I’m really sorry for the length of time it has taken for me to write this, it’s been a mad few weeks.

I need to explain a bit more about why I chose this title for the blog. It’s been something that has been on my mind a lot lately and I need to talk about it. I have a lot of hearing friends, I am the only one who is deaf in my family and have only ever worked in hearing environments. I am very used to getting on in the Hearing world but some days I think “it shouldn’t be this hard”.

Last month I finally plucked up the courage to start attending two sessions at the local Early Years centre with my baby girl. I’ve always wanted to go to Mum and Baby type groups, but lack hugely in confidence as it means meeting new people which I find hard enough, let alone in a noisy room where I have a baby to keep an eye on as well. I attempted to go to a “Stay and Play” session when my oldest was about 18 months old, but although the Health Visitor was kind, she approached the issue of my deafness in totally the wrong way. She told the other parents who were there that I was deaf which unfortunately then meant that for some reason, they then did not speak to me the entire time I was there instead preferring to huddle up together and ignore that I was there at all. I know that bad luck probably had something to do with it, but nonetheless I never went back.

This time, after relaying my concerns to my lovely new Health Visitor, she suggested that I went with someone from the Family Support Team who could accompany me in the role of a friend and for moral support. The family support worker is called Mandy, and I really really couldn’t have got through the last couple of months without her. She has been absolutely fantastic.

She’s come with me to Stay and Play sessions on a Thursday, and also to “Bounce and Rhyme” on a Friday and she has been a godsend. She’s helped with the introductions, told me what the joke was if I missed it, without making me feel singled out. She keeps me upbeat and informed, and if I’m struggling to keep up, keeps me company while I have a break with the following of what’s going on. I feel indebted to Mandy, she’s super and completely rocks. She’s also helped me with some phone calls, and is accompanying me to a meeting with a college advisor for when I start my photography course.

I have mentioned before about what happens when I’m the only deaf one in a crowd so I do worry that I perhaps come across as a bit moansome on this blog but I do want to make sure I clarify a few things.

I am the Deaf one about 85% of the time in my day to day life. However, it’s not that I think other people think of me as the Deaf one, more so, that I feel the effects of being the Deaf one. For example, I went out for a lovely meal with some hearing friends the other week whilst my oldest was at preschool and just had the small one with me. It was a lovely day and I really enjoyed meeting up with them, but as there were five of us in total, I really struggled to follow conversation. We were in a noisy restaurant and I had my daughter to see to, as well as eat my food and I can’t listen and do those things at the same time. I don’t get the chance to meet with these particularly lovely people very often either, as are they quite new friends in the grand scheme of things, so their lip patterns aren’t as familiar to me as friends that I do see on a more day to day basis. This meant that I didn’t talk much during the meal, as I wasn’t sure what was being said and only really got the drift as conversation was quick and lively. I’ve often found that in these situations, I’ll perk up with a comment, and then the people I’m with get confused as what I’ve said doesn’t fit in with what the conversation was at that point, and more so about three or four conversations ago! So I prefer to keep quiet unless I’m absolutely sure but then in a catch 22 situation, I then worry that people think I’m not interested, or that I’m dull as I have nothing to say.

It isn’t just with friends that I find it hard, I do struggle with family get togethers too, but without the worrying of what they think of me when I don’t say much, or look a bit vacant. I also don’t worry as much about being a nuisance asking what was said if I missed something. I know it’s not that I am a nuisance whilst with friends but I feel it disrupts the flow of conversation more and I’d hate for someone to get annoyed but family are stuck with me ;-)

I hate being singled out and I think that has come from some bad reactions from people knowing I am Deaf. The example I gave earlier, about the first stay and play session that I went to with my elder daughter is a good one. Another is when my car was broken down, so I took the bus into town whilst pregnant with my younger daughter, and being accompanied with my older daughter who was 2.5yrs old at the time. Laden with shopping, I took the bus home, not feeling hugely familiar with the bus route as I have never needed to take the bus previously due to driving, and prior to driving living close enough to walk into town. I told the bus driver I needed the “top of such and such road”, he grumbled something which I didn’t catch so I just took it to mean ok, it’s this much and paid my ticket. Some time later, the bus stopped at the bottom of said road despite no one getting on or off. The doors were opened, and the bus stayed still. After a few minutes, I realised that everyone was looking at me and eventually one lady beckoned that the bus driver was yelling at me. Feeling mortified that I was I had been staring out of the window unawares while this was happening, I went to speak to him to find out what was up. He barked at me to get off the bus as that was where I had paid up to. I didn’t understand a word he said, but as he waved his hands around and pointed to the door the penny dropped and I realised we had different ideas of which was the “top” of such and such road and what he had grumbled obviously had some reference to establishing which end. I explained that I needed the other end, and he irritably asked for more money which I then had to pay very publically whilst everyone on the bus looked on. I considered getting off there and then rather than paying the extra (it cost more in two tickets, than one) but being heavily pregnant, carrying shopping and having a 2 year old with me in the dark to walk a mile to my house from that point was not an attractive option.

