After a decade of working with the special needs community, I find myself in new territory: the mom of a child with a special need. The prospect of something being wrong with your child is hard to digest. Mom worry is big enough without having a permanent disability to contend with.
For us, it started with an early birth: a twin birth; then a failed newborn hearing screen. Then another. Our five-month-old babies were scheduled for an ABR (auditory brain response) test requiring a sedative. The idea of sedating my five-month-old child was terrifying to me; almost paralyzing.
I tried to keep my emotions in check each time they told me he failed another hearing screen. We received no clarification given on the severity. Simply, we were told he failed and needed another test.
Finally, we made it to the day of the “definitive” exam. The exam I was convinced would relieve all my fears: my fears that I should have paid more attention in that ASL class, my fears that my baby hasn’t been hearing all the lullabies I have been humming or sweet things I have been telling him.
The exam took an eternity. They say it was only 90 minutes, but it felt like a lifetime. It was painful to wait.
Finally, the clinician came in with a chair and folder full of papers. It seemed like a lot of work to tell me he had a clear bill of health. She proceeded to pull out a diagram of the ear and dove right into discussing the way the ear typically works. My brain flooded with emotion as I struggled to listen to what she was saying. Inside, I was screaming, “just get to the point lady!”
But I get it.
I have been on the other side of the fence. I have been the clinician explaining outcomes of exams. I know the signs.
I grit my teeth and tried with all my might to focus.
I heard bits and pieces. I heard her say “It’s not definitive, but it is possible he has a permanent mild-moderate hearing loss in his left ear.
My stomach turned but I comforted myself thinking it is only one ear and just a small percentage of loss. I wondered only one thing, what does this mean for him?
She continued talking and I heard words like hearing aid, Early Childhood Intervention (ECI), and hearing and deaf teachers. My mind went fuzzy.
I could no longer hear her.
All I could think about was my precious son getting bullied.
Made fun of.
I quickly jumped to wondering about his long-term abilities. What kind of jobs would he be able to do?
My mind was spiraling when I caught the ledge.
I remembered all those special mamas that I had worked with over the years. I remembered how those moms entrusted me with their children. I remembered their strength, I remembered how they taught their babies. I remembered how they persevered and overcame the impossible.
These Mamas took life by the horns and so did their kids. And I knew what I had to do.
We left there with a list of future appointments to make for follow-ups, but I left there knowing no matter the future of these exams, this little man would still rock this world.
Thank you to all the Mama’s out there that have shared your babies and your stories with me. Thank you for showing me how to traverse this with grace and to treat my son with dignity.