A few years ago I wrote a post about how I wasn't super thankful after Liam's first cochlear implant surgery. It was honest and true. I was encouraged to submit that piece to the awesome collaborative blog Coffee + Crumbs. I was conflicted about submitting it though because what was honest and true then was no longer the truth now. So I added a little epilogue, an update on my thoughts and feelings about Liam's cochlear implant four years later. This updated essay is featured today on the Coffee + Crumbs site. I'd love it if you checked it out.
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. A heartwarming moment at its core, it’s no wonder that the video has been shared so many times.
But when I saw it I felt a strange sense of frustration and annoyance.
Last week my three-year-old son 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 my one-year-old into her clothes one morning about a week and a half post surgery, I realized the source of my bitterness: I felt forced 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.