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Charlie Swinbourne: Waiting for baby

charlieswinbourne.JPGCharlie Swinbourne has penned an article for BBC Ouch around his forthcoming fatherhood.

When we passed the magic three-month mark, we decided to tell everyone the news. It was then that I noticed something interesting. As happy as my hearing friends were for us, I kept being asked the same question in response - and it wasn't whether our forthcoming arrival was a boy or a girl.

"Do you think the baby will be deaf or hearing?"

The question didn't offend me, but I can honestly say that until then I had never thought about it. I'd just been thinking, simplistically perhaps, that we were going to have a baby, and preparing myself for all the responsibilities that come with looking after a newborn.

You can read the rest on Ouch. Deaf people's suspicion of medics and their agenda aside; at a random observation Charlie's comments around he could not care less whether the baby was deaf or hearing; perhaps offers some clues on the low take up of genetic counselling services by deaf people. Medicine might like pushing an agenda, but is it really an issue? If your baby is deaf or hearing, unless you're going for an abortion route on the grounds of deafness, can you actually do anything about it? What does knowing any earlier achieve? Does it actually alter planning for parenthood in any way?

Ask the Readers:
Do you think asking the deaf/hearing question is offensive? Does it say more about hearing people's ingrained attitudes, perhaps in a negative sense? Or, could it be treated in the same way as boy/girl differentiation? In other words, deaf/hearing is such a big thing? What about deaf/hearing testing in pregnancy, what would it achieve?

Comments (6)

My father's first question to me on the day I announced the birth of my gorgeous little girl - "is she hearing?"

I've never answered that question. Others asked, and I didn't answer them either, just completely ignored it as a non-existent question.

I didn't find the question offensive. However I wanted to just focus on the very simple fact that I have a beautiful daughter. Who gives a shit about hearing/deafness thing as long as it's a healthy baby. I know that question only get asked purely because my wife and I am deaf.

My very late answer is "Does it really matter?"

I totally agree with you, ultimately I couldn't give a crap about the deaf / hearing thing. But, *why* do people ask it?

Is it a question on par with boy/girl? A categorisation type question (to understand or put your frame of reference on the world), or is it something else?

Also, if someone asked if your daughter was a boy or a girl, would you avoid answering. Say you dressed up as genderless, I'm thinking of a friend's baby boy here @ six months who frequently gets mistaken for a girl simply because they aren't in screaming blue. If you'll correct the gender thing, but not deaf/hearing - why? What's the driving force?

Alison - what really get me is this:

Regardless of whatever happen - the first question tend to be "Is she/he/the baby" is deaf?"

It's not "how's the baby?" or "how's the mother?" or "how are you two feeling?" or anything like that.

All of that goes out of the window. They Must Find Out The Hearing Status Above All Else.

Hello? How about asking how the mother is, the one that apparently have been in hours of labour? Or the father whose hand is utterly crushed beyond recognisation even? Or how the baby is?

Just bollocks to the hearing/deaf status. That does not matter. Celebrate the life not hearing/deaf status. Grr.

Anyway, Charlie - if you read the comments in here, congratulations and here's to a many sleepless nights to come (yup...just like hearies...we get sleepless nights too...!)

I agree with you re precedence for this question, and ultimately I think its attached to motive (see last paragraph). Yes its attached to all deaf people, one has to wonder if this question is sprung at CODAs? Or perhaps hearing people don't make the same deaf-CODA association.

Okay (here's me being a total pain in the rear end), if someone has a baby, isn't the first piece of information asked / imparted - boy or girl? This information usually precedes say weight, time born etc. Even the baby's health. Hell, we even send out cards - Its a Boy! Its a Girl! etc.

Gender is an identity, how we immediately classify (in our own minds) this baby's future relationship with the world.

So how is this different from is it deaf or hearing? Why don't we send cards, Its hearing! Its deaf! Okay it seems far fetched, but it somewhat places the importance of gender identity within society. (How gender is narrowly projected is another topic).

I guess I'm asking, most of us won't give a second thought to boy/girl question; yet the deaf/hearing one can bother people out there. Is it a statement of deaf people's place in society, or?

Side note: if a deaf person was asking, I perhaps they are asking from an identity viewpoint (as in gender might be construed). If a hearing person asks (who is at least not involved with deafies), then is the motive something else?

I think THAT question:- Is she/he deaf? reveals the subconcious only too subtle even though it is unintentional at times. Wasn't it barely a 120 years(?) ago, when a son was more prized than a daughter? Thanks to Suffragettes, there is gender equality these days (well, nearly there!). Erm, I am not advocating that we start throwing ourselves under horses but it was a direct action campaign with long term and profound results.

What strikes me is that, when we lived in Shipley, W Yorks, and we were getting constantly asked if our daughter is deaf or hearing by people in the supermarket or on the street. It got a bit too much at one point. However, when we moved to Derby, we have not been asked once!

I don't remember much of that question coming up when I was pregnant with my first child. But after my kid was diagnosed at the age of two, the question popped up when I was pregnant with my third child.

We eventually did genetic testing for my whole family and now we know the pattern of how it is passed on. For me, that extra bit of knowledge didn't change anything-- I'd still have more kids even knowing they'd be deaf.

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