To The Parents Waiting for Their Follow-up Newborn Hearing Test,
I see you sometimes, in the audiology waiting room. I'm usually popping in for a MAPing, or occasionally some aural rehab, or a research study. I know your brand new baby failed their newborn hearing screen. I know you're here for the follow up test. I know this because I can see your hopes and dreams spilling out of the car seat, smashing on the cold, sterile floor. I know.
I see you notice with extra interest the devices that my daughters wear. I see you wondering to yourself if this is your future. I see the fear and uncertainty and the tiredness etched in your face. I know.
I want you to know something, too. I smile at you in the waiting room, so that you'll know that we are happy. I talk to my daughters, so you can hear their lovely, little voices and see that they hear and understand mine. I casually replace a disconnected magnet so that you'll see that even hearing loss can become second nature in the same way that it soon became second nature to wrap your firstborn in a blanket and rock them to sleep.
I don't want to gush to you about cochlear implants, because maybe your baby won't need them, or maybe you won't want them. But I want you to know that my oldest child went to ballet class, like I dreamed for her. She took guitar lessons, like she dreamed for herself. I don't want to make you feel like you shouldn't be sad or scared because it can be a sad and scary thing to discover yourself suddenly living a life very different than you expected. But I want you to know that you will meet so many incredible people in this new life. You could even begin to learn a new and beautiful language if you chose.
You have a lot of work ahead. It's true. Big decisions (cochlear implant?) and little (sparkly ear molds for the hearing aids?) await you. There will be a lot of therapy and doctor visits and late night Googling. There will. There will be angst over schooling choices and fears of fitting in. There will be a little ache every time you hear beautiful music because a tiny part of you will still wonder how it sounds to your children's bionic ears.
But there will also be triumphs made sweeter because you'll have been there every grinding step of the way. There will be opportunities to grow in compassion and strength. There will be the marvel of hearing each sound as though for the first time when your child is learning to listen.
A few weekends ago I took Gianna to see a production The Miracle Worker, William Gibson's play based on Helen Keller's memoir. In one of the opening scenes, Helen's mother begins wailing inconsolably when she discovers that Helen can no longer hear or see her. Her eyes wide with alarm, Gianna turned to me and asked "What's wrong? Why is she screaming like that?" I responded that the mommy had just realized that Helen was now deaf and before I could finish my sentence she interjected,
"Well...that's not that bad!"
So, little family in the audiology waiting room. This is what I want you to know. It's not that bad. All those hopes and dreams falling out of your infant seat....they're not as fragile as they seem.