This is been Naomi’s question for the last month and still is today. Its pretty funny having my two year old ask me, “Mommy, what’s that noise?” I really wish I could describe HOW she says that question, so cute! Well, how is a deaf mama supposed to answer that one!! I’ve been waiting and expecting the typical “why” questions that most two and three year olds start asking, but instead I am trying to find clever ways to answer the “noise” question. “It’s the washing machine, I think” “That was a car, I think” “The floor is creaky, I think” “The fan is making that noise, I think” “That’s Lina barking, I think”. Getting the idea?
Yes, it is challenging being deaf. Life is very different for me. I have to have a personal secretary, which my wonderful hubby has volunteered to be. I can’t make typical phone calls so he does that for me when he has time (talk about a flexible job!). I do my best to do everything on email or text messaging, but most times it is easier for him to make the calls. Especially now that we live in a Spanish speaking country. I can read and write in Spanish, but not enough to get by on my own.
The hardest thing for me is being stuck between two worlds: The deaf world and the hearing world.
I am 100% deaf, but I can hear about 25-30% with my hearing aid. I can speak very well for a deaf person (which is not normal…a God-thing) and I am almost fluent in sign language.
Most of you are probably thinking, “What do you mean ‘almost’ fluent?”
Well, speaking English is my first language. Sign language is my second. Why? Because, as a child, I was put in a special speech therapy program where they wanted to see how successful it would be to help me speak instead of sign. So, that put me on a strict rule of “no sign language” allowed. Well, I did better than they expected me to do. It is a miracle that I can speak as well as I do. I am thankful for that gift from the Lord. Later I learned sign language on and off through out my young years. I never really embraced it till my hubby (Jon) and I became missionaries at Rancho Sordo Mudo. That is where I felt most comfortable (first time in my life) with my deafness/hearing impairment. That is also where my ability to sign blossomed. I am forever grateful to God for the two years we were there. He brought me to a place where I was able to “accept” my deafness. I am also grateful for all the kids who impacted me and helped me and showed me the beauty of being deaf. God was so good to put Jon and me there for that short time to show me that there is nothing wrong with being deaf.
So, I am labeled “hearing impaired” by the deaf world. I am not “deaf enough” to be completely in the deaf world (because I can speak good, hear, etc.). I am labeled “deaf” by the hearing world. I am not “hearing enough” to be completely in the hearing world (because I have a hearing aid, speech impediment, etc.). So, I have one foot in the deaf world and one foot in the hearing world. It’s not easy doing that. Only those who are like me really understand. It is hard to explain the challenges because I can’t begin to describe what it is like to be deaf. After all, I’ve never heard like a hearing person in my life!! So, how is a deaf person supposed to describe the world he/she is in to a hearing person?
Here’s my best explanation.
It’s like reading a book. A hearing person generally can read (hear) every word and maybe misses one or two words out of a whole paragraph (conversation). A deaf person can’t read (hear) every word and WILL miss several words out of a whole paragraph (conversation). The words they miss…they have to make quick guesses in their minds on what words they missed and piece it together to fully understand a paragraph (a conversation).
To put it simply, it’s like playing Mad Libs. You have a paragraph with blanks scattered throughout. You have to fill in the blanks according to verbs, nouns, pronouns, etc…to pull together a “complete” paragraph. After you do that…what happens? You are either right on or totally off the wall silly. Now, imagine how easy it is for a deaf person to misunderstand the paragraph (conversation) because of the need to fill in the blanks where they missed words and pull together a quick summary of where the storyline is going. It doesn’t always make sense and it’s easy to feel dumb. Especially when the deaf person is expected to ask a question to keep the story going when they aren’t fully sure what the story is about to begin with.
Now, do you have a pretty good idea of what my daily life is like for me? It can be tiring reading lips (group conversations wear me out), putting it all together in my head and making sure I understood. Especially when I have a 2 1/2 year old already making full sentences and trying to carry on conversations with me. Whew! BUT I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! God had many reasons for creating me to be deaf and one day I will know those reasons, can’t wait! :o)