Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Goodbye, 2010!

WOW – what a year! 2010 has been the most wonderful and also most difficult year of my life. I encountered the biggest transformation in my 27 years – I became a mother. My life was turned upside down in a matter of seconds by a tiny being who weighed less than six pounds. My world revolves around her now. I don’t think I truly understood what unconditional love really meant until I looked into her eyes. I finally understand what my mother meant when she would say, “Just wait, Em. Just wait until you’re a mom.” I finally get it, Mom. ;) I have a new purpose in life. Everything I do, every little decision I make is for Sophie.

Aside from becoming a mother, I also went through another transformation this year. This one, while unexpected and unsolicited, I believe makes me a better person. After learning of Sophie’s hearing loss, I began to look at my life and this world differently. Once the initial anger and shock wore off, I started to realize that things I once cared about no longer mattered anymore. I began to understand how incredibly lucky our little family is and how much I want to help others who are not as blessed. I feel like a different person, mostly just more selfless than before, I guess. My priorities are much different now and I am perpetually grateful. Ever hear the saying, “It takes losing your balance to live a balanced life”? I think it best describes my second transformation. Clarity. Balance. While I still have much to learn in this game of life, I think I understand what is truly important now.

2010 was also the year of an emotional speedway for me. Have you ever laughed and shed tears of sorrow in the same minute? I’m pretty sure I have. Sophie brings me incredible joy, every second of every day. Her smile melts my heart and the love I feel for her is almost scary. I would do anything for that little girl. Most moments are filled with these emotions – joy, happiness, ECSTACY. However, it sometimes just takes one tiny storm cloud to ruin my sunshine and bring on the rain. One nagging little thought in the back of my head reminding me that she is different. It usually happens in quiet moments, such as my commute to work or when I’m lying awake at night. Really, whenever I actually have time to SLOW down and reflect on my life. I’ll admit – it can be a sad place. Alone with my thoughts in my dangerous mind... Then again, it usually only takes thinking about my astonishing little girl to snap me out of it. I remind myself of how fortunate we are and that despite her deafness, Sophie is going to be fine. Better than fine, in fact. She will be amazing.

I’ve experienced many emotions this year – anticipation, excitement, bliss, happiness, joy, devastation, shock, anger, fear, trepidation, apathy, acceptance, and finally happiness again. I am ending 2010 on a positive emotion – HOPE. I have much, much hope for this coming year and I cannot wait to live it. Welcome, 2011! We are ready for you!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

BEST Christmas ever!

I guess I am a little late in posting this, but better late than never, right? Our household is still getting over the crazy two days of holiday celebrations! ;)

Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year for different reasons. When I was a kid, of course it was about the presents and the anticipation leading up to Christmas morning. As I grew older, it was about finding the perfect gift for someone and watching them open it. Now, I truly value spending time with family and friends and also finding little ways to help those that are less fortunate. I cannot wait to share our Christmas traditions with Sophie as she grows older and witness how her view on the meaning of Christmas changes, as mine surely has.

Anyway, Sophie had an AMAZING first Christmas. She received more toys and clothes than she will ever use and she had a blast! She has fully recovered from surgery and really enjoyed opening her presents this year. Although her real motive was to eat the wrapping paper, she was still excited to rip and tear into her gifts! More importantly, we got to share her first Christmas with all of the wonderful people we care about. Our families were more than generous to us this year and we are truly grateful. I feel so very lucky to have such great people in our lives.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the festivities:

All about eating the paper!

White Christmas in St. Louis! We had about 6 inches at my parent's house! This is the view from the kitchen.
Driveway on Christmas morning. So pretty!!!

"Are all of these for ME??!"

Big present!

"Oh yeah! Just what I needed. Thanks, Santa!"

Cousin Lyo is coming to help!

Pretty hat!

Family pic

It was a very busy couple of days, to say the least! Jared and I are on vacation this week, so we are just enjoying relaxing and spending time with Sophie. We went to see Dr. C. yesterday and Sophie's incisions are healing very nicely. She is off her pain medicine and seems to be back to normal. One strange thing - she has been extremely verbal since her surgery and I'm not really sure why. I was expecting quite the opposite because she has absolutely no access to sound. My only theory is that she making more sounds and "talking" to try and hear herself??? I really have no idea. One thing is for sure, though - this little girl has not gone silent! I'm giving myself a pat on the back for that! ;) Oh, and let's not forget - 10 DAYS UNTIL ACTIVATION!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Quick update:

Today, the bandages are off and Sophie is feeling much better. Her head and face are still swollen, but her spirits are great!

The first night we were home was a little rough because she kept trying to pull her bandages off. Jared and I literally just sat on the edge of our bed and watched her on the video monitor until she pulled them off, then we would go and fix them. Eventually, she tired. ;) Luckily though, Sophie has been sleeping in. We didn't get up until around 10AM both days this weekend! I cannot remember the last time I slept so late. What a nice treat! I think the pain medicine has really been contributing to her sleep, because she has also been taking extremely long naps, too.

In fact, this is how Sophie spent most of the weekend:

Her incisions seem to be healing nicely and they also do not seem to bother her at all. I was afraid she would pick at them once the bandages were off, but that hasn't been a problem. The right side definitely looks worse than the left and the right side of her head is also more swollen. I'm not really sure why...



At least they didn't have to shave off too much hair, right?! :)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Surgery was a success!

