The Day I Found Out My Daughter Was Deaf

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It literally felt like days, sitting in that white sterile room, in the center of our city’s best hospital.

A long, heavy curtain separated me from where they took my baby, like the cloak of fear that drapped my heart. “Would she return?” “Could she have an allergic reaction to the anticetic?” “Is there a chance that reaction might kill her?”

It had been almost two years. Two years of doctors and seeking, testing and evaluating, apparatus’ in ears, and little dark booths watching monkey’s clapping, hoping she would be able to hear them and respond.

But how do you command a newborn, infant, then a toddler at age one when to turn or put up her hand at the inkling of a sound? What methods man creates, can they save someone, or is it just an endless chasing?

And aren’t all the unanswered questions a million times more difficult than even the hardest answers?

The waiting and wondering, slow and sterile walls of a world grasping for answers from professionals that simply send yet another reference to one more unkown doctor.

I should have been thankful for grace. Been appreciative this impeccable hospital was just an hour away from our house over-looking the water.

And although driving to doctors had become common, this desperate searching always loomed with questions.

All the things I know now that I wish I had known earlier…

Like being a child’s voice, speaking loud and advocating. Insisting on the best doctors straight from the get-go and never settling for some small town practicioner. Those are things I now highy recommend.

The stop and going of lights, a city surrounded by people, signs stapled to light poles pointing to a Rave, dirty alleyways, tents pitched below bridges, the stentch of urine poisoning your breathing.

People walking homeless, quilts draping over them, reminding me of the blanket of questions still rustling through my head…”why?”, “How?”…and “When will we know the answers?”

I don’t know if you have ever loved a child that didn’t rest in your womb; perhaps a grandchild, or step-child? Maybe a neighbor kid, or neice or nephew….

But heaven-sent love is whole and real…regardless of where it comes from.

Grandparents are saturated with this kind of love and nobody questions them…And yet, in the adoption realm, that’s the first question people ask…

How do you love a child you didn’t give birth to?

Your spouse…Do you love them? And yet, your spouse isn’t your flesh and blood.

That’s how it is with an adoptive child. The love is just as real. Just as tangible, just as pure and beautiful. Real love transcends time and understanding.

For God-love has no dividers, walls, boundaries, rules with measurements. It just is.

Hearing ImpairmentsShadow’s of doctor’s pass. I hear a deep voice. The curtain moves. I think about The One that tore the veil when He died on that cross for me.

Vaseline and hand sanitizer stain my nostrils. My legs weaken, so I finally sit, reluctant.

They said the surgery could take many hours. Why was I so determined to always stand at attention?

I force my knees to bend and find myself on a plastic-covered, leather-looking chair. I gaze around more out of habit, find two magazines, pick them up, then set them down uninterested.

How can I read or concentrate. My mind is fixed on one thing and one things only….

My baby behind the curtain.

The questions keep coming. Could the anesthesia kill her? Would she wake mid-surgery, wrenched in pain? Would she wake wondering where the person was who cared for her since only three months old is?

Why did it take so long to get here, this day where I would finally have answers? At this crossroads where I pleaded with God like any mother who carried her child in her womb might beg…

“God, pleeeasssse, don’t let anything happen to her.”

We had already decided to adopt her. The papers were in process. The name and thought of our little girl becoming part of our family was set in concrete almost a year ago.

And I am reminded of the dream I had of a baby craddled in my arms long before she came.

I couldn’t see her face, but the words were distinct, “Divinity Jewel”. And it must have been prophetic, for she has been a divine Jewel continually, ever since.

But still, the questions. The sterile smell, white walls and ugly curtain mocked me. And don’t we all stand behind the veil at some point….asking God for answers?

Sometimes He opens it and we get clarity and peace, other times we are simply called to wait. A waiting that tests our faith.

I check the clock. Two minutes pass. I check it again, half a minute later. I know I have to deal with this angst inside me, wrestling with patience….

Control and submitting to His seasons and purposes. Still, I find myself asking, “Is God really sovereign?”

I am frozen. Want to stand up and control, rush out into the hall and ask,
“Have you seen my little girl? How is she? How did the surgery go?”

But patience is the key to maturity. And I have begged for it for far too long. It was my time…time to wait.

I hear an Asian accent in the psuedo room next to me. His son returns. The couple rejoices…and I wonder again, like a anxious teenager….“Where is my little girl?”

I keep asking questions that can’t be answered. I miss my husband. Miss just talking and wrapping my fingers in his, feeling the strength of his arms, smelling the scent of such security next to me.

Hallway of the maternity ward of a Hospital

Maybe he would have drown out the smell of sanitizer in the white sterile room?

But alone. I know it’s the way we come into this world. And it’s the way we leave it.

Still, he had been so amazing, bringing a child, many children that weren’t ours into our home, holding them, loving them like his very flesh and blood.

