On Being a Deaf Mom
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 StageOnce 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.
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.