Yesterday I had a meeting with my oldest child’s school counselor and the county audiologist. It was slated to be a quick meeting, an annual review of her 504 plan. 504 plans are in place so that she gets preferential seating (and other similar things) in class in order to maximize her listening environment in class. We went over the routine questions, and confirmed that her ability to hear and learn in her classroom setting has gone extremely well this year. We continued on to discuss medical and safety plans. Suddenly, a quick annual review turned into a counseling and therapy session for me.
Most people who know me know that I’m pretty laid back. I enjoy being silly and have seemingly endless energy. But in regards to life and circumstances, I don’t get riled up easily. I don’t worry unnecessarily. I rarely worry at all. I was raised to take what life handed me and either do something with it or get over it. I was taught to be grateful for what I had, to not whine and complain, and if something didn’t go my way- TOUGH COOKIES. I also learned to do things myself. My grandmother had a saying, and that was to “pull up your socks and be somebody.” In other words, put your big girl panties on.
When Mecaden was born, I had less than a day of innocent newborn bliss. I remember her first night with me… I hadn’t slept the night before due to contractions, labored all day, had her late in the evening, and pushed for over an hour. It didn’t matter how exhausted I was. I gave birth to my (surprise) baby girl and all I could do was stare at her. I literally stayed up the entire night and stared at her. My 22 year old self was just in complete shock and awe at this incredibly breathtaking baby girl. All of God’s grace in one sweet little face. I didn’t care if I ever slept again.
The next afternoon, the nurse wheeled her squeaky bassinet back into my room from a nursery assessment. I was about to reach in and scoop up my darling girl when the nurse turned to leave and nonchalantly said over her shoulder, “She had her Hep B shot and she didn’t pass her hearing screening.” And the door swung closed behind her. I just froze. Hearing screening? What hearing screening? She didn’t pass? What does that mean? I literally don’t remember what happened from then until we were discharged the next day. Not one thing. Two weeks later, she didn’t pass an outpatient hearing screening. Ten weeks later she didn’t pass an ABR hearing test at UNC. Our baby was deaf.
I cried. I cried hard. Really hard. But after some wrestling with God and His peace settling into my heart, it wasn’t long before I was pulling up my socks and putting my big girl panties on. I couldn’t change the situation, but I was determined to do everything I could to ensure my daughter would have a normal life- hearing or not. She was fitted for teenie tiny hearing aids that same day of her “No Response ABR” test. From then on we dove head first into Auditory-Verbal Speech Therapy. Parent and child therapy sessions weekly that taught me how to teach her to speak through listening. The hearing aids didn’t help her at all, and the day before she turned one, she got her first cochlear implant. We continued speech therapy- the weekly sessions were just a drop in the bucket of all the speech therapy we did with her. For years I narrated everything. “Open the cabinet! Take the glass out. Put it on the counter. Open the fridge. Take the milk out. Take the lid off. Pour the milk. Put the lid on. Put the milk in the fridge. Close the door.” That was just to pour a cup of milk! Input. Emphasis. Input. Emphasis. Sing-song-y. Constantly. For everything. For years. There is no wonder why she never stops talking now.
At the park, I hovered. It was not in my personality to do so. But it wasn’t just any toddler who had to learn how to climb. It wasn’t just any child who falls and cries. If she fell and hit her head, she could easily damage her internal component of her cochlear implants, and we would be looking at another surgery. If the slide was too static-y it could wipe out her program channel and settings on her implants. Not to mention, I was still inputting. “Go up up up the stairs. Down the slide. Weeeeee!” Inputting sound was woven into every single thing. I never could go to the playground and just chat with other moms while we watched our kids play. I was the mom climbing up into the equipment and ignoring my mom friends.
Mecaden is almost nine now. I don’t have to narrate everything anymore. I don’t have to hover at the park. She scares the crap out of me with how she flips over the bars, hair and legs flying, sticking her landing as she lets go. My concern for her safety has left the playground and has found new fears. Emergencies. My friends giggle over this. I don’t blame them. It feels silly. I have a fear of her class evacuating for a fire, or running for cover inside the building during a tornado warning. I know they practice drills so everyone stays calm if it really happens. But my brain goes to the worst case scenario, and all I can think about is what if in the chaos, she gets bumped, her processors fall to the ground, she stops and looks for them… by the time she hopefully finds them not stepped on and broken, her class is gone. She doesn’t know where they went because the alarm is so loud and suddenly she is by herself. Or what if she can’t find her processors, or they get stepped on and broken, and she can’t hear instructions, or a comforting teacher’s words during a frightening event? I can’t tell you how many times my fears have pushed me to picking her up from school on days there are tornado watches. I can’t handle thinking about her disoriented, scared and confused, and not being able to hear.