After a long day and night, we are home from the hospital and recovering well! Sophie's surgery went off without a hitch and she is slowly returning to her normal self.

We arrived at the surgery center around 7AM yesterday morning. St. Louis was hit by some sleet and ice during the night, but we drove very carefully and arrived in one piece. Since her surgery wasn't scheduled to begin until 9, we had some time to hang out and spend time together. Sophie did very well considering she was a hungry girl and could not have any milk. :(

"Umm... why are you two just staring at me??"

"This crib is much shorter that mine at home! Fun!"
Silly Daddy!

"Okay, seriously now. What are we doing here and what am I wearing?"
Right before they took her away. The nurse gave her some meds so that she would not have anxiety once we separated. I think I needed some, too!

Sophie's surgery took around 7 hours total, so we did not get to see her again until a little after 4PM. To me, this seemed like eternity, but we both had our parents there to chat and try to keep our minds off of what was actually going on. We were given periodic updates and Dr. C came out to speak with us halfway through and reassured us that everything was going well.

Right after surgery in the recovery room. The tears just started flowing when I laid eyes on her.

Poor girl!

Better this morning. Sophie did NOT want to nurse, but she sure took her bottle!

Home, sweet home! She perked up and was excited to play with her toys. :)

Sophie and her Cochlear Koala!
He has CIs, too!

"That Daddy, always making me laugh!"

All in all, everything went great! Both of her devices were tested in the operating room and are functioning properly. I'm so happy to have this hurdle behind us. Yesterday was a very long, stressful day, but it could not have gone better. Now, the countdown will begin to activation day - 3 WEEKS!!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

So long, hearing aids!

Tomorrow will be the last day Sophie wears her hearing aids, as she will be starting a new journey soon. Thursday is the big surgery day! We are nervous, but very excited because we have waited so long for this day to come. Sophie’s surgery is scheduled for 9:10 AM and we have to be at the hospital around 7:30. We will be staying overnight and hopefully returning home on Friday morning. It’s going to be a long 24 hours, I’m sure!

Sophie will not be able to hear right after her surgery. We must wait a few weeks for her incisions to heal and to let the swelling go down. Then, her CIs will be activated. Our initial activation is scheduled for January 7th. At this time, the audiologist will only be giving Sophie a small amount of sound because we do not want to overload her brain. We will have several audiology appointments in the first few months following the initial activation, with each session giving her more access to sound until her CIs are fully “mapped”. I can’t believe she is going to be hearing at 9 months old. I’m just so happy that everything is falling into place! I know that the coming months are going to be a lot of work and hold much frustration, but at least I will know that Sophie will be benefiting from it. She is going to hear!

This will be the best Christmas present ever!

Oh, and Sophie is pretty excited too. Can’t you tell??

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ready to be a Bionic Girl!

Less than two weeks to go until Sophie's CI surgery and we are getting ready! We met with the audiology department at the hospital today to go over the procedure and order our devices. We decided to go with Cochlear America's Nucleus 5 . Today, we made our final decisions about what accessories to order, along with what color we want her external processor to be. Many of our friends and family that read this blog are not familiar with cochlear implants and are curious to see what it looks like and how it will work. The diagram below will hopefully give you a better idea.

1. The external sound processor captures sounds, then filters and processes the sounds.
2. The sound processor translates the filtered sounds into digital information, which is then transmitted to the internal implant.
3. The internal implant converts the digital information into electrical signals, and sends them to a tiny, delicate curl of electrodes that sits gently inside the cochlea.
4. The electrical signals from the electrodes stimulate the hearing nerve, bypassing the damaged cells that cause hearing loss, allowing the brain to perceive sound.

This is what the device will actually look like on Sophie:

During the surgery, Sophie's ENT will dig a shallow trough in her skull to place the internal implant. The external processor (which you see above) will "attach" to the internal part by a magnet. Since Sophie is getting two implants, we actually ordered four external devices so that we can have a back-up for each ear in case of malfunction. We have been debating what color to choose because Sophie basically has no hair and we aren't sure what color it will end up being. So, we ordered one set in beige and one in brown. All of our bases are covered! ;)

Sophie came down with a cold over Thanksgiving weekend, but she is starting to feel better now. I am praying that she doesn't have any fluid in her ears and I've been on high alert for any sign of an ear infection. So far, we have no reason to worry, but if her surgery is postponed, I will be frustrated beyond words. Cross your fingers for us!

In other news, we have just been playing this waiting game and getting ready for the holidays. Last weekend, we went and cut down our first real Christmas tree as a family and Sophie got to meet Santa. So cute! By the way, is there a way to prevent an 8 month old baby from pulling the Christmas tree down on top of them? Other than acting as a physical barrier at all times?? Sophie is increasingly mobile and into absolutely everything. We have the baby gates up, but she still gets into trouble! To give you an example, here's a funny story:

We have a small step leading into our living room from our kitchen and Sophie was playing with her toys on the kitchen floor earlier tonight while I did the dishes. I turned around and she wasn't there. Of course, my heart jumps and I start frantically looking everywhere - under the table, down the hall, in the front room, etc... Well, the little stinker must have mastered going down the step into the living room because she went to see the Christmas tree! I found her just as a handful of pine needles approached her mouth. Silly girl.

I will leave you with some pics of our Christmas tree adventure:

Waiting for our hay ride:

"Ooh, this is the one Daddy!!!"

She was really only interested in the beard

Just over 2 feet tall. I think she has a long way to go!
Happy Holidays!