The way a newborn’s hearing is tested, at least at Mt. Auburn, is you wheel your sleeping infant down to the nursery where they hook her up to a machine. This involves cups over her ears and sensors on her scalp to pick up electrical activity in the brain. The principle is that you get a baseline of brain activity, then the little cups play a series of clicks and the machine makes sure that brain activity increases in an appropriate way.
Our first full night in the hospital we were unwilling to let her out of our direct sight and we were both exhausted from having pulled an all-nighter the previous night, what with having checked in at around 1am with contractions three minutes apart and all. I had been told that the test needed to be done without a whole lot of notice, given a time window, and told she needed to be taken to the nursery for the test once she was asleep. There were also other things that needed to get done, so I was feeling like I needed to get the hearing test ticked off the list so I could get some sleep and not worry about it anymore. The time window we’d been given wasn’t very generous (it was the pushy nurse we disliked who had told us when to go), so the next time Margaret dropped off post-nursing we wheeled her down to the nursery. The nursery was loud, the nurse hooking her up was young and obviously inexperienced, the machinery was obviously finicky, and my insistence on hanging around and my stubborn refusal to accept a chair in spite of my complete lack of stamina was probably not helping matters. Margaret roused from her doze while the cups were being put over her ears, and the test did not complete with a pass. Nurse young-and-inexperienced started reassuring us that it was probably just a problem with the machine, everything was probably fine. She was promptly cut off by and older, more experienced nurse, who told her rather sharply that she shouldn’t say that. While it was a trifle worrying that nurse older-and-wiser said that even deaf babies can appear to react to sound, I had to agree with her. My experiences with infertility had made me very aware that being told that everything was probably fine when it wasn’t was bad enough to merit erring on the side of caution even if it meant worrying a whole lot of people apparently needlessly. We were told we could repeat the test again after 24 hours. We trundled off back to our rooms.
Once back there Warren and I had a brief discussion. We both thought the failure was probably down to poor test conditions, finicky equipment, and operator error. On there other hand, there was a possibility that the problem was real. Maybe it was easy to deal with at the time because we didn’t think it was real, or maybe it was because we were so happy to finally have our little girl, but we both settled pretty rapidly on ‘Worst case scenario: we all learn ASL’ and settled down to enjoy our baby and not worry, at least not much.
The next night conditions were better. It was quieter, it was later, and I was so exhausted that I was willing to finally leave Margaret with the nurses for a short while. I dropped her off at the nursery late that night. Twenty minutes later she was delivered back to our room with a passing grade for both ears. So far we’ve been living happily ever after. Margaret clearly reacts to sound. The only thing I can question is her taste – she either actually likes my ‘singing’ or has developed an early knack for the social white lie.
The reason I bring this all up now (over four months later) is that I was reminded today of how very lucky we are. Yes infertility sucks, but we now have a wonderful, amazing, healthy little girl. A post I read today reminds me that some people are not so fortunate. Perhaps it was a little too easy to be calm about it back in June. Yes, if the problem had been real we would have dealt with it, and we still would have been very happy to have our little girl, but we still would have been within our rights to feel sad and even angry at the unfairness of the universe. It’s really rather nice to have a daughter who chuckles at me when I shout “Peekaboo!” in my high mommy-falsetto and who looks mildly startled when we make a toy squeak unexpectedly.