Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Brief Moment of Wishing... for Hearing

On Monday, I attended Austin's birth with my friend Beth and her husband. During the twelve hours of labor, various nurses, the doctor and family members came in and out of the room.

For a couple of moments throughout the day, I briefly wished I could hear.

Don't get me wrong. I feel quite comfortable with myself and I'm assertive enough to ask people to repeat what is being said. So it's not a matter of accepting that I'm deaf. I was comfortable enough to feel that I didn't need an interpreter.

However, there are always situations that come up where asking to repeat things can't happen. For example, one of the husband's friends came into the room and a lot of conversation was flowing. I couldn't join in, since it was moving far too fast for me. A new nurse would come in every couple of hours and I would have to get used to lipreading a different person all day long. Those are the kinds of situations that deaf and hard of hearing people face on a daily basis and frequently get left out of, because there's no polite way to join in the conversation and comprehend everything that's being said.

I've attended two of Beth's births previously and felt quite comfortable supporting her. We've been friends for fourteen years. When it came time to push, I was on one side holding one leg, the hubby was on the other side. Pushing was moving alone routinely.

In the middle of Austin's birth, all hell broke loose. The doctor called a code and suddenly the room filled with doctors and nurses. I, of course, couldn't hear what was going on. Beth's husband mouthed the words, "They're calling for a cesarean!" Austin was stuck.

For several frightening minutes, there was a lot of yelling. I saw the doctor go in with both hands, and I knew instinctively that there was little time to spare. A nurse jumped on top of Beth and applied pressure. I knew those were emergency measures and something inside of me made me lean over Beth and urge her to push.

"Beth, push!"

And somewhere during the moments of praying, watching, and holding my breath, a thought suddenly popped into my mind.

I wish I could hear what everyone is saying.

The thought quickly disappeared as the events unfolded. Austin was brought to the baby warmer and for several heart-wrenching minutes, we didn't know if he was going to make it. It took a few minutes to get him breathing and he pinked up.

It wasn't until today that I reflected back on all that had happened and about that thought that had popped in to my head.

Why in the world, in the middle of all that was happening, did I wish that I could hear?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized why: when I urged Beth to push, I was operating on instinct. There was no way for me to hear the doctor's instructions.

What if I was wrong? What if pushing at that moment was not the right thing to do.

What if my lack of hearing and understanding had hurt my friend?

So it had me wondering about deaf and hard of hearing doctors and nurses-- there are several of them around the U.S.-- how do they handle emergency situations when a code is called?

Stay tuned as I find out more.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

It's a...

It's a boy! A big boy! Austin arrived weighing 11 pounds, 12 ounces.

It was a scary birth though after twelve hours of uneventful labor. At one point, the doc called for a cesarean (the baby's head was showing but not progressing) and tried to push the baby back in. Quickly changed his mind and with several pushes, Austin came out with the cord compressed near his head and shoulders.

Mom and baby are doing fine today.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Baby Coming Up!

Tomorrow is going to be an exciting day. My friend Beth is heading to the hospital to have her fifth baby. Tomorrow's birth will be the fourth birth we've shared together. Beth attended my daughter's birth and I've attended two of her son's births.

For a couple of years, I entertained the idea of becoming a professional doula. My third child was born at home and his homebirth sparked the idea that I wanted to help support moms during birth. I started the process of becoming a childbirth educator and began studying for certification.

I've been fortunate to be able to share in several births with a few friends. When my friend Sue gave birth to her third child, it was one of the toughest births for her. Katie arrived faced up. She gave her mom a rough time in labor, but she's one of the sweetest kids you've ever met.

My friend Cathy gave birth to a tiny little girl-- Caitlin was just one pound thirteen ounces. I arrived at the hospital just in time to see them wheeling her out of the room in an incubator. Today, Caitlin is in first grade and smart as a whip.

The one birth that I will always remember vividly is M's birth. M and I met online. We chatted online frequently and got together with our kids. Her two children were born via cesarean and M was planning a homebirth. She invited me to support her at her daughter's birth.

I was in Michigan when I got the call that labor started. I jumped in the car and got to her house in record time. She labored on and off all night. By morning, she was starting to vocalize more and become uncomfortable. I urged her to step in the tub for some relief and her husband called the midwife. I looked down and realized that the baby had moved down quite a bit. "The baby's moving down," I said.

"No, not yet," she replied.

About a half hour later, I knew that the baby was going to arrive soon, with or without a midwife. I looked at her husband and asked him, "Are you ready to catch?"

At that moment, the midwife walked in. She grabbed some gloves and with a couple of strong pushes, M's baby arrived in the water.

