Being pregnant with your first child, whilst exciting, is often overwhelming. I remember receiving conflicting advice all the time – everyone had their own thoughts about how to parent a child and what you needed to buy before the baby arrived. Just the simplest of things, such as which nappies to buy seemed like a mine field at the time. If you are Deaf or have a hearing loss this can add another level of complexity and stress. For me, my deafness was often approached in a negative way by professionals. I would like to say that this is to do with the fact that I had my son 16 years ago, but I know others who have had similar experiences recently. I think it’s just pot luck in all honesty as to how or whether your deafness is even considered.
Midwives, nurses and health visitors would often comment on the challenges of having a baby when you can’t hear, but no one at the time actually gave me any practical advice. So for what it’s worth here is my five pennies worth.
- Ensure that you get access to all the information that you need and don’t just give up if something isn’t accessible. I remember going to antenatal classes and none of the videos were subtitled, which meant that I couldn’t access them. Make sure that you explain that you can’t access the information and don’t be ‘fobbed off’. I was told they couldn’t subtitle them at present so in the end had extra time with the midwife on a one to one basis to ensure that I fully understood the content of the video. It wasn’t ideal, but was better than me missing out on key information.
- Make use of other deaf mothers/ mothers to be – there’s nothing quite like shared experiences. Back in my day I managed to find a Deaf mother and baby group which I went along to. The advice I received was invaluable. In today’s technological age you can chat to people you have never met before online. The National Childbirth Trust have an experience register and may be able to put you in touch with other deaf parents. There are also forums and a charity Deaf Parents UK which would be worth contacting.
- The right alerting equipment is crucial. One of my main concerns was that I wouldn’t hear my baby cry at night People said to me that I needed worry because my partner could hear, but firstly I didn’t want to rely on him waking me up all the time and also what happens If he wasn’t at home? There is adaptive equipment available such as baby monitors which set off a vibrating pad underneath your pillow. These are often provided by Sensory Support social work teams (although each area is different – some will provide equipment through Hearing therapists at audiology departments for example). and you would need to have an assessment first. The assessment often puts people off but I didn’t find it too bad – just a social worker visiting and asking me questions which were straightforward enough. You can of course buy the equipment online should you want to. Just make sure you don’t make the same mistake that I did and learn how to change the sensitivity of it. For the first month every time by son as much as murmured in his sleep it would set the alarm off – which just isn’t the one at all!
- My final tip is to not allow any negativity from others to rub off on yourself or knock your confidence. Having a baby is hard work, regardless of whether you are Deaf. You soon learn what works for you and strategies to overcome not being able to hear your baby. Don’t spend time stressing over this and enjoy!!