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Living with hearing loss.

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On Being a Deaf Mom

Lisa A. Goldstein has a Masters in Journalism from UC Berkeley, a digital hearing aid, a cochlear implant, and plenty of deaf-friendly communication equipment. She spends her days juggling life as a freelance journalist, wife, and mother of two in Pittsburgh, PA.

At 3 a.m., I’m violently awakened from a deep sleep by my bed shaking and lamp flashing. Am I in a disco during an earthquake? No, I realize, as I slowly regain consciousness, the baby is crying again. Like a glutton for punishment, I’m using this technology to alert me to her needs because I’m profoundly deaf.

As a first-time mom, it took a while to realize that I should be taking advantage of my slumbering husband’s hearing. Given the choice to be jarred awake or feel the gentle touch of his hand, the answer to our happily ever after was clear.

Eleven years later, my daughter is the “beneficiary” of this constantly changing territory I’m exploring: What it means to be a deaf mom. Her brother — who is three years younger–adds to the challenges. But there are infinite rewards, too.

Baby/Toddler Stage

Once I figured out the best way to deal with middle-of-the-night feedings, along came another challenge: Naps. During the day, I used a baby monitor — this version no longer exists — with lights that ramped up in accordance to the sound. It also vibrated and had a volume knob. In short, it was perfect – until my toddler started vocalizing. Then I had to listen carefully to determine whether she was vocalizing, crying, or on her way to la-la-land. The solution was a video monitor, which allowed me to see when she actually fell asleep, and then upon waking up, whether she was happily playing or needed attention.

As my kids navigated out of the baby phase, I was able to control whether I could understand their words face-to-face. That meant teaching my kids to communicate with me. From the beginning, we told them that to get my attention, they had to physically come over and tap me on the arm. When they talked to me, they had to look at my eyes so I could see their lips. Many times, I heard them calling for me, but pretended I couldn’t hear so they would learn.

Another thing I learned was that lip reading is difficult when my eyes are still adjusting to light.

Many kids are difficult for me to lip read, but I have no problem with my own. They learned to be excellent communicators who enunciate very clearly. That they don’t do this just with me but with others, as well, shows that this is a great lifelong social skill to have. Of course, my deafness prevents me from understanding whining and crying – they just have to calm down and try again!

Another thing I learned was that lip reading is difficult when my eyes are still adjusting to light. We told the kids to always go to Daddy if they needed something during the night. In the morning, I’m always surprised to discover what I missed and thankful for my uninterrupted sleep.

Childhood

Now that my kids are in elementary school, I’m exploring a new world. Being out of the loop with the school was a concern, but in this age of technology, it’s a more equal playing field. The staff all has email, and the school sends electronic newsletters. If anyone calls the house, I have a captioned phone.

My daughter will be starting middle school next year, which is when many of the area kids get cell phones. She recently inherited my old smartphone – with no phone service – so now we’re able to text one another. I envision relying on text and video chat when we activate her phone service. Now, if only I can get my kids to practice touch typing instead of the hunting and pecking that drives me insane…

When we’re in the car, they’ve learned that when I’m driving, we can’t hold a normal conversation. I confess that at stops, I use the rear view mirror to check in with them. They, however, have yet to grasp the concept of prioritizing. “Mommy! Mommy! Mommmmmyyy!!” I’ll hear, as they absolutely must tell me something trivial right that minute as I’m turning into a lane of traffic.

There is a downside to needing a clear view of my kids. I’ve learned from my husband and relatives that they’ve become talented at using my blind spots. They know how to push each other’s buttons in that manipulative sibling way when I’m not looking!

My fear is that when they’re teenagers and my husband is out of town on a business trip, they’ll take advantage of my deafness and do something sneaky like have a party while I’m asleep. We’ve tried to drill into them that doing this will be a big mistake. To keep them on their toes, I started busting them at random times. My engineer husband has also become increasingly interested in motion sensors.

Perks

One benefit to being deaf is that I’m immune to annoying music. The kids have freedom to play whatever music and instruments they want, as often as they want. For all I know, my viola-wailing and guitar-screeching kids are musical virtuosos.

I also had two extra helpers when I received a cochlear implant; they were excited to assist with my rehab. My oldest will voluntarily oral interpret for me, especially when her brother is getting in trouble with my husband. The kids and I also get to have secret conversations.

