On Sept. 18, 2018, we welcomed our second baby girl, Ellie, into the world. From day one, we were smitten. She was an angel – 7 pounds, 12 ounces, with the most beautiful blue eyes and tiny pink fingers. She slept soundly, and she barely cried. She was perfect.
And then, on her second day of life, we learned that she failed her newborn hearing screen.
The nurse informed us that often the tests were inaccurate and it was common for babies born via cesarean section to have a buildup of fluid in their ears. She was tested again before we left the hospital. One ear passed, one failed.
A week later, she failed again. We chalked it up to fluid and poor testing circumstances.
A month later, we returned for a more detailed test, an auditory brain stem response or ABR. I’ll never forget sitting in the audiologist’s office for her diagnosis. Our daughter had severe to profound hearing loss.
“Are you saying she’s deaf?” I had to ask her.
I was devastated. But I knew somehow I had to be strong for her and my family. The following principles helped me find my bearings and get back on track.
1. Helplessness gives way to courage.
After Ellie’s diagnosis, every insecurity I had about myself seemed to fall away. I didn’t have time to over-analyze my weaknesses anymore. At once, I was completely vulnerable, but as I became her advocate, my strength, fortitude and resilience grew.
When the shelter-in-place order began, I started teaching kids yoga classes online because I wanted to provide a way for parents and kids to connect and stay active. Seeing Ellie’s response to yoga inspired me to use it as a tool to teach her and other kids with similar diagnoses. What started out as a fulfilling passion blossomed into my own business, Hop Along Yogi Kids Yoga, something I never dreamed of or even considered doing. Overcoming my fears associated with Ellie’s diagnosis gave me the confidence and courage to tackle any challenge thrown my way.
2. Tiny victories create big momentum.
When your child has a health issue, you become hyper aware and hyper consumed by their progress. Along the journey, you value mini-milestones, even more than the great, big milestones like saying their first word. With Ellie, her first word was so amazing but the initial babbles, the learning-to-listen sounds (moo, shhh, ahhahh) created an even greater sense of pride because I knew we were on the right path. We celebrated (and will continue to celebrate) every tiny victory because each mini-milestone is the catalyst to an even greater achievement.
3. Community is everything.
It was overwhelming and isolating when I found out about Ellie’s hearing loss. I shut down and shut people out. But when I opened up to my tribe, they pulled me through the hard times. I surrounded myself with positive people, a team of supporters – friends, therapists, Facebook groups who understood what I was experiencing. The more I relied on people, the closer I felt to them, which got me through the valleys.
4. Me-Time makes better We-Time.
I found myself thrust into a life-changing situation. I was completely consumed by Ellie’s diagnosis and believed that the more I gave, the more I could ensure her success. But slowly the stress of constant care took its toll on my personal health, emotional state and relationships. I learned to better balance the needs of my children with my needs while sharing the benefits of yoga with more people. I found more fulfillment and pride than I ever anticipated, making me feel whole again.
Over the last two years, I’ve experienced my share of detours, but through them I’ve met new people, formed deeper personal connections, challenged myself in new ways and spent more time with the people I love. Now, my life doesn’t feel so much like a detour, it just feels like I traveled off the beaten path and discovered something wonderful.
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This article also appeared in Chicago Parent’s fall 2020 magazine.