A Cochlear Implant Journey: He Loved Me First, The Dance


I loved her first
I held her first
And a place in my heart will always be hers.


These lyrics from Heartland’s “I Loved Her First” are simple but meaningful words. Words many listen to on that magical wedding day, hearing those words as a daughter and father dance, in that white dress, in front of their closest friends and family.


Five years ago, on June 13, 2015, I chose these words. These meaningful words. I was in that white dress, in front of our friends and family. We danced. But, my dad didn’t hear the words. Instead . . . we talked. We cried. We laughed. The words I chose for my dad simply became background noise, no longer meaningful.


One month after my wedding, my father sat in a hospital bed, ready to hear. Rarely have I ever seen my father, a 6’3” tall teddy bear, cry; until the morning of his cochlear implant surgery. The fear. Fear of the unknown: hearing.


Two years pass, and I have my son, Harrison, an amazingly beautiful baby boy with the world’s most expressive eyebrows. His cry. His coo. His babble. They all become background noise. His first word. Unable to identify. Why? Because I am deaf and hard of hearing, as well.


As my son turned six months old, my father had his second cochlear implant surgery. This time, no tears. No fear. But, excitement. Excitement to hear his grandson, my son. A few weeks later, when his cochlear implant was turned on, he heard my son— as he was sitting in his grandpa’s lap, wearing his Carhartt overalls (grandpa’s favorite), crying. He heard his grandson cry.


I wanted to hear my son cry. Two months later, I decided to begin my cochlear implant journey. November 6, 2018, the day arrived: surgery day! I was cool, calm, and collected. Until they announced they were ready for me early. Flooded with emotions: Fear. Anxiety. Tears. The teddy bear cried again, tears of excitement for me.



My cochlear implant surgery day


Once I healed, I was activated (i.e., “turned on”) three weeks later. I heard. I heard my son. I couldn’t understand what I was hearing just yet. But, I heard. Tears, again. Tears of joy. Tears of excitement. Tears of hope. Tears of hearing. Hearing my son grow up. Hearing him say, “mama.” Hearing him talk. Having those conversations. Those moments. Having that dance and hearing the words to his song.

Over the next two months, I had therapy and mappings (i.e., adjustments to my cochlear implant). I worked hard, retraining my brain to hear again. Out of all the emotions and feelings over the past few months, nothing prepared me for what I would hear on February 16, 2019.

That weekend, we headed to Nashville to attend the Cochlear Celebration. The Celebration is a convention held every other year for cochlear implant recipients and families to connect. There are workshops and events throughout the long weekend.

On February 16, 2019, we headed to a local saloon for the big bash at the end of the Celebration. A Shania Twain impersonator greeted us, and you know my dad needed a picture! We ate, drank, danced, and celebrated. Celebrated technology. Celebrated hearing. Halfway through the event, I went to the restroom. No big deal, right? I came out of the restroom, to my husband rushing me out, pointing to the speakers, and telling me to “Listen!!!”

Wait, are they talking about me? Us?

Over the microphone, I hear our story. The story of my wedding day. The story of how my father couldn’t hear the words to our father-daughter dance. The story of how my father now has two cochlear implants. The story of how I now have a cochlear implant. We walk to the dance floor. And what do I hear?


I loved her first
I held her first
And a place in my heart will always be hers.


We relived our father-daughter dance. We heard those meaningful words. But this time . . .  I was in a yellow dress, in front of 1,200 cochlear implant recipients and family members. We danced. We cried. We laughed. This time with an extra person in our arms: my son.


Our journey to hearing: The dance. Wedding photo captured by: JHeart Photography.