All week I have been replaying I conversation I had with a stranger that has been bothering me. Last weekend, Sophie and I went out out shopping. We were in line at a retail store in the mall and Sophie was happily bouncing around in her stroller, playing with her toys, and grinning ear to ear. When we got to the register the sales clerk looked at Sophie and cocked her head to the side, "I hope you don't mind me asking, but what is wrong with her ears?" "Well, she's deaf," I said. "Oh no, I'm so sorry." "Don't be," I muttered under my breath. And that was it.
Now, I always welcome curiosity and am willing to talk about Sophie's hearing loss with anyone that we meet. I always explain how we found out, talk about her hearing aids, and the fact the she will be getting cochlear implants. For some reason that day, I had no desire to say anything else. I know that I was rude, but I just felt so incredibly tired of being positive and trying to make everyone else believe my daughter is going to be fine. It is heart-breaking to know that people look at Sophie, take note of her hearing aids, and feel sorry for her. They do not see a sweet, smiling, bouncing, baby girl as I do, but a disability. This is a struggle that she will always have and I will not always be there to defend her. She's deaf. DEAF. Although we have this amazing technology to help her, she will always be deaf.
I think the worst part about this journey is the stigma that is associated with deafness. Assumptions are made and she is stereotyped as soon as someone sees her hearing aids. If I had a quarter for every time someone asked me if we are teaching her sign language, we would be well on our way to having her tuition paid in full!
One of my goals is to not let Sophie's hearing loss define who she is. And I don't. However, it is harder to influence other people, especially because Sophie is still so young and cannot really "show" others that she isn't much different than them yet. Some days are harder than others and I obviously had a bad day last weekend, but I'm going to try my hardest to make other people see what I do-an amazing, smart, and joyful little girl that just happens to hear differently than we do!