Waking up before the sun and laboring all day long so we can have what we need.

And I laugh at the thoughts of funniness as he plays-peeka-boo, spins our little girl around, or calls just to say hello from his busy day at work.

How did I get so lucky to have this man?

And then there, in the middle of Hallway of thanks and gratitude, in the middle of hope and love and counting the blessings behind the curtain, the doctor pulls back the curtain and greets me with a grin.

“The surgery went fine. We removed her tonsils and adnoids. The audiolgoist will explain the rest.”

I could barely see. My eyes fill with tears, “Thank you. Thank you so much.” He leaves.

A few minutes later, a sleepy bundle, held like a newborn infant gets set gently in my arms. My heart returns to my chest. I feel whole, happy, content again, looking straight into her brown skin, and holding her as if she had taken a thousand journeys, and finally returned…

She was not yet two.

Then, a somber face slips behind the curtain where I stood. “Hi” her voice muffly and gnawish. She starts talking, and I recognize her hearing aides. She goes on to explain she was deaf since birth. 

My little girl’s head nustles into my neck, and I can’t think of anything else. She made it through. Here she is…

I breath her in deep, and breath out all the tension I had stuck in my being. 

But then, the audiologist explaines. “She is deaf in her right ear. We call it a ‘dead’ ear. We cannot guarantee that she won’t wake up and one day be completely deaf.”

But, with that bundle safe, I honestly could care less. I didn’t hear or care or even flinch that our baby had loss what I couldn’t control or fix…

All I knew was that the curtain was open and my baby was present, here in my arms at last…the place I knew she had always belonged.

The thought of that dream surfaces, holding the baby I had seen in my dreams. I thank God profusely for returning her to me, and answering my prayers for her safety.

Then, the audiologist goes on. “Is there a family history of hearing loss?” I was stumped, had almost forgotten that this dark-skinned baby wasn’t mine originally….

I had lost sight that there was DNA, genetics, a whole list of things, history and stories, that I might never know, understand or see…

“I do not know. Ummm….I don’t think so.”

I guessed somewhat confidently. I explained we don’t have any history. I explained we are

Photo by Jen Avellaneda
Photo by Jen Avellaneda

planning to adopt this little girl and her being deaf doesn’t mean anything. We loved her beyond any diagnosis.

The deaf audiologist eyes filled with tears….

Had she not known life is precious despite a disability? Had her own value or worth been questioned when she was born hearing impaired?

Do all of the imperfect question their self-worth in a world that posts “unflawed”, “unbroken”, only “perfect” on Instagram?

Did she not know each person has their own kind of disability? Some are seen, but most are not.

I thought she was going to hug me. But instead, I locked eyes with her and smiled, then looked down at my little girl again, flooded with love once more.

She is here. Almost ours. A gift beyond all of the world’s greatest treasures.

And I knew, love has no walls or curtains, no code or division or stipulations that separate willing hearts.

I felt the Father’s face delight in joy that day as I put on my baby girl’s clothes and raced her out of that cold, sterile hospital…

Outside where the Son shone, there where no walls or ceilings lurked, a place where people didn’t have the privelege of being or defining a true mother’s heart…

Overtaken, this mom clinged to…

  • The little girl she would a few months later adopt.
  • The little girl she has believed to be hers, before the creation of time…
  • The little girl who was loved despite challenges or disablities…
  • The little girl God had shown me, long before she came. The one I love deeply…

The little girl I had seen in my dreams.

**  As mentioned, a few months later, we became “official” parents of our little girl. (You can find her adoption video here) Please know, my now eleven-year-old daughter has read and fully approved of me sharing this. After all, it’s her story even more than it is mine. 

What we learned that day was that the cochlea in our daughter’s right ear wasn’t fully developed, making it impossible to have a cochlea-implant. (An electronic medical device that replaces the function of the damaged inner ear)

So, after many trips to Seattle, today, our daughter has an FM System which takes sound from her deaf ear (right) and projects sound through a microphone into her left hearing aid.

We also rejoice that there has not been any further loss in her “good” ear! The trips to Seattle will not stop, but with aides, great physicians, and an audiology team overseeing her health, we feel confident for a full and successful future.

If you have encouragement, or a story about hearing loss, special needs, adoption, or avocating for your children, I would love to hear it. Feel free to share in the comments! 

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Jen Avellaneda

Jen is an adoptive, foster, & bio mom to trans-racial family. She speaks, writes, & passionately advocates for the orphan domestically & internationally with her husband of twenty-five years.
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7 Comments

  1. My son is in his 3rd year of sign language classes for his foreign language requirement in high school. As I have journeyed along and learned with him, I have come to love the language so much. That drew me to your post and I was riveted by your story. Thanks so much for sharing it with us and for sharing your life with that beautiful little girl!
    Karen Woodall recently posted…Seeing Past the ‘February Blahs’My Profile

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