Wednesday 1 January 2020

Navigating the emotions of deaf motherhood

Today our little family - me, FJM and FFB were meant to be going to the cinema to see a subtitled screaming of Frozen 2.

As you can imagine FJM was not exactly excited about it but one of the many things I love about that man is his complete support when it comes to my deafness and, if something is subtitled, knowing how rare it is, he will always come with me.

I was really looking forward to today's little New Year's Day outing. FFB loves the cinema. The last time I took him, he was captivated by the moving pictures and lights.

We had popcorn, we had hot chocolate, I was excited. I don't take any visit to the cinema for granted.

So imagine my disappointment when the movie started but there were no subtitles.

That sinking feeling. The humiliation of having to walk out of the cinema.

Now, this blog is not about criticising the cinema in question. It was a technical mishap that they could do nothing about. They were lovely about it and I got a full refund, but as I sat in the back of the car beside a very sad FFB, (he was possibly crying because he was hungry) I couldn’t help but join him and let the fat salty tears run down my cheeks.

It wasn't really the disappointment of not being able to see Frozen 2. It was more the realisation and slap in the face of how restricting being deaf is at times. And how, in this case, it had affected not just me, but my family.

And as I sat there feeling more than a little sorry for myself, it began to dawn on me that as FFB gets older, there's going to be so much he will miss out on potentially because of me.

Things like children's theatre. Sure I will always take him and hope he enjoys it, but I won't be able to follow it or talk about it with him afterwards and give him all the benefits an experience like that should offer.

And what about the cinema? If FFB was of cinema going age right now, what would I do? Go along to screenings without subtitles and pretend? Send him and FJM and stay home? Or wait for the random subtitled screenings that come along and force FFB to wait, too.

When I imagined motherhood, I was realistic about many of the challenges I might face. About not being able to hear FFB without my hearing aids, about how I would need to adapt to that. And honestly, I think I am doing pretty well. But what I hadn't accounted for was what he might miss out on because of me...

And this is what I am just discovering. He's got a new playmat, it plays musical songs, I have no idea what they are or what is being sung. I cannot interact with him about this.

He has a xylophone... it's too high for me to hear so in order to play it with him, I have had to make FJM sing the notes an octave or two lower and memorise this pitch so that I am hit the notes and sing with him. But even then I have no idea if I am getting it right.

This month, I am taking him to baby swimming because I want him to grow up confident in the water but I cannot wear my hearing aids for this and I can only hope I will be able to follow what is going on and ensure he gets the best possible experience.

I guess I am just having a new year, new mum wobble made worse by today not working out.

I don't want FFB miss out.

Which, when I've finished eating my feelings in the form of the Butterkisk popcorn I bought especially for the cinema, is why I am even more determined to win the fight in educating cinemas on the importance of subtitling more films. I am even more determined to ask for accessible adjustments wherever I go. Because it's not just about me anymore and whether I am able to enjoy something. It's about my son. And being a good mother to him. And giving me the same opportunities that children with hearing mums have.

First step, to learn all the songs for the local baby music class we're going along to. I am going to email the teacher and ask her for them so that FFB sees me singing along and can follow it too.

And everything else?  I guess it'll be a massive learning curve... which will run concurrently to the normal parenting one.

Happy New Year peeps!

Here’s to an accessibility progressive 2020.


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