My Baby Brother: One of Us!

By Kyra Alvey

The house was a little small for three kids, but we knew that we could fit a new member of the family. My parents hadn't planned on having another baby. It's just one of those facts of life that people deal with all of the time. For seven years it had just been my younger brother, Kiegan, and I. We're four years apart. This baby and I would be four months shy of being twelve years apart.

I was so excited to have a baby in the house. All of my life I had loved babies. I'd jump at the chance to hold one. Now we were going to have one of our own in the house all of the time. I was looking forward to being the little assistant mother.

When the time came to go to the hospital I was very anxious to have the baby come. I just wanted it to be born quickly. My hopes of bringing the baby home soon were crushed when that first trip to the hospital was a false alarm. The doctor gave my mom pills to keep her from having contractions. It wasn't until five days later that she went into actual labor. We got to the hospital at seven o'clock in the morning and by nine we knew that it would be awhile. My parents had one of their friends come pick us up and take us to her house. We spent the whole day in nervous anticipation for some sort of phone call. It finally came a little after three in the afternoon. When we finally got to the hospital I was about to burst. I wanted to hold the baby so bad. It was a baby boy that my parents named Kelby Cahill. He was tiny at six pounds thirteen ounces. I'd never seen a baby that young before. My mom had made the nurse wait to take him away to get him cleaned up until I got there. I got to give him his first bath, take his temperature, and put a little blue shirt on him that said, "I'm A Non-Smoker". I didn't want to leave the hospital, but after having a cafeteria dinner, we said good-bye to my mom and Kelby and headed home.

I went to school the next day and shared the previous day's experience with all of my sixth grade friends. I couldn't wait to bring the baby home after school. My dad picked Kiegan and I up and we went directly back to the hospital. I was the one that got to carry Kelby out of the hospital to the car.

A few hours later, at home, I walked into the living room where my parents were after peeking at the sleeping baby. I stopped and listened to them in the hallway. I started getting upset. I couldn't understand what they were saying, but their voices were nervous and agitated. My child instinct kicked in as I walked in to begin questioning. All I had to do was ask what was wrong. The exact words that came out of my father's mouth were, "They're trying to tell us that Kelby's deaf!" I was shocked. Not from what he said, but how he said it. I thought everyone was happy and excited about having the baby home. He sounded so angry. I didn't understand. The full affect of what a deaf child brings to a family is not something many eleven year olds would comprehend. But my parents got it and were starting to get panicky.

It turns out that Boulder Community Hospital does a standard hearing test on newborn babies. They put headphones on them when they're asleep along with little electrodes all over their head. They send tones through the headphones and read what the baby is hearing on a computer screen that shows their brainwaves. My brother did not do very well. In fact, they didn't see very much response at all.

At first, my parents denied that Kelby couldn't hear. The test was done by one of the hospital volunteers. They figured that the volunteer might not have done the test right. But, after a couple of days they began doing their own tests on him. After putting him to sleep they would clap loudly above his head, put the phone next to him and have someone call, even run the vacuum. Interestingly enough, the only one of those things that woke him up was the vacuum. This was extremely puzzling to all of us until my mom figured out that the vacuum was the only one he could feel.

Mom and Dad decided to take him to a specialist. They went through a few doctors. The professionals told us the naked truth. Our baby had a profound hearing loss in both ears. It was caused by two recessive genes known to cause deafness coming together to form a dominant one. One recessive gene was from one parent, and the other came from the other parent. It's usually known to be a family gene. By the time Kelby was two months old he had hearing aids. When I first saw him with his hearing aids on, it was like seeing a whole different personality in his face. He had knew facial expressions and he looked around a lot more. We could see in his little round face that he could hear something.

Seeing my baby brother able to hear something was amazing and devastating at the same time. Most people take for granted that their child can hear and see and move. I would feel guilty when I'd talk to him. I'd be playing with him, talking to him and I'd get this feeling that he had no idea that I was making noise. It made me feel terrible. I began to hate it when his hearing aids weren't in. Babies have fussy nights every once in a while that aren't caused by anything except that they're tired and won't go to sleep. It gets frustrating when you're tired too and all you want them to do is go to sleep. I remember crying when I would see my mom trying to get him to go to sleep on nights like those. With my brother, Kiegan and I, she relied heavily on the soothing qualities of her voice. With Kelby, she would press her lips or her throat up to his head and hum. Her eyes would be clamped shut and she'd be rocking back and forth in the chair. Questions from strangers were hard, too. The one question I hated the most was "What are those on his ears?" I also hated it when a little kid would be curious and start to ask about them and their parents would grab their arm, shush them, turn their noses up as if we weren't even there, and drag their child away. It's hard being the older sibling to a deaf child, but it gets easier as time goes on.

Now Kelby is five years old. He still can't say very much with his voice, but he signs as fast as a bee collects honey in springtime. He gets frustrated because he's so incredibly smart and sometimes it's hard for him to get it out and show it. I feel very lucky to have Kelby as a brother. He adds something special to me as a person that I happen to like. It gives me compassion towards disabled people that I might otherwise not have and that I think a lot of people are missing. I love him, but then again, he's still a brother and a pain in the butt like the rest of them!

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