honeymoon

Ravenna and Modena: Part 1

While we stayed in Dozza, we visited the nearby towns of Ravenna and Modena.

Ravenna is the home of eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, thanks to its various glittering Byzantine mosaic murals.  Because of glass’s ability to retain color, these mosaics are nearly as vivid today as they were fifteen hundred years ago.  This was hardly an opportunity Matt and I could pass up, so we took the short drive to Ravenna and spent the morning gawking at broken bits of glass in several churches and buildings.  The most impressive mosaics were in the Basilica San Vitale, a church built in 526.  That’s THREE digits, not four.  Which means it’s REALLY REALLY OLD.  The mosaics were stunning.  Pictures and words can’t begin to describe them.  The skill and technique required to create these intricate masterpieces is mind-blowing.  We visited several other mosaic sites in Ravenna as well, and while all were glorious, none could match the jaw-dropping San Vitale.

Other than the mosaics, the town of Ravenna was pretty typical for the region. Cobblestone streets charming their way into your heart, buildings in warm yellows and oranges, gelato shops galore.  (Oh what I would give for that to be considered typical here in America!)

Modena was another typical small town that we visited for several reasons: 1) to tour a Parmigiano Reggiano factory. 2) to visit an artisinal balsamic maker and 3) to eat lunch at Hosteria Giusti.

Okay, the Parmigiano Reggiano factory–I thought I was going to vomit.  The smell was so strong.  It took 95% of the strength I had not to hurl all over the whey-covered floor.  The other 5% was devoted to contorting my face into an expression that I sincerely hope resembled pleasant interest and curiosity.  I love parmesan–a lot.  It’s one of my favorite compliments to a meal.  But this tour involved being in a storeroom with thousands (not an exaggeration) of aging cheese wheels the size of small tires stacked twenty high.   The air was so thick I felt like I was inhaling a syrup.  A syrup made of feet.  Matt and the other two people on the tour didn’t have a problem with the smell.  (Robots!!!)  I wonder why.  My mother didn’t breastfeed me, could that be it?  Perhaps starting the first several months of your life drinking and puking sour milk equips you with a lifelong ability to withstand a giant room of cheese?  There you have it, moms-to-be, a good reason to breastfeed: your babies will be able to visit cheese factories when they get older!

But anyway. I didn’t lose my breakfast, somehow.  Go me!

The smell aside, the Parmigiano Reggiano tour was super fascinating.  It was free, too, which is always a plus.  A tour can be arranged at one of several factories through the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium, who take pride in promoting authentic Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.  Only five cities in the Emilia-Romagna region are legally allowed to produce Parmigiano Reggiano cheese: Bologna, Modena, Reggio Emilia, Mantova, and, of course, Parma.  It’s like how Champagne can only be called Champagne if it’s made in the Champagne region in France.  Anywhere else and it’s just … sparkling wine.  That grainy stuff from a green can that’s been sitting in your fridge for years that you shake onto your Prego-laden spaghetti noodles from a box is not Parmigiano Reggiano.  It’s just … parmesan.

Click here to read a good summary of how Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is made.

To be continued…

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honeymoon

Dozza

Our first three nights in Italy, we stayed at a bed and breakfast on a farm in Dozza, a medieval village about 30 minutes east of Bologna.  The farm, run by a family of four (mom, dad, two young daughters), consists of a vineyard, fruits and vegetables, goats, and chickens (we got to drink wine made from the grapes and eat fresh cheese from the goats’ milk–mmmm!).  The mom was off interpreting for a meditation retreat in Tuscany during our stay, so we didn’t get to meet her, and as a result probably had a different experience than most visitors who stay at the farm.  For starters, there were no napkins provided when we ate dinner with the family, and there was no hand soap in our bathroom.  Is that a sexist thought?  Thinking that the mom would have thought about napkins and soap when the dad didn’t?  Maybe she doesn’t care about clean hands either, who knows?  Could be the reason why they fell in love.

