Preoccupations and Coincidences

Hours after our OB informed me that our unborn child had a 25 percent chance of deafness, Yan and I attended a piano concert at the Armory. The pianist, in a brief introduction before playing, explained why he had chosen to focus his concert exclusively on Beethoven’s works. Maybe it is the musician in me, but I knew this was a sign. Surely – the fact that we were listening to a concert of Beethoven’s works just hours after our genetic results had been communicated indicated that our child would be deaf.

Thinking back on it – I realize it was a preoccupation – but the coincidences didn’t seem to stop there. When I was 20 weeks pregnant, Yan and I decided to take a baby moon. I didn’t want to travel far, so we decided to take a road trip to the Berkshires. Knowing nothing but its Trip Advisor reviews, I made a reservation at the Birchwood Inn in Lenox, Massachusetts.

When we arrived, we were greeted by the inn keeper, a petite woman with short grey hair and glasses named Ellen Chenaux. Ellen helped with our luggage and gave us a tour of our room. She had gone all out for our baby moon, and provided us with a small basket of cookies, certificates for free ice cream at the town ice cream parlor, a stuffed dog (which Sonya now loves) and even a jar of pickles. It was too adorable. As she turned toward the door, I noticed she was wearing a cochlear implant.

The next morning as we entered the dining room, a white faced golden retriever brushed against the side of my leg, asking for a pet. The sweet animal sat at my feet near the fireplace as we enjoyed our breakfast, and I discreetly threw her a few scraps. Ellen must have noticed that we had connected with her dog, as she approached our table and explained that Quinn – like her – was also going deaf in her late age. Apparently, Quinn came to Ellen years earlier through a program called NEADS — Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans — after Ellen had developed late-onset-adult deafness. According to the Birchwood Inn’s website:

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Quinn — aka Molly Quinn McMuffin — is Ellen’s 14-year-old Golden Retriever and former Hearing Ear Dog…Quinn and Ellen — a late-deafened adult with miraculous cochlear implants — were a team for 12 years thanks to NEADS, the Princeton, MA-based association. Quinn, who is now retired, went from being an inmate, and alerted Ellen to sounds Ellen cannot hear by tapping Ellen’s leg with her paw.

Yan laughed as soon as Ellen returned to the kitchen. “Um…looks like all signs are pointing to deafness,” he joked. I tried to laugh it off – but couldn’t help but feel disturbed by the fact that out of every B&B, we chose the only one who had a deaf inn-keeper and dog.

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