Chinese Deaf Adopted: Bailee’s Story

by Marsy Robben

June 1st, 2001, was our “Gotcha Day.”  This is the day in the adoption world when we traveled to China and met our little girl, Bailee Robben Strang, 15 months old, for the first time and became her proud parents!  Bailee’s older sister Savannah was so excited to have a little sister.  Our family felt complete with a second child.  As I reflect back on that day, Bailee was the loudest screamer of all the little girls in that hotel conference room.  We assumed the reason for the loudness was that she had strong lungs, was scared, very attached to her nanny, etc., etc.   We brought Bailee home and began the assimilation process.  We felt that with lots of love and stimulation, all would be fine.

As time marched on, I began to question why Bailee wasn’t talking and responding.  After a great deal of denial, we pursued testing. Our suspicions were confirmed that Bailee had a severe to profound hearing loss.  I looked at Craig, Bailee’s father and said, “Our world as we knew it has forever changed.” 

Little did I know what kinds of challenges we would face!  The list can be endless, yet the things that seem most poignant in my mind include the diagnosis/label that will follow her forever, decisions about communication mode(s), insurance companies’ acceptance and/or denial of surgeries and services, many appointments with doctors, Bailee’s audiologist, and the weekly sessions with the many therapists. 

Personally, we began to meet many professionals (including early intervention providers) and parents who would all give advice and counsel along the way.  Picking the correct program/school for Bailee has been ever present. At times, there seem to be too many choices and too much information.  Yet, we are glad to live in a country with so many choices!  There were also people who asked if we planned to introduce Bailee to her Chinese culture/heritage.  This is something we wanted, yet knew we needed to give Bailee access to language first in order to make sense of her world.

The first few years were a roller coaster ride.  We kept hearing about the challenges around a late diagnosis, pre-lingual deafness (loss of hearing before acquiring language), cochlear implants, Bailee’s sensory integration issues….WHEW!  Over time, Bailee was bilaterally implanted and she now has a strong foundation and is building language skills on a daily basis and is on the path to catching up with her peers.  All of Bailee’s teachers and therapists are guiding us on the path to success.

June 1st, 2007 will mark six  years, since Bailee became a part of our family.  Has it been challenging….YES!  Has it been worthwhile….absolutely!!!  Bailee has a resiliency that is remarkable.  Her spirit is strong, and she is motivated to succeed.  She has taught our family so much about love, hard work, and the sheer joy that life can bring, despite the challenge of deafness.  She has a sense of joy and humor that is phenomenal.  No, she doesn’t fit the research mold of the “identified from birth, early aided/implanted”, yet she is thriving and gaining ground each day.  Her only limits are those put on her by others.

Bailee has attended tap/ballet classes for 3 years, joined a swim team this winter and will probably compete this summer, and will be attending her first Chinese Heritage camp this summer.  She taught me to “never say never!”  ~  

Marsy Robben lives in Colorado with her family, and welcomes comments and questions. To contact the author, email m.robben@

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