Ben turned one yesterday, October 19. He had a terrific day, and was inundated with far more presents than can possibly be healthy for him. We had a party in the afternoon, and some of his friends from play group came with their parents. It was very noisy, and Ben was clearly having trouble understanding us. Hearing in noise is very challenging for CI users. We switched the program on his processor to one that is supposed to help with that by narrowing the input dynamic range. Even with this, he was less responsive to what we were saying than he usually is. Nevertheless he was interacting with the other kids and having a good time. I got a little teary-eyed when "he" (I) blew out the candle on the cake and we all sang Happy Birthday -- probably a pretty typical "mother of the birthday boy" reaction.
Even though it was a great time overall, I still felt bad to see him struggle to hear. Explaining how this fits into the emotional big picture, and where we are on the psychological journey of coping with his deafness, requires a longer entry than I have time for right now. The short story is that we've gotten to the point where we actually take pride in this characteristic that sets him apart from other kids, and of course we're very proud of how well he is doing. We now look at the future very optimistically. There's every reason to believe that he's going to get a mainstream education and that he might do very well academically, that he'll enjoy music and possibly learn to play an instrument, play sports, have close friendships, and in general participate without much constraint in the hearing world. At the same time, we know that he'll occasionally struggle and suffer in ways that a hearing child wouldn't. Yesterday was really the first time I'd witnessed this first hand, and even though he certainly wasn't suffering in any way, it was another brick in the wall of reality, and as such it weighed heavily on me.
But that sensation passed quickly. We all had a wonderful day, full of friends, family, cake, toys, and interesting bits of packaging and wrapping paper (which make for far better playthings than the toys themselves).
Update: Neil posted some birthday videos on youtube:
Singing Happy Birthday:
Eating some cake:
Taking a ride on Thomas the Tank Engine:
3 weeks ago