All in Due Time: Perspectives on Childbirth from Deaf Parents


Stein: Introductions

Melody gives an introduction of herself including the story of her journey from Hong Kong to Sioux Falls, SD. (2:51)

English Summary

Melody Tsai Stein was born in Hong Kong. Her parents didn’t know she was deaf until she was 2. Her parents noticed that she didn’t seem to respond to sound and they took her to be tested and found she was deaf. Her parents didn’t know what to do. They happened to meet Frances Parn from Gallaudet University. They were surprised to find out that a Deaf woman could become a teacher at a University. They asked for recommendations for Melody’s education. She recommended that they move to America. They didn’t want to move that far, and instead moved to the Philippines because they heard there was a good school there. Melody’s brother was born there and this time they were able to identify right away that he was deaf as well.

Neither Melody nor her parents were happy with her education at Philippines Association for the Deaf. She attended for a couple of years and her parents started looking for other options. Her parents had businesses in Hong Kong at the time and didn’t want to give them up and move all the way to the United States. They stayed in Asia. They found another school in Singapore; a private Catholic school with a deaf program, and sent Melody there. Melody was unhappy there as well. The teachers were very strict even to the extent of spanking kids if they didn’t have their homework done.

Her father considered transferring the kids to a school in Hawaii and allowing them to stay with relatives there. When he visited the school, he didn’t like what he saw and decided to go to Berkeley, California to check out their Deaf School. He met the superintendent of the school, liked what he saw there and decided that he would send the kids to that school. They moved to the United States in the fall of 1980.

When they went to take the kids to school that fall, they found the Berkeley campus closed and locked. The school had moved to Fremont that summer. Melody remembers how Fremont was really out in the country at that time, with nothing around it. She went to the school in Fremont and stayed for 12 years. She graduated and went to RIT for 2 years. Then she transferred to Gallaudet. Her brother was entering Gallaudet at the same time. She stayed at Gallaudet for 2 years and met Russell there. She was homesick for California and moved back home and graduated from San Francisco State University. She and Russell moved to Sioux Falls about 5 years ago.

They have two children, Taysia Ariel, 3 1/2; and Rylan Blake, 1 1/2.

Russell talks about his background, how he met Melody, and introduces an interest in numbers which he expands on related to his children’s births. (2:52)

English Summary

Russell doesn’t have a life story that’s nearly as interesting as his wife’s. He’s from New York and that should give us enough information to understand who he is.

Russell went to the Lexington School for the Deaf. He’s from a Deaf family. After he’d been at the school for a couple of years, his parents decided to leave New York. They had allergies and wanted to be in a different climate. They moved to Florida (Russ explains how he’s seen a new name sign for Florida, but he prefers using FLA the way he’s always done). He attended and graduated from a mainstream public school. The reason he went to a public school is that the school for the deaf in Florida…well….sucked. After that, he went to Gallaudet and graduated in 4 years. He just wants people to know that he had a great time there and he’d recommend Gallaudet to anyone!

Russell met Melody after he graduated. He was a Teaching Assistant to several professors in the Business Administration program. He noticed Melody and thought he might want to ask her out. They eventually were set up on a blind date that ended up lasting 12 hours. He’s not sure there’s enough tape to talk about everything that happened, but he wants to give us an idea of just how exciting that date was.

For reasons he doesn’t explain, he and Melody were actually at a restaurant and as part of the date they were handcuffed together. Unfortunately for Melody, her left hand was cuffed to Russ’s right – and she’s left-handed. It was incredibly frustrating for her and Russ because every time she tried to sign she’d have to use the hand cuffed to him, which was not very pleasant. Luckily for Russ, he’s left handed as well so he had no problem signing or eating, but his right hand was always being jerked up and down at the same time because Melody would be signing to him, although she was able to eat with her right hand. To make a long story short, they ended up getting married in San Francisco (not Sioux Falls, even though both places had the same name sign), at the Palace of Fine Arts. Interestingly, the wedding also took 12 hours. They have several incidences of number repetition in their relationship that they’ll explain more as they go. One year later, they had their first child in Sioux Falls. They wish it could have been in California, but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way.


Stein: Birth Story

Melody and Russell talk about preparation and events related to the birth of their two children. Processes discussed include: perpsectives on working with an interpreter and nursing staff and epidural anesthesia. (6:35)

English Summary

When they got pregnant the first time, the Steins were living in an apartment and had a dog. Melody was concerned about their dog, which got all their attention. She learned that dogs can start to bite once a new baby is brought into the house.

