The Better to Hear You With

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Enjoying a little pool time on the porch and now hearing all kinds of new things.

A 5th grade girls sleepover, relocating 65 baby chicks out of a stock tank and into the roomy shed, a bonfire, swimming at the pool, a surgery for ear tubes, strep throat…just four days into summer vacation, I feel like we’ve squeezed in about a month’s worth of activity.

One of the highlights of my day today: when I clicked my fingernails together behind my baby boy’s head, he turned his head to that sound. That seems like nothing, but that is a big deal because I’ve never seen him do that before. He was hearing it for the first time. That simple action is the result of numerous hearing checkups, appointments, and finally, this morning’s surgery to get tubes put into his ears.

With Down sydrome, he goes in regularly for hearing checks. Since last September, each time he’s gone in for a check, he’s had fluid in his ears. While it’s normal to have fluid in ears temporarily from a cold, his ears never drained themselves. After monitoring it over months, his doctors decided getting tubes to drain the fluid was the best course of action since the fluid impairs his hearing.

Realizing that he’s lived most of his first year with very muffled hearing (equivalent to wearing ear plugs), I’ve been so anxious for him to have better hearing. And at the same time, I’ve been dreading him having surgery, even that minor one.

This morning Jarred and I and a sleepy baby were on the road heading to Rochester well before 6 AM. Babies get the earliest surgery time slots to minimize the amount of time they have to go without eating or drinking. I’m so thankful for that. As I walked out in the early morning sunshine, I was also thankful for summertime daylight. It would have been so much harder to scoop a baby out of a warm bed and head out into the cold and dark at 5:30 on a winter morning.

By 7:00 AM we’d finished all of the check-in procedures, and it felt like such a long half of an hour to wait until his surgery time when all he really wanted to do was nurse, but couldn’t. We rattled off his name and date of birth half a dozen times for surgery protocol checklists, met with the doctors, and off he went. By 8:00, his surgery was done and he was back in my arms. All went well.

I have to say, though, that the morning was one long blur. Between being anxious and not sleeping well and getting up extra early, I was definitely in a fog. It’s the kind of morning that called for some coffee. On the way in though, I elected not to share a drink from the big mug Jarred brought. He’s had a sore throat for days, and his throat looked really bad with white spots, so we were pretty sure he had strep. Coffee? Strep? I chose no coffee and hopefully no strep.

After our baby had some time to recover from anesthesia and nurse until his belly was full, we were free to go. We left the hospital and I got my own coffee, and ironically, we went from the hospital to the FastCare clinic where we took Jarred to get a throat culture. Positive for strep. In the midst of waiting for the prescription, Jarred walked next door to Menards to grab some paint. While I waitied on his medicine, I paid for the things I had at Shopko, and can you guess what I forgot to pick up on the way out of the store?

Just as we started to get back on the highway, Jarred asked if he could have his prescription. All I could offer was an “Ooooh no…” We turned back around and got the medicine. Meanwhile, our little guy snoozed peacefully through most of it. And now, I am so very glad the surgery is finally done.

After our little guy woke up from a good nap this afternoon, I sat on the bed with our baby. We’ve only had a few hours with his new and improved hearing, but my impression right now is that he is delighted. I sat talking to him on the bed, and he intently stared at my mouth moving, listening, and smiling. Usually he looks me in the eyes when I talk to him, but it was obvious he was trying to figure out the new sounds he heard. He looked ever so pleased to hear all the words coming out of his mommy’s mouth.

I can’t wait to see what develops over time. I’m going to flood that little boy with words to help make up for the months of not being able to hear as much.

With his surgery out of the way, it feels like we are ready to kick off a great summer. Over and over I feel the huge energy difference in myself between this summer and last year. I happened to look at the calendar from last year at this time (it’s easy with the 2016 calendar still hanging underneath this year’s), and I saw that last year at this time, we had a two-week old baby, I had a migraine for two days, I got mastitis that week, and he had an appointment for an ECG to check for heart conditions. Wow.

It’s a whole different world with a one-year-old. I have the energy and strength back to lug around 50 lb bags of chick feed, shovel out the shed to clean it out for the chicks, and till up a garden. That’s right, I have a new garden this year!! After five years here, I realized the place where I really want my garden is in the back yard, right under my kitchen window where I can look out and enjoy it countless times a day.

Two Saturdays ago, I borrowed a walk-behind tiller (thanks, David!) and made it happen. It was the first time I’d run a tiller, so I was pretty proud of it all. I deliberately made the garden small and manageable, about 8 x11. With the help of four big kids (and two little ones that helpfully napped) we went from grass to a fully planted garden in two and a half hours. Awesome. Ten days later, almost all of my seeds are up. I’m so excited for cucumbers, peas, beans, tomatoes, squash, lettuce, zucchini, flowers…all of it. I just love to see new life happening right before my eyes.

The biggest attraction for my kids? Seeds for giant pumpkins. The packet promises pumpkins weighing up to 100 pounds. Oh man! My oldest daughter just happens to weight exactly 100, so I had her curl up like a pumpkin on the ground to show how big those pumpkins just might grow. The other kids took turns trying to lift up the “pumpkin” and all of them were just giddy at the thought of growing pumpkins as big as their sister. We plan to just let all the vines spill over onto the lawn as much as they want. Oooh, I can’t wait for too see everything grow, either.

Surgery for ear tubes: check. Bring on the warm sunshine, kids playing outside, plants growing, and a baby that’s all ears for all of it. Happy summer to all of you!

Written June 6, 2017.

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