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He Calls Me Mama, and That’s a Big Deal


His little lips curl into a Cheshire cat smile as he tilts his curly toddler head toward me.

Hi Mama, he says.

Our eyes lock for a brief second before he goes back to whatever chaos he was creating, and my heart leaps. Mama isn’t just a word; it’s a symbol that represents our journey — the journey of pain and hope, of grief and love, of tears and joy — the journey that has changed our lives forever.

2012 was not a good year. We experienced the loss of a parent, a tragedy involving another family member, and a difficult pregnancy that led to six months on bed rest and way too much TV time for my then-toddler daughter. May 22nd was the day everything was supposed to get better. It was the day our son would make his debut and complete our family. He would be the catalyst for healing that would bind the wounds we’d all recently suffered.

Junior came out quickly at 9:52 that morning, and he was perfect. He had an APGAR of 10 and had beautiful, pudgy cheeks. He was literally perfect. A friend posted on my Facebook page: “Congratulations on the gift of a healthy son!” We’d been given a gift, all right, but it wasn’t what we were expecting.

That evening, a nurse came in to test Junior’s hearing. He didn’t respond to the sounds, but no one was too concerned. We had a follow-up the following week. He failed the second test as well, and he was referred to a specialist. One final failed test sealed his diagnosis, and we were sent home with a pamphlet entitled Your Deaf Child.

Crushed. Heartbroken. Confused. I had no words for my emotions at the time, but it wasn’t a good place. I looked down at the infant who would never fall asleep to his mother’s lullaby, whose world was silent. The child who was supposed to bring healing but instead brought more pain.

Over the months that followed, we saw multiple specialists and Junior endured more poking and prodding and sedations than any infant should have to endure. I no longer lived the stay-at-home-mom life of play dates, art projects and stroller walks at the mall. Our days were filled with doctors appointments, therapies and the impossible question of Why my child?

After hitting rock bottom emotionally, we learned about cochlear implants and found out that Junior would be a good candidate. The implants would not replace natural hearing, we were told, but it would be a prosthetic that would give him the best chance of success. With this hope, we pushed forward. We met people from all over the country whose children had used cochlear implants to lead normal lives, and we jumped headfirst into the world of special needs.

On March 8, 2013, three weeks after surgery, 9-month-old Junior’s implants were turned on, and he heard our voices for the first time. He smiled the first time he heard my husband’s voice, and we knew we’d made the right decision for him and for our family.

It’s almost two years after surgery, and Junior still spends several hours a week in various therapies, but he can hear us and he can talk to us. We may not have received the gift of a normal, typical, healthy child, but his unpredictable journey has given us incredible gifts we could not have imagined.

Hope. Peace. Compassion. Acceptance. Perspective.

Gifts that can only be obtained as trophies from a trial by fire.

With a typical child, I would never have recognized the beauty of the little things. The miracles. He knows my name. He hears my voice.

He calls me mama. The greatest gift of all.

This post originally appeared on Save Money, Live Joyfully.

For all of December, The Mighty is celebrating the moments we gave or received a gift that touched our lives in a special way. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post describing this moment for you. Include a photo and 1-2 sentence bio to [email protected].
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