potential of her not passing the followup hearing test. but then she didn't pass again. or the next one after that. the only test she passed was the one we didn't want her to: the examination for fluid in her ears.

she was deaf.

i honestly forget a lot of that first couple of months, but a few things i will never forget:
m didn't wake up when i turned the vacuum on right next to her.
she didn't startle when a car blasting hip-hop drove right past us on the sidewalk.
when she was upset she screamed so loudly that our neighbor asked if something was wrong with her.
i couldn't say the word deaf without crying.
i was so scared of being a mom to a deaf child & not knowing how to do it.

four years ago, when m was only two months old, we visited jwposd, a deaf oral school, for the very first time. the drive seemed long; it was an hour from our house, but our friend mary claire was a teacher there, and she and our audiologist had encouraged us to visit. it was the last day of school, and i remember not really wanting to go, but feeling like we had to: it was that no turning back moment of labor, when there really is no choice but to fight through the pain.

that morning was the first time someone asked me, as if it was the most normal thing in the world, if my baby was deaf. m didn't have hearing aids quite yet, so out in the regular world no one would ever assume she couldn't hear. the little girl came right up to us and asked us that question and then about 20 more. she was adorable, vivacious, and deaf with cochlear implants.

we went to the annual end of the year talent show and graduation, and i watched kid after kid, most of them deaf, running up to the stage and singing, kicking soccer balls, playing the drums, singing songs. my heart was kind of exploding with so much sadness and hope mixed together.

i think it was that morning that i kind of changed gears from just processing our sadness and disbelief into the work of giving our itty bitty 2 month old daughter the tools to communicate. it was painful but there it was, just like labor, needing to happen. and once we were in it, there was no turning back, it was just time to do the important, incremental and ongoing work, with not too much time or energy to be scared.

this past friday, exactly four years after the first time i walked into jwposd, my little girl, all four years and two months of her, got up on the stage with her best friend, her sister as they call each other, and they sang yankee doodle into a microphone.
she got up later to get her certificate of completion. since she started attending jwposd at SEVEN months old (itty bitty baby!) she has worked so hard- thousands of hours of therapy, class, and morning music. my girl earned that certificate!
that school is like another home for ruby and m - they know all the kids, all the teachers, all the therapists. jwposd is all either of my girls have ever known! and along the way that school has become like another home for me- a place for support from other parents who have walked a similar journey, for wisdom from the teachers and therapists who know their stuff, and for community with other kids with hearing loss for m.
suffice it to say, friday was bittersweet. the trajectory of m's life will be fundamentally different because she has gone to this school that last few years. somehow, my big girl is all mainstream preschool next year! this is what all the years of labor have been for - for her to get out into the world and thrive with her peers. but to transition away from this safe place, full of adults and kids who want the best for my daughter? my heart is also breaking a little bit. it feels big. it feels scary. but deep down in my gut (ahem, not in my heart), it also feels right.

four years ago the last place i wanted to be, or expected to be, was a school for the deaf,
and somehow here i am four years later, wishing it wasn't time to go!

(notice ruby is all up in it)

all of the effort: the drives, the advocating at the district and at jwposd, the bazillion hours of therapy and work, the ifsps and ieps, the extra drives to go to alumni panels, or playdates, or extra school activities has been worth it for m to learn to talk and listen.
(my little family)

to the amazing other parents who have been walking this journey with us:
you are amazing. you're my people. (always)

and to m's teachers & therapists at jwposd,

you're amazing too, and you've given me the gift of knowing how to be a mommy to a deaf daughter. you've given me resources, tricks & tips that i use every single day. i feel like you've taught matt & i as much as you've taught m. we love you.

all i can say are very small words that hold our very full hearts:

thank you.
you've given my daughter her voice.


  1. (um, typing through big, drippy, happy tears is hard.)

    this is such a beautiful tribute to jw and your beautiful family's journey there.


    1. of course- my fellow teary mama! love that we = cryfest always. so grateful for that first day we sat in the family center with our babies, and for all of the moments we've shared since. xoxo

  2. Bawling. Love "full circle" moments like this.

  3. I remember those early days and weeks and months. I remember hearing monrovia's speaking for the (my) first time. What a journey. I am a big cry baby right now as I read your words and "see" the people who have scooped y'all up in the midst of the no turning back phases. Go Team Monrovia! So much love from our home to yours. Always.

  4. tears. i love this school. i love these teachers. i love your family. my heart is so sad you're (we're!) leaving PS. And I look at your daughter and I'm just blown away at the miracles in her life. her surgery, this school, her implants, the provision for it all. she talks better than my hearing child! (and grooves better too). what an amazing journey. PS - love the family photo. you look awesome. ruby's face made me laugh out loud.

  5. love this and couldn't have said it better! I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm so, so happy and grateful we've met each other through this unexpected journey.

  6. all the love in the world from one deaf mama to the next and to the many many milestones that are ahead.

  7. love the post (even though the part about labor scares me!) love the photos; M's hair=awesome. love the family photo the most!

  8. OMG the tears. Praise God for your story and the gifts he always always always gives, along with Himself, at every point on our journey. Love your fam!

  9. beautiful. God bless your sweet little family :)

  10. yep, this made me cry too. you have a way of doing that when you share your amazing heart.

    i loved spending time with m yesterday! What an amazing little girl you are raising. My favorite was when she asked me what I was doing this weekend. (: wise beyond her years! and her language skills are super impressive.

    loved spending time with you, too. and ruby and the chickens and amy and nancy plus all the boys! your home is lovely. see you soon.

    ps. so fun that Rose commented right before me!

  11. thanks for all of your kind words celebrating with us as we transition out of this school. some days i am so glad my daughter is deaf, because it opened up my world in a way i never would've imagined. and really, i can't imagine monrovia not being deaf, but also can't imagine her without her implants.


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