Thursday, November 14, 2013

Jack's (and our) Journey

Jack started Kindergarten this year and it's been (for the most part) wonderful! He loves school, is so independent, and has an appetite for learning. He loves learning about letters & sounds, learning to read, counting/math, gym, recess, & lunch. Of course, lunch!- he thinks it's pretty cool to eat lunch at school.
Below are his first day of Kindergarten pictures-

So, to fully appreciate where Jack is right now in his life, I want to recap a bit about how he started out in this life. And what I can come to truly recognize and be in awe of after having 5 1/2 years to reflect, is just how loved & important this little boy is to his Heavenly Father.

Jack surprised us by being born 3 1/2 weeks early, and aspirating meconium during birth. Consequently, he was rushed out of the delivery room and into the NICU for life-saving measures. He was on oxygen and breathing tubes, antibiotics, and various other types of medicines for nearly a month before being able to breathe on his own. He was over 2 weeks old before I could hold him. However, he received one of the most powerful priesthood blessings I have ever been witness to while in the hospital, and his recovery was truly nothing short of miraculous. He was released from the hospital when just over 1 month old, and came home on no medications or special instructions. He was a completely healthy, normal baby boy!

Fast forward two years later, and after months of increasing worry over his lack of language skills, we had his hearing tested as a precaution. I remember sitting in a room after being in the sound booth, and having the audiologist tell me my son was severely to profoundly deaf in both ears. I remember watching him play on the floor, oblivious to my tears of denial and fear of what this meant for my son. I remember the decision we made to go thru two surgeries so he could have cochlear implants. He was 2 1/2 when he had the first surgery, and close to 3 when he had the second. It took months of rehab, audiology, & speech appointments for him to learn to hear. Yes, he had to learn to hear. It took me awhile to fully comprehend that concept.

In the three years since receiving his cochlear implants, Jack has had to try and close the language gap between himself and his hearing peers. This has turned out to be a monumental challenge when you consider his peers had a 2 1/2 year headstart on him. We've dealt with the ups and downs of his language acquisition and behavior. He is a very intelligent, curious, persistent boy who is eager to learn. He's extremely sweet and has a tender heart. Yet, because of his language delay, he seemed held back from maximizing his potential and I cannot tell you how maddening that is. His maturity also seemed to suffer as a result, making him susceptible to poor behavior choices and ready to copy any child nearby, particularly his younger toddler-aged brother. I've had to be hard on him and constantly push him to reach the next level, to be better, and I resent that it's had to be that way.

Fast forward to the start of the 2013 school year, and we've just moved into a new school district across the metroplex. We left an average school district and joined a superior one. Jack has access to a deaf education program in a mainstream elementary school, and can get even more language intervention than he would have in our previous school district. He's transferred to a school where he spends 3 hours a day in a classroom with a specially trained teacher for the deaf, who is familiar with hearing loss. He gets 3 hours a day of intense language arts instruction, and the rest of the day with the mainstream kindergarten class for math, social studies, and specials. He rides the bus to and from school, and the bus picks him up from our front door.

We are still in the "close the gap" phase with Jack, and I'll tell you the truth. There are times when I am truly blown away by his progress, by something he'll say to me. And then there are times when I get beyond frustrated with him because he doesn't understand something, or I can't have an elaborate conversation with my son and I feel like I am missing out on something. But then I reflect and think back on the course our life took these past 5 1/2 years, and this is where the awe comes into play that I referred to about 5 paragraphs back.

Yes, the awe. You see, I can literally see God's Hand directing our life since this little boy grew inside me. And it's all been for him. It's no coincidence Jack was born where he was. In fact, we wanted to have Jack somewhere else entirely, across the state. But because of circumstances, we ended up staying in Lubbock and Jack was born in the University Medical Center, where a certain doctor, Dr. Perez, practiced neonatal medicine. This doctor saved my son's life. It was his experience in infants with PPHT (pulmonary persistent hypertension), that guided our decisions and helped us make wise decisions when it came to Jack's healthcare. The care Jack received at that hospital was superior, from the doctors to the loving nurses who watched over him.

