Saturday, March 01, 2003

I slept in today and woke up around noon. Felt awesomely good! My vampire tendencies are really insane...if I'm going to continue pulling allnighters, I need to make them productive ones, otherwise I should just give up and go to bed early. Anyway, it was a beauuuutiful day today, all sunny and warm, so this morning I decided to take my bowl of cereal and go enjoy the sunshine in the courtyard. The sun is my friend, because, if you don't know already, I'm a major wuss when it comes to the cold...can't handle cold weather AT ALL, so I always get excited when the warm weather comes around. Yummy sun. :) So I went and sat out in the courtyard, propped up my feet on the little table, ate my cereal in a slow and steady fashion for once, and had a nice conversation with the voices in my head, of course. They said "Hi" to all of you!

Our courtyard is bounded by the house on 3 sides, and the 4th side is actually made up of a walkway leading around to the rest of the yard, a garden, and the fence that divides our property from our neighbor's. Apparently our neighbor next door has decided to paint the fence (yes, he's paying for our side of it too; how awesome is that?), so the painters have been granted permission by my parents to set foot on our side of the fence as they need. Which is cool with me. But how the heck was I supposed to know that they were going to be working on a SATURDAY? So I'm sitting in the courtyard with the sun in my face, looking forward to a lazy hour or so of doing nothing but catching some rays and thawing out my frozen feet, when I hear footsteps coming around the house and someone say all cheerfully, "Well, good morning!" I turn around all startled, and there's some random guy busting out with the paintbrushes, whistling along as he varnishes the fence... I was like, Oh my God! No big deal, you say? Problem is, I wasn't wearing my hijab. So I was allll aggravated. I flipped my jacket hood up onto my head to cover my hair, gulped down the rest of my cereal, and stalked inside in exasperation. There went my fun plan of having a nice bonding session with the sun. But don't worry, other than that, I had an awesome day, masha'Allah. :)

Birthdays are always a good day to reflect on those things in your life that you're grateful for. Actually, EVERYDAY is a good time for that; it's just that as the years pass and the ages start adding up, I find that my birthday is generally the day constantly haunted by sentimental thoughts, nostalgia, gratitude for all the many many things I have, some regrets for things I wish I had done differently, etc... And no, don't worry, I'm not going to subject y'all to a long list of things here. But I think the gift of life is one thing I should always be more grateful for, because I constantly take it for granted. Don’t we all, though? Or maybe I’m the only one who needs work in that department…

Earlier today, I was reading my ADVANCE magazine, which is a national publication for audiologists and speech-language pathologists. I somehow managed to get myself a free subscription to it, even though it’s for professionals only. Dunno how I did that. Anyway, it’s published weekly and I’m a bit behind in reading, so there’s a stack sitting at the foot of my bed that I need to get through. But I was reading the February 10th issue, and there’s an article entitled, “Premature Birth Campaign by March of Dimes Seeks to Raise Awareness.” Part of it reads:

“Today 1,300 babies in the United States will be born prematurely. Many will be too small and too sick to go home. They face weeks or months in the NICU and an increased risk of death and serious medical complications. While most eventually will go home, what does the future hold for these babies?

“The consequences of premature birth are largely unrecognized by the general public, yet prematurity is the leading cause of infant death in the first month of life, according to the March of Dimes. Of the 460,000 babies born prematurely each year who do survive, as many as half experience serious, lifelong health problems, such as learning problems, developmental delays, deafness and cerebral palsy. Half of all neurological disabilities in children are related to prematurity.”
I remember when we were studying prenatal development in my Human Development 100A (Infancy & Early Childhood) class earlier in the quarter, and I found that chapter extremely fascinating. According to my textbook, “the 28th week [of prenatal development] marks the point of ‘viability’ in the sense that, if born at this time, the brain and lungs are developed well enough that the fetus has a chance of surviving on its own, without medical intervention.” And according to ADVANCE, “preterm birth is any birth that occurs before the 37th completed week of pregnancy.”

Where am I going with this, you ask? Well…I was born in the 27th week, which is about 3 months premature. I weighed one pound at birth. Crazy, huh? It’s always interesting telling that to people who are studying science or are already working in the medical field, because they fully understand the ramifications of such a premature birth. I have a really good friend who—whenever I plead, “Wish me luck and make du’a for me!”—constantly reminds me, “You don’t need luck; you were born lucky.” I was indeed… I’m not dead. I don’t have any serious medical complications. No learning problems. My lungs are fine. And even though I like to joke that mentally I’m 6 (or 3 or 5 or 8, depending on whom you ask), my brain works normally enough too…although college has had me doubting myself more than once on that point! But subhan'Allah, I am really lucky to be alive. Allah, in His infinite mercy, allowed me to be the exception to the general rule of preterm births.

Perfect child, then? Not quite. Thanks to my premature birth, I have moderately severe sensorineural hearing loss as a result of nerve damage in my ears, and have worn hearing aids since I was 8 years old. Big deal? Not to me. I seriously have friends who didn’t find out about my hearing loss until a year or two after they first met me. I have friends who still don’t know. I have other friends who knew, and then forgot. And all because neither they nor I consider it a momentous thing at all. Half the time, I forget it myself. I mean, shoot, I don’t meet people for the first time and introduce myself as, “Hi, I’m Yasmine and I’m deaf.” Okay, see, I seriously cracked up laughing just by typing that out. It’s more like, “Hi, I’m Yasmine, and I’m a crackhead child who likes 6-year-old things like crayons and bubble bottles, is obsessed with French fries and chocolate, takes great pride in her idiosyncratic tendencies, will hunt you down and hurt you if you call her ‘Jasmin,’ can act maturely if she’s absolutely forced to, has a quirky personality, embraces non-conformity, and very rarely thinks before speaking.” And even that lengthy description, although it sounds so redundant as I re-read it, fails to encompass all that makes me who I am.

The point, though, is that my hearing loss is not something I consider a factor in my identity. And yet… Ear infections are distressing. Discovering a sudden lack of hearing aid batteries just when I need them is cause for drama and a pissed-off Yaz who takes out her frustration on unsuspecting family members (just ask Shereen). Take away my hearing aids, and I would be locked and lost in a world of silence. And my career goal of pediatric audiology is influenced by my own childhood experiences with hearing loss. I readily admit all that. But my hearing loss, no matter how much it has impacted my life (and it has) is not necessarily a defining factor in who I am. It’s not the most important factor. I like to think that even if I had been born with perfect hearing, I would still be the person I am today. I hope that’s true, anyway. Because I kinda like the person I am. :)

Ahhhh, psychoanalyzing the Yaz is so much fun, ain’t it? Could go on for hours, but this is way long enough as it is, and I must go find some productive things to do (like start writing my paper that’s due Wednesday. *sigh*). Much peace to y’all.