I’m sure for all fathers-to-be, the prospect of actual fatherhood is both a joyous and scary proposition. As well it should be. But it was fraught, for me, with worries that my son would experience some of the same pains I did by inheriting my Tourette’s or become deaf.
I’ve always wanted to be a father. When I was much younger, I pictured myself at 40, married with 4 or 5 children and hadn’t yet had my first tic. But life gave me several swerves. I have yet to be married and have one son… I’m 41 years old.
But when my son was born, all those dreams faded to black as I saw him, a preemie in his incubator, quietly fussing and looking like the perfect little person that he was. I had held him in my arms a little less than 2 weeks later, feeding him while rocking him in the rocking chair of the NICU in Jackson, MS. It was one of the most amazing things I had ever experienced. Seeing this little version of both myself and his mother created a feeling within that I cannot describe.
What I can describe, however, is the feeling later on of “I hope he doesn’t develop Tourette’s! I hope he doesn’t go deaf!”
Perhaps that is shallow because, after all, I would still love him and be there for him no matter what. But the feelings and thoughts remained. In fact, they grew!
As I had often reflected back on my own life, both as a teen and an adult, I remembered all the embarrassment, rejection, dirty looks, disbelief, ridicule and all the other things some go through being deaf or hard of hearing or having Tourette Syndrome. Imagine all of that on top of all the normal experiences of being a teenager along with depression. These are things I am still dealing with on different levels and I wanted to minimize it for him as much as I could, should it be revealed that he becomes anything like me as far as TS or deafness.
As time went on, especially once he turned 4 or 5, some of my fears of his becoming deaf subsided. Actually, they mostly all subsided. He could hear perfectly and, as a child of deaf parents (CODA), he could sign with the best of them. But a single fear still remained.
I wasn’t diagnosed with TS until I was 15 but it has become better now for kids as many are diagnosed much earlier. In fact, many kids show symptoms as early as 5 years old. My symptoms showed up merely a few weeks before I was diagnosed. So the fear receded into the back of my mind.
Growing up, he’s seen me struggle with TS, with my hearing. He’s been there to interpret for me when one wasn’t available. He cheered me on when I was implanted with my cochlear implant. He has been a constant reminder to me that my fears were holding me back from appreciating all of his gifts and the fact that I still had much to contribute, not just to his upbringing but also to others.
Now at 15, the age I was when I was diagnosed, he has shown no signs of having TS. No tics, vocal or otherwise. To be clear, I am not ashamed of my TS nor my deafness. I embrace who I am and all my differences from everyone else. But it is a weight off my shoulders. I no longer fear if he has TS and the symptoms show up later than they did with me. He’s a strong boy and I like to think I had something to do with that.