My Baby is 11

by Ilinap on June 22, 2016

 

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He cares more about changing the world than how the world changes him. He is a snuggler, more puppy than kitty by nature. His laugh will make your heart swell. This kid of mine, newly minted 11-years old today, is pure happiness. When he was a little boy, I used to call him Happiness. He cooed in that melty way only babies can. He giggled easily. He slept soundly and woke peacefully. Still, he does all these things. And still, he makes me melt.

He is growing up, as all children must. He embraces it while I eschew it. He is timid by nature, a tester and observer more than a lemming or risk taker. His constitution is teflon to the nags of peer pressure. I pray this holds through his college years.

He is a thinker and tinkerer. There’s no such thing as junk in his world, for everything can be repurposed. He putzes and plays with equal parts focus and folly. He loathes tidy spaces and made beds. He leaves a pile of books, LEGO bricks, and contraptions on every flat surface he passes. His mind swirls with ideas for inventions, every other sentence starting with, “What if…?”

He reads voraciously. He dissects ideas and loves to build with his hands. He is sensitive, clever, and generous. When he graduated from elementary school just a week ago, several parents sought us out to remark how kind Deal had been to their son, their daughter. He is the kid who stays back to help someone out. He identifies with the underdog. It’s this compassion,coupled with his drive, that’s going to help him change the world.

He’s just half an inch shy of me and has had feet bigger than mine since he was eight. He still holds my hand in public. I imagine things will change in middle school. Gulp. I see expressions and mannerisms from his toddler years. Then I catch a glimpse of his future self. I see hints of the young man he is becoming, though he will always be my baby boy.

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I Want You to Hear More About Hearing Loss

by Ilinap on June 16, 2016

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When I was pregnant (both times), I was what doctors called “advanced maternal age.” That’s a pretty uplifting way to begin a pregnancy.  I faced a battery of tests, and in just a year plus between pregnancies, there seemed to be even more tests and areas for concern. There were new ways to gauge what could possibly be wrong with my baby and my health. Luckily, my babies were both healthy, and my own health was not compromised. But I remember after waiting days for some lab results, a friend of mine said to me, “What if your baby is deaf? You won’t know that in utero.” I am a worry wart by nature so I could understand thinking of every possible thing that could go wrong. Yet I had not worried about having a deaf baby. I don’t know deaf people personally, though I have spent time with the hearing impaired. I suppose it was those experiences that made me not worry so much.

One of the best jobs I had was working as a docent at the Capitol Children’s Museum (now the National Children’s Museum) in Washington DC. It was years before I had children of my own. I ended up working in an exhibit that simulated hearing loss and shared the myriad ways deaf people navigate the world. The exhibit was staffed by students from nearby Gallaudet University, “the world’s only university designed to be barrier-free for deaf and hard of hearing students.” I was among the few hearing people who worked in the exhibit. Though it was many years ago, what I learned that summer in that exhibit sticks with me still; it was eye-opening for me to see what life was like for the hearing-impaired. There were alarm clocks that woke you with the gradual stirring of light and vibrations instead of a ringer or music as my own alarm clock did. And there were blinking bright lights flashing to replace the fire alarms and smoke detectors usually found in one’s home. There was a wonderful exhibit of music with the bass cranked up so the deep bellow belted from the floor, booming through your toes to your head. We all bopped our heads to the beat. And we danced. I learned how to clap waving my hands in the air rather than putting my palms together. The students I worked with were marvelous with the children and so patient with me, a bumbling student who took so much for granted and had so much to learn. We laughed a lot that summer. In the years afterwards we wrote letters to each other. Never before had I realized the profound power of words and writing.

Years later, I went to one of the most unique and fun weddings I’ve ever been to. It was in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin near a state public school for the deaf. Aside from the regular tearjerkers at a wedding, this one had a particular poignant moment. The hearing bride was born to deaf parents. Her parents spoke to her exclusively in sign language. As a surprise at the ceremony, which had an interpreter for the deaf and for the hearing, the groom, instead of speaking his vows, signed them. He wanted his in-laws to know what he was promising their daughter, their only child. The cries and gasps in the sanctuary were audible. Later at the reception there were notepads and pens beside each place setting at the table. Those of us who were not deaf were in the minority at this party, which as you can imagine, was a rare yet wonderful experience. We got to know our table mates through jotting notes and hand gestures. Again, the power of writing presented itself in full force. We all laughed, we drank wine, we wrote notes to cute boys at the other tables (after consuming a few glasses of wine, of course). The music was loud and the bass was deep. And we all danced with wild abandon. We sang the words aloud with verve, the wine stripping away our reserve and feeling emboldened by the knowledge that most people on the dance floor couldn’t hear us.

