By: Levi Traxler
My wife and I are Deaf, and we use American Sign Language to communicate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We rely on a lot of visual information, such as when I flicker the lights on and off to get my wife’s attention. We try to make our home as deaf-friendly as possible; for example, we prefer an “open concept”, for ease of communication, and we have a big window by our front door. Our lives essentially rely on making everything accessible for us.
When we found out we were expecting a baby, due in May 2020, we were so happy! What an exciting time for us! But suddenly, Covid-19 became a worldwide issue and everything changed. For example, limits were placed on the number of people allowed in medical settings (in order to reduce potential exposure to the virus), and we had difficulty getting an interpreter for our hospital visits. We finally did get an interpreter for the delivery, but we then found out that we’d need to stay at the hospital for a few days and the interpreter wasn’t permitted to stay there the whole time. We understand the logistical challenges of hiring interpreters but it was tough trying to communicate with nurses when they were wearing masks. Fortunately, we still had a relatively smooth experience bringing our child into this world.
After nine months of waiting, we were thrilled to finally meet our healthy new baby. When we were finally able to bring our child home, we realized there are a lot of different challenges for us as Deaf parents with a hearing child. Here are just a few of the things we’ve experienced so far:
- We need an alarm system to notify us when the baby is crying. This is especially important when we are sleeping or in another room away from the baby.
- We use a video monitor to check on the baby once in a while when the baby is napping. It helps give us a peace of mind being able to check on the baby without having to go inside the room.
- Using a big mirror on one side of the room allows us to check on our baby’s face and see if the baby is crying or having a good time. Sometimes if we look at the baby from behind, we would otherwise assume the baby is happy when in reality the baby is crying! The mirror helps give us more visual information.
- Loud noises that we as parents are clueless to, like the vacuum machine whirring and sirens, are NOT pleasant to the baby! One time I took our baby out for a walk and there was a fire truck with the siren on racing down the street. I thought this would be a great opportunity for the baby to look at the fire truck as it went flying by us. Unfortunately when the fire truck got near us, the baby started crying and climbed into my arms. It took me a second to realize that the sirens are really, really loud!
- Burping our baby after feeding can be tricky. We can feel the burps, but not always, so sometimes we aren’t sure if the baby has even burped yet! Same goes for a lot of bodily functions such as farting, vomiting, and sneezing.
- We don’t exactly know how loud we are so we have to be extra careful with doing anything while in the same room while our baby is napping. I remember taking a minute for each step to make sure I wasn’t making enough noise for the baby to wake up!
Despite these interesting challenges we face as Deaf parents, we’ve also had some really cool moments with the baby, such as:
- The baby responds to sound so if I’m trying to get my wife’s attention when she’s playing with the child, I can just make some random loud noises. The baby will look for me right away and my wife notices this and then looks at me too. It works every time! This is going to be a great addition to our household.
- We were able to give our child a sign name. We love it when our family or friends ask what the child’s sign name is because we feel like it gave our child their own identity.
- Our child really enjoys watching our ASL stories and also enjoys listening to sounds from other sources (family members, toys, books, etc.). This is a great way to raise a bilingual child!
- Just like every other parent out there, we absolutely love watching our child grow up! Our child is now six months old and it feels so different compared to the newborn stage, so we’re realizing that we need to savor every moment we have with our child.
We know that there will be additional challenges down the road but we are ready and excited. Raising a hearing child as Deaf parents presents a wonderful opportunity to grow together as a family, learning from each other along the way!