“Mom, tell me what it was like when I was born.”
You were due on Thanksgiving day. Only, you made us wait till the following Monday before you decided to enter the world. At least it got me out of cooking. But, boy it was a long road leading up to that day.
When the stick turned blue, your dad and I were overcome with joy. Only a few months prior, we had lost our first pregnancy at just 12-weeks; we were elated to know we would be blessed with another baby.
Within days of finding out we were pregnant again, an early ultrasound taught us about things like a ruptured corpus lutetium and the lack of progesterone. Our doctor told us she thought we could save this pregnancy; we saw no other option but to fight.
This meant inner-muscular injections daily for the first trimester. Yes—when I say you can be a pain the butt… it literally started before you were born.
It seemed like a small price to pay in order to give you a chance at life.
And in true Battle fashion, you beat the odds by continuing to grow and thrive. When we made it past the twelfth week, we could finally take a deep breath and celebrate your impending arrival.
You loved to hang out near my ribs and rocking and rolling was your favorite pastime. I craved peanut butter frozen yogurt but that wasn’t easily found in Cleveland. I settled for Taco Bell quesadillas and milkshakes. I taught spin class up until a week before my due date and my class made a habit out of making fun of my big belly.
The day finally arrived.
Labor lasted fourteen long hours. I guess that’s why they say women who give birth experience amnesia. Because what I do remember is labor was harder than any long-distance triathlon or marathon I’ve ever done. I’m pretty sure your sister wouldn’t be here if I truly recalled the whole thing.
Dad was super helpful from start to finish—holding my hand, feeding me ice chips, encouraging me. I didn’t say more than a few words. Grandma was by my side. I later found out in between contractions, Dad was watching Monday night football. I think the Packers won the game.
When I heard your first scream, I was literally just thankful you made it through the birthing process. It’s funny how much I worried about you before you ever took your first breath outside of the womb.
You were surrounded by so many people who cared deeply for you. It was then I knew that you would have an abundance of love in your life.
After the excitement of it all, when you failed the infant hearing screening, I wasn’t even worried.
I guess everything leading up to your birth just trumped the slim possibility it would be anything but fluid in your ears causing you to fail the routine test.
For two week straight Dad and I just tried to figure out how to care for you. It isn’t easy being responsible for a newborn. You were a huge eater and you loved your burp clothe being placed near your chin. (Aunt Vicki taught us that trick). You weren’t a fan of the expensive swing we bought for you; instead you loved sleeping nuzzled on Dad’s chest.
When we loaded you into your infant car seat for the follow-up hearing test on that cold, Cleveland morning, there was nothing but a small sliver in the deepest crevice of my core that imagined you would fail.
But that’s the thing.
As parents, you just don’t know. The cards are held by something much bigger than what you are capable of imagining. There is a plan much more complicated than you can envision.
The news of your severe to profound hearing loss started the next chapter of the journey. We indeed were in a fog for the days that followed, trying to process it all.
After the shock of the diagnosis, the only option was to get to work. First, by accepting it. And then fighting to give you all the opportunities you deserved.
You think I worry now?
I am not going to sugarcoat it.
The uncertainty for a new mom with a baby who was hard of hearing was plentiful. And, at times it felt like I wasn’t cut out for this.
But as you stand here preparing to celebrate your fourteenth birthday, I know wholeheartedly it all was perfectly designed.
You have always looked to the planets and stars and reached for them.
While in the early days we wondered. . .
Would you learn to talk?
You not only learned how to listen and develop speech and language, but you are also a motor mouth.
Would you be mainstreamed?
The further down this road we got, the more I realized “mainstream” wasn’t important. Being included and accepted was everything. If you want to know what a mama bear looks like protecting her cubs, just watch a mother walking into an IEP meeting. It’s pretty much the same, only the bear might be gentler.
Would you play sports?
To think there was a time when we didn’t think you’d ever pick up a ball. Now I watch you on the football field and on the track as you compete with an engine that never quits. Your athleticism is admirable because you’ve worked so hard to achieve it. It wasn’t natural. It wasn’t easy. But you never really have taken the easy route.
Would you make friends?
It turns out you’re slow to warm up, even sometimes perceived as aloof. You lean into the people you call friends. Being the life of the party is not your style. I find your shy, awkwardness endearing.
Sure. . . You also exhibit all the other typical teenage things too.
Your body odor is horrible. You sometimes forget to flush. Acne creams and toothpaste-scum line your bathroom countertop. Video games are king. You choose to sleep-in at the most inopportune times. Your breath stinks and you interrupt. You sometimes say and do dumb things. Mostly you reply to our life-lesson lectures with one-word answers and grunt-like noises.
It’s the sum of all these things that have helped you develop a work ethic and unique tenacity. Besides your kind heart, your grit is what I know will take you far.
Perhaps starting your life off having this battle gave you a unique view. Your perspective has shaped your lens; you see life with an empathetic heart and have the instinct to root for the underdog. *Unless the Steelers are losing. Because that quickly turns you into a fair-weather fan.
While a lot of parents are dreading these teen years, I am entirely in awe of them. Maybe because you have exceeded every expectation we had for you as a tiny baby bundled and strapped in his car seat leaving the hospital with a diagnosis of hearing loss. The truth is—I can’t imagine you any other way.
Most of my worry has lessened and I am left with optimism and hope.
I’m proud of you, son. Being your advocate has been the greatest honor of my life. What I didn’t know all those years ago is what being your momma would teach me about strength, resiliency, and love. The deepest kind of love you can only imagine in your dreams.
You are and always will be my Battle call.