Bianca Birdsey Doctor and mother of three South Africa
“Up until eight years ago, I hadn’t given hearing loss a second thought. I didn’t know anyone d/Deaf or hard of hearing personally, nor did I appreciate the complexities of language and communication. Then one day, when my twin daughters were already three years old, I discovered that they were both deaf. All the dreams for our family’s future seemed to shatter under the weight of overwhelming uncertainty. Four months later, we learned that our youngest daughter, who was 20 months old at the time, was deaf too. As a medical doctor, I felt like I had failed the most important test in my life. I had missed all three of my daughters’ hearing loss, and the consequences could be dire.
“Today, eight years later, I consider the journey that was set before me not one I chose, but one chosen for me. It has been hard! I’ve had to learn more than I could have ever obtained from a library of textbooks and unlearn a whole lot of preconceived ideas about disability and differences. I have learned that child deafness is invisible and that raising a deaf child is multifaceted and requires intentional effort and ongoing advocacy. Consequently, families need holistic support. Meeting other families on a similar journey has been an enormous source of encouragement. Meeting deaf adults who embodied my subconscious definition of success was a game changer to the way I viewed the future for my daughters. Those dreams that had once shattered slowly started to take shape again, but this time they were bigger and swollen with purpose.
“My children are still young, so we have much of this journey ahead of us. We face an unequal education system, which, coupled with injustices such as late identification and inadequate intervention and access, threatens the ability for a deaf child in my country and many other parts of the world to dream. I refuse to accept this for my children and desire to support as many families as possible, so that they too can commit to seeing their deaf child thrive.”
Bianca is a Changemaker who supports the call in the World Report on Hearing for hearing care for all, now. Help change the world for those with hearing loss by sharing her story.