Mum Jennifer on her triplets and son Cormac’s cochlear implant
Posted Feb 25 2009 5:58pm
On April 6th 2006 I became a mother of three little boys. Yep, I had triplets. It was by far the happiest day of my life. It was not easy getting through the pregnancy and we had many scares along the way. We defied the odds. I gave birth a little over eight weeks early to three perfectly healthy boys. We couldn’t be any luckier if we asked.
All three babies were considered “feeders and growers”. They needed to stay in the hospital to learn to eat and to grow. On May 5, 2006 the first baby, Cormac, was allowed to come home with us. Before his release he was given a newborn hearing test. Honestly, it barely registered on my radar because we were still comprehending the fact we were now parents to three all at once.
Well, upon discharge they told me he had been “referred”. They didn’t say he “failed”. I was assured many children are referred and turn out to have perfectly fine hearing. I was also told because he was born over eight weeks early he might need more time to “develop”.
I was a new mum to three little babies. I was now being told one of them might not be able to hear. In my mind, I thought it can’t be true. We made sure to follow up in four weeks as instructed. This was our first ABR. The results were inconclusive. I am still not sure why but I think it had to do with the fact he was still so small and still not even supposed to be born. I hoped at that point he was hearing us. We also saw an ENT and an audiologist. To be honest, it all seems like a blur to me now. I was taking care of three newborns around the clock.
We followed up again in four weeks for another ABR. Still they didn’t want to confirm hearing loss. We wound up receiving four ABR’s two of which were sedated.
Cormac was profoundly deaf bilaterally. The day we received the final diagnosis will forever be engrained on my brain. I went to the appointment by myself because my husband had to work. I remember driving home and crying the entire time. How could this be happening? We don’t have anyone in our family who is deaf. I don’t even know a single person who is deaf. How will our son, born to hearing family, be one of us? Will all our family learn sign language? Would he be able to go to school? Would he be able to live a happy productive life?
People who know me will probably be surprised to learn I sat in a rocking chair holding Cormac crying my eyes out for days, maybe weeks on end. I was so grateful for my three perfect babies. I just didn’t understand how this could be happening.
I had a small pity party and then sprang into action. What were our options? Who were the best resources? Who could help us? He was immediately fitted with hearing aids. He had already been enrolled in early intervention since we suspected he had hearing loss. The hearing aids were no benefit and gave him no access to sound. We immediately started learning about Cochlear Implants since our ENT said it was an option for Cormac.
Making the decision to get a Cochlear Implant was not a difficult decision. Yes, we were terrified of the surgery, but both myself and my husband honestly thought it was the best option for Cormac. We were aware of the benefits and risks. We were aware of all the hard work it would take. But really, what parent isn’t willing to sacrifice everything for their child? I knew I would do all I could to make Cormac a successful implant user.
On June 21, 2007 Cormac received simultaneous bilateral implants. It was a frightening day. The surgery lasted forever and no one wants to send their baby into surgery. The surgery was a success and we were told the implant had great placement and all the electrodes were firing. We were off to a good start.
We then had to wait almost four weeks for him to heal and for his big activation day. I couldn’t be more nervous. Frank and I were so anxious. We had heard most babies cry at activation so we were prepared for the worst. Our little man, however, decided it would be the happiest day. He looked at us and pointed to his ear. He smiled. Each time a noise was made the audiologist made a stuffed pig light up and dance. This was his reward for hearing. Well, our little stinker after the first few times started signing “more pig”. He WANTED to hear more sounds. He looked at Frank and I as if to say “I saw you moving your mouths for a year and had NO IDEA you were making noise”. It could not have gone any better.
This is when the real work began. Our lives are focused on Cormac’s best listening environment (well as much as you can expect with triplets in the house). We had done therapy three days a week since his activation. Two hours a week at home with a Teacher of the Deaf and once a week we attend a group class. I spend all my waking hours focusing on Cormac’s listening and speaking abilities. I can find a language opportunity anywhere. You should hear me in a grocery store! “I see peppers, peppers are red. Peppers are smooth. Here feel the pepper”. That was in the beginning. We have now graduated to asking him about the pepper and letting him tell us they are red and smooth!
I cannot tell you how amazingly he is doing. His receptive language is off the charts. I cannot remember the last time I said something to him he didn’t understand. His expressive language is beautiful and it continues to get better each day. At this point he is using long sentences (seven words and more). I credit his brothers for much of his language. Having two language models built in is only helping him along the way. I often laugh because if Cormac doesn’t have his implants on in the morning when he first wakes up, Ciaran will YELL at him thinking he just isn’t paying attention. I have to remind him he can’t hear yet!
This has been a wonderful journey. We are only in the beginning. I cry often for Cormac but they are no longer tears of sorrow or worry. They are tears of pure joy and amazement. Each day I am amazed at his wonderful spirit; his amazing abilities to learn and adapt to any situation; his constant quest for knowledge. He is a hard worker. He is patient during hours of therapy. His smile is priceless, his laugh contagious. I never knew a little boy could be so inspirational.
Just today we were in the grocery store. For some reason he brought along a cheerleading pom-pom he “borrowed” from his cousin. I took it away from him because he wanted a juice box. He turns to me and says “Mommy, I want a juice box and to hold the pom-pom”. Not too shabby a sentence for a boy who couldn’t even hear 1 ½ years ago.