Monday, October 8, 2007

Today, I saw...

...a deaf baby girl. It struck me that I had never seen a baby that couldn't hear before. She looked to be about six months old, and was just adorable, with huge, cornflower-blue eyes. I went over to see her, and the mother started signing. I don't speak the language, so I just talked...as few words as possible, hoping that she'd understand. I told her the baby was beautiful, and she smiled...that wasn't news to that proud mama :). She volunteered that she and her husband were deaf, and that the baby was too. I told her I didn't sign, and asked if she wore a hearing aid. "No", she said. I asked if the baby wore one, and again, "No"...with a friendly, but firm, shake of the head, and a determined look on her face. I showed her my CI, and she looked politely and nodded, without comment. I spoke to the baby, who looked at me briefly and then looked away, unsmilingly, disinterestedly. I looked up at the mom again, and said, "It's nice to meet you...she's beautiful"...and walked away.
I can't say anything...as much as it can be argued that parents should be allowed to choose hearing for their deaf babies, I suppose I should concede that parents should also be allowed to choose a life of deafness for their babies. It has just been on my mind a lot today, though...that this little girl will grow up vastly different from the hearing, speaking world around her. While I'm sure she will find security and community in her deaf parents and the Deaf community, I can't help but wonder if it will be enough...I don't think that I would have been happy in such a limited world. I don't know enough about the Deaf community to be judgmental, and I don't claim to be a perfect parent, so I won't presume to tell other people how to parent their children. But today, that tiny little girl with the blue eyes is on my mind...because I know it doesn't have to be that way, and wonder if perhaps someday she or her parents will regret her quiet life. To every parent that has ever had to make that decision: you have my deepest respect. I know that this isn't a decision to be taken lightly...and I don't see how you do it.

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