Life as a Deaf mum
Mother’s day is coming up, as is my Son Nathan’s birthday – he’ll be 16 this year. I look at him and wonder where the hell the time has gone! Around this time I always become a little nostalgic. I sit and reflect upon the years since I had him; the good times and the not so good times; the times when I have been bursting with pride and the others when I have wanted the ground to swallow me up. There have been plenty of both but one thing I can absolutely state is that life has never been boring since he came along.
I remember being pregnant and the first thing people would often ask would not be the normal boy/girl question but would instead be the hearing/deaf option. Would I prefer a Deaf baby or a hearing baby? How would I feel if the baby is Deaf? I was always a little astonished by this. Some Deaf parents will answer that they would prefer a Deaf baby and I know some people who have been very disappointed that their baby wasn’t Deaf like themselves. I can understand this view point having grown up very jealous of Deaf families where everyone shares the same language and culture and there appears to be more of a sense of togetherness. However for me I always said that I would prefer my baby to be hearing. I didn’t want him to face and have to overcome all the barriers in life that I have had to. But honestly when it came down to it, I really didn’t mind either way. I just wanted a healthy baby regardless of whether they were Deaf or not.
Throughout the years I have had numerous people express concern about how I was going to be able to raise a child properly and safely when I couldn’t hear them. To be blunt this way of thinking pisses me off. The assumption has often been that my deafness has been a hindrance to being a good parent and I totally disagree. You see as a Deaf person I am used to having to be ingenious about how I overcome issues and difficulties and yes at times working a little harder than my hearing counterparts. Most difficulties can be easily overcome – I couldn’t hear him at night, so I had alerting equipment which picked up on the sound of him crying and then vibrated a little pad under my pillow to wake me at night. When he was in the car seat I had extra mirrors in the car so I could see his face (before these became routinely used). I had to be on the ball and watch him all the time rather than rely on hearing him get up to mischief. Once he got a little older he would storm off, muttering under his breath at home. This was easily resolved by the use of reflective surfaces and mirrors around the house. I could lip read what he was saying and when necessary tell him off for his rudeness. He was convinced I had eyes in the back of my head and superpowers!
Of course there have been things I haven’t been able to do. I struggled to make sure that he was pronouncing his sounds correctly when practising phonics. Knowing my limitations and not being too proud to ask for help solved that one. I would get him to read to me daily but would make sure that at least once a week he would read to his grandparents who could then help correct any mispronunciations, simple. I also taught Nathan to sign. He understands sign language really well and although he isn’t fluent signing himself he signs enough to be able to aid his communication. There’s a danger of focusing on all the negatives and obstacles of parenting a child when you are Deaf or have a disability and to me this isn’t a positive mind set at all. You see I honestly believe that having a Deaf parent has also in some ways been a blessing to Nathan. Having taken him to the local Deaf club when he was younger he’s had access to a whole other cultural group. There has been times when he’s stepped up in situations when I am struggling to communicate and tried to help. Whilst I have always done my best to limit these occasions not wanting him to be my carer, they naturally occur. On more than one occasion he’s realised that I haven’t heard a car coming and pulled me out of the way. This could be looked on as a negative thing, Nathan wanting to look after and care for me, and has been over the years but generally I disagree. You see Nathan has always been an exceptionally caring and empathetic boy. He’s able to see things from other’s point of view and is incredibly kind and doesn’t judge people. He has a deeply ingrained sense of justice and is a real people person. He is literally able to communicate well with everyone and people warm to him. Whilst I can’t say this is all down to my Deafness, in my view a lot of it is. I just wish that more people were able to see the positives that come with a child being parented by someone who is Deaf or disabled.