Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Hearing and Loss: Part 1

Noah failed his first hearing test in the hospital. Depending on the method and the equipment, it's not necessarily uncommon to need to repeat the first test. Fluid in the ears, fussy baby, what have you. No big deal.

Then he failed the second test, right before we were discharged from the hospital. My mom was there, and she cried. So that made me cry. But really, I was so submerged in the postpartum haze, all I had the capacity to think about was keeping my baby fed and warm.

We had an official ABR with an audiologist a few weeks after Noah was born. They were able to fully test the left ear before he got too fussy to continue, but so far he was indeed hearing impaired. So a week later, we paid another co-pay to get the right ear tested, found out that the right ear was the same as the left ear, and ordered hearing aids then and there. By the time we got home with our sweet baby after that appointment, I was mostly worried about where the heck the money was going to come from, and a little bitter that my friends didn't have these healthcare costs.

tiny baby sleeping during his first ABR

second ABR and making his ear mold impressions
Those first few weeks, I was consumed with postpartum pain and anxiety and thrush and a colicky baby who wasn't gaining enough weight. It took a few days after receiving the diagnosis for the reality of hearing impairment to start to sink in: My baby isn't perfect. He isn't going to be the same as his peers. He is going to have more hurdles and more expenses for the rest of his life. It's just not fair.

The NICU nurse in me takes a step outside my own bubble and thinks of all the horrific, awful, sad things she's seen and knows in an instant that hearing impairment is pretty darn low on the he's just a baby and it's not fair spectrum.

But you know what? In my world, in my life, it's still sad. It's a deviation from normal. It's a loss of its own kind. Even though hearing impairment has a heavy hand in my family's gene pool, even though I myself grew up with hearing loss, I was somehow still surprised and sad when I learned I'd officially passed it on to my son. I felt like I'd failed. Like I given him my biggest weakness... the one thing you don't want your kids to inherit.

I had the healthiest darn pregnancy, and I don't take a minute of that for granted. I took the vitamins, I went to the checkups, I ate less dessert, I worked out. At the end of the day, while I liked to think that I could control the outcome, I couldn't. I had a wonderful pregnancy and delivery, and a beautiful, perfect baby for a few days until someone told me that my baby was flawed and abnormal because he couldn't hear well without help. Is that dramatic? Sure. Is it how I felt? Absolutely.

So we ordered the hearing aids and I finally cried. There are so many options now compared to when I was a kid: colors, neon, sparkles... but I wanted the most neutral color for Noah. I cried because, what if people stopped looking at his big blue eyes and his gummy smile, and all they saw was the plastic in his ears? I wanted the hearing aids to be invisible as possible. I didn't want people to think my son was "special." (Why am I so afraid of that? How would I feel if he did start to display a mental handicap down the line? That's a whole different issue I'm trying to sort through, because I am starting to see that I fear the abnormal and unknown much more than I thought.)

4 months old in hearing aids
Around Noah's three month birthday, we went to the audiologist for the hearing aid fitting and it was just the sweetest thing when we put them in for the first time. Noah was babbling in Ross' lap, but when the hearing aids turned on, he fell silent and grew wide-eyed, taking it all in. He slowly looked at us, and got the sweetest smile on his face when we started talking to him in quiet voices. I totally teared up. Then he looked around and found the air vent on the ceiling that was humming-- he could hear it now!

I couldn't help but admit that this was very obviously the best thing for him, but that doesn't mean that, nine months after his diagnosis, I'm not still struggling with it.

1 comment:

  1. Noah is so sweet. Thanks for sharing your story about your journey with his hearing. I am sure it is not easy to deal with and I hear you on medical bill woes. That last photo is just too, too sweet. He is such a cute guy! Hang in there, mama.