Thoughts on Parenting a Deaf Child

Kierra Jade: That’s What Fathers Are For

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Kierra was born August 18, 2004 at 1:00 in the afternoon in Sulphur, LA at West Cal-Cam hospital. No one would have ever suspected that her incredible journey in life would start that day.

I am Kierra’s father and this is the story of Kierra’s journey so far after nearly 10 years on this earth.

We found out that Kim was pregnant right around Christmas time in 2003. We were so excited by this news and at the same time absolutely worried. The year prior, my wife had a miscarriage. This was a devastating time in our young lives and the new pregnancy only elevated our fears and concerns. Our doctor was optimistic about this new pregnancy. My wife was very sick for the first 3-4 months of the pregnancy and this caused me great concern for her health. As time passed, so did the morning sickness. After about 5 months, I could finally see and feel my baby growing inside her belly. All the testing that was done came back positive news. We went for the ultrasound to determine the gender of the baby. I was absolutely sure that we were having another boy. My family, on my side, produced a great number of boys and the odds did not look to be in the pink direction this time.

Well, low and behold the tech informed us that we were having a girl. I could not believe it, A GIRL?? That also brought on a new set of fears for me personally, not only do I have a 2nd child on the way but a girl. I had no clue what to do with a girl. Girls meant trouble. And by trouble I mean, boys! So now my strategy had to change. You know shotguns and cleaning them, and menacing threats to come in the future. We had already decided on the name that we both loved: Kierra Jade Welker.

The closer Kim got to the due date the more excited and scared I felt. My son, Dakota, was so happy that he was going to have a little sister to look after. (Although now he swears up and down he wanted a brother). I was happy to know what it was like to have a daddy’s girl and Kim was finally going to have a daughter to equal out the balance in the house.

We went to see her doctor on a regular visit and he asked her if she was ready to deliver. She was like “OH YES, PLEASE” and he scheduled her to be induced the following day. The labor was fairly short and Kierra came out in no time. I was there by her side as she labored for Kierra to come meet the world. I had never seen anything so magical and beautiful than the delivery of a child. I looked down to confirm that she was in fact a girl and saw her ear. The doctor proclaimed that she most certainly a girl and I to do my duty of cutting the umbilical cord, weighing and measuring her. Everyone finally got to meet her and hold her. I got to be there for her at night while Kim recovered from the delivery.

The doctor came in to talk to my wife and me, she had some news that had her concerned. Kierra had not passed the initial hearing test. She said that this was not uncommon in newborn babies because they sometimes have fluid in their ears. We were advised to wait a month and take her to an audiologist for another hearing test. The month went by as normal with me bonding with my princess and being there every day to help. I finally went back to work and Kim stayed home to take care of Kierra. The day that Kierra was to be tested for her hearing again I had to work. I was positive in my own mind that everything would be fine. I got the call that afternoon from my wife’s mother. The results showed that Kierra had very little hearing, if any, in both ears. I was initially in shock and heartbroken at the thought that she would never potentially hear me sing and talk to her. I was really upset and had to leave work to clear my head.

On the drive home, I decided that this would not change a thing. She would still have all the opportunities that any child would have. We would not treat her any different. There would be challenges of course, but we were ready to take them on. My wife was great; she dove into this life challenge head on. We started with teaching her sign language as soon as she could sit up; teaching her the basics of communication… eat, drink, sleep, potty etc. We started the process with the ENT doctor to see what her options were. Due to the fact that she did have a little hearing in her ears, we started with hearing aids. Getting a less than 2 year old to wear and keep hearing aids in was a challenge in itself. She adapted to wearing them and we started sending her to a speech therapist. She didn’t seem to make a lot of progress with her hearing aids. The audiologist spoke to us about the possibility of her getting a cochlear implant device. I was initially against such an operation because my baby was only 2 and I couldn’t fathom putting her through such a big operation.

We looked into the benefits of having such an operation and how it would affect Kierra. We decided to go ahead and schedule her for the procedure at Ochsner in New Orleans, LA. The big day came and I was so scared. I cried like a baby when they took her back for the procedure. Kierra was not scared; she was a real trooper. When we were able to go see her in recovery, I cried and held her. Again Kierra was a trooper and acted like nothing was wrong. Amazing behavior for a 2 year old after such a big operation. That was when her real journey began!

Kierra received her device a few days before her 3rd birthday. The activation was successful and she heard us for the first time that day. I cried again knowing that she would have the opportunity to hear.

Kierra started school that same year at College Oaks in Lake Charles, LA., The school offered classes for children with her same condition. Her development was amazing and she proved to be a very smart, intelligent little girl. She started to communicate with us more every day. She was signing well and learning to understand how to put words with her sign language. I remember every night before bed we would sign the alphabet. I believe this helped her to finger spell and at the same time learn the alphabet. Nowadays Kierra is very vocal and outspoken. There is not a shy bone in her body. She’s outgoing with a bubbly personality. She has done very well in school thus far and has had very little trouble keeping up with the rest of the class. Her doctors have been very pleased with her development.

Kierra is now in the 4th grade and has been an honor roll student ever since she started school. This year she participated in her school’s science fair project. She wanted to do something different, so we brainstormed ideas for her theme. She decided to do a project about the color of bottles and how external temperature affects the water inside based on their color. She used 4 different color bottles (clear, brown, blue & green) and did 2 separate controlled experiments. She cooled the water to 32 degrees F and measured the temperature of the bottles every 30 minutes for 4 hours. One was done inside and one was done outside. She recorded the temperature indoors and outdoors on a graph. She had hypothesized that the brown bottle would be least affected and stay cooler the longest. Her experiment actually proved otherwise. The brown bottle got warmer faster and the clear bottle was least affected by external temperature. She put together a very nice presentation and was able to speak to the judges and explain her experiment to them. She was awarded a 2nd place medal for her work and the chance to compete in the regional science fair project later that month. She was so excited and I was so proud of her. The regional competition was slated for Feb. 14th at McNeese State College in Lake Charles. Her entry was placed under the Environmental Science portion of the competition. There were hundreds of entries from all area schools and age divisions. She again presented her experiment to 2 judges and was able to tell them about her project with little assistance from her mom (sign if needed). Awards time came and Kierra was so nervous, she was literally sitting on the edge of her seat.

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My wife and I were equally nervous because we knew there we were so many excellent projects she was up against. Kierra was awarded a 2nd place medal for her entry. She was so ecstatic that she ran to the front of the auditorium to accept her award. My heart swelled with pride at her achievement. It speaks volumes to her dedication to school and shows that her condition never held her back one bit. She never once used it as an excuse for any failures that she may have encountered. She’s a remarkable young lady and I consider myself blessed to be allowed to be her father. She’s had quite the journey in her young life and I only see great things for her future. She is a true testament to what perseverance can do. She so far has played very well with the hand she has been dealt.

I know this may seem very biased because I am her father. But that’s what fathers are for, to support their children and raise them up to be remarkable people. Kierra is quite the spirit and spending any time with her, anyone would most likely agree. Thanks for your time.

Kierra’s loving father,

John Welker


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