Ah, birth-- there's nothing like the arrival of a new little one into the world.

I can't wait for tomorrow!

Friday, April 20, 2007

I Want One of These!

Five Minutes for Mom is giving away a neat prize: A Phillips Digital Photo Frame!

This neat gadget rotates photos from a memory disk. I really want one of these things because my digital photos are almost never displayed in my home, because I'm too lazy to get them printed out!

Yesterday's Field Trip-- Deaf and Hard of Hearing Advocacy Day

Yesterday, my son David took a field trip to attend an annual "Deaf and Hard of Hearing Advocacy" day. This event is the brainchild of Katie Ward, a supervisor of a program that serves deaf and hard of hearing students in Lockport, Illinois. There were 104 students attending and about 20 parents. Most of the students attend their local schools and some of them attend specialized programs for deaf students.

Earlier in the year, the students were encouraged to share a story about their life and the different ways that they advocate for themselves. Unfortunately, David's itinerant teacher forgot to share that information with us so we weren't able to participate. David's good friend, Aubrey Millar, won an award as a semi-finalist for her wonderful powerpoint presentation.

This year, there were nine deaf and hard of hearing adults who shared a bit about their life-- their careers, travels and advocacy tips. There was a financial advisor, a marketing specialist, vision teacher, village trustee, physical education teacher, band director, network administrator, stay-at-home mom and an audiologist. Each of them had the same message to share:

"Don't let anything stop you from acheiving your dreams."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

It's No B.S. Mom, I Love You Too!

I grew up in a family with five generations of hearing loss. My Great-Grandfather, Grandmother, my mom and all of her siblings were deaf or hard of hearing and none of them knew sign language. All of my siblings have hearing loss as well as my children and one niece.

My mother's hearing began to decline in her twenties. All of my brothers and sisters were born hearing and one by one, we each lost our hearing. My oldest sister was three years old when she fell, hit her head and instantly became profoundly deaf. My parents sent her off to live with my aunt and she attended Central Institute for the Deaf, an oral school. My brother Dennis was 36-years-old when a wooden beam fell on him at work and he woke up in the hospital two days later with a severe hearing loss. My sister Jeanie began to lose hearing in her 20's and a few years ago, she slipped on a rug and became profoundly deaf. My brother Kenny has a mild hearing loss that began a few years ago also.

I came along 10 years after the last sibling was born. When I was five, I was diagnosed with a moderate to severe hearing loss. I muddled along in school, receiving a hearing aid in 4th grade and speech therapy. Because I “functioned” so well and was able to keep up my grades, I was pretty much lost in the system. Teachers lavished praise on the “girl with the hearing loss.” My loneliness was often overlooked.

My life stayed this way all through my school years. I made friends with a select few who could look beyond my hearing loss. In high school, I met another girl, Shawn, who also wore hearing aids and we became fast friends. We each shared the horror of dealing with group situations and the anxiety that came with it. We learned to adapt so well that some of our friends had no clue that we wore hearing aids. Of course, we missed out on the punch lines of many jokes while laughing along with the others.

When I began attending classes at the local community college, I started to fear that I had no future ahead of me. I had interviewed for several jobs, but no one had the courage to hire me or deal with my inability to use the phone. I took one job as a dishwasher at a local restaurant and earned money mostly by babysitting. The future began to look pretty bleak. The few guys that I dated weren’t good marriage prospects. I began to wonder just where I was headed.

On a whim, I decided to transfer to a college that had a program for deaf and hard of hearing persons. My mother reluctantly supported my decision. She was afraid to see her last baby go off to the great unknown. How in the world would I cope at a university when I could barely get by at the community college?

Just before going off to college, I was water skiing on my bare feet and I turned to cross the wake. I fell hard, and for the next few days, I kept feeling like I had water in my ear. I had become profoundly deaf.

Going off to college turned out to be a blessing. At first, it was quite a culture shock. I was living on a co-ed floor with people who signed so fast that it was intimidating. Little by little, I was transformed. Slowly, I was introduced to a Deaf life to the point it felt like “coming home.” I was in a world where hearing didn’t matter. It was a world where, if I missed the punch line of a joke, someone would kindly sign it over again until I could join in the laughter. Of course, occasionally I encountered: “Sorry, train gone!”

My mother and siblings began to see a new person blossom in front of them. I introduced them to a TTY, and a new, accessible world began to open for them. My mom admitted that she wished she had known more about sign language while we were growing up so that we could have had access to interpreters.

