As I sat waiting in the hospital with Brennan in the OR last week, I looked around at the worried faces of the parents around me. I was not unique. We were all “in it together” but all for various reasons. One mom waited as her 5 year old finished her last chemo treatment. Another waited as her son, recently diagnosed with diabetes, had an endoscopy to see if he has celiac disease. We waited as Brennan had another surgery on his special, little ear. Everyone there was facing a challenge, but I knew we were lucky. Brennan is healthy and in good hands.
Flashback to January 2009. As soon as I heard the words, “it’s a boy” my heart grew in ways I never imagined. He was perfect in every way! As I held Brennan for the first time, the nurses pointed out that one of his ears was shaped a bit differently but no one seemed too concerned and I honestly couldn’t see past his gorgeous little face.
Soon there was a concern because one side of his face failed to depress when he cried. A genetics specialist was called in and we soon learned that Brennan had microtia and hemifacial microsomia. In other words, Brennan had an ear deformity on his right side, and the same side of his face was a bit smaller than the other with underdeveloped muscles causing only one side of his face and mouth to move normally.
We visited with other specialists to rule out any other health complications that can accompany these genetic differences. The only issue that arose was that Brennan had moderate to severe hearing loss in his right ear. Although this wasn’t great news, in the whole scope of eternity, this was NOT the end of the world. What a relief to know that our little boy was healthy!
I clearly remember holding Brennan during his first ABR hearing test at two weeks old with electrodes stuck to his sweet little head. I cried as the audiologist told me about his hearing loss and that he would need a hearing aid. She was so grave in delivering her diagnosis and was so serious about preparing me for all of the struggles he would have as a child with hearing loss. I left that office feeling defeated and scared for Brennan because of all of these “challenges and obstacles” the audiologist had warned us about.
As I processed her words, I made a decision. This was all about perspective. Everyone has challenges and obstacles in life. This was part of Brennan and his own special journey. I could either crumble with worry and flash into protection mode, or I could say, you know what, we are going to arm him with confidence and teach him to love and embrace this difference because it is a huge part of what makes him the amazing superhero that he is. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do as parents, regardless of what lies in our children’s path. From that point on, we changed audiologists to work with the awesome people at AI DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, DE. Our fabulous ENT was there, and it made sense to keep Brennan in a place where he was most comfortable. They are all amazing, positive and gifted people who have been a fabulous source of support and care for Brennan and our family through several surgeries, hearing and speech evaluations and therapy sessions. We even became involved in the ENT/Audiology department’s annual “Hear We Go” 5K for kids and families dealing with hearing loss! How perfect that it started the same year Brennan was born.
Empowering Brennan with positive pride is something we are learning with each new day. Children take to heart what we model, so if we choose our words and actions carefully from the beginning, chances are that they will follow in our footsteps. We can either teach them to hide their differences and train them to defend themselves, or we can teach them to show the world that they are proud of the way that they were created and that they are beautiful and perfect, period. I choose the latter!
I can recall an early occasion when a little boy looked at Brennan and said, “dad what is wrong with that boy’s ear?” Inside, a part of me was angry at those words. Nothing was WRONG with my baby’s ear. After a deep breathe, I said, “well, nothing is wrong with his ear. It’s special just like Nemo’s lucky fin.” “Ok!” I thought, this is how it is going to be. I can and will be the example Brennan needs to learn how to answer when faced with these situations. He will learn to be compassionate to those who don’t understand, and to be confident when others may not be kind.
There are so many moments we would have never experienced had Brennan not been born with a physical difference. I would have never been able to fall in love with his sweet, crooked smile that is unique to him, or hear the words, “mommy I can hear you!” after he had a new hearing aid activated. How awesome is that?
Another special moment was when Brennan went to school and proudly told his class all about his new “hearing aider” and that he is like a superhero when he wears it. Seeing him embracing his difference as a preschooler, and seeing his classmates embrace him was inspiring. I felt such a sense of pride as I saw Brennan sitting with one classmate who was new to the school. She was curious, so he explained how his “hearing aider” worked. He was confident and proud, and his new buddy was so pleased to learn from him!
I have learned that each experience in life presents us with an opportunity; positive perspective is a must. We can allow differences to hold us and our children down, or we can show the world how special they can be. Everyone has some sort of difference. Some you can see, and some you can’t! I believe that Brennan was born with a physical difference because he is meant to use his experiences do great things. I know that he is proud of his little ear and his hearing aid. I hope that he always will be. I know that the things he will learn and encounter in life will help to shape him into a strong, confident leader in whatever he chooses to do. I am proud to me the momma of such a special boy who loves to share all of who he is with everyone he meets–especially that sweet, crooked little smile!