I opened up and shared this at the 504 meeting today. I was a little nervous that the counselor was going to reprimand me for taking my kids out of school based on a silly fear that likely won’t ever come true. Instead, she and the audiologist both affirmed and encouraged me. Not to keep taking her out of school, but they validated my fears. They validated my desire to protect my little girl. They brought up how it is another stage of the grief cycle. It’s a different grief than when I first found out she was deaf. It’s a different fear than when she was put under for major surgery. It’s a different sadness than when she first cried about not being able to hear while she swam. But it is grief.
I cried. I cried hard. I opened up and shared that I have had a lot of hard things in my life. (Actually, I told them I have been through a lot of crap.) I shared that I’m not used to worrying. I’m not used to giving into fear. I’m used to sucking it up and moving on. I’m used to taking whatever hand I am dealt, and making the most of it. I’m used to being strong. I’m used to pulling up my socks and putting my big girl panties on. The counselor gently said, “It sounds like you have a lot of baggage. You’re used to being so strong- for you and for other people. And being in control of your emotions and not letting things get to you. It seems like you let all of your fears and worries come through in this one area- Mecaden’s hearing loss and safety. It’s like it’s the one place you’ll allow yourself to express it.” I cried and admitted, “Sometimes I’m just tired of pulling my socks up.” And I cried hard.
I wiped my eyes, and cleared my throat, and said “I don’t like to whine or complain. I am so blessed. I have so much to be thankful for.” The counselor gently offered again, “Yes. But no matter how much we are thankful for, we all experience hard things. And it’s okay for it to be hard. It’s okay to hurt. You need to give yourself grace and let your socks sag sometimes.” I cried again.
I cannot tell you how much weight was lifted from my shoulders. She helped me pull layers back on issues I didn’t realize I had. Here I am, seeing how so many others go through hard times and I try to do everything in my power to encourage them to give themselves grace. I tell people all the time that sometimes life sucks, and it’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to cry, and to cry hard. I didn’t realize all this time I have been bottling up my emotions about so many circumstances. I mean, I’m not made of stone. I typically cry hard initially… but then I read and speak Truth into my circumstances, and I pull up my socks and move on. I suppose all this time, I felt like once I pull my socks up, they have to stay up. No use in crying over spilled milk, right?
Sometimes its okay to cry over spilt milk. No, you can’t un-spill it. It is already done. But you know what? It stinks that you spilled it. It stinks that it is wasted. And don’t get me started on crying over spilled breastmilk (not sorry, fellas. not sorry.). So much work, down the drain. Or on the floor. Or all over the fridge.
I’m pretty sure I could speak in strictly idioms, being from the south and all. I digress. I just wanted to share what has been going on in my trench. And I really want to encourage you to give yourself grace. There are really, really hard things in life. Remember: the reason these things are so hard is because we were never meant to experience them. It is okay to cry. It is okay to cry hard. It is okay to wrestle with God over it. It is okay to wish these things were not happening. Even Jesus cried out to God in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39). He was referring to his upcoming brutal death on the cross. He knew it was coming, He knew it would hurt. He knew the only way to bring salvation to man was if He died for and instead of us. He understands your pain. He understands your fears. And do you know that He collects every tear of yours that falls (Psalm 56:8)? He is there. Even when no one else is. He is there, and knows ours prayers even when we cannot form them (Romans 8:26). It’s okay to let your socks sag. You don’t have to have it all together, all the time.
And when the time is right, you can pull your socks up and put your big girl panties on. But do so in the strength and grace of the Lord. When life hands you lemons, you can make lemonade. But unless you have water and sugar, your lemonade is going to suck. You can wipe your face and toughen up and move on when life is hard… but unless you face it with help from the Lord, you’re going to take a beating from life again before you know it. Don’t misunderstand me- just because you do things in the Lord’s strength doesn’t mean you’re going to perfect it and it will be easy. You’re human, and you will get knocked down again. But if you’re walking with the Lord through life, His grace will catch you when you fall.
From my trench to yours,
Photo Credit: allthe2048.com