Silence. That’s what I would of experienced when I was born. My parents did not know I was deaf until I was about 9 months old and I can only imagine the thoughts and emotions running through their minds. I never heard them read me stories as a newborn or sing me to sleep. I never heard them laughing, or talking to me in soft baby voices. I never experienced the birds singing in the early hours of the morning, builders hammering away in the street or cars starting their engines for the day ahead. My parents were completely unaware. This was twenty years ago. Before technology stepped up and introduced the cochlear implant, a device which would ultimately change my life.
Now I am a mother, I often think about these experiences. What it would be like for me, if Theo was born with a hearing impairment. Others say, “well, at least you would know what to do”. While this may be slightly true, I think that once I experience it I would be feeling scared, angry and worried. All the things of which my parents would of felt. I had a big chance of having a child with a hearing impairment. My entire pregnancy, that’s all I could think about. I dreamt about it, thought about it and let it consume me. I spoke to Olli at lengths, what would we do? How would we pay for speech therapy?. We would make it work, was always Olli’s reply, whatever needs doing, we will do it, he will work hard to make sure that everything is being done for our unborn child. I loved him even more right then and there. There is no way of checking a baby’s hearing in the womb. No way of knowing whether they can hear you sing, or Olli playing the guitar. It was the feeling of the unknown, the weight on my shoulders, the kicks of the child inside me that I wasn’t sure could hear my voice.
When Theo was born, I would speak to him in soft tones as we lay in the hospital bed, trying to find any way that I could test whether he could hear me or not. Every time I spoke, he looked at me with bright blue eyes that pierced my soul, I could never tell. We had a hearing test done the following day, a standard procedure for all newborns now that was not available when I was born. The moment Olli and I had been waiting for. We sat in the hospital chairs, squeezing each other’s hands until they turned red, jittering our feet and looking at the screen nervously. The hearing specialist attached cords to Theo’s skull, forehead and ears. He was sound asleep, completely unaware of the anxiety and fear we felt for him. The screen beeped while the test was being conducted. It only took two minutes, but to me, it felt like hours. When the beeping had stopped, we both squeezed each other’s hands even tighter. This was it.
The nurse told us the results. He had 100% hearing, and Olli and I let out a huge sigh of relief. I instantly felt as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Theo started to stir, I went to him and whispered “I love you”, and in that moment, I knew he could hear me. My heart danced, and I felt as though I could jump with joy. My entire pregnancy I had this huge unanswered question. To finally be able to be at peace with it after nine long months was an incredible feeling.
I never heard them read me stories as a newborn or sing me to sleep. I never heard them laughing, or talking to me in soft baby voices.
All throughout my life, I took my cochlear implants off before going to bed. Sleep for me, was silence. I could hear nothing. When Theodore was born, I had to adjust to wearing them throughout the night, which was hard after twenty years of un-interrupted sleep. Every sound he made, I was instantly awake. It was as if my body had been put into shock mode. I am so beyond grateful for technology today, to have the cochlear implant so I can hear my son giggle and explode into fits of laughter. I get to hear him cry for Olli or I and most of all, I get to experience what every other new mum experiences.
My son can hear the birds singing in the morning. He can hear builders hammering away in the street and cars starting their engines for the day ahead. He can hear Olli and I read him stories and sing him to sleep, he can hear us laughing and talking to him in soft baby voices. He can hear us whisper I love you’s before we drift off to sleep. That in itself, fills me with happiness.