Birth and Deaf

Sonya was born on a sunny Sunday in New York City. Unlike everything that came later, the birth was planned, short and smooth. I was induced at 9 a.m. By 2 p.m., I was given another dose of medication to encourage contractions. At 5 p.m., moderate contractions began and for two hours, my husband was at my side – helping me count through the pain – which really was just uncomfortable at that point.

It wasn’t until 7 p.m. (of course just 10 minutes after my husband left the hospital to grab some dinner) that things got… real. My parents were in the delivery room. My mom was trying to take over my husband’s role and count through the contractions, but she was either too fast or too slow. Then, I started to hyperventilate. My OB told me that for 14 minutes, I experienced true labor. I remember removing the oxogen mask to notify the nurses that I had a very low pain threshold. Like as if they couldn’t tell. I was shaking violently, throwing up in between breaths, and I was only two centimeters dilated. My OB ordered an epidural.

Yes, this trauma was extremely frightening at the time. But it passed so quickly. Once the epidural was in – things moved quickly – and relatively painlessly. I remember feeling a slight pressure around 9 p.m. It was so slight I hesitated before calling the OB.

“You’re ready to go my dear!” She said. By 11:15 p.m. Sonya Rose was born. She was the most beautiful baby I had ever set my eyes upon. Despite the fact that she was only a few seconds old her eyes were open and alert. They set upon my face and I felt her love.

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The time after the birth seems much darker. Physically, we were in a dark room (though it was private!) with a view of another building and just a sliver of sky. I didn’t know if it was day or night. Sonya was wheeled in and she just stared at us from her bassinet. She was perfect. With big grey eyes, a tiny nose and perfect mouth.

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While I struggled with breastfeeding, my own recovery and the psychological trauma that child birth had left behind, my husband was incredible. He cradled Sonya while I struggled or slept. They connected so easily. She was immediately a daddy’s girl.

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Later, Sonya was taken away for her hearing screen. It was a moment I had been dreading for months. I knew my husband and I were both carriers of GJB2 – a non syndromic hearing loss gene. There was a 25 percent chance that Sonya had hearing loss. While she was gone, the hospital served us our dinner. Salmon and cous cous, grilled asparagus, and vanilla ice cream for dessert. I couldn’t eat any of it.

When the nurse came in, she immediately let us know that Sonya had not passed her first hearing screening. “This happens frequently,” she said. “Many babies have amniotic fluid in their ears, which hampers their ability to hear. We will try again tomorrow, but do not be alarmed.”

A deep pit of sadness formed in my throat. Tears welled up in my eyes. I tried to act like everything was fine – no big deal. I agreed with the nurse that we could try again tomorrow, but as soon as she left, I broke down and sobbed. It was unlike any kind of sadness I had ever felt in my life. As much joy as Sonya’s beautiful face brought to my heart, I knew she was deaf. And this knowledge brought intense, dark pain.

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