Emily Howlett: “Will I have to give birth in a room full of frantically miming doctors?” My pregnancy list

Posted on October 16, 2012



Everybody has been closely involved with at least one pregnancy, although I don’t know how much longer that will hold true in these days of scientific endeavor. Alongside research into the possibility of men carrying children, we see the potential for future babies to live out their first nine months of existence in artificial, laboratory-based wombs. And other such things which I am careful not to have an opinion on… yet.

For now though, I’d say we’ve all had first-hand experience of at least one pregnancy, and a large number of us have been involved in others. A less large but still significant number will even have been involved in the particularly contentious area of… Deaf Pregnancy.

Dear Reader, it is exactly this area I find myself now stumbling through. And there’s no guidebook.

So, in the interest of sorting the whimsical milk from the factual solids as it were (solids currently being far enough it the distance that I don’t shriek at their mention), I have spent the last six months studiously growing not only a small human, but also a list. In the interests of equality, I have included Things Which Hold True In All Pregnancies, as well as those specific to The Scandalous Deaf Gestation.

Pregnancy is, of course, a glorious time for anyone involved. There are many memorable, lovely and heart-warming moments. And, also, there are these…

In my condition?’ becomes your version of ‘Don’t you know who I am?”

As a pregnant person, you will insist that you can carry on as normal. People will try to tell you not to lift things, to rest, not do too much of anything, to eat well, and so on and so forth. You will tell these people you are pregnant, not ill. However, you will also find that when you don’t really feel up to cleaning the bathroom, or walking the dog, or schlepping to the shops, or… anything really, your former protests will be swiftly forgotten. You can’t possibly do any of those things in your condition.

The pregnancy thing works in mysterious ways; if you eat four Cadbury’s Whole Nut bars, six apples and a Birds Bakers pie, you are merely responding to your body telling you its needs. In your condition, this is the only sensible explanation.

Pregnancy is like a personal Lord of the Rings.

Frodo, Frodo, Frodo. Darling hobbit; you spent three epic films and approximately 200 hours of my life whingeing about having to carry that damn Ring of Power all by yourself through flames and swamps and whatnot. And all the time you had loyal Samwise desperate to take the load for you. Tell you what, my friend; try carrying something you really cannot pass onto anybody else for nine months, along a packed Arriva bus, battling through Mothercare on sale day, jiggling and kicking with unnerving accuracy towards your bladder. Next time, just give the Ring to a recently pregnant woman. Mordor will be light exercise for her.

You will have little Deaf-specific panics.

All new parents get those little twinges of fear, but for deafies they come with extras; will the interpreter turn up or will I have to give birth in a room full of frantically miming doctors? Will the vibrating baby monitor work or will Junior be screaming themselves hoarse while I’m dozing off in front of Neighbours? Will the people on the bus think I’m rude when they compliment my state-of-the-art, top-of-the-range (on-offer-in-Argos) buggy and I seem to ignore them? Can I really do this whole thing without any hearing?

People, particularly strangers, will fondle your stomach.

This begins alarmingly early on. Personally, I’d be a little worried about stomping up to a stranger and stroking their stomach, just in case it wasn’t so much a child in there as last night’s curry binge. However, I appear to be in the minority with this view. People love a pregnant belly, especially old ladies. As far as I can tell, there are two courses of action, the first being to befriend them and therefore secure endless supplies of knitted newborn essentials. The other is wearing one of these:

Idiots will ask idiotic questions.

A (very)small compilation of examples, asked at least ten times and by both strangers and ‘friends’.

Did you plan this?”

Yes, with military precision involving a set square and a corkscrew.

No, I still have no idea how it happened.

It doesn’t exactly matter; considering I am now large enough for you to notice and you’ve caught me buying tiny socks On that basis I think we can assume, whatever our personal inceptions for the conception, I intend to keep the wriggly thing. Your question is, therefore, redundant.

Are you really pregnant or is it just a euphemism for getting fat?”

Whole Nuts have so much to answer for. That might be a euphemism.

Nobody would have a baby with a hearing person The father’s Deaf, isn’t he?”

Only when I ask him to do the washing up.

Nobody would have a baby with a Deaf person. The father’s hearing, isn’t he?”

Well, whichever he is, he obviously wasn’t aware of your rule. Or do the mother’s ears not matter?

What if the child is deaf?”

I shall have it shot. What else can one do? The poor weakling would never be able to achieve anything without fully functioning ears. They might even end up like me, or the hundreds of Deaf people I know, or the millions I don’t know; living life quite happily and occasionally achieving amazing things. What a terrible existence…

I can’t believe you’d risk having a deaf child.”

I know! I’m a goddamn rebel. Guess what? I didn’t screen for Downs Syndrome either. I’m just quite happy to be having a baby, whoever he or she is.

And last, but not least:

You won’t, when it comes down to it, give a toss about any of the above.

You’ll simply be far too busy enjoying the various weird and wonderful revelations of being pregnant and looking forward to welcoming a gorgeous new person into the world. That, and the four Whole Nut bars thing.

Emily Howlett is a profoundly Deaf actress, writer and horsewoman. She describes herself as being “equally fluent in English, BSL and Gibberish, and completely rubbish at French.” Emily can be found all over the place on various escapades, but divides her time between Derby and London. She can often be found behind a large packet of crisps or any halfway decent book, and insists she can still play characters in their early twenties despite having a grey eyebrow hair.

The Limping Chicken is supported by Deaf media company Remark!, provider of sign language services Deaf Umbrella, the Deaf training and consultancy Deafworks, the RAD Deaf Law Centre, and BID’s upcoming 5th anniversary performance by Ramesh Meyyappan on 12th October – don’t miss it!

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