Strong Enough To Be Your Mom

If you haven’t figured it out, there are a lot of things we love to do, we love the beach, we love to camp and hike. When Aaron and I were first married we talked about moving to Alaska for a year or moving to Hawaii for a year and we talked about how great those adventures and experiences would be for our family, when we had one. Aaron and I had checked out Kauai and looked into moving there when Leah was almost one. Shortly after Leah’s first birthday we realized that she was deaf. We still pursued Hawaii and talked to Easter Seals about early intervention. We would have to island hop for audiology exams, hearing aid issues etc. We asked if there was a deaf community and were told, “Yes!! There are about 14 people in the deaf community.”

Aaron and I shelved the idea, realizing some things may need to be put off so that Leah could have all she needed. When Lucy came along it seemed like her physical limitations might also limit some of our family activities. I hated the idea that there really is not enough accessibility in many places for her.

At one point, I made a secret promise to myself on Lucy’s behalf. I would never be the one to limit our activities because of her wheelchair.

As Leah shared in her recent post, we kicked off Summer with a family (and extended family) trip to Cancun. We left for Cancun the day after we got home from the Emmys in NYC. Cancun was great! Lucy parasailed with Aaron. We sat on the beach and played in the waves. Aaron went scuba diving, Leah snorkeled. Lucy does not like putting her face in the water and still struggles with controlling her breath so a snorkel for her could be disastrous. I came across an ad for a glass-bottom boat ride and I thought it would be perfect for Lucy! She could see the reef without getting her face wet! I called for more info and it sounded good. Very, very, very last, I told them I had an 8 year-old in a wheelchair. I was placed on hold for awhile and they came back and told me it would not be possible for us to go. The boat is not really a glass bottom boat, it is a submarine. We would load from the dock onto a speed boat first, and it would take us out to the submarine waiting in the ocean. We would have to transfer from the boat to the sub and then down a series of stairs to our seats below the surface. When the tour was over we would transfer back to the boat and then from the boat to the dock.

I hung up and thought about what they had said. There was no room for a wheelchair and we could not transfer the wheelchair. Could I do this myself? Could I carry her? Could I do it without Aaron? It would be scheduled on Aaron’s scuba day, which I KNOW he would cancel for Lucy – I kept my concern to myself. I tossed it around in my mind for hours. If Lucy knew I was concerned, she would insist she did not want to go anyway. Lucy is almost 50 pounds and I would be committing to carrying her for 5 hours and transferring her 4 times! I decided that I could do it. I called back and made our reservation, this time I didn’t say anything about a wheelchair.

The night before our submarine trip I dreamt that we arrived for the adventure. I was carrying Lucy on my hip. The guide looked at me and said, “Are you crazy? We have to walk 6 miles to the boat!” In my dream I frantically asked others if I could borrow their stroller for the 6 mile trek. I think that might qualify as a nightmare.

The day of the trip, my mom, my sister Emilie and her son Zak decided to come too. The tour bus picked us up from the hotel. Lucy thought it looked like an airplane inside. When we arrived there was a long line. Mom stood in line and I sat Lucy on the counter until we were up. We made the first two transfers and the sub ride was a blast! We saw sea turtles, schools of fish, coral reefs and so much more! The ride ended just in time, as most everyone felt a little sea sick. We transfered back to the boat without a hitch.

It may seem like a little thing, but secretly I was really proud of myself.

This entry was posted in Crazy Little Thing Called Life, Strong Enough and tagged , , , , , by Rachel Coleman. Bookmark the permalink.

About Rachel Coleman

The opinions and late night musings published on this blog are Rachel de Azevedo Coleman's alone, and are not ever intended to represent the opinions and sentiments of any organization or product that Rachel is, was, or will be associated with. Rachel Coleman is the creator and Emmy-nominated host of Signing Time!, the children's American Sign Language vocabulary building series. She is also the creator and host of Baby Signing Time, Rachel & the TreeSchoolers, and Rachel & Me. Rachel now serves as the Executive Director of the American Society for Deaf Children, a 501c3 nonprofit established in 1967 by parents of deaf children. ASDC is the American Sign Language organization for families who are raising deaf children. Motivated by her child, Leah's deafness, Rachel has spent the last 18 years creating ASL products to help bridge the communication barrier between hearing and signing communities. In 2006 Rachel founded the Signing Time Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to putting communication in the hands of all children of all abilities. In 2014, the Signing Time Foundation launched a 50-Lesson online ASL curriculum called "Sign It: ASL Made Easy" that is available free-of-charge to families with deaf or hard of hearing children ages 36 months and under. Apply at For those who do not qualify to receive Sign It ASL for free, they can find it for purchase at very reasonable rates on Rachel and her husband, Aaron, live in Salt Lake City Utah. They are parents to Leah who was born profoundly deaf, and is now a senior in college at NTID/RIT in Rochester, NY. They are also parents to Lucy who has spina bifida and cerebral palsy, and recently graduated high school. In 2010 the Colemans were joyfully reunited with Rachel's daughter Laura. Rachel is proud to be Laura's birth mom. Laura was placed for adoption as an infant in 1992 when Rachel was 17 years-old.

22 thoughts on “Strong Enough To Be Your Mom

  1. You’re a wonderful mother and you’re teaching your children such important things by your actions. 🙂

    I also wanted to say thank you for Signing Time. We started watching it on PBS when my son was about 9 months old. I had been signing with him since he was about 5 months old but he never really showed much interest. He fell in LOVE with Signing Time!