Both my experiences at the Capitol Children’s Museum and at that lovely wedding gave me a lesson in empathy. I learned that having a hearing impairment was a disability, but that deaf people led rich lives. I learned about communicating and appreciated the beauty of sharing a smile, an antidote, a cheeky shared moment. I’ve experienced the difficulty of communicating in foreign countries my whole life. There is only so much you can do gesticulating. But in jotting notes and speaking slowly and clearly to enunciate for those who read lips, I learned how to communicate with the deaf and quite frankly, how not to be afraid or uncomfortable.

I don’t know if any of the deaf people I met back then have hearing aids or cochlear implants now (you have to be at least 12 months old to get a Cochlear implant). Like with everything, technology changes rapidly. In operation for over 30 years, Cochlear is the global leader in implantable hearing solutions, providing products (cochlear implants, bone conduction, and acoustic implants) that are designed to treat a range of moderate to profound types of hearing loss. Cochlear has helped over 450,000 people worldwide have access to sound. Parents today have different choices than they did long ago. Hearing parents who gave birth to a deaf child want to communicate with that child in the same way any of us want to communicate with our children. Communications is the foundation of all relationships, whether parent to child, docent to student, or groom to in laws. The cochlear implant provides an opportunity to not only improve communications, but improve language and development for that child to live independently without limits. Words matter to us all as we grow and learn.

 

See what we can learn from 4-year old Patrick.

Resources:

 

This post is made possible through the support of Cochlear. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

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Words of Wisdom from a Child

June 15, 2016

In my estimation, there’s never been a time more than now that the world needs hope and peace and encouragement. I live down the hill from an elementary school, so the sounds of encouragement ring through my windows as the classes roll through recess each day. The giggles and yelps are my fuel as I […]

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The Letter the Stanford Rapist’s Father Meant to Write

June 8, 2016

The media and my own personal circles alike, are brimming with outrage and incredulity of the Brock Turner case. He’s the Stanford rapist. Any other title he had he traded in when he raped an unconscious girl behind a dumpster. Yet here in North Carolina we worry about bathroom stalls and the transgender boogeyman. But that’s another […]

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The Onus is On Parents of Sons

June 6, 2016

I am the mother of sons. My goal is to raise them to grow up to not be assholes. I do not count myself in the same ilk as the Stanford rapist’s father who admonishes his violent act of rape as an incident, nay mistake, that resulted from binge drinking. I know plenty of boys […]

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$1 Can Help Stop Summer Hunger

June 5, 2016

The end of the school year is a frenzied, rushed race with summer monotony bleating at the finish line. Each year is a bittersweet end, and I have visions of family time adventures and cookie baking as we laugh and dance in the kitchen. Mind you, this is still a wistful daydream that has yet to […]

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Life & Liberty Aren’t Enough. What About Dignity?

May 11, 2016

As Americans, we hold our heads high on the pedestal of freedom. We wax poetically about liberty, wearing it as a mantle of international justice. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, are after all, key tenets of our way of life. Yet I venture to say that one integral value is missing from our […]

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Mothers-in-Law, Oft Forgotten on Mother’s Day

May 8, 2016

If I could just show you a photograph, it would tell you the 1000 words I’m having trouble finding myself. She would have been a slight thing with a mop of curly hair, dungarees, and no shoes. Her gingham pinafore was likely tattered by day’s end, which made her mother succumb to the rolled up […]

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Moms+SocialGood — What do you wish were true for every child, everywhere?

May 5, 2016

Moms +SocialGood is a one-day event dedicated to empowering mothers around the world to create a better future for themselves and their families. I’m thrilled beyond measure to be speaking at the event this year. I’ll be in New York today at the New York Times Center. What an opportunity to connect the Global Moms community to leading experts, notable […]

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Your Car Is a Weapon

May 3, 2016

  I was admittedly swept up in a moment of vanity as I was checking my hair in the rearview mirror at the red light. Tiny wisps had been dragging between the space between my glasses and my eyelids so I was doing a quick finger comb. I was sweeping my hair off my face […]

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