Adriana, Carlos, and their children
Our journey begins before either of our children were born. In fact, our journey began before any of us were born. I (Adriana), was born into two worlds: the Deaf world and the hearing world. Both of my parents are Deaf. Being a Child of Deaf Adults (CODA), I was raised bilingual with sign language and spoken English and bicultural in the hearing and Deaf cultures, with different perspectives of the world. I grew up experiencing the world from an auditory perspective and a visual perspective. But that was okay, because little did I know, this life experience would come in handy later in my life.
At the age of 23, I married my husband Carlos before he shipped off to the military and at age 24, we had our first child. He was unfortunately born with gastroschisis, a birth defect that required a 4.5-month Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) stay and a total of 4 major abdominal surgeries during that time. Because of his defect, we were not able to receive a newborn hearing screen until discharge and at 5 months old we found out our son had Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL). We do not know if his hearing loss is genetic or because of his lengthy NICU stay and the plethora of medications and antibiotics, some of which had hearing loss as a side effect.
What we did know was the hurt, anger, confusion and many other mix of emotions that we felt when the audiologist diagnosed our son and told us “your son’s hearing loss is so significant (severe/left and profound/right) that hearing aids would likely not benefit him. He will stop cooing by 6 months old, will never babble, laugh or learn to speak if he does not have the proper device to help assist him.” Being a CODA and having an unaided profoundly Deaf mother that uses Signing Exact English (SEE) and speaks English and an aided Deaf father who uses American Sign Language (ASL) and speaks English, I felt that the information provided was not only false but the approach was unnecessary. I remember looking at my husband and I saw his heart being ripped out of his chest and thrown into the dirt.
Our home was silent for months as we grieved differently and for different reasons but we continued with the appointments and consultations and continued to educate ourselves. We took our journey day by day as best as we could. Our son was fitted and received hearing aids at 7 months old and despite what the audiologist told us, he did in fact benefit from them and currently hears at a mild hearing level with his hearing aids on. He is now 3.5 years old and our choice was to raise him bilingual and bicultural. We continue to use ASL with him and he attends speech therapy. He is flourishing in both languages of ASL and English and both cultures of the Deaf and the hearing. He is an athletic little boy that participates in soccer, baseball and will soon be joining wrestling. He is in preschool and has many friends that are Deaf and hearing.
We now have a 7-month-old daughter who even though is hearing, she is still being raised bilingual and bicultural just like her brother. Our promise to both of them, is that no matter what barriers are placed in front of them, we would teach them how to break down those walls, to never allow anyone to tell them that they are incapable of doing anything. With an open mind and an open heart, educating themselves and listening to other perspectives will provide them with all opportunities life may offer and they will succeed by doing so.