Mother of a Son (Part 3)
That's it. Research studies have proven over and over again the language window. The best window of language acquisition, any language, is from birth to age 7. After that the mind is harder to trick into thinking it is easy-as-pie. I have seen children who have done remarkably well with CI's. They are happy, they are LIVING with their families. They have remarkable relationships. We're going for the CI. We are a hearing family, and if my son needs that CI to gain our language then I'm giving it to him. He's not being "fixed" by no means, but I am giving him the opportunity to choose whether to be in the hearing world, the deaf world or both. Again I meet with both surgeons. The world renowned one I ask questions, one question I ask, "Could you do the surgery and could I have someone closer do the mapping?" NO. Absolutely not, he will have to come here to my team for mapping. Next question, "Maybe I should go to (insert other children's hospital which is closer) to get the surgery done." Again, "No, I have done more than them, I have done it longer, blah, blah, blah."
It is apparent, I have to go with the surgeon that is not world-renowned, but the one with a heart. Surgery is scheduled, I am scared but hopeful. My husband and I pray, pray for guidance, wisdom and that God's will be done. My son is prepared as a 27 month old can be. He's had the required immunizations (which he would have to have any way) is up-to-date and all is well. The day of the surgery we leave at 3:00 a.m. and go to the hospital. My mother and step-father go with us. I am nervous but trusting in God. They take my son to the operating room, as a mother, it hurts. I can't even explain how badly I want don't want to send my child into surgery, how scared I am. It's like cutting off my limb! He's my baby, I grew him inside of me, we have a special bond remember? But, I want my son to have a choice. I don't want to not do it and have him not be able to get the language from a CI at 18 when he can make a decision. I don't want him to say "why didn't you?" "You could have chosen a different option for me, why didn't you?" In my mind, I would rather be blamed by him for trying than not trying.
The surgeon comes out, shows me pictures of the surgery while my son is in recovery. It is hard, we discuss size, etc. Do you know that the implant magnet receiver does not go in the brain? It is outside the skull? A very small, we're talking smaller than the tip of a lead pencil, the actual wires are threaded through the cochlea? Did you know that it is outpatient? When I had both my children I was in the hospital for 3 days because of a C-section. I was cut open and my organs were exposed. With my son I had to have a drain put in place because of the blood. I have a huge incision but man, looking at my children it was sooooo worth it. So the surgeon says we hooked the implant up all is well, all 22 electrodes work, and NRT (nerve response test) shows them firing straight across the board, which is if you want them to work that is the best, straight across the board.
My son wakes up from surgery, he is thirsty. We stay overnight at the children's hospital because we do live one and 1/2 hours away and we feel more comfortable staying. My son eats a little dinner that night. He goes to sleep around 10 pm. He doesn't wake up when they come to check his vitals through the night. I, his mother wake every time they come to check his vitals and ask what they are. Not really understanding but if they are concerned then I want to know. The next day my son awakens. He is hungry and eats, drinks and begins his day of play despite the surgery. In fact, he doesn't seem to have noticed that he had surgery the day before. He is running the halls, flirting with nurses. He likes the playroom and the balloons. The doctor comes in and takes off the bandage. WOW! We are impressed the scar is small (3 inches) and looks good. We are sent home with topical antibacterial ointment and few instructions. I know this might be hard to believe, but my son has no bruising, no swelling whatsoever. I believe that by choosing the more compassionate surgeon, he treated my son during the surgery as if he were his own.
The next day my son's surgeon calls to check on him. All is well, he's not on pain killers, no need, he's eating and playing as normal. Two days later my son's surgeon calls again. He is not ecstatic over my son jumping off the back of the couch. He doesn't want him to do this so soon after surgery. I explain that I don't want him to do it either but I do have to go to the bathroom and get my daughter a drink and that's usually when my son decides to fly. He laughs. Now let's get to today. My son has been activated 9 mos. He already has more words under his belt than I can count. His speech is still not perfectly clear, he misses consonants but that is normal, he has only been hearing for 9 mos. I know what he is saying as well as close family members. Sometimes even a stranger knows what he is saying.
I drive my son to school everyday. It is one hour and 10 minutes away (one way). He loves school, his teachers, his friends. I hate the drive, but in the alternative, I love having my son with me. I know what the alternative to this situation is, my son going to a residential school 2 and one-half hours away and only seeing him on weekends and summer holidays. I love telling him goodnight every night, I love that he goes where we go. I love hearing him say mommmmooom. I love that I can say, "get your shoes on" and he puts them on, the wrong feet, but hey it takes time. My son loves his cousins. They play together, laugh together and my son tries to say the same things they do. My son's processor went out this summer and he had to go without his CI for about 14 hours. It was the week of vacation bible school. He didn't socialize much, pretty much hung around me that night, wasn't his usual jubilant self. Everyone noticed it.
So, for our family the CI is working. It's how our family is made up. Sure, my son has to have therapy, but I think if you asked him or my hearing daughter, we have people who come to "Play" with us since that is what it is like, play. Will he have to spend a lot of time doing this? Yes, but again it's like play and all things in life take work and patience. My friend's daughter who is in the first grade spends hours, more hours than my son's therapy that's for sure, in gymnastics. There are kids who are spending hours in sports practice, music practice, debating, band, video games. They do it to get really good to get where they want to be in that particular area. It's no different really. I went to college, it took up time, effort, work, and I have to note that I drove an hour and half one-way every day but it was well worth it. Some things in life are like that and yes I have chosen that for my son, for now, until he decides. At two he can't decide, he only knows what we know, so I have to give him the opportunity to acquire language.
Do I want him exposed to the deaf community? Yes wholeheartedly and no wholeheartedly. Not a good answer I know. Yes because he has to know what deafness is and what he is a part of. The CI does not make him NOT deaf. It just gives him access to spoken language. He needs to know that he is part of a group, like him. No, because as with any group there are a few militants who will not believe that he is a part of that group. Who will find fault with him just because of the CI. Who will speak badly about the CI and us as parents for implanting him at a young age. They won't know our story and will assume. They will cause confusion within him and cause him to not only doubt us as his parents but doubt himself as a deaf person. I am hoping that one day those militants will peter out, come around, whatever so that my son will be accepted by the deaf. I also want him accepted by the hearing.
If truth be told about the whole thing, I just want my son accepted for who he is as a person, based on his own abilities, compassion and caring for others. I don't want anyone to factor in whether he is deaf or not in their acceptance level. It is a non-issue, kind of like race, income level, etc. I want him to be known for what he can do and his abilities, not for what he can't do, which is hear without the CI. I expect the same from my son as I do my daughter who is hearing, other than giving birth. LOL.
As for that question. My son is extremely intelligent and he has a sense of humor that touches me deep in my soul. He can do anything, ride his bike, swim. He loves to play ball. He loves his Gameboy and the Wii game as well as powdered sugar donuts. He loves fireworks and bottlerockets. He obviously thinks the sound “rocks”. He likes to jump on the furniture and is quite a rough and tumble sort of kid. He's definitely all boy and I would not have him any other way. He, as well as my daughter are my very soul.
From a mother of a son.
PS, sorry this got so long. I'm just passionate about my child.