Raising My “Little Girl”
My “little girl” is nearly 20 years old now.
If you know anything about me, then you know about my little girl, Breanna. You would know that she is the one that made me a mommy. When all the world was prepping for Y2K and the end of days leading up to the year 2000, I was debating what to call the child that grew in my womb.
Breanna introduced me to the world of disabilities because I previously only knew by privilege. She set my soul on the path to becoming a better mom and ultimately a better person. You know, it isn’t until we determine as people to look outside of ourselves and into the eyes of others that we can actually learn the world is much bigger than the box we grew up in.
As a struggling young single mother years ago, I received my daughter’s diagnosis of profound hearing loss in her right ear. Hearing loss was also found in her left ear but not as intense. It seemed from that moment on, all things surrounding our daily living were impacted immensely. It was just the two of us. I worked full time, and Breanna spent her after-school time in the programs available to offer care. There were many times when I received a call because she turned off her hearing aids in class or misplaced them.
School culture was hard on Breanna. There were bullies who wanted to scream into her deaf ear to see if she could hear them. At the age of five, Breanna had to deal with a society where special needs were not as accepted socially or advocated as much as they are now. The results were as you can imagine. Sadness, getting in trouble. Breanna rebelled against me for enforcing her to wear hearing aids. She refused to accept that her type of hearing loss was permanent.
Later Breanna was diagnosed with Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Next, she was diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder (ADD), followed by a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. The last time Breanna was evaluated, her diagnosis was changed to social pragmatic communication disorder. All of this was in addition to her limited hearing.
Audiologists told me that hearing impairment can hinder how the brain responds and works. They always stressed the importance of Breanna wearing the hearing aids, so that information heard in one ear can be pulled to the other side of the brain through the device. Breanna had two or three ear tube surgeries, and she once had them removed due to infection.
At other office visits, further surgical interventions were offered and contemplated. There is a mechanism known as the Bone Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA), which is a surgically implanted device that has the same function as the hearing aid and is a more permanent fixture. I was never ready to take that next step, and Breanna certainly opposed anything making her more “special” to the outside world.
I often felt other people judged and misunderstood my role as her parent. When picking up Breanna from school, many times I showed up late in dirty scrubs from working all day at my job. The juggling act continued to prove relentless, and I never felt like I could do anything right for her. The bridge between us as mother and daughter seemed perpetual. The extension of help and compassion for me from outside sources felt non-existent. Even now, I cringe thinking of all Breanna endured and never actually shared with me due to that gaping hole in our communications.
Reflecting back on raising my daughter is hard for me. But the victories Breanna gained through her resilience and in being an overcomer trump all. Through the years, more services became available to her—but she was unwilling to accept extra help. Going without for so many years forced her to adapt.
As Breanna’s mother—and knowing all the hardships, my heart nearly burst watching her walk up to get her high school diploma last year. Then dropping Breanna off on the first day as a college freshman in an itty-bitty dorm room. Sigh. She always will be my little girl. I burst with pride knowing God chose me to be Breanna’s mother. We made it through the dark and stormy seas together, and we will weather those still to come.
Breanna is keen to stand up for others who have special needs, as well as those who feel outcast. Her current study interest in school is criminal justice, and she has lots of ideas. Breanna tells others that her only goal is to help others. Little does she know that the testimony of her life already does. As the oldest sibling in a blended home, the best quality Breanna possesses is her purity and kindness.
If you’re raising multiple children in a home with one (or more) who have special needs, do not despair. I find these siblings grow up to be wiser and humbler than others. I clearly recognize their compassion, as it’s evident they were enlightened from experiences starting at an early age.
As a mother in today’s society, there are so many different perspectives on how best to raise your children. The witty antics and stern advisories. The advocates and the typical cynics. But it’s best to take all of it in stride. Your children were meant to grow and learn from you—flaws and all.
We parents must support and encourage one another. In an ideal world, nothing would divide us in terms of color, gender, or disability. Remember that our stories change hearts, so don’t stop advocating for your children. And never underestimate the lion’s heart within them.
As a mother of two special-needs children, Heather told her stories in I’m Not “OK” to help others in her situation and foster a strong and powerful community of caregiving parents.