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American Annals of the Deaf

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Alandra’s Lilacs: The Story of a Mother and Her Deaf Daughter
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Like any little girl, Joy wanted to hold my daughter and play with the live baby doll. The two girls looked like exact opposites: Joy was blonde and fair (she looked like a Dresden doll) and Landy had almost-black hair and a light olive complexion. When they played side by side, you were immediately struck by not only their differences, but by their beauty. Joy spent many weekend days playing sweetly with Landy. The play times they shared may have been the only time Joy ever approached a state of calm during her terrible twos.

When Landy was around five months old, I started to suspect that she was also deaf. I don’t even remember what made me suspicious. But fear, like a cancerous worm, began intruding into my happiness. During the early part of my pregnancy I knew I had been exposed to the three-day measles while babysitting for my husband’s nieces and nephew. There had been a measles epidemic and all the kids were getting them. The kids had not been feeling well, so I wasn’t surprised when they broke out in a rash from head to toe. The next day I called my obstetrician, who asked if I had ever had the measles before. I replied, “Yes, several times.” He said, “Well, the current thinking in the medical field is that a person can only get the three-day measles once, so your baby will not be at risk.” I said, “Once! I have had them more than once. I know you can get them again.” My doctor said, “Well, since you can only have measles once, you can’t get the gamma globulin shot. But don’t worry about the baby, it will be fine.” So I put the thoughts and the worries out of my head. But the fears always had a way of returning, regardless of the comforting advice I received.

I tentatively broached the subject of my fears while visiting Linda and Joy one afternoon. “Linda,” I said, “I think sometimes that Landy is deaf.” Laughing, she replied, “From time to time all kids pretend they don’t hear you.” Shaking my head, I said, “No, it’s more than that. I really don’t think she hears.” Linda gave my remark a little more consideration, but then said, “I’m sure you’re wrong, it’s just your imagination playing tricks on you. It’s because you’re around Joy so much.” Then carefully selecting her words so not to hurt my feelings, she added, “And partly it may be because you lost the first baby.” Giving in, I agreed she was probably right.

Voicing my suspicions for the first time relieved my fears for a while. Yet there were so many little things that I kept noticing--similarities to Joy, differences from my other nieces and nephews. I just couldn’t shake the memory of keeping the kids the day they broke out with the measles. A few weeks later Landy and I visited her pediatrician. Not only had Dr. Buzan been practicing pediatric medicine for many years, he had seven children of his own. If anyone would know if my daughter were deaf, he would be the one. I told him about my fears. When I told him I had been exposed to the measles during my pregnancy, he suddenly grew more alert. But he relaxed when I told him I had the measles as a child. Like Linda, he thought it was my imagination and new mother jitters. In fact, his remarks were almost identical to hers: “Because you lost the first baby, perhaps you are looking for something to be wrong with this one.” When I assured him this was not the case, he said, “The best thing to do is to take her home and enjoy her. If you still think she can not hear when she’s a year old, you’ll need to take her to an ear, nose, and throat doctor.”

I felt frustrated that he brushed my fears aside so lightly. I was sure he was laughing at me because I was so young. My anger flaring, I thought, I certainly do enjoy my baby. What does he think I want, a refund? But I did not speak these thoughts out loud. After all, he was the doctor. I felt frustrated because these experts were unable to see what was so obvious. I was embarrassed, angry with myself because they made me feel so inept at being a mother. I began keeping my fears to myself so people couldn’t laugh or make me feel inadequate. My “experts” had refused to see, refused to look, refused to listen.

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