Thursday, September 8, 2011

Two Years of Sound

 So many things can happen in two years. You can have a baby, move cities and states, choose new schools for your children, meet new friends, change jobs (twice!), buy your first house. Watch your little sister get married, and have a baby.

You can also hear for the first time. And learn to understand. And learn to talk. "Activation day" is different for every family. People liked to send me this video, which of course I'd already watched a thousand times, along with any other thing about Deaf people and cochlear implants I could find on YouTube. I even watched that silly Ashton Kutcher movie because the main character's younger brother is Deaf.

When we went to have her speech processors (one pair pink, one pair silver..might as well do it in style) activated for the first time it went rather opposite. She was over two years old at the time, and had likely never heard sound; the trial hearing aids had not shown to give her much access. I know for a fact she had never heard my voice. When the audiologist signaled to me with a nod that Gianna's 'ears' were turned on, I ventured out with "G? It's mama."

And she promptly began to sob. And sob. And sob. I was assured that this was fairly typical, and in fact some kids take it worse...they try to take the processors off, but she didn't. While that was nice to know, it wasn't much of a consolation.We went home, all of the equipment stored in the two huge giant boxes. I didn't have the heart to make her wear her new ears in the car.

I don't remember a whole lot about the hour and a half drive back to Lexington, I'm just glad my mom was with me. Brad had been unable to get off from work, and I knew when we got home he'd be anxious to see the ears for himself. That evening, we tried off and on to have Gianna wear the processors, but she cried so hysterically we took them off and put her to bed. Then we cried, too. I wondered if we had made a terrible mistake.

Every sound terrified her. I had never realized how noisy life is. The sound of the people showering in the apartment next door, the hum of the refrigerator, the air conditioner kicking on. We live in a world that even when it is quiet, there is sound. She seemed to do better outside, so we would go out a lot. That first month is a part of our lives I never wish to repeat. I despaired that we had ruined our happy kid.

She told me she didn't like her ears, that they were the English equivalent of "lousy," but each morning I would ask her if she wanted to hear my voice and she would always say, "YES." When I look back, I never cease to be amazed at her bravery. She knew that putting on her "ears" each day would be scary, but she also knew there were sounds she wanted to know more about, so she put them on anyways. I hope she will always remember that sometimes in life the good things are scary, too.

Then one day we were at Target, and she signed to me, "MAMA. I HEAR....BABY CRYING" And I thought..."What? Really?" and I listened, and sure enough, a few aisles over, a baby was crying. We went to a play date and as we stood outside the door waiting to be let in, we could hear a dog barking inside the house. Gianna signed, "I HEAR WHAT???" I told her she was hearing a doggie's voice. I will never forget the incredulous look she gave me. I guess she had imagined something better than a bark.

I'm glad those first awful weeks are now just a bittersweet memory. Our audiologist encouraged me to keep a "sound journal" and I'm glad I took his advice. I'm glad I can look back to see that shortly after she was activated she was able to hear Dominic's heartbeat at a prenatal visit. I'm glad to be reminded that the Sunday after activation the Gospel reading was Mark's account of the healing of the deaf man.

I could go on and on about the "auditory progress" she has made in the last two years, how incredibly well she has done in such a short amount of time, but I will always hesitate to celebrate too wildly, lest it portray a feeling I don't possess: the feeling that we have improved upon the G we were given, who came to us already perfect. It seems that two years is not long, but it's enough time to doubt, to triumph, to second-guess, to marvel. Enough time to almost forget the way things were before, but thankfully not long enough to make it difficult to remember. The time during which I, too, felt that I was hearing the world for the first time.


  1. Thank you, Anne. Simply Beautiful G!

  2. what a wonderful post... can i share it with others?

  3. My friend Mary Kate sent me over here-- she figured I would relate to the barefoot, pregnant and homebirthing Mom who had a deaf kid. She was right. Nice to "meet" you!

  4. WOW, this is so great. What a beautiful perspective and a beautiful little girl!