Saturday, December 27, 2014
We have family visiting, presents to open, memories to share, and a sweet dog to torture. (I had a little too much fun making my dog miserable by putting a Santa Claus hat on him. Poor li'l fella!) This holiday season has been great to say the least; my uncle is staying with us, I received a pair of orange boots, and we all went skiing in Taos. Needless to say, it has been a blast!
Just the other night, we were all having pizza made by my fabulous dad, and the dinner conversation somehow worked its way to my birth and the discovery of my hearing loss. Now, I was already familiar with the story of how my parents learned about my hearing loss - I wasn't meeting the normal milestones for regular babies, and they took me to the doctor at 15 months and confirmed my hearing problems - but, I once again realized, there was more to the story than simply a failed audiogram.
I was born the perfect little baby girl in Virginia, before they had newborn screenings. I can honestly say that I don't really care about how early they caught my hearing loss or how if they caught it earlier, I would have "more perfect speech." I don't care about my early baby development not meeting all milestones; I don't remember the panic my parents were going through. I was a baby; ignorance was bliss. I'm here; I'm doing well in school; I have a wonderful dog (thanks to my hearing loss) that I occasionally torture with bath-times and Santa hats (I should also mention that he is very forgiving).
As a passing thought, my parents might have wished that the newborn screening caught my hearing loss earlier. My mom was freaking out that I wasn't speaking at the normal age or responding to my name. They recounted over dinner conversation how, unbeknownst to them, I was showing all the sign of a high-frequency hearing loss. I ran around with my arms up to help balance myself. Inner ears are a key component of balance, and since mine are whack, I used my arms to help balance. (Luckily, I don't run around like that anymore!) When I went to my grandparents' house, I would play their piano, but only on the left side, where the low notes are. Now they realize I was trying to say "Hey! Something's wrong! I can only hear these notes."
So when I was 15 months, they took me to the doctor who did some testing and then broke the news to them that I was hard of hearing. To my mind, they were more than a bit melodramatic about the news. It was the worst thing in the world, a real tragedy. What put this situation in perspective for them, and saved me from certain misery about my "tragic" situation, was that this testing was done in a children's hospital. If you go into the ICU ward of a children's hospital (as I did one unlucky winter when I had pneumonia), you see bald babies with IVs, and children who should be out playing, but are tethered to bunches of medical equipment. That's more or less what they saw in that hospital, children battling cancer or some other life-threatening problem. That's when they realized that I'm lucky. A hearing loss is a boo-boo compared to a tumor.
After that hospital visit, they developed that "can-do" attitude. Their exact words at the dinner table were "This [hearing loss] is nothing. We can do this." Both parents being over-educated, they did lots of research into the deaf world, assistive technology, and took me to see audiologists and other specialists. And they decided that I would go to a mainstream school with speech therapy and the oh-so-wonderful (not) hearing aids.
The hearing aid decision brings me to my favorite story of my early years. My parents were discussing hearing aids with my aunt when my older cousin Ian overheard them and said "uh-oh." I repeated after him. And then I was running around my aunt's house with my hands in the air saying "uh-oh." That was my first word, and it has since become my favorite word due to the many applications of "uh-oh" in my life.
So, that brings me to the conclusion of this reflection. This holiday season is very fun, but it is full of uh-ohs. On top of the elaborate food preparation, I have college essays to write!