Let me introduce you to my girls: Hadassah is the oldest (only by a minute)! She is very discerning and often quite suspicious of anything new. She can be quite nervous, but in an environment where she feels comfortable, she is confident and determined. Her favourite place to be, is on the back of a horse, and she also loves being in the kitchen cooking with mom. The name “Tahlita” is Aramaic for “little girl”. It sums her up just perfectly! She is gentle and compassionate, loves anything pink and “bling” and is extremely maternal. Anything that is small or resembles a baby of any kind is cuddled and loved almost recklessly by my little “Leetsie” (she was even rocking a tiny lemon the other day). Eden is a force to be reckoned with! From the moment she was born, it was evident that we had received a fire ball of energy, determination and joy. She generally sees herself as the “boss”, and absolutely loves being included in anything that her two sisters do.
Hadassah and Tahlita, although not identical, look very similar. As a result, we’ve always caused quite a stir everywhere we go. So when Eden came along, the Birdsey family went from “cute busy twins” to “family circus”. Wherever we go, whether it just be to the grocery shop, we usually get a few warm smiles from the older folk and a few “what was she thinking?!” glances from other sleep-deprived moms. Over the last month though, there have been some very different interactions. People glance at my trolley, full of blond curls and chubby cheeks, and then almost always do a double take as they notice the hearing aids. Eden has short hair, so her little pink hearing aids stick out like sore thumbs, and usually attract the initial attention. I guess my inner response to their reactions depend on how I’m feeling that day (and how much sleep my three have allowed me the night before!) I’ve had some interesting comments, some made me feel hurt and sad and suddenly very alone all over again, and with others, I couldn’t help but giggle at the awkwardness of human nature. Some of the beauties that I’ve heard are, “Do they have problems with their ears?” I really had to bite my tongue from a sarcastic “No, these are the latest trend in head accessories, haven’t you heard?” Instead, I had to settle with a “Yes, they are deaf, these are hearing aids.” People often mean well, but even the sincere shocked expression and “Oh, what a terrible thing, I really couldn’t cope if it were me,” is a frequent one I hear, and again, depends on the day to whether that sends me off feeling the weight of my circumstance, or just the warmth of compassion. There are always stares, most especially if we are communicating with a few hand signs, but the most painful are the conversations that people have between themselves, loud enough for me to hear every word, I guess they probably think that I have “ear problems” too. Makes sense, right?
There have also been a few extremely encouraging interactions with strangers. Graeme and I took the girls out to a park for a picnic and some outdoor fun. Graeme was with Eden at the slide, and I was helping the twins take turns up and down the monkey bars. Their curly hair was bouncing around freely that day, and mostly covering their ears and of course, hearing aids. The only “clue” to their being deaf was the little orange ring of the hearing aids’ clothing clip that was at the back of their T-shirts. A man, probably a little older than I am, came up to me, and with a very strong Australian accent, asked me if the girls were deaf. I nodded, and tried to hold back a few tears. (This was the day after Eden’s screening test suggested that she may also have hearing loss, so I was already feeling fragile.) He went on to say that he just wanted to tell me that everything was going to be okay. He had a profoundly deaf brother, who was now married with a child (both wife and son also deaf) and that he had recently asked his brother about how life had really been for him. His brother had told him that he had never felt disabled in any way and had always felt loved. He had explained that his brother had finished school well, had a regular job and was doing well, had a beautiful wife and together were in love with their little boy and were expecting their second child. They were happy and fulfilled and not missing out on anything. He just wanted to tell me that. My eyes stung with tears as I realized that this was no coincidence. Everything was going to be okay. All things would work together for our good!