A few weeks ago, my friend Kei sent me a link to a Mother’s Day essay writing contest. She jokingly said, take a look at this, in your SPARE time. I few days before the deadline I sat down at my computer and answered the question. “Are you the mother you thought you would be?”
This morning I got a call saying that I won the contest!!! My essay will appear on Mothering Height’s web-site as well as in the Laguna Beach Independent.
Here’s a sneak peek at my essay:
Praying For Patience
I remember sitting in third grade, filling out a worksheet that asked about our hopes and goals for the future. It asked, “How many children do you want to have?” I answered “nine.” I grew up in a family with nine children and nine seemed reasonable–at least at age eight. However, one thing was for sure: I knew I wanted to be a mom.
By the time I met my husband Aaron, I had whittled the number nine down to about four. Aaron was from a family of four children and he felt good about having two children. I secretly held onto the idea of four, though I just didn’t tell him.
When I imagined myself as a mom one day, honestly, I imagined that I would be a good parent to some well-behaved, perfect children. “Please send me the easy ones!” I prayed. When I was carrying my first child, I fell asleep many nights as I also prayed for patience.
When our oldest daughter Leah was one year old, we found out she was deaf. I couldn’t believe it. I questioned my skills, my patience, and even my genetics . . . I questioned a lot of things. But I never questioned my love for Leah and I had no idea, at that time, how far a mother would go for her child. Now, there were even more nights where I found myself falling asleep while praying for patience.
I learned a new language for Leah: American Sign Language. I also learned about all the choices that lie ahead. Would we focus on her speech? Would she attend a deaf school? How would she communicate with those around her? I learned about our educational rights, and spent many hours meeting with educators and school administrators. Ironically, in many of these meetings, I found myself educating them about our rights.
By the time that Leah was three years old, we felt that it was time to have another child. Lucy came with her own unique set of challenges and opportunities. During our first ultrasound, we were told that Lucy had spina bifida, a spinal cord birth defect causing paralysis. Again, I couldn’t believe it. Again, I questioned my skills, genetics – and yes I questioned a lot of things. Once again, I prayed harder than ever for patience.
I thought back to when we discovered Leah’s deafness and how devastating it had felt at the time, and now I couldn’t help but smile at how “œnormal” Leah was. It really was not devastating. It was just different. We just had to learn some new things. We had started down a different path. With that memory held close, I took a leap of faith: we chose Lucy, and we chose spina bifida. As we headed down this new path, again we educated ourselves. Through that education process, I came across fetal surgeons who were performing groundbreaking in-utero surgery on fetuses with spina bifida. At 22 weeks gestation, Lucy and I were the 82nd mommy/baby patients to have this surgery. Lucy was born eight weeks premature. When she was nine months old she received another diagnosis as well: cerebral palsy.
When Leah was four years old, I was frustrated with how few people could communicate with her. My sister Emilie and I created a video called “Signing Time!” Our goal was to help families learn sign language in a fast, fun and easy way. The video stars me, my daughter Leah, and my nephew Alex. Over the past six years, that little video of ours has turned into a 13-part DVD series that can now be seen on more than 70% of the public television stations across the country.
I now work full time, producing new shows, writing the songs, and traveling. I travel the country partnering with PBS stations doing live performances, teaching sign language to children at schools and libraries, and sharing my family’s story””a story that gives hope to countless families on similar unexpected paths.
Today, I am 32. I have two children. The picture over our mantel is unlike anything I could ever have imagined. My youngest daughter uses a wheelchair. My oldest daughter speaks with her hands. I have found my voice. And I have stopped praying for patience.