Though our hands were unclean, our stay was lovely and we were fortunate to have spent a few days with an Italian family.  The grandmother (Nonna) even invited us into her home to teach us how to make fresh pasta, an experience that has pretty much ruined dry pasta for us forever.  So now we need one of these.  (And a bigger kitchen, please!)  One thing that was incredibly entertaining about this class was watching the steady stream of family members and neighbors waltzing into Nonna’s home.  “Mia bella!” a grandfather-like figure exclaimed with outstretched arms to one of the little girls, as the adults chattered on excitedly in fast Italian.  The second little girl yanked out a few of her eyebrow hairs, feeling rejected once again.  (Kidding.  I’m sure she got a nice exclamation from pseudo-grandpa, too.)  Later on, Nonna abruptly took a break from teaching us about pasta when a neighbor brought over a newborn baby.  As she oohed and ahhed over the wee bambino, we were but a distant memory in her mind for several minutes.  Not that we minded.  It was like watching an Italian sitcom!

The father served the pasta we made that night with browned butter and sage.  So delicious.  You’ve seriously not lived until you’ve had fresh pasta.

Anyway, Dozza has an undeniable charm.  The town center is tiny, about a quarter mile long and half that wide.  What sets this town apart from the hundreds of other villages in Italy is their painted wall festival–Biennale di Muro Dipinto–a biannual event since 1960, where painters from all over the world are invited to paint murals onto the walls of the village.  This means that Dozza is essentially an open-air art gallery, currently boasting about a hundred murals.  Pretty rad!

The largest structure in this tiny town is the Rocca di Dozza, a fortress from the middle ages.  In the cellar of this fortress is the Enoteca Regionale, the official wine “museum” of the entire Emilia-Romagna region, housing over a thousand wines.  You guys, it was the coolest wine shop I’ve ever been to!  I mean, The shop was in the freaking cellar of a freaking medieval fortress!  How can Binny’s Beverage Depot possibly compete with that?  We met an insanely cute sommelier who denied our request for a menage a trois (kidding–obviously she accepted), but not before recommending a few lambruscos for us to try.  While the lambruscos typically imported to sugar-addicted America are cloyingly sweet and disgusting, the lambruscos offered by the Enoteca are dry and robust and fizzy, like a prosecco with more depth.  Delicious.

Did you like how I strung random words together to make it seem like I actually know anything about wine?  Did ya did ya?!  Yay!  (But seriously, dry lambrusco KICKS sweet lambrusco’s ass.)

Anyway, pictures!  As I mentioned in my previous post, Matt and I are terrible at taking photos, so I had to google a couple to fill in the blanks.  If you took one of these, let me know and I’ll credit you.  (Also: get a life, why are you reading some rando’s blog?)

[Aside: my friend Jessica teaches a pasta making group class here in Chicago.  If you ever want to learn how to make pasta, give her a call.  Here’s her website and her yelp page.]

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honeymoon

Berlin

Matt and I went to Germany and Italy for our (belated) honeymoon. It was my first time in Europe–and certainly not my last. LOVED IT.  Can’t wait to see more.  I hope you don’t mind me taking a break from my cochlear implant adventures to discuss it a bit.  (Spoiler alert: I am hearing so much more now!  I have got to write a post about that.  Sorry, I was busy honeymooning! Speaking of which…)

Quick breakdown of our trip:

First, we spent three nights in Berlin. Then we flew to Bologna, rented a car and drove to a bed and breakfast in the nearby town of Dozza, were we stayed for three nights. After that, we took a train to Venice for two nights. Then we flew to Naples and immediately took a ferry to Ischia (an island off the coast of Naples), where we stayed three nights. Then we took a ferry back to Naples and stayed two nights there before flying home.

Whew. So much traveling! Matt and I agreed that packing so much into this trip was inevitable, since Italy has so much to offer, but that next time we go overseas (ahem, Thailand, pleeeease) we’ll take a more leisurely route.

Because writing about the entire trip in one post would be kinda boring, I’ve decided I’ll break it up by city. So, today: BERLIN!

