Imagine the joy you experienced when your child was born! After getting past the pain of the delivery and looking at my son for the very first time, everything around me faded as I focused on this perfect gift right in front of me. I felt nothing but love as I looked at his sweet face. It’s amazing how much love a child makes you feel and knowing that he was ours to keep and love forever, made us even happier. Yet, as we soon discovered, something was different about Michael. He was profoundly deaf.
We are hearing parents of a Deaf son. I am a full time mom. My husband, Brent, is a Chiropractic Physician and Wellness Lifestyle Coach. While my husband knows a lot about health and how the body works, nothing could have prepared us for the birth of our son. We were very excited, not only about the pregnancy, but about the birth of our son and the opportunity to raise a child as well but we were not prepared for the birth of a Deaf child. Of course, no parent is ever really prepared for the birth of their child, especially first time parents. However, when you cannot communicate with your child using your own natural language, everything is extremely more difficult.
It is popular these days for parents to learn a few words in sign language and teach them to their newborns as a way to communicate before they can speak. When I was pregnant with Michael, I started watching Signing Time on our local PBS station. I knew that I wanted to teach our child sign language to help him be able to communicate before he could speak. Little did I know that it would become a language we would adopt as a family. Michael was about a month old when our friends came to visit us and they were using baby signs with their baby and it was going very well for them. We were excited to get started and we soon learned signs for words like milk, water, mom, dad and a few others. While this introduced us to sign language, we still had no idea how to turn these few little words into a language, much less, how to actually communicate with our son.
We faced many emotions, struggles and difficulties trying to figure out what Michael’s deafness meant for him and for us. Where do we go to get help? One doctor says one thing, another doctor says something different. Who is right? Who can we trust? What can Michael hear? How will he learn to communicate? Will hearing aids help him? Should he get a cochlear implant? Should he learn sign language? Should he be forced to speak? Are we all alone in this? Many questions.
Fortunately, we discovered that we are not all alone in this. We did meet some hearing professionals who, unfortunately, were not so helpful and some who were not so professional. However, we also met some very helpful, amazing people along the way. We started learning sign language through books, the internet, going to as many deaf events as we could and spending time with a deaf man that we met and became great friends with. It was scary to step out of our comfort zone and throw ourselves into a place where we barely knew how to communicate with everyone around us, but we did it for our son. The Deaf community embraced us and we were so happy that we chose to learn sign language for our son. Once you push past the scary emotions of learning something new you realize this whole new world that has opened up to you. For me being a social butterfly, I was thrilled to be able to communicate with so many more people. For my very reserved husband, I watched him step out of his shell and become a part of the Deaf community. We met lots of Deaf people. We met some Deaf parents. And we met a lot of hearing parents with deaf children who were in the same situation as us. We have gained a lot of experience along the way and we are continuing to learn. We know that our experience can help a lot of parents who are struggling with finding their way. Additionally, we know that our experience, as parents, can help a lot of professionals in the audiology world, if they will listen.
This blog is not just about our experience. It is also about giving and helping others. It is about seeing life differently and why that matters. If you are the parent of a deaf child, we know that you will be able to relate to our experience. If you know other parents raising a deaf child or if you know interested hearing professional, please share this blog with them.
Seeing life differently, we have learned that our son doesn’t have a disability, he has a different-ability!
Seeing Life Differently,
Leanna & Brent
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