Emily Howlett’s Diary of a Deaf Mum: When it comes to looking after a baby, what’s ok?

Posted on June 10, 2013



I know.

I know that people have been having babies for millennia.

I know that deaf people have most likely existed for as long as the rest of these people, and therefore have also been having babies since the dawn of humanity right up until the present day (despite repeated attempts by the Government to kill us all off and make the world a shinier, less infested-by-wonkiness place).

I know that nothing can happen to me that hasn’t already happened to someone else, somewhere else.

Picture 2But still… Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one doing this. And I don’t think that’s necessarily entirely to do with being deaf, but also (and perhaps mostly) to do with first-time parenthood.

(Interesting aside; there are people who sign ‘menopause’ ironically, by combining the sign for ‘men’ and the sign for ‘pause’, which linguistically, or visually, has nothing to do with the subject, but looks funny and gets the message across. I have recently been introduced to the notion of ‘motherhood’ as a similar theme of signing, with the sign for ‘mum’ followed by miming lifting up a hoodie and looking decidedly shifty, as though you might attack someone without warning. If this sentiment was a Facebook status, I would ‘like’ it. A lot.)

Anyway, back to the biscuit in hand. Do not be alarmed! It is all still OK! I still love my littlest man, and my big man, and my jammy dodgers. I just can’t quite connect with other parents in a way that makes me think, “Yes! We are all in this together!” accompanied by an accordion and impromptu karaoke.

I have lots of friends who have new babies, or old babies, or partners that are practically babies, or dogs and cats that are substitute babies (or babies that are substitute dogs and cats), and I get on brilliantly with them all, in different ways. There are some I can sit with and laugh about nappies, while others always agree with me that certain parenting theories are bunkum and the fact people make a career out of jabbering about them is ridiculous (I’m looking at you, authors of “How To Play With Your Child”).

But, and it’s not really that huge a but, though it’s still hanging about; there is literally nobody out there who I agree with on everything to do with parenting. Some people won’t put a baby on top of a hay bale, and some people won’t change a nappy until it’s holding the equivalent of Lake Michigan. Some people will let their baby put shoes in their mouth, and some people will let their baby fall flat on its face to learn how to balance. I’m not saying what I do and don’t do; I’ve learnt the hard way to keep schtum, because nobody can agree.

When this first occurred to me, I felt a bit… concerned. Am I doing it all wrong? Because she said that bit was wrong, and he said this bit was wrong, and the midwife said I should do this, but the doctor said I shouldn’t do that, and I’m scared to answer the door to the paperboy in case I’m holding the baby wrong and he shoves today’s headlines up my nose…

And, I don’t mind admitting, it’s taken me a wee while to cut through all of the jollop. But I proudly stand before you today with my sword of righteousness (I’m actually sitting, with my cuppa of righteousness, but you get the idea) and impart to you this wisdom; Your way is best. My way is best for me, and your way is best for you. Unless you are actively maiming and abusing your child, or neglecting their needs, chances are you will know the best things for them. And what is right for yours is not necessarily right for mine, and is likely to be completely different to what our neighbours are doing.

And, you’ll never guess what… This is also OK.

So, now I’ve figured out why I don’t agree with everyone about everything (namely because we would end up with generation after generation of robot children, or 50 million people who all aspire to be strippers (girls) and footballers (boys), or, if society swings the other way, 50 million lawyers and accountants but nobody to serve you in your favourite restaurant). And now I’ve got that little neurosis out of the way, I can meet with my friends and argue quite happily about why I’d never let my baby eat the potted plants, while surreptitiously cleaning dirt out of his gums

It’s all nice and tidy, now. I’ve got this shizzle figured out. Or I did have.

And then somebody told me I should have a smoke alarm and baby monitor vibrating pager on me AT ALL TIMES.

Oh, crap. Should I?

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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