The Secret Deafie: “I learned long ago that only other parents of deaf children really understand me now”

Posted on October 29, 2013

The Secret Deafie is a series of anonymous columns written by different writers. Today a parent shares some of her feelings about bringing up her deaf daughter. 

Ten years ago, my heart was broken. It was when I discovered that my only daughter was deaf. I don’t exactly remember how I felt at the time, apart from wanting to cry but having to be strong for other people. My heart suffered a wound that hasn’t healed yet.

I did cry once in front of her when she was small but that was years ago. She won’t remember. It was when I heard her ‘voice’ for the first time. It was as if the fist of life reached inside my ribcage and squeezed my heart dry. I broke down there and then. My parents came to console me and tell me everything would be ok.

And they were right, in a way. In another way, it’ll never be OK.

Things change when you become a parent of a deaf child. It’s hard not to worry about everything. It’s hard not to compare but I guess these are things that all parents feel. It’s just different when the child is deaf. A different world.

The world became unfair in ways I never imagined. There is nothing I can do about it, mostly, but just watch on as my child experiences a harder life than I had. Cochlear implants and radio aids can only do so much.

If I could swap my ears for hers then I would do it. If I could bear the pain of her isolation, I would. I would make the mistakes. I would struggle in class. I would read the damn subtitles. Please God. I wish someone could let me.

That’s the one thing that would make all this better, to trade places, but it cannot be done. As I watch on my heart will be broken for her a hundred more times. It is death by a thousand cuts. I’m not sure I will never fully recover from this. My friends can’t see it but i’m a different woman now.

Deafness has hurt me deeper than anything I could have imagined and it still does every day. I’m just being honest. Watching my daughter struggle hasn’t got any easier. I don’t show it though. I know that there could be a bright future but that’s a long way off. She’s only ten and there is so much uncertainty.

You see, all my sorrow is in secret. No one sees me cry. They can’t. I must be positive. I learned long ago that only other parents of deaf children really understand me now. They’re the only ones who don’t try and make it all better. Getting it out of my system is the best medicine. They know that too. They will just listen because they know that’s all that’s needed when it all gets a bit too much.

I do my best to give her all the opportunity and experience I can and things are going well, I’m told. She has the chance of being a proud and happy deaf adult. There are, after all, plenty of those. Maybe I’ll feel better then.

When my daughter was a toddler, I met an elderly lady who was also the parent of her own, now grown up, deaf child. She had dementia and couldn’t remember what year it was.

But she told me, in her wisdom, that no matter how bad I felt about it, no matter how torn up I got as I watched on, it is always harder on the deaf child. Always. Remember that. It’s not about you.

It was the best advice anyone has ever given me.

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