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t super stoked at the idea of going to Berlin. When I saw The Talented Mr. Ripley back in the late ’90s, I was utterly seduced by not only Jude Law, but by Italy, as well. Those dreamy images of Anthony Minghella’s sun-drenched paradise stuck with me more than a decade later, so when it was time for Matt and I to decide where to go for our honeymoon, I could only picture one place: DUH, Italy. Matt was in agreement, but suggested we include Berlin in our iterinary as well. His friend Adam has been living there for the last several years and Matt felt it would be a shame to go to Europe and not see him. I nodded, uh-huh, but I’m sure my expression read: Berlin? Gray, dour Berlin? But WHY, when we have Italy, with its vivid reds and yellows, its warm mountains, its turquoise seas? Where Jude Law stepped out of a tub naked? Where God, after being in labor for a torturous 43 and-a-half hours, birthed pizza and tortellini and Campari and wine? And where, you know–I’m sorry–a ton of unbelievably super depressing shit didn’t happen in the last century?

Buuuuuut apparently being married means cooooompromising and blah blaaaaah blaaaaaaah.  So… Berlin, in addition to Italy. Okay!

As you’ve probably deduced by now, I came to Berlin with low expectations. And guess what? I loved it. Of all the places we went to on our vacation, Berlin was the only place where I could actually see myself living.

Adam was a great host and gave us a chance to see Everyday Berlin as opposed to Berlin: The Tourist Version. I mean, we did see some landmarks, like Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial, and what’s left of the Berlin Wall, but we also ate at a variety of restaurants (Chinese, Ethiopian, Caribbean, and of course, German), hung out at random bars with his friends, strolled through a turkish market with endless stalls of aromatic foods, walked through a huge flea market filled with hipsters and street performers. (Yeah: hipsters. Berlin is chock full of mustachioed imps!) The city is beautiful, not at all gray as I expected.  Its history is so rich and bursting from every orifice, unlike anything in America, which I never really truly realized is just so young.  There is nothing like being in an old city, especially one that has been through so much.

Berlin’s vibrancy is all that more impressive in light of its history.  I mean, it’s been dealt a dark, dark hand.  There are old bullet holes from World War II all over buildings throughout Berlin and East Berlin still has a section of that infamous wall that held its citizens prisoner for so many years.  These scars show how far Berlin has come and exist as a reminder that what didn’t kill it only made it stronger.  And way cooler!  And far more interesting!  Gahhhh Berlin is so awesome and I want it to be my best friend and can we hang out soon please?!?

Anyway!  Neither Matt and I are that great at taking pictures.  We tend to get caught up in a moment and sometimes forget to capture it.  Oh well.  Personally, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  A single memory is more valuable than a thousand snapshots.  I was kind of disgusted by all the tourists who literally saw every moment through the viewfinder of a camera.  Dudes, put those cameras down.  You’re  actually living that scene you’re constantly taking pictures of.  Enjoy it.  Have some wine.  Gawd.  But, we did get a few pics:

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activation

So Turned On Right Now

This post is long overdue. It’s been, let’s see… carry the one, add the the four, okay… over three weeks since I was turned on. Damn. That’s practically two periods and three-fourths of a box of tampons ago.

Sorry!

Being turned on wasn’t what I expected at all. Mickie the Audiologist placed the processor on my ear, slapped the magnet on my head, and hooked me up to her computer. She then sent a series of tones to my implant so that she could set my thresholds. At first, I didn’t realize that those vibrating shocks inside my head were these tones. I thought my head was spinning and humming because I was about to pass out from nerves. But no. I quickly realized that the feeling in my head was sound. I burst into tears. Not because I was touched by the beautiful magic of the experience, like a unicorn getting its horn stroked for the first time. Not because I was disappointed, like, oh, this is what I’ve been waiting for? No. I cried because I was totally. freaked. OUT.

My hearing aids have always amplified sound for me in an external-ish way. The cochlear implant was utterly internal. I could even feel it in my chest. A freaky, foreign sensation.

