but I gotta say I’ve learned a lot from that show.. ABCFamily’s series about two girls who were switched at birth.. one of the girls is deaf, the other is hearing..
This series premiered in June of 2011, just 4 short months before my precious baby boy was born. I fell in love at the beginning of the first episode. Little did I know that I would be faced with something pretty life altering over the course of the next year. I’ve always had an interest in sign language and I learned some back in grade school. I didn’t know much.. the basics I guess.. the alphabet, how to ask a few questions and random animals. Now that I have a deaf son, I can’t ever feel like I’m learning enough. I can carry on a pretty slow conversation at this point and I find myself signing to people while I’m talking ((case in point, I signed an entire conversation to a lady at my local bank.. she looked at me rather odd..)) and I just don’t think about it. Now it’s second nature.
Finding out that my son was deaf was a huge shock to my system. I was confused and scared and a nervous wreck. I was sad and hurt and so very angry. I was happy that it wasn’t something worse. I didn’t know how to deal with it. I asked myself where I was supposed to go from there. Looking back, the first few months were a blur. Audiologist appointments, fittings for ear molds, choosing hearing aid colors, a plethora of knowledge and information about ears and aids and cleaning and batteries and prevention of ear infections and feedback and ear molds and the dirtiest of words– “options.”
Options. For hearing loss/deafness, there are two options. 1) Hearing aids, 2)Cochlear Implants. SO much goes into both. They’re both expensive. They both will eventually require some sort of therapy (speech, psychotherapy.. etc..) From day one, CIs were NOT an option for me. I saw (and still see) no need for an unnecessary, RISKY surgery to make my son “normal.” Let me be honest, if you’re pro-CI and don’t want the possibility of being persuaded, then you might want to stop reading right here and if you do stop, thank you for your time. It’s been a pleasure. My son is not broken. He is not abnormal. He is not disabled. He is not mute (by any means, believe me). He is not dumb. He is not deformed. He is not disadvantaged. My son is exactly the way that God intended him to be. No matter if it was the vaccine that caused it or if he was born this way. Being deaf does not define him. At 16 months old, he makes sure to let you know exactly who he is every single day. There is absolutely no reason to change a single, solitary thing about him. My ex-mother-in-law as well as my ex-husband have both been on the CI kick since we learned that my son was deaf. They both tell me all the time that without the CIs, he won’t be normal. He won’t be able to do things like normal kids. He won’t be able to have normal conversations. He won’t be able to interact with people. He’ll get made fun of because he can’t hear. He will miss out on life because he’s deaf and I refuse the CIs. “He just needs to be able to lead a normal life. Don’t you want that for him? Don’t you want the best for him? Don’t you want him to be normal?” and my personal favorite is where it turns to being all about me– “You just want him to be like this so that people will feel sorry for you and give you attention. You want to keep him trapped in his own mind just so that you can get sympathy.” Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha….. *deep breath…* Okay, sorry about that. hah. hah hah. *clears throat..* Okay, really. I’m alright now. Newsflash: CIs don’t make your life easy. They don’t make you normal. They make you deaf with a “fix.” ((Author edit: This is my personal opinion for MY child.. This is based on how I was approached from the beginning by the ex and his family; that CIs were a “fix to Monster’s problem.” This is not how I feel about those who have chosen CIs for themselves. I have friends who are deaf who have chosen to have CIs and I rejoiced with them. I was excited for them. But I will not ever force my child to have something permanently added to his body that he may not have wanted in the first place. I fully recognize that just as ASL, speech therapy and hearing aids are tools for deaf, so are CIs.)) If they even work 100%. (For those with CIs, if you’re offended by now, I tried to tell you to stop reading before all this. Flame away if needed.)
I want my son to love who he is. I want my son to accept his deafness, not feel beaten down by it. I’m not naive. I know that this is going to be a long, tough road. I know it won’t be easy. But NOBODY’S LIFE IS EASY! Everybody on the face of the planet has had at least a moment in their life where they struggle. Everybody. No one is immune. And no matter how much, as a parent, we wish for perfect lives for our kids, they will still be met with trials and struggles and heartbreak and hurt and pain.. Because that’s life. Nobody ever said that it was easy.. but it’s how you deal with the struggle that determines who you’re going to be. Life goes on. Deaf is not a death sentence. It’s a life experience. My son will see life from a perspective that I will never get to experience. I’ve covered my ears, I’ve held my head underwater, I’ve blared my headphones and tried to hear myself talk. I’ve tried everything to understand what it must feel like but I can’t. I can only experience his perspective through him. And I cannot wait until he gets older and we meet that first challenge. I know my kid and I know that he’s a fighter. He will fight like hell to make sure that he overcomes anything. He will have a Mom standing beside him that will hold his hand, hug him when he needs it, hold him when he cries, love him unconditionally, fight his battles when he needs me to, stand back and let him fight his own battles when he’s ready, listen to him when he needs to talk, be there for him when he needs me, be his mom first, his best friend second and his everything when needed.
I already had a pretty positive outlook on this whole thing before Switched at Birth started to really touch my life. Watching it now, I can imagine my son at high school age and it makes me wonder what kind of outlook he’ll have. Will my family (The Fiancee included) be enough to give him the right outlook? Or will the ex have made him feel inferior for so long that he hates himself? Will he blame me because his bio dad does or will he have accepted that this is the path that God allowed him to walk because He knew that he could handle it? Will he embrace his deafness and never let anyone hold him back? I hope so.
I’ll end with my favorite scene from Switched at Birth so far. This was all ASL but I paused and wrote it down. It was inspiring and beautiful. And I couldn’t have been more humbled. So here we go, from the recent episode, “Human/Need/Desire.”
MELODY: I want to talk about language today. When a deaf child is born, what is the first thing the parents hear in the hospitals?
TRAVIS: “Your child failed the hearing test.”
MELODY: Right. A baby is five hours old and he’s failed something already? What about the term “hearing loss?” What does that word evoke?
NATALIE: Hearing as the norm. Deaf as less than. Lacking.
MELODY: Are we less than? Do you believe being deaf has taken away or added to your life? If someone invented a pill… you could take it tonight and tomorrow you would wake up hearing… How many of you would take it?
*No response from students*
MELODY: None of you. Why not?
EMMETT: Because being deaf gives you friends anywhere you go.
TRAVIS: And a way of seeing the world that’s different from anyone else.
STUDENT 1: Hearing kids don’t know who they are. We do. We’re deaf; first, last, always.
NATALIE: Hearing people think they have more than us… their lives are better, we have it so “hard.” But I’d never give up being deaf to be just like everyone else.
MELODY: Not hearing loss. Deaf gain.
Until next time..
–Isabella has spoken…–