Being Deaf in a Hearing Family

I was often seen as favored out of my brother and sister.

I often read lips of important figures telling others my mother pays too much attention to me. But wait.

The jealously is over a hard-working single mother who threw all of her support, love, life lessons, attention in to raising me to be the best human I can be. Mixed feelings of guilt and gratitude over here.

I remember the teenage anguish of frustration between all of us. The loneliness, despair, guilt, can’t-get-the-right-words-out-of-my-mouth feelings. The door slams, hide in your room and cry it out, the aches to be included even though to them you are. Deep inside you’re left out.

Dinner and party events are often a blur because you’re reading so many lips and hearing a ton of static in the background.

Conversations are in a trance and often times, there’s misunderstanding, correcting, and did I mention awkwardness?

Fitting in with your extended family was a stretch.

Throwing your hearing aids in the toilet over the sound of your parents arguing in the background.

Being social with friends is like trying not to drown.

I was born in the mid 1980s when doctors are telling parents to place a disabled child in a home with other disabled children. Sign language was deemed inferior to English speaking. Cochlear implants were part of an amazing young technology that had barely any research to back it up.

After my diagnosis at 2 years old, my mother ignored all of the doctors orders. The kind to send me away to boarding school to be placed with other deaf children. The kind to put some unknown irreversible implant into my cochleae. The kind that tells you your child shouldn’t be using speech but express with her hands.

I distinctly remember the routine of a long drive to daily speech lessons. The fear of my speech therapist covering her mouth, making me crumble at every word that I was forced to repeat. The sick feeling in my stomach knowing I got every word wrong. The weight of the world on my shoulders as I come home.

There were note pads in every room. Every piece of furniture had a name. I was challenged every single day. To speak it correctly in every consonant, vowel, and spelling.

Closed-captioning became readily available on certain channels at the time. It was a life saver. It taught me lip-reading, how to read words, how to comprehend, how to read a sentence and listen, and so much more.

Being bi-lingual, in my terms, with not-so-fluent ASL and fluent English has taught me to be more broad, in my opinion. Each one of us in the family picked up ASL in our own ways but linguishly I still flourished with oral speech.

ASL may have never been in the household. I don’t, never did and never will hold any resentment towards that.

Those who learn oral speech aren’t less deaf and those who learn ASL aren’t failures. – unknown

My family accepted me for who I am.