When someone–let’s call him Peter–tickles your foot, you laugh and say ha ha ha stop ha ha ha. Peter continues tickling your foot. Panic creeps into your voice and you’re like, ha ha? stop … no really, STOP. Peter stares at you with those empty black pools that he refers to as his eyes, picks up a scalpel (I guess Peter is a doctor–his mom must be so proud), SLICES YOUR FOOT OPEN, and proceeds to tickle your foot from the inside out.

That’s kind of what hearing with the implant for the first time was like. Taking a sensation to a whole new disturbing, fucked-up level.

I spent the first few days squinting and wincing and having panic attacks. I could barely focus. My brain was functioning in slow motion, but the world around me felt like a Baz Luhrmann movie. Heightened, frenetic, over the top, not enough John Leguizamo. Every noise, every movement, every light was just too much. I wanted to hole up in a dark room by myself. And I did, for long stretches. The first week was physically and emotionally exhausting.

I think part of the reason why it has taken me so long to write this post is that I’ve been struggling so much with understanding this experience for myself that I couldn’t imagine how to explain it to others. To be honest, I’m still not sure how to tell everyone what this is like. But I’ll try, little by little, as this experience unfolds over the next few months.

At first, it sounded like there were crickets inside my head. Loud, angry, sexually frustrated crickets. CHIRP CHIIIIIRP CHIIIIIRP CHIIIIIIIIIIRP. It was, to put it mildly, maddening. But now, three weeks later, thank GOD, the crickets have gone. The ones inside my head, that is. The real ones are still out there, making actual noise.

I went out to dinner with my parents and Matt one evening. When we returned home, they heard a particularly loud cricket down the alley. My dad asked if I could hear it. I instinctively went to say “no” but stopped myself when I realized that YES, yes I could hear it. Very clearly, in fact. Matt followed the sound of the cricket and discovered it a couple hundred feet away. You know what that means? I could hear the cricket from two hundred whole feet away! Curious, I turned off my processor and tried hearing the cricket with only my hearing aid. Nothing. I walked closer… closer. 100 feet. 50 feet. 25 feet. 10 feet. There! Finally. I had to practically be on top of the damn thing to hear it. So, to summarize:

cricket to hearing aid: 10 feet; cricket to processor: 200 feet.

Neat, huh?

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before activation

Tomorrow is Cyborg Day

The FDA still hasn’t approved Advanced Bionics’ new Naida Q70 processor, but as Matt mentioned earlier, my audiologist has offered to loan me a secondhand processor (Advanced Bionics’ Harmony).  This means I’m going to be–wait for it, y’all–sooooo turned on tomorrow.

Whoa.  Tomorrow?  Tomorrow.

I’m nervous.  I’ve been reading a few cochlear implant blogs in preparation.  This one is my favorite since the author’s history is similar to mine: she’s been deaf all her life and got an implant as an adult.  Her implant activation wasn’t particularly exciting–she heard nothing but beeps.  However, her “ear” grew stronger and stronger each day, and she grew to love it.  In fact, she loved it so much, she got her other ear implanted!  How encouraging is that?  So, if I get frustrated or worn out tomorrow, I’ll think about this blogger and her story.

Good night, everyone!  Wish me luck.

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before activation

I’m so excited!

“So …. are you excited??!!”

This is a question I’ve been asked a lot lately. I usually nod and say, “Yeah, totally!” But, to be honest, I don’t really feel that excited. I mean, I am. Sort of. Kinda….?

“Excited” is the wrong word to describe what I’m feeling right now. A more accurate description would be “curious and apprehensive.” I’m curious, because I know having a cochlear implant will enrich my life, but I’m not sure how or how much, yet. Apprehensive, because hearing bionically is something I—and most people—have never done before. Which is totally bizarre, if you think about it.

