Sound and Silence
because of any philosophical uncertainty about Geneva's deaf identity. He was nervous about all the usual risks inherent in any surgery, such as a bad reaction to anesthesia. So when Geneva's surgeon, Dr. Dan Morrison, brought us the good news that the surgery was over and everything had gone well, Christian left many of his worries behind. He began looking forward to the activation, in one month, when Geneva would hear sound for the first time.
"I'm so excited for you to hear!" he kept saying to her. "It's going to be amazing! In a month you're going to hear!"
Just as with the surgery, I saw the activation as another point of no return. The activation would mark a transition from sign language to oral language. Geneva and I would continue learning and using ASL, but I knew it would take a back seat to spoken English once she could hear.We had made such progress with sign language. By the time she was 13 months old, Geneva clearly understood at least 60 signs and had herself signed close to 30. I didn't want to see that progress slow.
But for all my consternation, the activation turned out not to be very dramatic after all. Geneva exhibited little reaction when the audiologists attached the external parts of the device and switched it on. She just kept trying to knock the microphone and processor off her ear. The drama came later when we took her new equipment home.
Suddenly my easygoing 13-month-old discovered toddler-style tantrums. She'd cry, squirm, and go limp like a nonviolent protester every time I tried to put on her new ear gear—which involved clipping the battery and controller to her clothing, hanging the microphone and processor on her right ear, and finding the sweet spot on her head where themagnet on the external coil connected with the internal magnet. For four days, Christian and I tried. Tami tried.Amy Bove, the teacher of the deaf who would be helping us with speech therapy, tried. But we all failed. Each time I failed, I felt more and more despair. Eventually I began to wonder if the device was somehow hurting her.
At first, she'd cry, squirm, and go limp every time I tried to put on her implant's external gear. Finally, with finesse and determination, I was able to get the ear gear hooked up and quickly slide a cap on and tie it down.
Day care answered that question. I picked her up one afternoon and learned that she had worn the equipment there with no problem. So it was just a mommy thing. If mom was around, she was not going to wear it.
I knew I had to walk a fine line between making Geneva wear her processor and keeping the experience positive and laid-back. I felt terrible about forcing the equipment on her. Here I was, the hearing mom, trying to force sound on her daughter. "Keep trying" was the only advice that most people offered, but that wasn't getting me anywhere. Success finally struck when two cotton pilot caps, as they are called, arrived in the mail. I had ordered the caps, made by the high-end children's clothing designer Hanna
Andersson, after reading online about other parents who had used such caps to keep their children's hearing aids and cochlear implant equipment on. With finesse and determination, I was able to get Geneva's ear gear hooked up and quickly slide the cap on and tie it down. Gradually her tantrums became shorter and fewer, until after a week or two I could easily put the equipment on her while she sat in my lap.