Sunday, January 20, 2008

First Child DEAF...Do You Have the Second Child?

Hell, yeah.

Thank you so much to everyone for your honest comments and for sharing heart-wrenchingly personal experiences here. This post is dedicated to Sofia Madyson, my hearing 5 year old drama queen of a curly-haired, independent daughter. She could never have known what awaited her when she was born into this f'in crazy family:).

A couple of days ago I was sitting outside of the Bar Stiacciole (bar is not pub, it's cafè) waiting for my friend to talk. A seventy year old man walks out of the bar looks at me, keeps walking, then suddenly turns around and walks back towards me. He looks me in the eyes, and says, "Buongiorno!" (Good morning!)I look him square in the eyes and reply, "Buongiorno!" (thinking...what the hell does this old man want?)Then, he smiles and says, "Le belle donne vanno sempre salutate." (One must always say hello to a beautiful woman.)I'm like, bring it on old man! So, I shyly smile and said, "You have a great day." He turns on his heels and goes about his life. You just never know how you can make a person's life with one nice word.
As I glowed and started thinking, hell yeah, I am ALL that, Sonia arrived and sat down. Her daughter Federica is in the same class as Sofia (her son is Jordan's best friend) and she proceeded to tell me the following: "Jodi, Sofia told Federica that she has a cochlear implant because she is deaf." News flash: my hearing daughter is now deaf. She then told me that Federica really thinks that Sofia is deaf because whenever she tries to talk to Sofia, Sofia says, "Eh, Eh, I can't hear you, what did you say?" Sonia knows I've been so busy with the book and blogging and that my world is revolving around the whole deafness issue right now. She also knows that I have my iPod in my ears 24/7 and that I am so totally in my own head. She was basically laughing at me.
What she didn't know was that the other day, Sofia walked upstairs and asked me to fix her cochlear implant (processor)because it was falling out of her ear. She handed me this pink Barbie behind the ear telephone attachment toy thingie to put back around her ear. She said, "Mom, I'm deaf." I said, "Sofia, do you know what deaf means?" She said, "It means I need a ci to hear." I said, "No,Jordan's ci helps him to hear, but without his ci, he can't hear sounds...his ears don't work like yours. For example in the morning when he wakes up and you both go and watch tv, you always go to get Jordan his processor because you know he needs that to hear the television." She looked at me and said, "Is he blind, too?"

Choosing to have another child when your first child is born deaf is exactly that, a choice. When you love your child unconditionally, the choice in the whole process vanishes and you just get down to business to create that new baby. Driving in my car with Jordan in his carseat, I always felt that there was a body missing in that other passenger seat. That empty seat missing another child, my daughter - hearing or deaf, was screaming to be occupied. When we finally got pregnant, I called my mother-in-law to tell her the incredible news...the first words out of her mouth, "God, I feel so sorry for Jordan. I don't know why you've gone and done this, but Jordan has too many needs for you to dedicate yourself to another child." Shit was that hard going down. As idealistic as this may sound, I firmly believe that "love conquers all." Had Sofia been born deaf, I would have loved her just like I loved my son and in respect to taking something away from Jordan, what greater gift in the world to give him than another person in his world to love him unconditionally. When I was pregnant, I prayed, not for a hearing daughter, for an affectionate, loving, intelligent and compassionate child. That is what God gave me and she happens to be hearing.
The fact that she is hearing is so strange. I was so used to raising Jordan in Italian that I would say certain things to Sofia in Italian instead of English. I had to relearn how to speak English to a baby...so bizarre. Jordan received his ci when Sofia was two, so her English was at a point where Jordan's ability to hear with the CI has enabled him to follow along in learning spontaneous English with Sofia. The whole thing is just so overwhelming to watch and live. The other day the tv accidentally turned off and I was looking for the flicker, Jordan picked up the flicker and said, "Oh, it's my fault, Mom." IN ENGLISH! I have been "Mamma" for eleven years, now I'm suddenly "Mom" and "Mommy" (when he wants something - conniving brat)I have never taught him how to say "It's my fault" so I said, "Jordan, how do you know how to say that?" He said, "I hear you say it all the time." Floored.
Magical sibling moment...Jordan reading a bedtime story to Sofia.
I am so blessed.

17 comments:

Val said...

I know what you mean by being floored when they say something you didn't sit down and physically teach them how to say. I had a tough time with this really when Gage went to K. It was much worse than leaving him at daycare at 6 wks old so I could go to work...it was hard walking to my car that day knowing that he'd actually be fine, but being uncertain if they would know how to teach him. I knew they couldn't possibly do it the way momma does it. But guess what? He came home one day and as we ate dinner he said "Do you know Cameron? Her momma and daddy like to say SHIT!" Well, not only did I nearly pee my pants but after my husband and I hid our faces to laugh...I was actually proud. You and other moms know that feeling when your deaf child picks up incidentals just in everyday speech. We have to sit back sometimes and say "it's okay, they have to learn to good and the bad". It wouldn't be right to send them out into the world and not know what cuss words are. He learned damn this year in first grade and as he calls it..."the A word". Pretty soon we'll have all of those words knocked out. I'm not as brave as you, I know you'd just sit him down and tell him all the bad words you could think of to just get it out of the way. I'm like Jordan I guess though, I'm still looking for my pair (grin). You keep bringing up very interesting issues, love it!

Paula said...