I’ve been assured by many that I’ll love it. Neat! But what exactly is “it”? I have absolutely no idea. If I said to you,

“Hey! I’m going to cook you some pufflinkles. Yeah! What do you mean, you don’t know what pufflinkles are? Everyone loves pufflinkles! They taste like flops and sandies and smell flutty and porsive. They’re cloppy but not too cloppy: they have the perfect amount of cloppiness. Have a seat and I’ll bring out a nice hot, steaming plate of pufflinkles in a few minutes. MMMMMmmm I bet you can practically taste it already.”

Would your mouth be watering? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say probably not. Mouths don’t water unless they know what to expect. And neither do ears. (Actually, ears probably shouldn’t be watering at all….)

Not only is it hard to muster up excitement for something I’ve never actually experienced, I’m harboring the knowledge that it’ll be an artificial experience that’ll take months to adjust to. Which is where the apprehension comes into play. The implant/processor will make me hear like–well, like a machine. To elaborate on my previous analogy, while most of you stuff your faces with pufflinkles, I’ll be nibbling on vufflinkles—vegan pufflinkles. As anyone who’s ever had tofurkey or vacon or anything inside quotation marks at a vegetarian restaurant knows, vegan versions of anything, while perfectly edible and tasty in their own right, don’t begin to compare to the real thing. (And have way too much sodium.)

And man, that’s going to take some getting used to. A common observation of a new implantee is, “Words sound like blips and bleeps.” Blips and bleeps? You mean, when I lovingly whisper good night to my husband, I’m gonna hear “Bleeeep Bleeeep” in return? (Did you just call me a fucking bitch, Matt?)

I know those bleeps and blips, once my brain adapts, will eventually evolve into more natural-sounding voices and sounds, but that will take time. What if the transition drives me crazy? What if it frustrates me, makes me cry? What if the implant doesn’t work that well for me? What if I’m no better off than I am now? What if it doesn’t live to everyone’s expectations? What if, what if, what if! I don’t know! I don’t know anything! This is all so weird and new and hardly anyone can speak to me about it from experience. So yeah, while I’m committed to making the most out of this journey, it’s hard to be excited before I’ve even shifted into drive.

That said, I hope that in a year from now, after I’ve adjusted and transitioned and all that jazz, my enlightened future self invents a time machine and goes back to the present day to say to Today Me:

“So …. are you excited??!!”

And also:

“Girl, you are gonna be soooooo rich from inventing this time machine!”

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Uncategorized

FDA: Fully Delaying Activation

So!  Update!

Yesterday was supposed to be the day when I had my implant turned on [replace with phrase that doesn’t make me feel like The Terminator], but the FDA still hasn’t released the Naida Q7o, the latest processor from Advanced Bionics–available pretty much everywhere except in the US.  Rather than going with their previous model (Harmony) with older technology, I’ve chosen to wait for the Naida, as I’ve been assured the FDA will be approving it any day now….

Patience is a virtue, after all, right?  ::taps fingers on table::

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post-op

R-r-r-recovery

Oh man, y’all.

I had NO idea it would be this rough.

I had surgery on my hand a few years ago: anesthesia, scalpels, the whole works. Immediately after leaving the hospital, Matt and I spent the next several hours rolling on Swedish ecstasy. (We went to Ikea.) When we got home, I followed some confusing-as-fuck cartoon directions and put together our newly purchased dish rack with one hand. ONE HAND.

Does that not sound like SuperPatient to you?

Not only that, despite getting prescribed an insane amount, I took only one Vicodin throughout my entire recovery, favoring Ibuprofen the majority of the time. The nearly full bottle of Vicodin is still in my medicine cabinet, collecting dust, its yellowed label chastising me for not accumulating the five (now outdated) refills. Yeah, that’s right, I could easily have had hundreds of Everyone’s Favorite Painkillers/ Party Fun Time Pills, but I opted not to take them. Because I’m not a pussy.

See? SuperPatient.

