On Not Being Thankful Yet...


A video went viral recently.  In it a hearing-impaired baby boy has his cochlear implant device turned on for the first time.  He hears his mother’s voice and immediately smiles, his whole body reacting in pure joy.  It is a heartwarming moment at its core and it’s no wonder that the video has been shared so many times.

When I saw it I felt a strange sense of frustration and annoyance.

Last week Liam received the same implant as the baby in the video.  His device hasn’t been turned on yet so for now we’re just in that middle place, post-op but pre-new hearing.

I saw this video a day or two after Liam’s surgery.  The frustration lingered, turning into anger.  It took me a while to put my finger on why exactly I felt this way.  It’s a joyful video, the way this baby turned to his mother’s voice, the smile that emerged as she continued talking.  There was nothing in this that should elicit the kind of dull rage I found myself experiencing.

And then, as I wrestled Ryann into her clothes one morning about a week and a half post surgery, I realized the source of my bitterness.  I was frustrated because that video made me feel like I had to celebrate a decision I was still grieving.  I wasn’t ready to celebrate this miracle of technology that allowed my son to hear.  I wasn’t ready to be thankful for it.  I was still mourning the reality that my son needed this technology to hear in the first place.  I was still digesting the fact that the hearing aids were no longer enough.  I was still grieving the choices I didn’t want to have to make.

While well-meaning people on Facebook cheered and celebrated the miracle technology that allowed a nine-month-old they’ve never met to hear his mother’s voice, I was mourning because my three year old couldn’t hear my voice well enough without it.  And every share and “oh wow” comment made me feel guilty for being so ungrateful.


I feel for the device as I wash Liam’s hair now.  The bathtub is the only place he’ll allow anyone to touch the strange, dense bump protruding from his head.  It’s circular, the size of a quarter only much, much thicker.  It’s hard and it hurts my stomach to touch it.  I don’t think it hurts him, but for some reason it pains me, this intruder budging out above his ear, threatening to burst through the skin.

There is a foreign object in my son’s head.  And I’m not ready to be thankful for it yet.


In the aftermath of the surgery I found myself steeling for people’s inquiries about the implant.  Inevitably someone would bring up the YouTube video and marvel about how wonderful it all was.  Usually I put on a happy face and agreed that yes it was wonderful.  Yes we were lucky.  

There is a foreign object in my son’s head and I’m not ready to be thankful for it yet.


My brother and sister were asking about the implant, how it works, what it is.  At one point I explained that Liam had a magnet in his head now and my brother perked up.

“There’s a magnet in his head?  Oh man, now he can never use a compass.  What if he wanted to be an explorer?  Wait.  There’s a magnet in his head.  Can we test it?  Will stuff stick to his head?”

I told him that when Liam was nine and wanted to show off for his friends he could test it, but I wasn’t willing to get out the fridge magnets and see what happened.  Outwardly I laughed with my siblings, knowing that they love my kid and they mean no harm.  Inwardly though I wondered if that would be Liam’s party trick.  Would he be the kid who could stick stuff to his head?   I pictured him at a sleepover, laughing with his friends as they placed magnetic objects on his head.  I couldn’t decide if that image made me laugh or feel profoundly sad…

There is a foreign object in my son’s head and I’m not ready to be thankful for it yet.


I know one day I will be thankful.  One day I will feel right about this decision.  I will celebrate the miracle technology that helps my son hear his mother’s voice.  I know this because one day I was thankful for his hearing aids.  One day they were just a normal part of him and he looked a little strange without them.  

But I’m just not there yet.

The “buck up and carry on” voice reminds me how good we have it.  That in the grand scheme of things this is really very small.  He is alive and well.  He will overcome the challenges his hearing loss throws at him.  There are far, far worse things he could be dealing with.  I nod quietly with this voice and try to be thankful.  Try to keep perspective.

But I’m also holding space for the soft, tender part of my heart that breaks still.   I’m giving it room to grieve and lament, to feel a little ill when my fingers run over the foreign intruder just above my son’s left ear.  I know there will be a “one day.”  And I know that it’s not today.  This season is for heartache and sorrow and I’m going to hold space for it.  It won’t be forever but it is for right now.  

There is a foreign object in my son’s head and I’m not ready to be thankful for it yet.

And that’s ok.