Susannah Prinz "good but hard" life
"it is not the path i would have chosen,
i never imagined how rich a journey we would be embarking on,
how happy + vibrant our daughter would be,
and how many gifts would come with the challenge of deafness." Susannah Prinz
Children with cochlear implants often find themselves "straddling two cultures," the deaf and the hearing. They may enjoy listening to music and speak just as well as a hearing child, but words and sounds are sometimes lost in the background noises. The child"s identity and patience can be shaken in those instances when their differences are amplified. They scan a room and realize no one else is wearing implants. They feel frustrated at the extra effort required for swimming, playing in the rain, or even brushing their hair. They feel disregarded when people notice their devices instead of them. When Susannah and Matt Prinz witness the pain or frustration that creeps across their daughter, Monrovia"s, face, their hearts hurt for her. These moments also remind them how important it is to build their daughter"s sense of pride in her deafness so that she knows that she is perfect just the way she is.
In April, 2008, with the birth of their first daughter, Susannah and Matt entered the world of deafness. In her effort to "process and escape" the fact that her "Little M" is profoundly deaf, Susannah turned to blogging about their "good but hard" lives. She captures, with vivid emotion, their transition through the "seasons of hearing loss," moving beyond the denial, the grief, the decisions, and the fear of the early days to the present, where their family is thriving.
In their early decision making process about M"s hearing loss, Susannah and Matt evaluated their lives and chose the options they felt would give their daughter the greatest communication opportunity for "rich relationships with those in their large community of family and friends." Monrovia was implanted at 9 1/2 months old and attended an oral deaf school from infancy until age 4. She now attends public school with "limited accommodations." Susannah explains, "We did not want to fix her or pretend she wasn"t deaf. I can"t imagine her not being deaf! But we wanted her to have options." Susannah and Matt don"t believe the route they"ve taken is the one for everyone, but it made sense for their daughter. Embracing a child"s Deaf identity by communicating via ASL "is also a beautiful choice, even if we chose oral communication." Susannah and Matt realize that Monrovia"s future decision may be to turn off her implants and turn to ASL as her primary mode of communication and that is something they"d fully support. Although M dropped her usage of ASL after language acquisition, she has recently shown interest in taking classes, which is something the whole family looks forward to.
A recurrent theme of the blog is the active shaping of M"s positive self-identity. Susannah stresses repeatedly "how important it is to be open and talk with your child about who they are, and to celebrate their deafness." Realizing there is "power" in telling Monrovia her story, Susannah created a book brimming with pictures and captions about M"s "hearing loss journey." In both photos and words, the blog depicts hearing birthdays, connecting with other deaf or hard of hearing people, and rejoicing in their daughter"s deafness. In a Kindergarten project, Monrovia said, "I"m born deaf and you"re just the way you"re supposedly to be. I like being deaf and my implants." Clearly, the efforts of Susannah and Matt, along with all the friends, family, and professionals in M"s life, to foster her positive sense of self-worth are working!
As parents, Susannah"s and Matt"s lives have become richer from being taken outside of what they knew and into the world of deafness. They"ve been impassioned to educate themselves and to make the effort to provide the means for their daughter to communicate with the world. They"ve learned to revel in every achievement, no matter how small. They"ve developed friendships strengthened by a common thread.
Having come "full circle" from a place of fear to a place of relative stability, Susannah now reaches out to other parents beginning the hearing loss journey, so that they too may experience the reassurance of connecting with someone who understands what they"re going through. She wants to reassure them that they too will have children who thrive and that "having a deaf child will be your normal, and that it won"t just be you normal in a begrudging way, but in a great way. It will be ok." Susannah Prinz" blog speaks volumes to the beauty found along the route in the deaf journey.
Aside from being the wife to Matt and mother to Monrovia and Ruby, Susannah is also an artist who loves to cook. Some of her favorite recipes can be found on the blog. Check out the "art" link to see some of her work or continue on to www.susannahprinz.com to enjoy more.