My apologies for being so quiet (so far) this year. I have been quite busy with the upcoming new book “How to be Deaf” which is due out in early April.
I often sit and wonder what goes through the head of two hearing parents when they first find out that their baby is Deaf. Is it horror? Is it dread? Do they feel the urge to “fix” the baby, even though there is nothing wrong with him or her?
I lost a child 19 years ago. He was born premature, but he was healthy. Ten weeks after he was born, he died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. What I would not give in this world to have my son alive, back in my arms, and growing up happy. So again, I wonder about the parents of Deaf children. Why would any parent subject their children to the butchering unnecessary brain surgery of a Cochlear Implant, increasing their child’s chances of contracting meningitis by up to 30% throughout their entire lifetime, on the off-chance that the implant might make the child hear? What can make any parent that desperate that they do such a thing?
One would think that, on the diagnosis of Deafness of a child, the parent would do as much reading as possible about how to communicate with a Deaf child, and learn sign language themselves so that the child does not grow up so lonely and feeling so isolated.
I grew up on a farm. Our closest grocery store was about 70 kilometres away. It took two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon to catch the bus to and from school. Those were the good days, because I had a father who loved me, accepted me and helped me face every single challenge head-on so I would always know that he had my back. My dad is the sort of father I WOULD wish on everybody.
Today, I learned about a Deaf teenager who lives on a farm. He has two hearing parents and has never been taught how to communicate. My heart absolutely broke. I have no idea if this teenager was implanted with a Cochlear Implant as a baby or not. If yes, I am gutted because two parents allowed their Deaf baby to go through such a thing. If no, I am equally gutted. Regardless of how remote a person lives from a city, there is always a way to communicate with Deafies. Not communicating with your own child is simply not an option. My heart is breaking at the isolation and loneliness this teenager must feel.
If your child is born Deaf and the audiologist immediately recommends Cochlear Implants, do not just jump at the chance to butcher your child. Always explore your options, as there are many. The most obvious would be to do anything you possibly can to fit into that child’s world, including learning sign language, having your home fitted with assistive devices, ensuring your television service provides closed captions, seeking out the services of a tutor (sometimes the state you live in will provide one for free), seeing if there is a Deaf school in the local area. Rather than force a Deaf child into your hearing world, show some compassion and learn to fit into theirs. You have so much to gain and nothing to lose by doing so. Show them how much you love them by doing everything you can to prepare for the outside world, seek out your local Deaf community, even if “local” means a two hour drive. Shift the Moon and the Stars if you have to just to show your child that they matter, that they are perfect, that they are worth it and that they can rely on you having their back, no matter what.
If your child decides on getting a Cochlear Implant at the age of 18, after you have actually made the effort to fit into their world – a Deaf world – then let it be their decision. Putting your child’s life at risk just so you can feel better about yourself by having a hearing child… it is NOT worth that risk. You have a healthy baby. That is what matters.
If you want to try and picture it in the opposite format, how would you feel about two Deaf parents who are so horrified by the fact that they had a hearing child that they imposed an unnecessary surgery to make them Deaf? With the tables turned, perhaps you understand a little better about where I am coming from.
– Rosie xx