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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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