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Deaf Women's Lives: Three Self-Portraits

Bainy Cyrus, Eileen Katz and
Celeste Cheyney, and Frances M. Parsons

from Part One

All Eyes

Bainy Cyrus

It was indeed a wondrous day for my mother, having finally gotten her wish after bearing a string of three wild little boys. Mom collapsed on the delivery table with a sigh of relief when she saw the absence of a tiny weenie as soon as I slipped out of her womb. As an adult, I can imagine that excitement with a chuckle, but I also wonder what it was like for my mother to be deceived with my normal appearance. Although no one knew at that time, I had been born with a hidden disability.

By the time I was eighteen months old, my parents sensed something wasn’t right with me. My grandmother Donnie had long suspected that I didn’t seem to act like any other baby so she urged Mom to take me to the family pediatrician. I did not demand as much attention as my brothers did. Nor was I aware of comings and goings in the house. I did not wail at the sound of the front door shutting, even with my playpen only ten feet away, and I never turned at my mother’s homecoming. Most of all, I had not spoken a single word, not even “Ma” or “Dada,” as I should have long ago. My brothers had not shown these “symptoms” when they were my age.

When Mom took me to the pediatrician, she was assured that I was still too young to talk and that I might have “the last child syndrome.” That is, the baby in a particularly large family was usually spoiled as a result of constantly being waited on by older siblings who interpreted the baby’s words. Nevertheless, Mom became increasingly concerned with my lack of speech. She brought me to the doctor for a couple more visits, only to be assured that I would eventually produce my first word out of the blue.

But Donnie wasn’t convinced. “I don’t believe it. There is something wrong with Bainy,” she insisted to Mom and Dad. Hearing these words, Dad, who was a doctor specializing in internal medicine, began to think that his mother-in-law was right. Since he was out working all day, he hadn’t seen enough of me to notice my lack of baby words. Yet, I always beamed at my dad’s tickle game every evening as he rolled his finger around before zapping me in the tummy, eliciting giggling squeals from me.

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