there are some things you only notice when someone else makes you aware of them.
last week, i had a moment of awareness.
it was during a conversation with a lady at the park. she was very curious and sweetly asked questions about emery, her story, future surgeries, etc. she marveled at how well emery understood everything that was said to her and even got to see some of the silly miss emery we see all the time. (she doesn't let her guard down around many people. our silly, spunky girl usually plays shy when we are in public).
and then the lady said, "so, is she deaf??"
the question rung in the air.
after i recovered for a moment, i told the lady about emery's new lips and how much reconditioning it takes for her to relearn sounds.
(i didn't want to make the lady feel bad, so i didn't even mention her palate surgery and nasal reconstruction and the extreme hard work it takes for a child post surgery to configure her tongue and lips and roof of her mouth to produce the correct sounds. not to mention the fistula (hole) that is naturally still inside her mouth on her gum line which won't be repaired until she is 8 or 10 years old and is bone grafted together. there is a lot more to speech than meets the eye.)
it wasn't the question that stunned me. i have no problem with deafness. in fact, it was one of the needs we were open to when we adopted.
i was stunned by the realization that other people don't understand what she's saying.
to us, it's as if she is speaking, clear as day.
what might sound mumbled is very clearly telling me nearly everything i need to know. it's not her words...it's her expressions, hands, tone, body language, eye contact...and a knowing of her needs that feels verbal even though it isn't.
i'm not saying i understand 100% of what she wants 100% of the time...there are plenty of times i know she is frustrated, but i don't understand why. or times i know she is fuming mad but we can't talk it out because her words don't yet overpower her trigger to scream.
she is specific...oh so specific.
and yet, she has only 7 or 8 verbal words that an outsider could understand.
mama, bye-bye, hiya, meow, night-night, gu-gu (chinese for brother), ball, more
(FYI: we work closely with a speech therapist each week and emery knows tons of sign language, but we are working to use sign language minimally so her verbal ability will grow)
all week i've been hearing her sounds, her thoughtful chatter, and hearing that lady's remark in my head.
and i've decided: words are overrated.
we get to cherish them just for ourselves for a bit longer.