Before You Were Here: An Open Letter to Gigi.

Hi Gigi!

It’s mom.  I’m writing to you the same way we wrote to Tess, Bowen, and Cate before they came to us.  It seems like such a personal thing to put out there for all the internet to read.  Here’s the deal, I have this overwhelming feeling that this is going to be absolutely AMAZING, that much like ALL your brothers and sisters, you’re going to blow us all out of the water with all the things you teach us.  I want to record that here, because it will make it easier for people to understand why we live the life we do, and why we searched the world over for YOU.  It breaks down stereotypes about you, about what you can accomplish, and about what we should (and shouldn’t) expect of you.  It creates a bridge between you and the rest of the village that is coming to love you.

Just like I did before we adopted your brothers and sisters, I have spent an enormous amount of my time waiting for you educating myself.  I am always learning about attachment, and I’ve continued to seek out new resources and ways to help you understand what family really means knowing that you have no recollection of having one.  I have had your medical history reviewed by as many doctors as I can find.  I’ve asked what they think about your heart especially.  It worries me, that little heart of yours.  I have lingering trauma from what we lived through with your big, but so little and very fierce, sister, Tess.  Someday, we’ll tell you the tale of that.  Someday, when I can do it without crying.  Actually, I’ll have to apologize in advance, sweet girl, I think there will always be weeping during that tale.  So, get your tissues ready.

Yesterday, I spent the day learning about how to be the best mama I can be to a child who is profoundly deaf.  I gathered with some of the most amazing experts in the country, staff of one of the best deaf schools there is, and some very fierce advocates to help me.  Some of these people are deaf themselves, some of them born that way, some of them losing their hearing later in life.  They shared their journeys and resources with me.

I’m going to admit something, Gigi.  By the time lunch time rolled around, after listening to their stories all morning, I went to the bathroom of the conference center we were meeting at, I locked the door, and I cried.  I didn’t cry for the same reasons some of the other mama’s cried.  They described tale after tale of discovering that their child is deaf.  They cried for what they had lost, for what they thought their baby had lost.  I understand that, but that’s not why I cried.  I haven’t lost anything, and I know you haven’t either.  At least, not when it comes to your deafness.  You were born this way.  You don’t know life any differently than the way it is right now.  I have the unique gift of having known all along exactly who you are, and you’ve been gifted with ten brothers and sisters who will never love you despite your deafness, but who have come to love you even more because of your deafness.  I don’t think there are ten people in the world who are more excited to have a deaf sister.  They are excited about learning what will, hopefully, become your native language.  They’re excited about being included in your world, and within a culture that will be uniquely yours, but that they have been invited into simply because they’re privileged enough to get to call you family.  That is truly amazing.  See? Already, you’re amazing us, and you’re not even here yet.

I still cried though.  I cried because despite all the resources we have, and all that was offered to me yesterday in the way of adaptations that will help you learn and grow to whatever is your highest potential is within a world that has been created for people who are hearing, I am so scared.  I’m scared for all the same reasons that I was scared about all your brothers and sisters coming to us.  I always wonder if this timid, white, privileged, sheltered, regular mom is enough.  I’ve wondered it every time.  Am I enough to parent a person who will someday become a black man?  Will I be able to braid the hair of my black daughter in a way that makes her accepted?  How will I parent a child who will have spent half her childhood with another mother, or, in another case, half her life with NO mother at all?  What will be different about parenting an Asian child?  How do I fight for the child they tell me is dying?  How do I choose to disfigure her to save her?  What will I do for the child that the world sees as less capable just because he’s small?  It’s not just you, sweet girl.  I’ve cried every single time.  In this case, Gigi, you are no different.

In my heart, it always feels like this is the biggest mountain I’ve ever had to climb, even though my head will tell me it isn’t.  Your deafness feels like a GIANT mountain.  I reminded myself, and so did many other people through their stories, that you won’t die of your deafness.  In fact, you’ll live a full, amazing life even if you never hear one single sound.  I’ll be able to tell you, show you, and help you understand in return, how much we love you.  As your sister Juliana often has to do, I gave myself a little pep talk.  I slowed my breathing, pictured all the things we’ll do in the future with the village that’s coming for you, and I walked out of that bathroom and back into the room full of, quite literally, hundreds of people who are waiting…for you.

–FullPlateMom, who is ready to rise by lifting Gigi.

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