The implant surgery, like my hand surgery, was outpatient, meaning I’d go home the same day. The surgeon, whom I met weeks earlier, described the procedure as simple and easy. Naturally, I expected my recovery to be a breeze. After all, I was SuperPatient, a pro at this surgery-having thing. There was a Gino’s East Pizzeria across the street from the hospital, so I told Matt that we’d be going for spinach deep dish pizza right after the surgery. Also, I’d be driving to Ikea (hand surgery shout-out!) the day after to get some new curtains. And I’d paint the baseboards! And I’d write a lot! And I’d dance around the house in my underwear and tank top, catching up on tv shows and eating gallons of ice while I “recovered!”

When I woke up from surgery, I quickly realized my kick-ass recovery wouldn’t be going as planned. The simple acts of eating two saltines and walking ten feet made me vomit with enough force to flush the toilet without pressing the handle. When the nurse asked me which number face I was feeling (you know the chart: the one with ten faces listed one through ten. The ‘One’ Face looks like it’s saying, “Gosh darn it, I feel fantastic!” and the ‘Ten’ face looks like it’s saying, “Pull the Plug. Now.”) I whimpered and said, “I don’t know that I’ve ever felt a ten before. This might be a ten but I’m going to say …… seven? Eight?”

Suffice it to say, I didn’t go to Gino’s that afternoon.

I don’t remember much of the first few days, other than feeling miserable and out of it. My head, ear, and teeth pulsated with white-hot heat. My throat was so raw I could barely swallow. I could hardly stand without the room spinning and my stomach somersaulting. After a couple days of constantly sleeping on my right side (my left ear was implanted, so that side of my head was stitched and stapled and sore), my neck stiffened with so much pain that it refused to move from side to side.

Around day four, my neck and chest began to turn yellow and blue. Matt called the hospital to ask what could cause that sort of coloring and they replied that though it was unusual, it could mean that my blood was pooling downwards from my ear. Excuse-a-what did you say? Pooling? Downwards? Where’s it going? Does it have a mind of its own, like The Blob?

When Matt came home from work on Friday and asked how I was feeling, I wept. I wasn’t recovering with my expected gusto, I felt dismayed that I had to depend on drugs (tramadol) to get through the day, and I was angry that it was taking me so g.d. long to feel any semblance of normalcy.

He sat down next to me, squeezed my hand, and said, “I’m so sorry. I know what you’re going through, believe me, and it sucks. This week feels endless and you’re frustrated and tired and you’re hurting. This will be over soon, I promise. I’m so sorry I’ve had to be at work most of the week, but now it’s the weekend and I’m here for you, 100%. I love you so much. Would you like me to make you some pizza?”

Those were the EXACT words I needed to hear to get through the rest of that evening. The man makes damn good pizza.

I made Matt call the hospital again on Saturday to see if they could prescribe me muscle relaxers: I was barely getting any sleep due to the agonizing state of my neck. When Matt said that my neck was stiff, they responded that it could be a sign of meningitis, one of the risks of getting a cochlear implant. Cue the panic and googling.

After much research, I decided that I probably didn’t have meningitis (I didn’t have a fever and it didn’t hurt to touch my chin to my neck, two major signs). Because of the meningitis mention, the muscle relaxer request had been forgotten, and it was too late to call back the hospital. There was no way I could sleep another night with my neck whispering to “eeeend iiiit, eeeeeend iiiit aaaaall, Liiiiindsaaaay Jeeeeaaaan, theeeere’s sooo maaany kniiiives iiiin theee kiiiitcheeeen.” So I researched neck pain remedies.

I came across a description of a traditional Chinese method called Gua Sha, which involves repeatedly scraping lubricated skin with a blunt edge. Intrigued, I smeared jojoba oil on my neck and forced poor Matt to scrape it with the edge of a spoon until my skin turned purple (the purple marks are caused by stagnant blood rising to the surface. Google pictures at your own risk).

Guess what? I shit–pardon my French–you not, it worked. I immediately felt 1000x better and was able to move my neck in all directions with ease. I slept like a baby that night and when I woke up the next morning, I felt like a new woman. That’s when I knew that the worst was over. Each day, I’ve felt increasingly better and stronger.

A big thank you to my friends and family for their support and outreach, the kind words and flowers, the love and sympathy. And a special, dear thank you to Mattie, my loving husband, for helping me get through a rough week.

