I have tried to write a post about William so many times in the past couple of months. But how do you write that you don’t like your own child? How do you write that you can’t be in the same room as him? That you dread the weekends. That you long for Monday morning, sigh heavily as 4 o’clock rolls around all too soon. How do you tell the world that you’re failing as a mum, more than you ever have before, because you don’t even like your own first born?
Since he fell over and lost his hearing I have found him, and our relationship incredibly challenging. He was obviously very very scared and isolated and confused and, crikey it kills me just to think about it. But he was horrible. He was aggressive and violent and rude and mean.
His sign language skills are not as good as his speech. So while I was able to sign to him, he didn’t always understand me. He would talk to me but his speech got more and more slurred and I could barely understand him at times. It was frustrating for both of us. I am the only person in our immediate circle outside of school that can sign so all communication fell to me. I became his translator. It was exhausting. You cannot do anything at the same time as signing. I had to put the baby down and try and hear Will’s distorted speech through her tears. I had to ignore Harriet talking and signing to me. It’s difficult to hear two people talking over one another, it is impossible to watch two people signing simultaneously. I had to stop cooking dinner to communicate with him. Stop in the street any time he wanted to talk because I needed my hands to sign and I didn’t want him walking without holding my hand because he can’t hear me shout if he nears danger. It took forever to get anywhere, to do anything.
When I wasn’t with him I could reason. I could see that he felt awful. That he was scared and lonely and frustrated. That this explained his behaviour and that all be needed was time and love. But when I was with him and he was spitting at me or shouting at me or deliberately hurting Harriet I struggled to keep on top of my emotions. I lost my temper. Too. Many. Times.
By the time switch on came round last week I was at the end of my tether. I didn’t know what to do with him. I didn’t know how to be his mum. I was all he needed and I didn’t know how to be that person.
I guess it was my old friend guilt. Guilt that he’s deaf in the first place. Guilt that I didn’t push harder for him to have his left ear implanted last year. Guilt that I hadn’t learn sign language sooner, hadn’t taught him sign language sooner, that I hadn’t given him the skills to be the deaf person that he is. I had let him down. He hated me for that and I could feel it radiating out of him. He so desperately wanted me to help him, to make it better but it was too late.
Switch on was underwhelming at best. There was no miraculous ‘I can hear again’ moment. He was reluctant to wear his implants and I felt like we had yet more months of attitude and frustration, for both of us.
It’s been a week. He doesn’t turn if you call his name. He doesn’t understand if you ask him to take his shoes off, put his coat away. But he can count drum beats under a table. He can differentiate between ‘ah’ and ‘shhh’ said behind a screen. He wears both implants almost all of the time.
And he is happy. He is calmer. He is polite. He is sweet. He is friendly. The change is amazing. I can hardly believe it. And so soon. He is the boy I know. The boy I love so hard with all of my heart. I thought I’d lost him.
He has laughed more in the past week than in the past two months. The atmosphere across the house, across the family is lighter, lovelier.
I am so happy for him that he can hear again. So happy that he’s no longer in the silent, scary world that made him so difficult to be around.
But it shouldn’t have been scary. He shouldn’t have felt isolated. He is deaf. He has always been deaf and I should have worked harder to make sure he was able to be deaf. It’s not easy stepping out of the hearing world I am used to and he was very very good at utilising the sound he did have access to through his hearing aid. But these are not good enough excuses. When those implants come off, or fail, or he chooses not to wear them, he is deaf and he needs to be able to function.
It’s all too easy, now that he can hear, to forget that and to do what is easy. To be selfish. But I don’t want to do that. Because I don’t ever want to live through the past two months again. I’ve got my boy back, and I’m never letting him go.