Both kids are more self reliant, more aware of others’ differences and quick to adapt. And just like being deaf is all I know, having a deaf mom is all they know. When I asked how they felt about having a deaf mom, my oldest said, “I don’t think it feels any different than having a different mom, because I’m used to you. It just feels regular. I do get frustrated sometimes when you can’t read my lips easily, but everyone gets frustrated with their moms.”

Par for the course, my youngest added, “Yeah, what she said.”

by Lisa A. Goldstein

Discussion

There are 12 comments.

member
Drsandy says: Posted on Jan 03, 2013
Lisa This is from your old friend and doctor-=Sandy Hoffman It is wonderful to read your story and also wonderful to learn a little bit about your life at this time. Beth and i live in Scottsdale Az and I still work part time but no surgery. Glad you had the implant and hope it is adding some benefit to your life How are your parents? Please give them our love Happy and Healthy New Year to you and your family
member
Akharris says: Posted on Jan 03, 2013
you're lucky Lisa, when it was "my turn" during the night, my wife would elbow me in the gut, til I wised up and got the Sonic boom baby monitor LOL....during the day, I was able to use FM tech to listen on them as they were napping, or in a different room. So glad to hear you are doing well, and as Dr S said, Happy New Yr to you and all of your family!Cheers-Stefan
member
Akharris says: Posted on Jan 03, 2013
you're lucky Lisa, when it was "my turn" during the night, my wife would elbow me in the gut, til I wised up and got the Sonic boom baby monitor LOL....during the day, I was able to use FM tech to listen on them as they were napping, or in a different room. So glad to hear you are doing well, and as Dr S said, Happy New Yr to you and all of your family!Cheers-Stefan
contributor
DeafMom says: Posted on Jan 04, 2013
Lisa, this brings back a lot of memories! My husband is also deaf, so we both woke up to the flashing light together. Thanks for sharing!
Karen Putz www.karenputz.com "Life is too short to sit on the sidelines. Jump in!"
contributor
lisa_g says: Posted on Jan 04, 2013
Thanks, everyone! What blasts from the past -- Dr. Hoffman and Stefan! Dr. H: I'm glad I got a CI! I was on the fence for a long time, but jumping over it has made a difference! My parents are doing well, thanks! Happy New Year to all of you!
member
The Man From Bear River says: Posted on Jan 27, 2013
My unfair advantage as a parent with 5 CHILDREN is I had hearing wives! The first wife died in an accident. That was TRAGIC. Lisa, it would be phenomenal if you could ever meet with Heather Whitestone who was Miss America in 1994. She got a CI(s) later as the technology emerged. I cried, not because of watching her, I cried because the EMCEE was crying - Regis Philbin, And he was doing the shaky chest cry too, I knew then that the deaf, Deaf and hard of hearing had reached a new milestone, or maybe an inch stone. But it was significant! So significant! Like I said she got a Ci or two later, and has had at least two daughter I think. Her husband is not hearing impaired. To me if their was one tragedy from the Heather Whitestone it was when she went to Gallaudet University and got booed off the stage by those minions because... another story. This blog and Phonak should assist you in getting her mothering story. She is probably saving that up for another book down the road.
Correlation is the greatest skill of intelligence. And Intelligence must be book ended by humility and gratitude.
member
kristie29 says: Posted on Mar 19, 2013
I get frustrated with my kids and have a hard time with patience all the time with everything can anyone help me!!??
I am a stay home mom I have two kids age 5 and 7 and I love to chat also I am a upbeat and outgoing person.
member
kristie29 says: Posted on Mar 19, 2013
I get frustrated with my kids and have a hard time with patience all the time with everything can anyone help me!!??
I am a stay home mom I have two kids age 5 and 7 and I love to chat also I am a upbeat and outgoing person.
member
migger says: Posted on Feb 07, 2014
do you know how to use a whip
nigger
member
migger says: Posted on Feb 07, 2014
do you know how to use a whip im writing a book on truth hurts lol can i ask u a few questions even if your answer seem mean lol
nigger
member
travy39 says: Posted on May 30, 2014
I know what its ike to have children and not be able to hear them.I am not totaly deaf but ninty eight percent so i miss out on a a lot of what is going on.I read some lips as much as i can.I would love to text you if you are willing to.I live in Grants pass oregon my number is 5412008640 my name is staley but like to go by Dawn.
professional
FredCaptain says: Posted on Aug 26, 2014
its hard to be a mom with hearing your kids am a deaf and dump teacher i hear them and know there felling if you need my help text me on (832) 301-8745 so we see what to do
am who i am loveing careing nice and fun to be with

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