We learned that our daughter Victoria was profoundly deaf when she was just a day old. You could pop a balloon behind her and she wouldn't flinch. We decided to get her a cochlear implant, a tiny device that compensates for the damaged parts in the ear, but we'd have to wait until she was 1.
Meanwhile, we all learned to sign, even our 2-year-old son, Michael. Still, I worried Victoria was falling behind; other kids her age were babbling, but she only grunted or screamed. So I fought to get the implant earlier, and the doctors agreed to operate when she was 8 months old.
At the hospital two months after the surgery, Victoria was connected to the computer that would switch on the implant. We were all tense. Suddenly, she turned around, confused and excited. The computer's beeps were the first sounds she'd ever heard! I was hysterical with happiness. My husband, Scott, had always been in denial about her deafness, but seeing the look on her face convinced him that she really hadn't been able to hear anything before. Victoria said "Nick," her big brother's name -- and her first word -- a few months later.
She continued to sign but also worked with a speech pathologist. When she was 1, she finally said "mama" and "dada." At 2 we put her in a normal preschool, where she attends a speech and language-delay class. She's 4 now, and doing great.
Her sister, Julianna, who's two years younger, isn't as lucky. Ironically, because she's only "mildly to severely" deaf, she's not a candidate for a cochlear implant. (After Julianna was born, Scott found out that he's a carrier of Waardenburg syndrome, a rare genetic disorder with symptoms that can include deafness.) Julianna wears hearing aids in both ears, but at 2, I fear she's behind where Victoria was at that age.
Luckily, our family is well trained in dealing with deafness. When we told Victoria that her new baby sister was hearing-impaired, too, she signed to her: "Listen, baby. I will help you."