Anna's surgery is tomorrow morning at 7:30 AM. Today, I am doing as little mental preparing and as much logistical preparing as possible. If I think too much about the puffy bag doing the work of her lungs, I can feel a downward rush of panic from my shoulders to my pelvis. Instead, I clipped each of Anna's finger and toenails. I shampooed and conditioned her hair. I massaged behind each ear where the surgeon will slide a knife before he removes part of her mastoid bone and inserts a magnet and a long strip of sensors. I looked at her head one last time with its sudsy hair and lack of devices. Like every mother gazing at their child of 10 months in a moment of peace, part of me doesn't want to change her, ever. She is always alert and very still in the tub, all the whooshes of water and new smells and small bubbles. This morning, she smells like a Creamsicle. In the hospital bag, I will pack a zipper onesie that will slip on easily to avoid the large bandage that will be circling her head. A soft blanket. A bottle she will not take. A magazine I will not be able to read. Really, there is no preparing to do. I make lists and preparations that don't need to be made in order to feel prepared. We will drive to the hospital before the sun comes up and then we will trust, and all the while we'll wait.
I've been thinking about it, and I'm not sure what other operation could be as life-changing as cochlear implant surgery. This might seem like an exaggeration, but there is life-saving and life-altering, and I can't think of something more momentous happening to a child. I know that surgeries like heart transplants are longer and more involved, but the heart that was once beating continues to beat. The body does not feel the addition of a component that never was. With cochlear implants, the brain that never processed sound will "hear" it in one split-second, pathway-carving, initial moment when we sit in our audiologist's office 9 days after surgery. We are taking Anna's existence and adding a completely novel dimension--an entire sense--to it.
I play this game of artificially and briefly removing my senses. Sometimes I keep my eyes closed and open them in front of something beautiful--one of my girls' wide-eyed faces or the recently blooming trees. Or, sometimes I try not to touch anything as I'm walking through the house. I try to disengage my feet from my body so I can't even feel the floor. I pass by the framed pictures and the elk antlers and the leather couch and the fuzzy pillows. Then I touch something--Zaley's hair, Anna's pinky toe, a spout of running water. I imagine that this may be what Anna will go through even if she doesn't remember it. I cannot resist the preemptory joy I take in knowing that what was once unknown to her will be irrevocably known. Voices, verses, birdsong, wind. Noise makers, sizzling, shouting, laughter.
I can't wait to read to her. To whisper to her. To see her when she realizes what Zaley's been doing with her mouth all this time. I wonder if Anna will have some subconscious recollection of sound from being in utero. I wonder if she will often prefer silence. I wonder if she'll be able to more readily dip into an innate pool of peace than those of us born from and into noise. Will she want to go to school with her sister or with the Deaf? Will she ever experience music like I do? I know that this surgery will change the choices and the identity she makes for herself for the rest of her life. My anxiety changes its weight when it is loaded with responsibility. Still, it will be done, and I am excited. I want to witness her hear her own giggle. I'm ready for surgery, for recovery, for her to hear her dad sing.