The moved into a house with more room for a family. The pregnancy was really awful. She really felt helpless a lot and that was not something she cared for. She had morning sickness for 6 months. She missed a lot of work. Then she went back to California for a friend’s wedding and suddenly felt better. She teased Russ and said that it was being back home that did the trick. She continued to tease Russ and told him they had to move back there. Russ thinks it’s because she got out of the meat and potatoes Midwest and to San Francisco where she could get some good Asian food. Melody agrees that it’s hard to get Chinese food in South Dakota.

Around her 9th month, she began to experience morning sickness again. For the first time, she was scared and unsure about what to expect. She wanted to know how she would know when she was ready to have the baby. She asked an interpreter who worked nights at relay what she should expect because the interpreter had a lot of experience with labor and delivery. The interpreter was going to interpret for the delivery. Russ explains that the reason they were feeling so uninformed is because they never took Lamaze class. Because Melody went to California, the timing was never right to schedule classes. They did schedule a date and time for a class late in the pregnancy and ironically, that was the day she ended up having the baby. So they ended up not needing it after all. When Melody got to the hospital, the doctor asked her if she’d taken Lamaze class. This was around 11:00 a.m., a few hours from when they had actually scheduled her class. She said she’d not had the chance yet. The doctor gave her some information about the techniques to use – and it turned out to be simple enough that they felt like they didn’t really miss anything by not taking the class. And they saved $50 in the process.

What Melody didn’t know much about was how much labor would hurt. The contractions were very painful and she had to have an epidural. She had no idea the needle would be so huge. Luckily she couldn’t see the shot happen, but she sure felt the pain. Even after the shot, she felt only half of her was numbed and she could still feel pain. When she complained to the doctor, he asked her if the pain was less than before. Given that the pain was, indeed, less than before, she didn’t take it any further. She was in labor for 6 hours. They didn’t want to know the sex of the baby until it was born, so they found out after the birth that the baby was a girl.

They decided to name the girl Taysia for a specific reason. A co-worker of Russ had had a baby girl just before they did. She named the baby Aysia and Russ really liked that name. He thought it was like a combination of an Asian and American name. Melody wanted a name that was different than the other baby. So they took the first letter of Melody’s maiden name (Tsai) and combined it to make Taysia.

Russ explains a little more about one part of the event. Most Deaf couples they know have the interpreter in the room with them when the baby is born. They only had an interpreter when they were first admitted to the hospital. The reason they decided not to have an interpreter in the delivery room with them was that Russ could speak well enough to be understood and reads lips very well. He was really used to managing well without an interpreter. They asked the interpreter to leave for the actual delivery. The interpreter was gracious about it and left them willingly. It’s not that they wanted to be rude, but Melody really wanted her privacy. It turned out that really, they got along fine without an interpreter. In Russ’s opinion, you really don’t need one because a lot of what the nurses are talking about involves demonstration. For example, they could easily understand when the nurse was coaching Melody on her breathing. They were mostly giving instructions on physical behavior and Russ could figure it out as they went along. It was really fun.

One more note about the birth. The baby was born 8/12/99. Back to the number coincidences, Russ explains that he was born on 8/4. If you add 8 to 4, you get 12. Melody was born on 11/12 – once again 12 seems to be the recurring number in their lives. Their dog was born 8/3, and 3 x 4 = 12. And the mystery of the numbers doesn’t stop there, but first the story of baby #2.

Of course they wanted to try to have a playmate for their daughter. Two years later, their son was born. Melody’s second pregnancy was easier although she did experience morning sickness again. The doctor who delivered their first baby was a man. Melody wanted a female obgyn for this delivery. They found a female but unfortunately, she had the baby on a Saturday and the doctor on call was male, so she hasn’t gotten to experience what it’s like to work with a female doctor. The baby was born on Russ’s birthday, August 4th. So the number mystery continues. November and August seem to be their lucky months. Now they (and all their friends) know that November is a very “interesting” month for them.

Their son’s name is Rylan Blake Stein. His name has a story as well. Russ’s father’s name was Robert Bruce Stein. He passed away about three years ago from a heart attack. His father was only 56 when he died and he and Russ had been very close. They wanted to name the baby after his father in some way but thought the name Robert was too old fashioned (not to offend anyone out there who happens to be named Robert.) So they decided to use the initials RBS instead and that’s how Rylan got his name.

Now that Rylan has the same birthday as Russ, Russ knows he’ll never have the attention on his birthday again. Everyone will be focused on celebrating Rylan, which he deserves, but Russ knows not to expect to be the center of attention any more.

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