It’s been just over two weeks since Maliah was “activated,” as they say.
It seems like she’s adjusted to her cochlear implants remarkably fast. For the first several days she cried every time we turned on her sound processors; understandably, it was a shock each morning to go from blissful silence to a houseful of noise. But now she hardly makes a fuss at all. She’s getting used to living in the world of sound.
We don’t see many big reactions from her yet. It’s rare that I’ll call her name or say something in her direction and she’ll actually turn and look. But that’s fairly normal. All the experts talk in terms of “hearing age.” Maliah may be 21 months but her hearing age is just two weeks; i.e. she hears like a two-week-old newborn would hear. And even that’s not totally accurate, because infants hear in the womb and have at least a concept of sound before they come out. Our daughter is starting from scratch.
She’s always been a hard kid to gauge what she’s actually thinking or feeling. I’m no psychologist or medical expert, but I think the combination of being deaf plus being an orphan and spending the first nine months of her life mostly in a crib helped make her a little bit detached and used to existing in her own world.
So the biggest change we’re noticing is that she’s more engaged. She spends far less time zoned out or playing by herself. She likes to be in the middle of what’s going on. She’s more attached to us — literally, often clinging to our legs. She’s doing better at expressing (and demanding) what she wants. She’s even throwing more tantrums, which is pretty standard for an almost-two-year-old.
All of this is challenging, but it’s also wonderful. We’ve discovered that she LOVES books. She will toddle over to the bookshelf, pick out one of her favourites, and plop her plump little behind down in your lap, over and over and over again. She’d sit and read books for hours, particularly board books that have textured surfaces. (Her current favourite is a literary classic called “That’s Not My Tractor!”)
She’s also almost comically particular about what and how we read. If you pick a book she doesn’t like, she’ll get mad or wander off. If you try to read to her anywhere other than the living-room floor, like — heaven forbid! — the kitchen, she will cry and throw a fit and physically attempt to drag you to the one and only spot where books are meant to be read.
She’s making more noise too. For the first couple of days she went completely silent, as if she was shocked to notice her own voice. Now she almost constantly makes little sounds as she wanders around the house. She was also very serious for a while, but she’s back to giggling and spinning in circles and experiencing periods of extreme goofiness.
In short, she’s acting like a little kid. Which is awesome. I hate even mentioning the word “normal”, because she’s always going to be unique and different and that’s just fine, There’s not much that could be called “normal” going on around our house anyway. But it’s neat to see her start to find her way and come into her own. To assert her will and get mad at her brothers and insist that she wants to jump on the couch too. It feels like she’s growing and changing a little bit each day, and changing us along the way.