Shortly after Jack was born, on the day he was discharged from the hospital actually, we moved from Lubbock to Dallas. We lived with my parents for awhile while Jon looked for work (cue the 2008 economic crash, thank-you!). After several months, Jon received a job offer for a company in Fort Worth. We were ecstatic and eager to move into our own place. Fort Worth turned out to be another fortuitous location for us to be in for Jack. It was there that he was diagnosed as deaf, had his surgeries, and years of therapy. I say fortuitous because Fort Worth has the advantage over Dallas for pediatric cochlear implants, especially the audiological rehab involved. We lived 20 minutes from an excellent pediatric audiologist specializing in cochlear implants, who serviced children who lived hours away. Was it a coincidence we lived so close? I think not.

We actually wanted to move back to Dallas from Fort Worth for a couple of years before we did. Jon was dissatisfied with his job and was quietly looking for a new one. He had several interviews for positions he was qualified for, but never got an offer. We grew increasingly frustrated and upset, thinking why? Why isn't this working for us? And then, the summer before Jack starts Kindergarten Jon receives an offer for a company in Dallas. It comes at a time when Jack is finishing up with his frequent audiology appointments (he now only goes once a year) and concluding his Pre-K year at school. The advantage of living in Fort Worth was dimming now, as the advantage to living in Dallas with a school-aged child with hearing loss was growing. Dallas has the advantage when it comes to educational programs for children with hearing loss, and Plano ISD was, in the words of our speech therapist, the "crème de la crème" of school districts for children with hearing loss in the entire state of Texas.

So, was it a coincidence, that after countless months of searching for a job, that one finally appears 4 months before Jack starts Kindergarten? No, it was Heavenly Father's wise hand guiding our life. He has a perfect view for how our lives should progress, and what roads we need to travel to get to our destination safely. And while in my weak moments, I may ask "why?," I take comfort that after months, and sometimes years, of reflection, I am able to look back and see why. I can see why we had to stay in Lubbock, and why we were directed to Fort Worth; I can see why we had to stay in Fort Worth longer than we wanted, and I can see why at the exact moment of our move from FW to Dallas, why it had to happen at that moment. I've been witness to the most amazing priesthood blessings given, and miraculous progress in leaps and bounds linguistically in this child. He has been described as the "ideal" outcome for a cochlear implant recipient. And the amazing thing is- it's all been for this special little boy. He has truly been watched over from above.

And if you're still reading, thanks for sticking around. I've felt the need to express Jack's journey and blessings for some time now and I finally got the words out.

Here he is reading to his baby brother-

Showing off his art work (tracing collected leaves, and then painting them)
Jack, age 5 1/2
And did I mention, that he was also blessed with the most beautiful face? Just a mother's opinion though.


Tina said...

Oh Erin!! What a beautiful way of writing out all of your feelings. How wonderful that Heavenly Father had such a big hand in where you delivered, where you lived and when Jon got his current job! I'm so grateful that things have worked out so great for your family. We miss having you guys so close but it makes me so happy knowing you are meant to be there!! I'm so glad he's making such great improvement too. Yay!!!

Leah Z said...

It was really sweet to read about your miracles! Last week a friend said that trials are blessings wrapped in a painful package, and your life has definitely proven that true.

Also, did you see this information about how knowing our family history makes kids feel more secure? This is an important part of your family history for your kids, especially Jack to know.

Erin R said...

This is a truly beautiful post. I cried thinking about how very special Jack is. He is amazing and I know he has great and wonderful things to do here on earth. Thank you for sharing your family's miracles.

Ali said...

This was seriously one of the most touching posts I've ever read. Thank you for sharing your testimony and special experiences with your sweet little Jack. It certainly boosted my spirit today. You are a wonderful mother and a great example!