Wednesday, February 24, 2016

CI Awareness Day

Thursday, February 25, 2016 happens to be Cochlear Implant Awareness Day. Of course, I couldn't let this day pass by without saying a few words about my little miracle. Cochlear Implants have changed this family in more ways than one. Certainly, our lives would look very differently if our middle child did not qualify as a recipient for the hearing devices. You might have been like me when I saw a child with a cochlear implant-- I thought, "Oh, something must be really wrong with that baby. How sad!" I kind of cringe thinking about my own ignorance. It's just that often times, the cochlear implants overwhelm the head, especially if there's no hair. People jump to all kinds of conclusions about them whereas if one sees an adult with one, I think they're more likely to guess the purpose of the behind the ear device. Some people have even mistaken them for bluetooth technology! Most of the time, I don't really know what people are thinking when they see them. Some recognize them for what they are. Others ask if they're curious and I much prefer that over staring. Please do ask if you have questions! We want to bring awareness and love to talk about our sweet, Abe.
There are two main parts to a cochlear implant- an inside portion and outside processor. The only part you can see is what he wears behind his ear and travels up along the cord to attach to his head via magnets. This is how the device is able to talk to the inside portion. Without the magnet connected, Abel is completely deaf. If you're familiar with our story, you know that Abel was implanted bilaterally (both sides/ears) but due to major complications one side had to be removed. He now functions with only his left "ear" and he hears fairly well with it. The struggle with bionic hearing is that it's simply not natural. The kids have to work extra hard to assign meaning to the new sounds they're bombarded with. Most children start their hearing journey in the womb and begin talking by age two. Cochlear implant kids are often compared to their hearing age instead of their chronological age. Abel is three, but his hearing age is 18 months! Extensive therapy will hopefully bridge the gap between him and his hearing peers in a few years. He has already made significant progress, but it takes time and feels like a very slow process.
Because of the Deaf/deaf/Oral deaf community I've become a part of, I come into contact with hearing loss all the time. Just the other day I was sitting on campus watching as Abel was participating in a group with other hearing impaired preschoolers when I observed a conversation in sign language. The woman was saying that she never used her voice because she was afraid she sounded "stupid" and that she strictly used ASL. The Deaf community has a lot of pride in their culture that I completely respect. I grew up in a hearing world and so my signing and (especially) reading/interpreting is pretty limited. I know if we had not implanted Abel, he would still be significantly behind his peers because I would be learning alongside him. He would be limited
 to me and what I knew. I feared both routes. While I do hope he decides to learn sign as well, I finally know in my heart that we made the right decesion for him. He now has access to both hearing and deaf worlds! His influence is limitless, proving that deaf people can do anything- even hear! 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

My Funny Valentines

Valentine's Day is much more special to me when I look into the eyes of my children and can see how a divine Father in Heaven has gifted me with some great love along with His perfect love. The first little love he sent me we named Kinley. He is four now and his appetite for learning is infectious. I love the way he seems to think through situations and come up with reasons why it might be happening. He surprises me with his accurate, truthful assessments and delights me with his completely interesting, detailed, and false hypotheses. He is four in every way and with each passing day, he makes life a little easier on his mama. His beautiful green-gray eyes look into mine and I can feel his love for me. He yearns for Daddy's approval and attention, but I know there's a very special place in his heart for me as I have for him.

Fifteen months later, another gift of love from Heaven was delivered into our lives and we call him Abel. Abel is mama's boy through and through. We've been through a lot together. Every appointment, every sickness, every surgery, every step in his journey with having extra needs, I have been there and he recognizes that on every level. He cuddles with me, runs to me, relies on me and in many ways I enable all of it. I am a middle child and I sympathize with him so I may or may not give him a break when I wouldn't cave to the others. He is a part of me like my arm and even when he drives me absolutely batty, I'm so glad God chose me to be his mother. Despite the challenges, despite everything...I love him fiercely. I'll go to bat for him as long as I live.

