What’s it like being a Hard of Hearing/Deaf Mom to a Hearing Child

Written by Gloria Matthews

When I first had my son, many were concerned about how I would hear him cry in the middle of the night and how I would be able to hear something go wrong and how would I be able to tell if he is sick. You know to be honest, I kind of rolled my eyes because I learned how to live my life knowing how to tell the difference by changing up how I do things and using technology to help me.

As a new mom, I had a c-section, so getting up and down was not an option at all. What I did was I slept on the couch for about the first three weeks home, with my son sleeping on top of my chest as I held him securely.  It was convenience because during those weeks I was breastfeeding. However, because I was living alone at that time, I did end up having to do more than what I wasn’t supposed to do. But, you know what, I did what I had to do and yes, I had help from friends and neighbors from time to time. But it was not every other day or every few days deal. It would be more like a few times a month or whenever I needed the help and that’s it. I wasn’t one to really ask anything from anyone. I really am one who is used to doing just about everything on my own. As you may have guessed it, I can be quite stubborn.

When it came to middle of the night wakings I was fortunate enough to get a vibrating alert system that included a baby monitor hook up. Yes, it can be expensive, but it’s worth it. If things were too quiet, I would check in on him every five to fifteen minutes. Other than that, I just naturally knew his feeding schedule and napping and sleeping times. Other than that, no issues. He was a good baby.*

Any who, when my son was sick, I would place my hands over his chest and feel for vibrations. Now, my son did suffer from a lot of upper respiratory infections when he was an infant. So, if there was no vibration in his chest, it was obviously either the sniffles or a little cold. If there was a slight vibration then I would continue to treat it as a cold but notify the pediatrician’s nurse about it and ask about the remedy and what to keep an eye out for, just to be on the safe side. Now if there was a strong vibration and his chest was struggling for air, then I would know it’s time to make the appointment to see the pediatrician. Today, many pediatricians will not be quick to give out antibiotics because antibiotics can stop working against certain bacterial infections overtime. This can potentially put some at risk for MRSA. You will not really get antibiotics for viral infections or colds. To ease up the pain and/or fever, most pediatricians would recommend alternating between infant Tylenol or infant Motrin every four hours or depending on the child’s diagnosis the pediatrician will make the best call for what you can do. Every child is different and will respond differently, so always check in with the pediatrician and most importantly pay attention to how your child responses to treatments given. Do not stop the treatment because they “appear” better; continue the treatment for the full course or else the bacteria can come back stronger.

Now, when I went to the pediatrician’s office the staff and the doctor himself knew I was hard of hearing and that they had to look at me while they spoke. If I didn’t understand something, I would politely ask them to write it down for me and they would. This is another way of self-advocating for yourself as a hard of hearing mom. This not only shows you are making the extra effort to provide the proper care to your child, it also shows that you take your position in your situation serious and letting others know despite the degree of hearing loss you have, you are just as capable to be a good parent. This interacting with your child’s pediatrician’s and medical team will be like this for a good chunk of your child’s life.

When it came to language delays – oh my God – I so wanted to really slap the hell out of some folks. Let me put it this way, before I became a mom, I am the oldest child in my family and let’s say, only one sibling took after how I spoke, but the others didn’t. Why? Because I improved each year for 18 years in my speaking abilities and while I may always struggle with multiple pronunciations, for the most part my speech was considered well developed for someone with my hearing loss. (As I get older, my hearing in my hearing aid ear will continue to decline – hence a second CI may be in the future) What they didn’t know is that I have learned about the Early Head Start and Head Start Program while I was working in non-profit a while back and I was well aware that some people would approach me about language delays and such.

Yeah, I’m not “Deaf and Dumb” folks, I’m living proof that I can find my way around and do whatever it takes to make sure my son spoke well. By the time my son was two and a half, you could hold an actual conversation with him. Today, he is an avid gamer in middle school and reading very well with extensive vocabulary. So, again what language delay or language developmental issues? EXACTLY! None! So, relax, if the hearing child is exposed to both spoken and/or signed languages he or she will be fine. I support all forms of communications methods.

Now, my son speaks more than sign but knows when I don’t have my ears on, he must sign. I am not quick to put them on in the morning because I can either get a migraine or a bad headache and it’s not a pleasant thing to suffer through. So, I give myself about 15-30 minutes to really wake up and then put my hearing aid and processor (the external piece of the CI) on. There will be days where I must take them off and just leave them off. And it’s so peaceful. It can be a bit frustrating for my son, but I try to make it fun and get him into learning more signs as he tells me what he wants or needs. But I don’t do this often. It’s occasionally; I just have to have a break.

Without a break, words and sounds become garbled. Yeah, sometimes the brain can get overloaded and the processing aspect of the brain needs time to rest and finish processing the things heard.

I taught my son, along with the help of his teachers, my former co-workers, in Early Head Start and Head Start Program how to sign milk, food, water and basic needs signs before he could talk. It helped me out greatly! Baby signs I strongly encourage! Consider it a foundation to learning how to say a word before saying it. It’s a building block. You say the word out loud so that they hear it and you motion the sign in front of them repeatedly until they get it. So, not only do they hear how it sounds but they associate the hand signs that go along with each word. Repetition is something that will continue to be ongoing, especially in today’s Common Core Curriculum.

I have faced a lot of critics, but you know what, I may not be perfect at a lot of things, but I do know this, that sometimes the world makes it harder for others to live freely in it. Any form of limitations shouldn’t be looked down upon as a negative all the time unless professionals with their research say otherwise. Deaf parents can raise a hearing child, but it’s not an easy task. However, if we truly want to make society equal, be of help and don’t criticize. Allow parents with any degree of hearing loss to parent to the best of their abilities, not yours or someone else’s. If you can’t, don’t get mad if they walk away from you or stop speaking to you because in the hearing loss world, we don’t ask for anyone to tell us how to be parents or what to do, just like hearing parents don’t always ask for anyone to tell them how to be a parent or what to do with their own child. All parents grow into their roles and that role is constantly changing with a growing child. There is no one right way to raising a child.  You just grow with them and cater to their personalities and needs according to where they are at.

You don’t really know what kind of parent you will be until you become one. You learn that being stern may not always be needed. You learn that being strict may not always be the case. You learn that, sometimes you just got to let your child go, so that they can explore their world and get a feel for the world around them. You just never know what kind of child you will have. Hence, you don’t always know what kind of parenting style you will take on. You may think you know, but in all reality you just don’t. All you can do as a parent is do the best that you can and go from there.

If anything, that I learned, it’s not going to always be smooth sailings. There will be miscommunication and misunderstandings, but at the end of the day all you can really do is count your blessings. Because a child’s love in unconditional. There will be issues here and there from people who lack knowledge on hearing loss, but sometimes you just got to smile and keep on walking and if they want to understand and really

learn something from you, then educate them, inspire them and teach them there’s more to life than hearing loss itself.

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