When my son Cooper was six weeks old, my husband and I found ourselves in a small, dark room with two strangers as they performed an ABR on our baby. They were gentle and so kind, but it wasn’t a place we wanted to be. We wanted to be at home, soaking in those baby snuggles, rather than in a children’s hospital, suspended in time as we waited to find out if our first-born child could hear. Potentially receiving a hearing loss diagnosis meant that we knew we had to be there. We needed answers, sooner rather than later.
At that point, Cooper had had his hearing screening done numerous times at our local hospital and had been referred each time. He wasn’t reacting to loud noises at home, such as our dogs barking right next to him, or pans clanging. I already had a feeling about what we would find out at his ABR.
But still, despite my mother’s intuition, nothing truly prepared me to hear two strangers deliver the scary and foreign diagnosis of profound hearing loss. The next few hours, even the next few days, were a blur. We tried to process the news we’d been given and make a plan.
In doing so, we learned a few things about being a new parent and processing a hearing loss diagnosis.
After getting Cooper’s diagnosis, I tried so hard to push aside my feelings of fear and anger. I felt like by feeling angry about his diagnosis, I wasn’t embracing him as he was. It made me feel guilty, like I was wishing I had another baby, when that wasn’t the case. It was a confusing spectrum of emotions, and what I later came to realize was my own form of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I skipped denial, but I definitely went through the other four. As a parent, going through those stages just makes you human. It’s normal to mourn the child you thought you were going to have in order to make room for the child you do have. It doesn’t mean you love them any less.
ormal to mourn the child you thought you were going to have in order to make room for the child you do have.”
I can only speak for myself in this regard, but knowledge is a power for me. I’ve learned that a foreign situation feels much more manageable when you take the time to learn about what you are dealing with and what the process looks like going forward. We are lucky to live in a time where information is at your fingertips via the Internet. Take advantage of that fact. Do as much research as you can on the diagnosis you’ve been given. This not only makes it feel more manageable butprepares you for the appointments and procedures ahead. Rather than feeling overloaded with information at appointments, you can familiarize yourself with the terminology and process of what’s ahead.
Again, this is easier than ever thanks to the Internet and social media. There are numerous groups dedicated to hearing loss or parents of children with hearing loss. Joining these groups was one of the first things I did after getting Cooper’s diagnosis. I wanted to see other parents successfully navigating this world and learn from them. I also posted on my own social media accounts that I’d love to be connected with any other parents going through the same diagnosis. Through friendsof friends, I’ve met some amazing moms, dads, and babies navigating this same road. There’s always something comforting about the simple realization that you’re not alone.
There’s something to be said for having the ability to take knowledge and turn it into action. A baby can’t advocate for itself, so that becomes a role the parents must take on. While it’s necessary for the child, I’ve found that it also allows me, as a mom, to feel like I have a purpose.I’m doing everything in my power to give my baby the best shot as developing the ability to communicate, whatever that may look like.
There is an overload of information that comes with a new diagnosis. I’ve quickly learned that in the hard of hearing and deaf community, there are varying opinions on the best course of action for developing communication. Some people highly encourage sign language, while others support cochlear implants, while some even support a combination of the two. Like so many things in life, it isn’t black and white. There is no right answer, necessarily. Before making a decision, it’s important to take the time to really learn about and explore every option available to you and then determine what makes the most sense for your family and your child.
Of course, everyone processes difficult news differently. Processing a hearing loss diagnosis as a new parent isn’t easy. What works for one person may not work for another. I can only share what has helped me, as a first-time parent, process this curveball we’ve been thrown. What at first felt like the end of our world has now become a blessing because we are learning to see the beauty in it. There was a time I worried that I would look at Cooper and only see his diagnosis. But honestly, sometimes I even forget he’s been diagnosed with profound hearing loss. Hearing or not, he’s just our baby.