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)
Swing Des Moines says
You know, this is exactly where my cousins find themselves. They can hear, some better than others, with their hearing aids. They are “deaf” to hearing folks, and not Deaf to Deaf folks. I don’t think any of them identify with the Deaf community, nor do they have Deaf friends.
I am so grateful that they were born after that whole experimental No Sign Language phase in US education. They have all grown up speaking AND signing. Only one still signs today, though. I’m enjoying your blog!
Darn, I didn’t realize I was signed in as Swing Des Moines. This is Sarah Reid.
Thanks Sarah! Your cousins and I would understand each other :o) I was never involved with the deaf community either, but now I am stepping out to try and get to know some deaf people here in Costa Rica. It will be interesting :o)
ICM Central America says
That is a great way to explain your situation. I never thought about it that way. You know I have always tried to be there for you to keep you in the loop of conversations. Now I want to make sure I am even more diligent after that explanation!
You are the Bomb for a deaf Mom!!!
Brittney Harmon says
curious… if you had a deaf child would you raise them oral? Danny and I have said that if we were to have a deaf child, that we would want to raise them in a deaf community (with sign)… where they would be excepted as deaf by the deaf. Just wondering your take on the whole issue.
Hi Mare, It’s so fascinating to read your words as an adult whose children are just a few years behind mine. I’ve never really known you as an adult. But then again, I barely knew you when you were a kid. Thank you for sharing. Oh and I can hear just fine but group conversations still exhaust me!
Brittney, if we had a deaf child we would raise him/her signing primarily, but we would also teach some oral too (if possible). We would also allow the child to choose where he/she wants to go…deaf community or hearing community. Its really the child’s choice. I could’ve easily rebelled against speech therapy but I didn’t. Sure, I didn’t like it much, but I now appreciate that I can speak well. I should write a post on this :o) thanks!
Mare, You’re beautiful! God has done some amazing things in your life because you have been faithful to abide in Him. I am so proud of you!!!!! God is Awesome and so Faithful!!!
(if you don’t know who I am, ask your mom)
i love your blog. besides the delicious recipes and the beautiful pictures. i totally fall for your life stories!
i’m literally half-deaf (can’t hear with my left ear) since i was a kid. maybe i got used to it, it hasn’t been a big deal for me. as long as i can hear, i dont really care if it’s surround sound or not. but i cant never imagine if i’m 100% deaf. one thing for sure is i’d be devastated if i couldnt hear my boy’s voice!
however, by looking at your pictures, i cant see any sadness. i’m sure you enjoy your life better than anyone who can hear. your love to your daughters aint any less than any other moms.
Maria Moles says
Your post brought me to tears. I can so identify, although I am ‘hearing’. I am hard of hearing, and get by with reading lips and having to ask people to repeat themselves. I do not have a hearing aid. Thankfully I do know some sign language, but very few of my friends or family do. Your description of trying to fill in the blanks is just like what I go through! I don’t always hear words, just sounds, so I’m left trying to make the sounds I heard into a word that makes sense. I often feel dumb, and quite embarrassed when I hear things incorrectly, or say something totally off the wall. All I can say is, thank you for describing how life is for you. It’s good to know I’m not the only one with these struggles. 🙂
Marillyn Beard says
Oh Maria! I wish I could hug you right now!
You and your blog are inspiring to me! I have about 25% hearing in my right ear and 75-80% in my left. I wear hearing aids in both ears and with them I function very well.
I totally get what you’re sayinga bout Mad Libs. I do that often. My husband will talk to me with his back turned and I’ll hear “I think we need to ride the train” when he really said “I think we need to grind the grain.” Context Clues really were worth learning about in school! LOL
It can be a source of frustration for both of us because sometimes I am just tired of trying to figure out what was said and I know he gets tired of repeating.
I admire you for your courage in parenting and missionary work. Many would use their deafness as an excuse why they could not effectively parent or witness for Christ.
I pray for both of us that the Lord will restore our hearing and if not the that he continues to give us strength and wisdom to live our lives for Him even with our hearing imparements.
Hi, This comment is 5 years late but just wanted to note that I have the same experiences although I don’t have hearing problems. I am a Canadian living in Finland (15 years so far) and although I speak the language fluently, I experience the exact same thing with missing words and having to fill in the blanks and guessing at what people have said to me. It’s frustrating, exhausting and sometimes embarrassing! My life is full of misunderstandings because of this. It’s quite humbling. But life goes on!
Thank you for sharing your experiences and especially recipes, I found you while searching for things connected with Nourishing Traditions, and I come back to visit every now and then.
All the best for you and your family,
Marillyn Beard says
Thank you Sarah for sharing! It is always nice to fine others who understand.
I like how you phrased it… “my life is full of misunderstandings” and “quite humbling”…. SO true!
Miriam A says
Wow, I am amazed to read how God as blessed you so much. May you be an instrument in His hands. 🙂
God bless your family and ministry
Marillyn Beard says
Thank you Miriam!
This sounds exactly like me! I lost my hearing in grade six, and now have profound and severe loss in both ears. My husband and I just started to learn sign language several months before my daughter was born, so I can communicate with my daughter as she grows. Mad Libs is a perfect way to describe it. I always say it is like listening to somebody talk in a language I don’t know, with a couple English words thrown in. I actually found your website from your Delaying Solids article. We are Christians too – so your blog feels perfect for us 🙂
Marillyn Beard says
Wonderful to meet you, June! Thank you for your comment. It’s nice to meet another who understands! 🙂