When my oldest son became deaf, my mom began to ask how to sign certain things. It made me smile to see my 70-year old mom signing to my kids. One of her favorite signs was the sign for “I love you,” which is made with the thumb, forefinger and pinky finger extended and the two middle fingers bent downward.

Every time we got into the van to leave to go home, Mom would flash her “I love you” sign. There was only one problem though…

Mom would occasionally forget and leave the thumb bent inward, which turned the sign into “B.S.”

It is quite a picture to see Mom flashing her “B.S.” sign when we are pulling out of the driveway. It always puts a smile on my face.

It’s no B.S., Mom. I love you too!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Dog, Interpreters and an SOB Conference

On Saturday, I arrived home from a baseball tournament to a note on the door:

"Dear Mom, Kaycie ate the chocolate peanut butter cups. I'll tell you more when I get home."

My daughter and her friend had gone to the movies. I found the nearly empty tub of Trader Joe's chocolate peanut butter cups in the garbage. My heart stopped for a minute. The twelve-ounce tub was full when we left. But Lauren's friend had a certain penchant for those Trader Joe chocolates. She was known to polish off the entire tub in a weekend. Was I panicking for nothing?

After a quick call to the vet, I realized that I needed to play it safe. Chocolate, in large doses, is toxic to a small dog. Two hundred and forty eight dollars later, I learned that Kaycie had indeed polished off the entire tub of chocolate. It took her a day to recover from her ordeal.

Two hundred and forty eight dollars.

Which leads me to the reason why I need to convince Liz Strauss to give me a discount to the upcoming SOB Conference:

I spent my registration money on my dog!

Now, if that isn't enough to convince Liz that I deserve that $100 discount for the upcoming SOB Conference, I'm betting that as blogger who happens to be deaf, I'll be able to add a unique aspect to the blogging discussions that will take place on May 12th. For me, the internet is a visual medium and occasionally I encounter podcasts or videos that are not accessible to me or the millions of other deaf and hard of hearing users on the web. Perhaps I can add an "eye-opening" perspective as to how to make blogs accessible.

I want to thank Liz Strauss and the SOB team for agreeing to provide interpreters for the upcoming SOB Conference. I'm looking forward to being able to fully participate in the blog discussions.

After I get my $100 discount, of course.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday the 13th-- My Lucky Day

One year, my father handed me an envelope with money inside for my birthday. Years later, I cannot remember the amount of money that was inside, nor the year that it was given to me. But I saved the envelope inside my nightstand for years. Typed on the outside was this little poem that my Dad wrote:


Friday the 13th, a suspecious day
But you came along and I say;
It's hard to believe but it's true
Wish we had two just like you.

Your Mudder, Fodder and everybody else.

Years later, when I was in college, I couldn't wait for the weekends to head home or to ahem, party with my friends. One day, out of the blue, my mom sent me a package. Inside was a plaque:

Hang on, Friday's coming!

After spending yesterday bawling at yet another IEP meeting (I'm sure I have a reputation in my district as an emotional mom, nevermind that I can advocate for someone else like a Piranha!), I'm just glad that today's Friday, and the 13th at that. I'm heading to work this morning then out to lunch with a friend.

The best part of all-- there's actually a glimpse of spring today!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Custom Greeting Cards by a Deaf Designer

Jill Stark, another mom who is deaf, runs a business designing customized greeting cards. Jill has an amazing eye for design and her cards are beautiful. If you're looking for a customized wedding invitation, greeting card, birth announcement--she's the gal to go to.

The design you see above is one of the samples from her site: Jilizart.

Monday, April 09, 2007

A Snowy Easter

We headed up to Christie Lake on Saturday and as soon as we arrived, it began to snow. There was already an inch or two of snow on the ground. My brother and my nephew had put the pier in the water the weekend before. If you look closely at the photo above, you'll see a swan gliding on the left.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Published in Another Book!

Yesterday, a flat package arrived in the mail. I tore open the envelope and found the book, Don't Cut Me Again! True Stories About Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) Edited by Angela Hoy, owner of Booklocker and Writer's Weekly, the book is a collection of birth stories centered around women birthing vaginally after previously having a cesarean birth. About a year ago, I had submitted the story of my youngest son's homebirth. My two older children were born via cesarean. The story is included in the book, along with pictures of my kids.

Angela also runs a VBAC blog here: Angela's VBAC Blog.

A few months ago, I received my copy of On The Fence: The Hidden World of the Hard of Hearing, written by Mark Drolsbaugh. I had submitted a chapter in that book as well, highlighting my experience of growing up hard of hearing and becoming deaf.

Someday, in my lifetime, I'd like to write my own book.