Then Merit came into our lives and I couldn't believe how easy he made motherhood seem. His sweet, toothy smiles and loud laughter surge my body with energy to get me through each day. He makes me so happy. He is that boy that makes me want to snap photos of him doing the most mundane tasks and post them all over because I think all of you need to see something so perfect, too. His sass is evolving as he grows older and I know we've got some surprises ahead of us with that one. I've got eighteen months in as being his mother and he just keeps adding to our family. I worried about having enough love to go around when I learned I was pregnant with him, but what I'm finding out now is that love multiplies. God's good and perfect love is our example. We love because he first loved us and these kids have shown this introvert that while constantly being around people is trying, it's also binding me forever to these beautiful children that I surely don't deserve.
And next year, I'll have four love letters to write to my children. I'm feeling God's love for me when I look at them. I hope you're feeling His love this Valentine's Day, too. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

It's all gonna be okay.

Mom guilt. It's an ever-present theme in my life and I'm willing to bet you might have a touch of it, too from time to time. We all want what is best for our kids, but it's difficult to always know exactly what that is. We avoided sickness for most of the winter, but for the last two weeks we've passed it around a time or two. My kids have missed preschool because of this and weekly speech appointments as well. If my house was cleaner or ....if their immune systems were better from eating more nutritious meals....if I was more of a helicopter parent then maybe they wouldn't be sick and having to miss school. Or if I think they're well enough to venture out, what if I expose the other kids to my kids' germs? Enter mom guilt again. It's just never ending. Today, my kids missed school and their Valentine's parties because it snowed and I thought they would probably be called out of school by the time I got everyone up and ready to go. I'm so glad I spent the evening preparing extra Valentines for one of the kids to take and crafting lunch inspired by red, pink, and hearts! What a great use of my time. I could have been binge eating chocolate while watching the season premier of Grey's Anatomy. I digress.
It's just that I'm often feeling as if I don't measure up. I've met some incredible people throughout this process with Abel. There are wonderful parents out there who diligently never miss an opportunity to take their kid(s) with hearing loss to therapy. They never stop questioning if they're doing enough, pushing for what their kid needs, or changing their lifestyles to accommodate their child. I want to be that constant for Abel, but most days I feel as if I'm barely getting by. He's such a wild card. Being three years old and significantly behind his peers is completely draining for me. I'm proud of his progress and I know it is slow for most people with cochlear implants so I try to keep my head up, but the last few weeks I've had extra time around him to think about it all. What I see is a mom trying to clean the kitchen instead of sitting down to read with him. I see a mom trying to take care of herself and the baby growing inside of her who deposits her children into the gym childcare for an hour or so every day. I see the pregnant woman with three small children at her feet all day and what she really wants to do is just sit down on the couch and curl up in a ball. Playing speech therapist all day long doesn't always happen for me and I feel like I'm dropping the ball.
But we've all got something, right? There's always that one thought in the back of our minds that creeps up every now and then and says, "You're not good enough." The truth is, I'm not good enough at many things, but I'm doing a great job with the other things. Everyone is struggling with something and for me, it's always the three year old, hearing or not. I always have a toddler/preschooler. Every year I seem to have one of those...sometimes multiple ones...and the Terrible Twos (and Threes) is a real thing, y'all. I'm just trying to keep putting one foot in front of the other and realizing that time is flying and one day I'll forget how awful my days can be. All I'll remember are the sweet smiling photos I capture of my little kids and the times when they were happy. I'll remember the time Kinley said, "Mom, guess what? I'm so happy because Daddy made me so many paper airplanes!" or "Thank you so much for the heart sandwich, Mom. I love it!" I'll remember tucking Abel into bed and him not protesting as I took off his ear and he signed "I love you" to me. I'll recall little Merit running into a room, arms outstretched with a toothy smile on his face saying, "HEYYYY!" It's all gonna be okay.

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