This Mother’s Day, we share the perspective of Samantha R., mom to Cochlear implant recipient Sophie.  Samantha reflects on the grief and uncertainty she went through years ago when she found out her daughter was deaf. That version of herself seems so far away as she watches her daughter succeed more and more every day.

“As I sit in the large high school auditorium watching people filter in, my 10-year-old daughter, Sophie, finds her seat in the third row on the stage and waves to me. She tunes her viola and practices the songs one last time before the concert.

I look at the other children and parents who are taking all of this for granted. And at my other children’s concerts, I’m one of those parents, too. But with Sophie, I cannot take this for granted.

This is her first orchestra concert. And she is deaf.

The first viola tutor I approached had never met us, but because I told her Sophie has cochlear implants, she didn’t think Sophie should try strings. I found another teacher who is excited to teach Sophie, and her school orchestra teacher is also wonderful, but I will never forget being told to not even try.

Now, Sophie is learning fast, and her teachers say she has a natural musical ability. But this shouldn’t surprise me. Sophie has been defying odds and smashing stereotypes since birth.

When she was just born I was grieving the loss of her hearing, blaming myself, and wondering what on earth would happen to her. I felt like my world was spinning out of control. I cried. A lot.

Between her seventh and ninth month, as the little hearing she had gradually faded away, I cried even more. I remember leaving the audiologist, sobbing and thinking, ‘She can hear me today, a little … but tomorrow, will she?’

Since we didn’t know what caused the loss, no one had any answers for me. Except Charlotte, the parent/infant coordinator from the local speech school.

What she told me upon our first meeting was the answer to a very important question I hadn’t even thought to ask. She told me that from then on, besides being her mother, I had to be her advocate. Stand up for her. Educate others on what she can do and make sure she has everything she needs to succeed.

Charlotte taught me exercises to help Sophie build her speech patterns. At least twice daily, we went through the little bag of toys practicing our ling sounds. By the time Sophie lost her hearing completely at nine months old, she had already said several words.

Sophie had cochlear implant surgery at 14 months old. At her activation, the audiologist said that she would be afraid of the sounds at first. But Sophie was excited when we made noise with noisemakers, and by the time we left the office she was pointing at my husband and saying, ‘Dada!’ and laughing.

Today, Sophie is confident and proud to be deaf. She doesn’t let anyone tell her what she can or cannot do. She wants to be a singer, play in an orchestra, run for president, and be the first deaf person in space.

As parents, whatever our kids’ circumstances, our most important role is to be an advocate. If there is something your child wants to do, don’t ever let anyone tell them that they shouldn’t even try.

Then one day, you’ll find yourself sitting at a concert, an awards ceremony or a graduation, and you will think about the tears, the uncertainty, the speech therapy, the obstacles you and your child have overcome to get there. You’ll think about how much you don’t take for granted, and you will marvel at the growth and the strength that have come from this. And you will know it was all worth it, and there is nothing your child can’t accomplish.”

For more resources to help your child with hearing loss, visit IWantYouToHear.com.

Renee Oehlerking
Renee Oehlerking is the Public Relations Manager at Cochlear Americas where she is responsible for the region’s public relations and consumer marketing social media. Renee enjoys uncovering, telling and showcasing the inspiring stories of hearing implant recipients. As a recent transplant to Denver, Colorado, Renee enjoys exploring all that the state has to offer outdoors.