Great post! (I need to get original already! LOL) My son was born at the same time my daughter was diagnosed, literally. I had a newborn baby and was running around to audiologists (it took 2 and about 5 months until we had an accurate diagnosis). In a way, your mother-in-law was right, I barely had time to enjoy my baby as I ran to find an oral school for her, shuttled her to private speech therapy appointments, had meetings with the deteriorating program, found another one across the country and relocated with two babies in tow. It wasn't until then, a year and a half later, that I was finally able to sit down and enjoy my son without a cloud hanging over my head. My daughter was in a fantastic school and my son started to get more of my attention. Talk about Jewish mother guilt!

My son used to ask when he was getting hearing aids. Mommy, Daddy and sister all had them and he wanted them too. I told him, you have eyeglasses, that's enough! LOL

Great blog, Doll! Thanks for sharing!

deafhoney said...

Nice blog! It's a good topic and it's meaningful for our deafs. It's also a hot topic on deafromance.com . It is a pretty deaf dating site for friends, love, romance....It has many interesting feature

Dianrez said...

Hahaha, loved your blog! Aren't kids fun, deaf or hearing! The deaf gene being as fickle as it is, one never knows if the next kid will be deaf too...in my childhood, my younger sister was hearing, and in my family, only one out of three is deaf. So far, there is no other deaf kid yet in the second generation. No matter! Life is still good, deaf or hearing!

Mother of Bilingual Deaf and Hearing Children said...

There are so many factors that make up a family’s experience and family dynamics. Generally, I agree that a family’s experience and dynamic is likely to be different when a first child is deaf.

My first child is also deaf. I also wanted a second child (even before I had my first child I felt if I had one, I would have at least two). Because our first child is deaf, the odds of having a second deaf child were better than most families. But, we also felt better prepared to parent a second deaf child; so much that we welcomed the opportunity. With our first child, we did our best to maximize her access and exposure to spoken and written English and to ASL. We included ASL because the eventual outcome of our efforts to maximize her access to any spoken language was uncertain. That uncertainty, or lack of any guarantee, was important because we knew her first years were critical for the acquisition of any language. By the time we had our second child four years later, we knew that if that child was hearing or deaf, he would be exposed to and raised bilingually with ASL and English. Children are amazingly able to absorb, figure out, and use the languages that are accessible to them in their environment. Bilingual families raise bilingual children every day.

Sofia’s responses (identifying with her sibling who is deaf, figuring out where she and her sibling fit in her world, etc.) are precious. I’m sure a psychologist could identify the process. It also reminds me of the many “teaching moments” my children have given me; times when the information they may need seems secondary to the opportunity for me to demonstrate openness, acceptance, and love.

Mother of Bilingual Deaf and Hearing Children

anna s said...

Cute story!!! My kids did the same. Unconditional love and yearning to identify with a sibling....

Val said...

OH and one more thing, of course you have a second and more if you want. I didn't even consider the hearing loss when thinking of number 2. I thought more about my time, my nerves, that sort of thing. Then when I had her, and she passed her newborn hearing test, reality sank in. I had a hearing child, did I know what to do w/that? Gage wanted to stop by the audiologist's office right away to get her some hearing aids. Little did we know, we were going to make that stop ten months later! It was like riding a bike...just had to make time for her audiologist appts., too. Now I've heared everything for the first time, over and over. It's fantastic to see your little one's experience new things, first steps, first holiday, first sounds!

Jodi Cutler Del Dottore said...

Val,
I've seen you in action and you've got a pretty pair yourself! Kiss those kids for me! Jodi

Jodi Cutler Del Dottore said...

Paula,
You are a modern day kick-ass, mom, business woman, strong arm of the household icon...blog on, love...doll?? hahahaaha

Jodi Cutler Del Dottore said...

Thanks, deafhoney...I'll check that out:) Jodi

Jodi Cutler Del Dottore said...

Dear Mother of bilingual deaf and hearing children,
Amazing comment...I will use this comment on the ci circle when necessary. Thank you, *smile* Jodi

Jodi Cutler Del Dottore said...

Hiya Anna,
Big hug...Jodi

Jodi Cutler Del Dottore said...

dianrez,
Amen! Life is very good...Jodi

Jodi Cutler Del Dottore said...

Val (second comment)- you never cease to amaze, you and your beautiful kids. I remember reading about your experience with Gage and Brook the first time I came across your blog. I went through a pack of kleenex and my husband was like, what the hell is wrong with you? By now though he's used to it, he hears all types of things come out of my mouth when I'm on the computer:) Just keep on doing what you're doing...love, Jodi

Jodi Cutler Del Dottore said...

Val,
PS. Send the Cameron story to Paula...Jodi

Paula said...

After all we went through with our first, late diagnosis, relocation, cochlear implant surgery, etc. it never for a second deterred us from having a third. My husband and I have always had the attitude, well, you turned out ok and I turned out ok so if we have more kids with hearing loss they'll be just fine! Both boys have normal hearing. Go figure.

Loudest Mom said...

We found out about our first child when I was pregnant with our second. We found out Emily too was deaf/HOH, yet went on to have two more kids. We really didn't care one way or the other- which is good since we are 4 for 4. Don't even ask me what kind of odds we beat (it's a recessive gene, or so we're told), but in some ways it's easier having all 4 going through the same issues. I wouldn't even know what to do if one of the kids had 'normal' hearing :)

I also love when the kids repeat something that they picked up from conversation! It just reinforces how well they are able to hear in a normal day-to-day environment.

Thanks for sharing!