P.S. One more week before my implant gets–ahem–turned on! (Ugh. I hate that phrase so much.)

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pre-op

The First Step

I burst into this world healthy, pink, and insanely adorable, only to contract a staph infection in the hospital where I was born. The medicine the doctor used to save my life destroyed the nerves in my cochlea, resulting in severe-to-profound deafness in both ears.

For those of you unfamiliar with audiology terms, there are different degrees of hearing loss: there’s normal (best), slight, mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe, and profound (worst). I’m severely deaf with certain sounds and profoundly deaf with others. So, basically, I totally blow at hearing. If there were such a thing as hearing contests, and I for some reason entered one, I’d walk away with a shame-soaked participation ribbon peeking out from my back jeans pocket.

But–I don’t give a crap about winning hearing contests. (After all, there are plenty of other hypothetical contests I’d kick ass in…. parentheses contests, for starters.) I’ve done the best I could with what I’ve had. Thanks to my parents, who sent me to a school that employed a fabulous system called Cued Speech, I was able to become quite adept at reading lips. That, along with a positive attitude, helped me get by in the hearing world. It’s not that I rejected the deaf world. I just was never around it much, mainly because of the choices my parents made for me. The hearing world was, and still is, all I’ve really known.

When I was about twelve years old, I was told by an audiologist that I’d be a good candidate for a cochlear implant and had I ever considered getting one? Um, you mean shave my hair and wear a magnet on my head? I’m about to start the seventh freaking grade–I don’t think so! ::snaps gum::

Seven years later, after I began college, another audiologist told me the same thing. No longer bogged down by teenage insecurities, I briefly considered it, but ultimately felt too overwhelmed at the prospect. I was dealing with college and the untimely death of my mother. The thought of having invasive surgery at that point in my life, not to mention the amount of therapy and hard work afterward, sounded downright terrifying. Plus I had it in my head that there’d be a cure (stem cell nerve regeneration) any day. Having a cochlear implant would mean destroying my cochlea—making any cure moot.

At the age of 26, when I first started dating my husband Matt (who is hearing), he asked me if I had ever considered an implant. I shrugged –not really. When he pressed, he quickly realized I knew next to nothing about cochlear implant technology. He knew more about it than I did after reading about it for a few days and couldn’t understand why I had never researched it. I hedged his questions with vague responses. He quickly dropped the subject, after sensing my discomfort. He didn’t want me to feel like he needed for me to “change.” He loved me the way I was.

I didn’t research cochlear implants after that conversation, despite secretly being curious. I’m not sure why. I think a part of me was scared. Scared of the surgery, scared of it not working, scared of getting an implant and finding out shortly after that there was a cure on the horizon, scared of having a magnet on my head, scared of being too old. I felt a little stubborn, too. Why did I need to hear better? Wasn’t I already doing a good job of acclimating to the hearing world?

When I was 29, I met with a new audiologist to upgrade my hearing aids. Like the previous audiologists, she told me I’d Be A Good Candidate For A Cochlear Implant. This time was different. I didn’t shrug it off. See, she was born deaf, like me, and had gotten a cochlear implant in her early thirties. And what’s more, she loved it and said it was one of the best decisions she ever made. I found her story so inspiring. This conversation planted a seed in my head that slowly sprouted over the next couple years.

A few months ago, shortly after my 32nd birthday, I met with her again for a hearing aid repair. I asked her a few questions about her implant and admitted that I had been thinking about getting one. She nodded approvingly and gave me the email address of a cochlear implant audiologist from Northwestern Hospital. I went home and stared at the email address for a long time. The first step. Was I ready to take it?

I was.

And now here I am, my head throbbing, my hair matted with blood, my eyes glazed over, my stomach in knots from vomiting repeatedly, my face bruised and puffy, my throat bloody from the tubes shoved down my throat during anesthesia—recovering from the cochlear implant surgery I underwent yesterday morning. And I’m smiling.

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