What I Didn't Expect About Raising a Hearing Child as a Deaf Woman
For a hearing person, the question of whether they’ll raise a hearing or deaf child may not even cross their mind.
Yet, for me, I wondered about raising a deaf child growing up. Having a deaf family to call my own.
I knew I would more likely have a hearing child due to my family genes. I was born hearing. If I wanted a deaf child, I would have to be with a deaf guy with a multi-generational deaf family. Mr. Tropical, my daughter Coral’s dad, is deaf and has a deaf family, however, his extended family is all hearing.
With our families’ histories, our odds of having a deaf child is probably 50 percent.
When I was pregnant with our daughter, it didn’t matter if she was born hearing or deaf. I wanted a screaming healthy baby.
I knew she could hear. Mr. Tropical knew, too. We assured each other that we would be thrilled either way. She turned her head toward any type of noise. She jumped and wailed when an object crashed onto the floor.
They whisked her away to do a hearing test, and Mr. Tropical went with her. He came back to my recovery room and signed a form that she had passed the hearing test. Her hearing was perfect. The nurse was ecstatic.
The term “passed” stood out to me. It felt like she had won a prize and we should celebrate. For deaf children, they “failed” the hearing test, so should we be miserable? You might think by now they would have said something different, such as simply state their hearing levels or say, “Your baby is hearing” or “Your baby is deaf.”
Back to the point.
The fact that we now had a hearing child was scary. I was nervous about what the future held for us. When we finally felt adventurous enough to go out in public with a tiny newborn, we were worried about the fact that she would be wailing and feeling hot. She was born in June in hot and humid Florida. We went to Target to buy postpartum care items for me and to do some food shopping.
An elderly woman approached us to peek at our tiny newborn. She chatted about something. We pointed to our ears and shook our heads. She recognized we were deaf then she pointed to our newborn and moved her lips to say, “Can the baby hear?” I nodded my head and the relief came across her face. It was very apparent. She was delighted and clapped her hands. We didn’t know what to do except to smile. After that experience, I had mixed emotions.
Of course, I’m happy my child is hearing. She is a healthy child with no disabilities or issues. She may never experience the challenges I went through. She will likely be able to attend any kind of school and be able to get any kind of job. She’ll be able to go on living her life without the barriers I faced. She won’t face the same oppression, discrimination and audism.
I knew I would be able to teach my deaf child how to face those challenges, how to survive the struggles, how to break down the barriers and how to stand up for himself or herself. I knew I would be able to handle the big responsibility of protecting my deaf child and provide resources to give him or her the best future possible. I wouldn’t be scrambling all over the place, learning to sign, learning about the deaf community and learning to love and accept my deaf child because I was already there. I was ready and armed with resources, the deaf community/culture and love and acceptance.
I realized it didn’t matter if I had a hearing or deaf child. Her childhood will be exactly the same. Her lifestyle. Our home. How we raise her. All the same.
Coral is bilingual in American Sign Language and English. She is involved with both hearing and deaf worlds. She is an observant child, relying on her eyes along with her ears to communicate and learn. Since she was born, she enjoyed looking at me when I sign. She is a part of the vibrant and diverse deaf community that many people don’t get to experience while being a part of the hearing world without any language barriers.
It has been a blast watching Coral talk to her toys, dance to the music, search the sky for an airplane flying over, mimic the dogs’ barking and copy my voice.
I’m already learning new things from her. I learned what would wake Coral up from a deep sleep. I learned she will alert me of the oven or the microwave beeping. I learned that some doors creak while others don’t. I learned she will ignore me when I call her name but come running when I open a bag of pretzel sticks. I learned she can hear the “Let It Go” song from the TV outside because she will run inside and start dancing.
I consider myself the lucky one to raise such a child.
Follow this journey on Mommy Gone Tropical.
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