Mothers… I was lucky enough to have two mothers in my life… Not even Cinderella could say that… But I was, and they’re two very different women who played very different, but important roles in my life. Explaining how they impacted my life isn’t going to be easy I think, particularly because I had two very different relationships with them.
When I was born, my mother and father were told I had little chance of survival. At 2lbs10oz, in 1971, in this little. Salvation Army hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I was three weeks early, and lived in the NICU unit for two months or so. Obviously they were wrong, as I left the hospital, healthy, and tiny and perfect to my parents. However, the doctors cautioned my parents that I might be mentally delayed and would eventually need to be institutionalized. My poor mother, dealing with a constantly crying baby (she claimed), with severe reflux and not knowing what to expect from me as I grew up. Then she had my sister, the day before my first birthday.
Fast track to when I was three, in Kingston Ontario, still small, walking, running, jumping, but speaking only a handful of words. My sister, a year younger, was apparently chattering away like nobody’s business by comparison. I am sure my mother worried about me, and wondered what to do, what was wrong. Dad, who was preparing to enter medical school, began to suspect that I could not hear. So off they went to get me tested. The results were definitive, I was not mentally delayed as they had thought, but profoundly deaf.
My mother was the type of person to research, explore all options, and find all information she could get her hands on, so I am pretty sure that was exactly what she did. She also came from a family with high achievers, and therefore she expected that I would overcome the hurdles and set out to do whatever was necessary to ensure that. Until she and Dad split, and for the two years after that we lived with her, she handled my appointments with audiology, my hearing aid fittings, and speech therapy appointments.
She wrote an article for the Journal of Otolaryngology. She participated in a documentary called Through the Sound Barrier, which I am also in. The local tv news interviewed her and Dad for a series of news segments about the Deaf and Hard of Hearing program at the school I was attending. The local paper, the Whig Standard also featured me in numerous articles, because at the time, I was the first fully mainstreamed student in the city, and in the province.
She taught us how to play Scrabble, and she taught us it was ok to be smart. She grabbed life by the bullhorns and did what she wanted. Before she passed in February 2011, she knew I was getting the cochlear implant and she was proud of me for risking everything to hear better. She, like Dad felt strongly that the cochlear implant would help me more than the hearing aids did. Our relationship was long distance for most of my life, but she loved me fiercely, and believed in me strongly, and conveyed that in the best way she could.
When Dad remarried, we had been living with them for about two years as my mother felt I needed more support than she could give. My stepmom, didn’t just step into the role of mother, she stepped into it completely, wholeheartedly. It cannot have been easy, and when one of the children is deaf, I am sure it added a whole new level of stress. However, she gave the same support and encouragement that Dad and Mom had, and reinforced the the things they taught me. She took over the appointments, and eventually also let me go, and learn to advocate for myself with my audiologist and speech therapist.
In terms of my social life, she was the one that encouraged me to go to the football games, the dances, to try out for cheerleading, to do the sports like gymnastics and soccer. In fact, sometimes it seemed she was my biggest cheerleader, and perhaps that was because she was simply there. Not that Dad wasn’t my cheerleader, but he was a doctor, and therefore at times was on call, and later, his job required travel. She was the one I talked to about school, and the people around me. She gave me advice, as best as she could, and always supported me.
When I finally qualified for the cochlear implant, like Dad and Mom, she also felt it was the best decision for me. Ultimately though, I think she understood me the best, and knew I was terrified, and knew that I was unsure. When I had my surgery, she was there beside me, a source of comfort. I needed that comfort, not just because I was terrified, but because I needed that “mother” comfort. Afterwards, she took care of the medical instructions, ensured in was managing my pain, made any calls when we had concerns. As she had been a nurse, she was also the one that removed my dressing, cleaned my hair, and ensured I rested and ate. She cared for my son too, and without that help, I would not have had the surgery when I did. She helped with my initial appointments after the surgery, and her presence was appreciated. Like everyone else, she has been following my progress, and is keen on seeing how this all pans out.
There are no words to adequately express the impact she has had on me in my life, and for the past few years I have been struggling to find the words. I have been blessed to have her, and she was instrumental in helping to raise me to be the strong woman my Dad and Mom wanted me to be. I had a mother, but I had a mom in my stepmom. So unlike Cinderella, I can honestly say I was lucky to have two women in my life, that were my mom.
Thank you, Mom and Mom