We Both Prayed Our Baby Would Be Born DEAF; Parents Tell of Delight That Son Joined Their World of Silence

The People (London, England), September 12, 2004 | Go to article overview

We Both Prayed Our Baby Would Be Born DEAF; Parents Tell of Delight That Son Joined Their World of Silence


Byline: FIONA WHITTY

LIKE so many excited parents-to-be, Claire and Paul Dowdican insisted they didn't mind if they had a boy or girl.

But, astonishingly, they were certain of one thing - they desperately wanted their first child to be DEAF, just like them.

And when tiny Reese was born they were thrilled to discover he shares their world of silence.

Claire, 23, explains: "We prayed our baby would be deaf because we feel his life will be much richer as a result.

"Being deaf has forced Paul and me to be stronger and more open minded and we are very happy the way we are. We want Reese to grow up the same way and share our experiences."

Claire admits the couple's views will shock countless parents who pray only that their children will be born able-bodied and healthy.

"I know hearing parents will be baffled - maybe even horrified," she says. "Society sees deafness as a disability, but to us it is a positive thing, not a negative one."

As she cuddles her otherwise healthy two-month-old tot, the proud mum tells The People she knows Reese will face difficulties communicating with other kids.

But she insists: "We believe he would have had MORE difficulties as a hearing child born to deaf parents, so we aren't being selfish."

Claire admits: "I had second thoughts at times. I carried him for nine months and gave birth to him and I have the guilt that I may be giving him a hard life.

"Every parent wants the best for their child and I know Reese is not always going to get the best.

"Of course I agonised about whether my baby was going to face a hard life - but all mums do that.

"There is so much pressure on us to have a perfect baby but life is not perfect, is it?"

Claire and Paul, 29 - both born profoundly deaf - fell in love after meeting three years ago at a sports training camp in America.

The intelligent, doting couple, who communicate by sign language and lip-reading, moved into a flat in Leeds, west Yorks, and set a wedding date for July 31 this year.

But Claire became pregnant unexpectedly and Reese was born two weeks before they married in front of 100 guests, 85 of them deaf.

Claire had an inkling when she was five months' pregnant that her baby would be deaf.

Through a sign language interpreter, she says: "Other women would ask, 'Does your baby move when there's loud music or a big thud?' and I'd say, 'Er, no'. When we thought about it we knew we wanted our baby to be deaf."

A BBC2 documentary this Tuesday will show Claire "hearing" her baby's heartbeat as the midwife taps her hand in time while monitoring the sound.

Claire says: "Soon after Reese was born I was convinced he could hear because he would look at me if I was talking. But when I got home my suspicions were realised. He was sensitive to bright lights but noise did not bother him."

A week later tests confirmed Reese was deaf.

Like any new parents, Claire and Paul gaze adoringly at their son and take turns to cradle him.

A special baby alarm linked to a vibrating pager alerts them when he cries. …

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