    He started signing at the same time he start speaking, 11 1/2 months, and has been gobbling up signs since. He signs more than he speaks (words anyway, his toddler babble is legendary!) and is up to about 200 signs, while he verbal words are just at 30 or 40.

    We all are so grateful that we can communicate so we with him at 20 months old. I sometimes think how sad it would be to be unable to do so all this time.

    We have another baby due in about month and we’re all betting he’ll teach the new one signs before we know it. 🙂

    Thank you again for all you, and your family, do for us.

  2. Leah and Lucy are so lucky to have you two as parents. Both my girls, 4 1/2 and 2, are already reading and I know it is b/c of your show. Also, we listen to your music in the car and it ALWAYS ensures a peaceful drive. Lastly, when I hear the song about how we might not have it easy but we have the good, I almost always well up. I have health issues and so does my 4 1/2 year old and it just makes me appreciate everything I DO have! Thanks!

  3. You truly are an inspiration to me. I catch myself not wanting to do activities because *I* don’t think Matthew can do it, or even worse, that I don’t want to try to do it. I am so fearful of our trip to Japan because I won’t have my normal transportation for the kids. I think it’s wonderful that you took her on the submarine- her smile (and yours) says everything!

  4. You are amazing, but …. you are a mom. You are, also, an incredible inspiration. How awesome that you were able to enjoy that fantastic experience with your Lucy. Precious memories. 🙂

  5. Here is another option: I have found some places that rent snorkel gear also have bogie boards with portholes. My daughter Lauren loves to ride on the bogie board while I swim next to her and help her hang on. She doesn’t get her face wet and can see the reef along with her brothers who are snorkeling.

    I love how much stronger we are when we are doing everything we can for our kids.

    Quick PS – Lauren was given an all clear at her last Shriners appt. Her neck is fine. She still talks about seeing you

  6. What an incredibly tender experience you have shared Rachel. I admire you, your husband, and your beautiful daughters for the way you live life. Your genuine traits shine brightly. You are right to be proud of yourself for the glass bottom boat accomplishment, as well as, all other accomplishments you have achieved loving your children. There is no greater pursuit. Often, I have the privilege of helping both patients, and the people invested in their welfare, find “another way around” every activity they choose to enjoy. What an honor it is to cheer for them while the rest of the world stands amazed. “Strong Enough To Be Your Mom” is a fitting title for you, and so many others like you.(It also sounds like a great song :})

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. You are an inspiring woman! Moms are amazing in what we do for our children. I never realized how much time, effort, heartache, perseverance, and pride it took to raise a child until I became a mother myself. I never have appreciated my mom so much.

    Your children are growing into wonderful young women because they have you and Aaron as parents.

    As much as Signing Time has influenced my life, and the lives of so many others, you are doing your best and most important job as a parent… and you are doing it successfully.

    I’m proud to “know” you.

  8. Rachel
    You have got to be the most amazing person/mother I have ever known of. The lengths you will go for your children leave me in awe. I admire you so much. Wow-

    I would love to be a fly on the wall at the Coleman’s house… just experience your life for a day,a week, a month.

    Thank Rachel for being that example for some many mothers who just are “winging” it!

    Angie Sellers

  9. Lucy shines once again, despite the obstacles! =]

    Now I want to go to Cancun.

    I’m afraid of heights, so I would’ve been afraid to parasail. Great pictures, though.

  10. I often think about not doing things because of one thing or another. You know 5 kids or Julia won’t be able to do that or I have a baby and a very active 3 year old, but I also think about missing out on something the kids would love or remember forever, and I, like you figure out a way to do it. You are an inspiration to us all. Thank you for that.

  11. You are truly an amazing person, and such a wonderful mother! I agree, you are big inspiration to us all! It’s moments like these, that you know Lucy will treasure forever! Her smile brought tears to my eyes! Kudos to you for not taking “not possible” as your final answer. I have 3 children, my youngest has Velocardiofacial Syndrome, I pray that I can be as much of an advocate for her as you are to your girls! Visit us some time:

  12. Rachel you are such a great mom! I have a sister that is 10 and she has cerebral palsy. Yes it is hard to do things that require the child to have the wheelchair and people will not let you. But
    you are a truly amazing mom.

  13. Pingback: Rachel’s Blog » Strong Enough To Be Your Mom - Part 2

  14. Thank you so much for Baby SignTimes and for keeping this blog. It is so inspiring. My husband and I worked on signing for months with our son, but it wasn’t until your DVDs were recommended to us that he really picked it up. He now signs so many things, sometimes we watch him do something and think, “Did he learn something we don’t know?” And we’ll run in and put the DVD on to watch it w/ him.

    So thanks again. Your family and your career are both a ministry to our family.

  15. Pingback: Rachel’s Blog » The Storm- Before The Quiet- Before The Storm

  16. Pingback: Strong Enough To Be Your Mom, Part 2 « TodaysMama

  17. Rachel…just something I thought could elp. Have you seen the Ergo carrier? My husband has used it to tote around our friend’s 7 year old when she couldn’t walk, and it is tested to be able to carry 90lbs. Fits in a bag, too. I still use it to carry around my 40 lb kid. Ergobabycarrier dot com. I’m not a spammer, I swear, but it makes carrying heavy kids long distances way easier.

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