Well, this is awkward. It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? Pretty much exactly nine months since you and I sat down to chat like this.
Of course, there’s a reason for that. A pretty big reason, who actually turned out to be rather small but with an impact larger than the meteorite they say killed off the dinosaurs. But, still; it’s been a while and we probably need to break the ice again…
Dear Reader, my name is Emily and I am… a Deaf Mum. There are lots of us out there, but I am the one who has foolishly stepped up to try and even things out with a female version of Limping Chicken’s very own Deaf Dad. I expect the ensuing rivalry will end in tears.
So. Yes. Deaf Mum. I think I am supposed to be a bit coy and self-depreciating; “Well, of course I think he is gorgeous, but I would say that, wouldn’t I, because I’m his mummy? He’s probably just a normal baby! And it wasn’t too hard… Pregnancy and birth I mean. Lots of women go through it, don’t they? We all manage perfectly well!” This should be followed with a huge, luminous smile that conveys exactly how easy it all was, and how much it has strengthened my bond with ‘the Sisterhood’, and doesn’t give away at all the fact that every one of those sentences is pure and unadulterated horseshit.
Allow me to expand…
Yes, I do think my son is gorgeous, but it is more than that. He is the singular most amazing and beautiful creature ever to inhabit this sorry planet. And not just this planet. You could travel to the next solar postcode and still you would not find anything more wonderful. His looks, intelligence and skill were already second to none within about five minutes of his birth.
If you disagree, I couldn’t give a monkey’s bum, because all that does is show us all how very, very wrong you are. I know that I am right and you are wrong simply because it is a mother’s prerogative to know, completely and utterly and without reason, that she alone has the top banana of offspring. There is only one most perfect, most wonderful baby in the world and every mother has it. Therefore, please don’t ever expect mummies to be anything but proud, smug and gushing. You have been warned.
There is a social expectation that all women can cope with pregnancy and birth in the same way that all men can cope with a chainsaw and an intricate electrical installation; neither are supposed to need the instruction manual. Which is rampant stereotyping, and ridiculous, but still it is expected. Allow me to pop this particular ideal with some force; real life pregnancy is (insert own expletive) hard and birth is even worse.
But, we deal with it. We cope with the sickness, the swelling in weird places, the sudden inability to move from the sofa without heavy duty hoisting equipment. We accept the gentle but thorough destruction of our bodies as all nutrients and goodness are sucked away into the new and ever-expanding belly. We laugh politely as people poke us and we wave a cheery goodbye to our last speck of dignity as the 52nd doctor of the week asks if he can just..? Well..? Can he..? Hmm? Ah…
We take all this, and mostly we take it willingly. And if you’re wondering why we take it so well, I refer you to the above paragraph. And it is worth it. It is, in the immortal words of L’Oreal, so worth it. But don’t ever think it’s easy, or I will personally come and see you. And I shall bring 52 doctors.
As for ‘managing perfectly well’… Yes, there are things that come naturally to a mother, deaf or hearing. (Deaf mums have probably got the edge when it comes to abusive and furious sign language towards idiot medical staff, which the poor interpreter has to moderate before repeating.) But it’s not as if you give birth and suddenly a light bulb flashes on; “So, that’s how I get him to latch on and breast feed even though he’s crying so hard his face looks like a huge, shrivelled tomato!” or, “I know exactly and instinctively how to change this nappy and not end up with an interesting new splatter decor on the walls!”
Of course, you might learn all that stuff pretty quickly, but it’s much harder to learn not to panic every time baby does something a bit differently. Or anything happens for the first time, or doesn’t go the same way as you thought it would. Or baby suddenly doesn’t like something which has been just fine up until now… Yeah. It’s pretty full on. And it doesn’t matter how many people have told you, “It’s going to be pretty full on!” or how many books you’ve read that say, “It’s going to be pretty full on!” Until it happens, and your baby is there with you instead of just footling around in your tummy, you have no idea. No idea at all of the fullness of the on.
And, here’s the thing. You don’t mind. Not too much. Maybe at 5.00am after going to bed at 6.30pm the previous night and managing, thus far, a whole fifteen minutes sleep, maybe you mind a little then. But when it’s mid-afternoon, and you’ve got the singular most amazing and beautiful creature ever to inhabit this sorry planet nestled into your chest, snoring gently because there’s a bogey stuck in his tiny nose that he doesn’t yet know how to sneeze out, while you watch singularly awful daytime television and drink yet another double-shot coffee… Then, for a few exquisite moments, you don’t really mind. Not at all.
Not until the next nappy, anyway…
Emily Howlett is a Contributing Editor to this site. She is a profoundly Deaf actress, writer, horsewoman and new mum. 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.
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