The morning of October 18, 2019 will forever be engraved in my mind. A small room, a two-hour test, two strangers whispering, hope diminishing. Even now, months later, thinking of that morning makes me want to crawl out of my skin. Getting Cooper’s diagnosis after his initial ABR (auditory brainstem response) didn’t immediately make me emotional. Rather, it made me numb and angry. It’s a feeling I never want to experience again.
So when we had to schedule another ABR for this month, just to double check that nothing had changed, it led a number of feelings to resurface. I was anxious leading up to it. I didn’t want to face his diagnosis all over again after having come so far from that first morning. I didn’t want another medical professional to give me the same news I already knew. I didn’t want to still in stillness and silence for two hours, unable to get that first ABR out of my mind.
But to my surprise, none of that happened. At least not the way I’d imagined.
I think this was for a number of reasons, but I know one was that I went into this ABR knowing what the outcome would be. I had no false hope whatsoever. I actually talked briefly with our audiologist about that aspect, as I know many parents go into a second test hoping for a different outcome, thinking something could have changed. And that’s OK. That’s a coping mechanism, too.
But for me, coping comes by learning and facing the reality of a situation. If I had let myself believe the first test wasn’t accurate, I’d have been crushed all over again at the results of the second. And, of course, this time I had so much knowledge that I didn’t possess the first time. This time I knew learning ASL was possible, knew about cochlear implants, knew he was a candidate. That all made a world of difference.
But the biggest reason of all that this time was different? I know my baby now. I know how incredible he is. I know how he dials into his vision to make up for his hearing loss. I know he’s discovering different pitches of his voice due to how they feel. I know the warmth of my body comforts him even when my voice can’t. I know he’s strong, resilient, and perfect. I no longer have that all-encompassing fear that his life will be less than because he cannot hear.
Instead, I know it will be fuller — for him and for us. We’ll have an appreciation for things that we would not had he had his hearing. We’ll get to experience the big moments, like the first time he hears. But we also get to revel in the smaller milestones that are enormous for us. His first word. The first time he puts his own processor back on because he realizes it’s his access to the word. When he is in a mainstream classroom. When he proudly shows off his extra special ears.
Today, I feel lucky. I’m grateful for this diagnosis, this experience, all it has taught us. Does that mean that there aren’t days I don’t wish it was different? Of course not. But I’m slowly realized that is part of the healing process. It isn’t linear. It never will be. And that is just fine.