Hearing the first cries and the first heartbeat of your child is a momentous occasion for mothers. For Kimberley Ward, however, it's the unthinkable becoming true.
Kimberley, a 27-year-old resident of Leeds, United Kingdom, lost her ability to hear when she was a teenager. Two days after the news broke in that she was bearing a child, specialists at Bradford Royal Infirmary told Kimberley that she was suitable for a cochlear implant, and it could improve her condition.
Rather than waiting until after giving birth, Kimberley chose to go through the two-hour surgery on Nov. 25, when she was 17 weeks pregnant. Kimberley had to be kept awake throughout the whole operation. She had also become the first ever pregnant woman in the UK to go through a cochlear implant.
On Dec. 16, the hospital staff organized something special for Kimberley when the implant was switched on for the first time. The implant allowed Kimberley to hear her unborn child's heartbeat. It was one of the main reasons she permitted to the cochlear implant.
Kimberley said being able to hear through the implant was overwhelming. She said she had been asking people about the experience, but she knows that nothing could really prepare someone for the emotions that come from being able to hear sound again.
Kimberley said that what makes hearing more special is that one of the first sounds she heard was her child's heartbeat.
The cochlear implant is a small electronic device that can help provide someone with a sense of sound. The device replaces the function of the damaged inner ear by sending digital impulses to the brain, with about 20,000 impulses per second.
Kimberley said she now spends her time trying to comprehend the sounds because she has to retrain the neurons in her brain to understand the sound signals. Over time, her brain will be used to these impulses and the sounds will become the norm.
"I'm so determined for this to work and ready to put the time and effort in to this being successful. It's going to be a life changing experience. It's come around so quickly," she said.
When Kimberley lost her hearing, her doctors were unable to give her a reason or an explanation. Kimberley said it took some time before she was referred to audiology tests because her parents and her doctors thought she was lying or that her case was only selective hearing.
Since then, her hearing loss had deteriorated through the years. Kimberley said she found her condition incredibly difficult and she had struggled in school because of it.
Now, Kimberley said people have sent her messages filled with encouragements and support, and that other people who are considering having the implant are sending her messages, too.
Meanwhile, Kimberley is 20 weeks pregnant. She and her partner Liam Binks are looking forward to hearing their baby's first cries.