I didn't choose for Owen to be born sick, to endure several surgeries, to be developmentally delayed, to have a tube provide his nutrition for years.
I did however, choose for him to be Deaf.
I could have sent him down a different path, I could have chosen to raise a Hearing Impaired child.
The difference is not about the amount of hearing a person has or doesn't have, it has little to do with any medical diagnosis.
Owen being Deaf makes him part of the Deaf Community, a group of people who are proud of their difference and see their Deafness as just that, a difference, not a disability. As a part of this community, he will learn about Deaf Culture, its history and language.
ASL is a living breathing beautiful language. It is not charades, it is not finger spelling every word. It is fingers, hands, arms and faces conveying what words sometimes cannot. It has its own syntax, grammar, slang and regional idioms.
Like any kid with any language, Owen gets creative. He has masterfully paired the sign for "I don't care" (which sort of looks like he is flicking a booger at me), with the words, "I'm ignoring you!". He does it all the time. I can't decide if I should be annoyed or impressed.
Little 'd' deaf is merely a medical term and does not necessarily mean that person is a member of the Deaf Community.
The term Hearing Impaired is tricky. I know many Hearing people think that they are being polite and PC when using this term. For the Deaf, this term is offensive. I'm no expert on Deaf Culture, I'm just a mommy of a Deaf kid, but here's how I see it;
Hearing Impaired speaks to an ideal, that ideal being the ability to hear, and that ability is impaired, that person is impaired.
Remember that Deaf people see themselves as different and not disabled. People are tall or short, light or dark, Deaf or Hearing.
When presented with the choices on how to raise Owen, it was an easy decision to make. I know that my situation is unique, that normal was never an option for Owen, not since he was conceived. Before his hearing loss was diagnosed, I had wondered how his differences would affect his self esteem.
After he was diagnosed, and I learned the littlest bit about Deaf Culture, I knew that it was the right place for Owen. I could put him in a world where he will be puffed up with all sorts of pride about who he is, a Deaf person.
I couldn't bear the thought of sending him off to a world where his self image would be tied to the label Hearing Impaired, where he would know of this ideal that would be unattainable to him.
Now, he is not cloistered away, only exposed to Deaf teachers and students.
His school is the perfect balance of Deaf and Hearing. Home base is the Deaf bubble, with teachers of the Deaf (many of them Deaf themselves), Deaf classmates and teacher's aids. School is taught in ASL. But the bubble is in a public school. Lunch and recess are with Deaf and Hearing. Hearing aids, cochlear implants, FM systems and ASL interpreters are commonplace for the Hearing kids.
As he gets older, Owen will have some say in what classes he wants to attend, he can stay in the bubble all the time, or venture out. The bubble will always be there for him.
I've heard criticisms of the Deaf Community, from Deaf and Hearing people; that sometimes the Deaf pride gets taken to the extreme and they can think themselves better than Hearing people.
You know what? That's just fine with me. Better that he consider himself superior than inferior.
His surgeon has apologized to us countless times for Owen's Deafness, he feels he failed us somehow, that he should have been able to prevent it. I try to tell him that it's nonsense to see that as a failure.
I made the choice to consider it a gift.