Sitting in the front row of the auditorium, I eagerly await my childs turn in the talent show. All the other mothers are clapping their hands to the beat and cheering their little one on, the first to rise and cheer with a standing ovation when the song ends. I stretch my neck to see if I can see backstage and find my daughter looking timid and scared. Oh, how I wish I could run up there and wrap my arms around her. Everyone returns to his or her seat as my child takes center stage and begins to croon her tune. She looks so nervous and her eyes search me out. I try to sway back and forth, indicating that Im enjoying the performance, but, in reality, I cant hear a thing and dont even know If the songs tempo is fast or slow. As I watch her, I try to keep a lookout from the corner of my eye to see when people may be getting ready to clap. I want to be the first one to stand up, giving her the standing ovation I feel she deserves, no matter how the show turns out. I struggle to enjoy the entire situation. Its a lot of hard work to try to keep up and I have the sinking feeling others are talking about the poor girls Deaf mother.
Walking through the mall with my four-year-old in tow, we pass a man handing out balloons. He mumbles something to me that I do not understand and then bends down to chat with my son. My son has not yet comprehended the concept that, even though hes not speaking directly to me, he should still sign if Im standing with him. So he and this complete stranger have a conversation, which involves giggles on my sons part, playfulness on this mans part and overall delight. In the meantime, I stand there feeling like an idiot because I havent a clue what this guy is telling my kid and I secretly feel like a third wheel. The man stands up, mutters something about the conversation to me. I smile and mouth the words Thank you, while signing. His eyes bulge out of his head, obviously just now realizing my deafness. As he hurries away, I can almost see him give my son a look of pity for having a Deaf mother.
Sitting on my bed with my TTY pulled to me, I am typing to an important client. My children rush in, jump onto the bed and start poking me in the shoulder so hard that I grow welts. I tell them to shush and to go away and then I try to ignore them. That, of course, does no good. A few more welts and some pretty nasty bruises, I finally turn to them and assertively tell them that Mama is on the phone and to get out of my room until Im finished. They leave, but as I turn back to this highly important conversation, I realize I have missed something and do not know what has been said. I sheepishly explain that I missed part of the conversation and the client repeats it with annoyance. I hang up the phone thinking I have one less client who has confidence in my ability.
These are just three examples of the difficulties involved in motherhood as a Deaf woman. Things many people take for granted are sometimes simply not applicable to a family affected by deafness. Some people may take it to mean that a mother who cannot hear does not have the capabilities of loving and caring for her children as well as a hearing person. Some may even believe that were not intelligent enough to pull it off. But the fact of the matter is, mothering is difficult whether youve got all five senses or absolutely none. But lets take another look at being a Deaf mother of a hearing child and see if its really as disadvantaged as some may think
In the Kindergarten class, everyone is allowed to invite their parent to do something special on their birthday. Some moms bring in a cake and sing, Happy Birthday, others pass out party favors and decorate the room. All of these are wonderful ideas! But I bring in cake and ice cream, I decorate the room with balloons, I hand out toys to take home and play with, and just before we bring out the presents, I teach the entire class how to sing, Happy Birthday, in sign language! Everyone is thrilled to have learned how to speak with their hands and my childs birthday is the hit of the year! Now, that takes the cake!
Sitting at my daughters high school graduation, she is to be the student speaker for her class. My daughter has always had quite a shy streak and I can see that she is visibly anxious as she leafs through the pages of her speech. She raises her head and gives me a forced smile as she stands to address the audience. A few minutes into her speech she is frantically searching for the right words, but they arent coming to her. But see, Id seen her speech a hundred times and I knew it like the back of my hand. She desperately glances over at me and I begin to sign her speech to her, subtly, with my hands low and out of view of the other audience members. She reads my signs and slowly the speech comes back to her. She is able to finish and even ends with the reception of a standing ovation! Now tell me, how many hearing parents can do that?