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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf American Prose: 1980�2010

Kristen C. Harmon and
Jennifer L. Nelson, Editors

Tonya Stremlau
(b. 1968)
Tonya Marie Stremlau is a professor of English at Gallaudet University. Her primary current scholarly interests are in creative prose writing and Deaf literature. She has published one previous story, �A Nice Romantic Dinner� in The Deaf Way II Anthology: A Literary Collection by Deaf and Hard of Hearing Writers, which she also edited. Although born hearing, she became completely deaf at age ten. She lives with her family in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C.


Local Deaf Woman Abandons Twin Infants

When the waitress came, I pointed to what I wanted: a burger, fries and coffee. I�m never sure how well strangers understand my voice, or gauge how loud background noises are. At 4:00 a.m. the diner looked quiet, but for all I knew there was a racket in the kitchen.

Not that my mind was on the diner; I was furious with my husband.

What am I doing here? I thought to myself. Something could happen to the babies. Matt thinks I�m taking care of them. I can�t do this to the babies.

Oh come on, the babies will be ok, I answered myself. Matt will take care of them. They won�t get fed on time, but they�ll be OK.

At 9:00 that night�could it really only have been a few hours ago?�Matt had woken me up and brought the twins into our room so I could feed them without getting out of bed.

They had the fresh clean scent of baby shampoo and baby lotion and the way it reacts with warm baby skin. The smell of youth. As I fed the twins, I lowered my head from time to time to inhale. I think people may have babies just to be able to smell them.

We kept the lights on dim to encourage the three of us to sleep after. On good days that could be two hours, and I needed every minute of sleep I could get. I couldn�t focus or think or remember even simple things. I was so tired that a few nights before I had slept right through my bedside light flashing for twenty minutes while the twins wailed from colic. When Matt woke me up for the next feeding, and I asked why he was so frazzled, he at first didn�t believe that I had missed the flashing light. Usually one flash is enough to wake me. He believed me after I pulled everything out of my nightstand to look for the bed shaker part of the signaling system. I hated the thing, but better to be woken by its staccato buzzing than to miss a baby cry.

For that 9:00 feeding, Matt would sit at the foot of the bed, sticking around to do the burping and then putting the twins down. Then he�d be off for the night to our guest room to get seven or so uninterrupted hours of sleep. I know, he sounds nice so far.

The part of my mind that was still rational recognized that Matt was doing things to help me, but if we wanted the twins to get the benefits of breast milk, and if I wanted him to work and earn money, there wasn�t much more he could do. Not to mention it seemed a good idea to have one of us not sleep-deprived. I was jealous, though, and tempted to follow advice I got from my friend Julie when I was pregnant. She said that her husband got up with her for every feeding at night and brought her the baby (just one!) and then did the burping and diapering so she could go back to sleep. That didn�t seem practical or reasonable, though. Matt was shouldering a lot of responsibility and had been since I was put on strict bed rest three months before the twins were even born when I started having some contractions.

Julianne finished eating first. I motioned with my head for Matt to take her, but it took a while to get his attention, although he appeared to be looking straight at me with the blue eyes that had made me notice him in the first place, at a party during our Gallaudet student days. That seemed like a different life, not only eight years ago. �What were you thinking about?� I asked once I had a hand free.

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