About six years ago, my husband and I embarked on an unforeseen journey. After having three wonderful boys, we were blessed with the most beautiful baby girl we had ever seen. But more than becoming parents with pink in our lives, we quickly learned that our daughter was born with hearing loss. She had failed her newborn hearing test and the subsequent tests at the audiologist. We were now beginning our journey into the unfamiliar land of hearing loss.
Our daughter’s first three years of life were full of appointments and therapy sessions. Between ages two and three, we learned that she was losing more of her hearing. During this time, our family was blessed with another son. He, too, failed his newborn hearing screen.
Through genetic testing we discovered that my husband and I both carry a rare recessive gene that causes progressive hearing loss. Thankfully there are no other known consequences.
By age three-and-a-half, our daughter had received cochlear implants. About six months after the surgery, we learned that her five-year-old brother also had hearing loss. Due to his late diagnosis and the lack of information about this rare gene, our oldest two hearing sons will undergo annual testing. Our two hard-of-hearing sons are being monitored closely until they qualify for cochlear implants as well.
This journey has been challenging and emotional for our family, yet educational and rewarding. At the beginning, as devastating as it was to learn that our daughter would never hear the way we do, we had a calming peace, knowing that God has a plan for her and for our family. He was in control and would be with us each step of the way.
God has worked the hearing loss for our good. He has blessed us with loving specialists who are willing to go above and beyond for our family’s success. One of these wonderful people is a sign language interpreter. She has taken on our family for the past two years and has instructed us in the language and Deaf culture. We have come to understand the importance of both in our children’s lives. We now embrace our children’s hearing loss as something that makes them special and unique.
Over this past year, I was able to connect with some Deaf education experts in our state. After numerous meetings, our daughter has been approved for an interpreter in her classroom. She is growing in both spoken English and American Sign Language. We are thrilled with the access to sound she has received, as well as the interpreter to grant her even more access to language. In the end, we want our children to be bilingual, with access to both the hearing and Deaf worlds.
Recently, we have met other Deaf families in our community. They have been eager to support us in learning the language, and are interested in attending our church. It is an exciting ministry opportunity for our family and church!
Our congregation has been supportive throughout our journey. We have received loving Christian encouragement as well as babysitting help for our frequent doctor appointments. And now our church is making steps toward having an interpreter during worship!
WELS Ministry for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing has been extremely helpful. As soon as they learned of our family, they provided materials for our congregation, including brochures, books, DVDs, posters, Sunday school curriculum, etc. They are also assisting our plans to provide interpreted worship.
We have learned there are many different journeys and viewpoints in the Deaf/Hard of Hearing world. As we are creating our own journey, we have relied on the loving support of our family, friends, and church, but most important, the confidence that God is by our side. We have peace knowing that he has a special plan for each of our five children. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
To learn how the Mission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing can help you, go to wels.net/mdhh and csm.welsrc.net/mdhh.
Rachel Holper is raising her children in Kenai, Alaska, where her husband Ryan serves as principal of Grace Lutheran School.
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