Aside from the offensive nature of the driver, I was actually most upset about the fact that I had been singled out and embarrassed in front of the entire bus while he had yelled to me from the drivers seat that this was my stop. I felt I wanted to justify it to everyone, I wanted to explain why I hadn’t heard him, I wasn’t stupid, away with the fairies or ignorant, I was Deaf and I simply hadn’t heard him. But my cheeks were too red and my head too much put on the spot to talk coherently, not to mention that I didn’t want my 2 year old to see me in such a state.

I’ve always wanted to be seen as normal, and my deafness secondary. I am not ashamed to be deaf, but it isn’t what makes me, it’s just a part of me. I want to be ME primarily and deaf afterwards. It drives me mad when so rarely a Deaf character appears on a soap, and they make it all about the character being deaf – not a character that happens to be deaf. There’s a big difference. I sometimes feel that I’ve lost my identity a bit when I am singled out. Yes I’m Deaf, but it’s not all that I am. I am also someone who loves photography, I am also someone who is a Mum to two lovely little girls, I am also someone who used to be secretary to a Netball team, I am also a wife, and a daughter and a sister. I like to think that there are far more things that are interesting, before the fact that I have a hearing loss.

I think I was quite young when I realised that I was the Deaf one and understood what that meant. My Mum tells me of this story when my sister reached the age of about 2 or 3, and I went upstairs and came down with an old hearing aid for her. It was normal to me, at the tender age of 5 ish, that when you reached a certain age, you wore hearing aids. My Mum had to sit me down and explain, that my sister didn’t need them, and it was just that my ears didn’t work but most people’s did. Apparently once I described it as “My ears don’t talk”, how cute was I? :-D It is quite a big thing, for a child to come to that realisation that some people have problems with their ears, eyes, legs etc, and it’s not the same for everyone else. For a long time, my daughter thought that all Mummies were deaf, but at the age of 3.5yrs is slowly starting to understand. She tells me that my ears don’t work, but hers do. She asks me what a noise was, knowing quite well that I didn’t hear it and she’ll then say “I think it was the toy falling off the table Mummy” as if she enjoys telling me what it was. I do live in the little moments where she offers me information, and I love how sweet she is when I ask if the baby is awake yet and she crooks her neck to listen, and then tells me yes or no. It makes me a little sad that she already has the job of being my ears more often than not at the tender age she is and I wish that she didn’t have to, but I do like, in a funny kind of way the extra bit of bonding that happens between her and myself that she seems to thrive on, that I need her too as well as she needs me.

I do get upset though, at being a Deaf mum very often though. I like to think, on the whole that being Deaf does not mean I cannot do anything anyone else can do. I have a degree, a job, a house, a family. But the little things get me down frequently. Not being able to call the doctors surgery for an appointment for my own baby girl, constantly worrying about whether or not one day I’ll be on my own with the girls and will need to call 999 and waste precious time finding someone else to do it for me. Standing at the school gates, wanting to join in on a conversation other parents are having, to cement friendships that my daughter is making or having a chat with her on the way home from preschool about what she can see out of the window instead of sitting in silence. I feel that not only are there inconveniences, but also areas where she misses out, as do I.

Being the Deaf one is something I have always just got used to, and isn’t a problem on the whole, but perhaps since having children I’ve realised just how much I do have to just get used to. It was always just a given that I had to ask the receptionist at the doctors surgery to ask the GP to come out and get me when it was my turn, rather than use the tannoy system, but these days I get paranoid that my daughters will one day be embarrassed by this. I also worry that I will miss crucial information, if a teacher needs to talk to me and there are lots of noisy children around. More often than not, I will ask if I have missed something but there are often times when I don’t realise that I’ve missed something she has said as well. I’m already known as the Deaf Mum, they are fantastically accommodating at preschool, allowing me to use text messages instead of telephoning them if I need to contact them, but this does single me out although thankfully is fairly discreet as the other parents won’t know I use this method.

Its important to me that everyone knows I am not embarrassed to be deaf, far from it. It’s just a part of my life, but I do hate being singled out because of it as I just want to be one of the rest. Fame would never suit me, I would feel uncomfortable being in the spotlight, everyone knowing my business and having my photograph taken all the time! The same principle applies, I like to just merge in with the crowd and sometimes being deaf prevents this. At university I always had to sit in the front row rather than with the cool kids at the back, in my first full time job, I had to use this microphone system that sat in the middle of the table like an eye sore with a long lead that led back to my chair and connected to a loop system that sat round my neck.

I have high hopes that the CI will help improve all this. I know it won’t be a cure, but to be honest I’m not sure if I want a cure. I love the Deaf community and what being Deaf automatically involves me in, I like that I can switch off at the end of the night and sleep well due to the quiet. I just want it to be a bit easier that’s all, and I want to be able rely less on others, when it comes to doing the dull and boring things that Mums have to do for their children, I want to do those dull and boring things myself and feel like a proper Mummy to my children.