Brigit and Bella


Brigit started with the birth of her first child. She talked about giving birth, about Bella meeting the world. She moves between the distant and near pasts, telling the story as it happened, while reviewing it from a nearer past. The shift in her narrative occurs at a party, where Bella slept through the loud music. The turning point, however, is not that Brigit suddenly finds out her daughter is deaf, but that her deeper, unspoken sensing of something is confirmed by a friend. Brigit’s life-experiences, knowledge, philosophies, politics and parenting instinct converge on knowing that Bella has come into the world as a deaf child—a change of perspective is all that is required. Brigit was intuitively, emotionally, physically and politically drawn to sign language as a way of communicating with, teaching and learning from Bella. She wondered if Bella’s soul had chosen to be deaf; if Bella is deaf because she is a teacher.

Bella had her story—the one she wanted to tell—almost entirely planned in her head. She knew exactly what she wanted to say, to tell me, to show the reader. Much of her story revolved around sign: how her family sign (“lots sign in my family”), that her hearing mother and hearing brother have learnt sign, how Christian can fingerspell his name, how her little cousins are also learning to communicate visually. She also wished to make it clear that deaf is useful. Deaf people are visual, good at ‘catching’ things (visually), deaf people are peaceful, sleep well at night. Deaf people get discounts, and qualify for Hearing Dogs. Bella also told me how much she had wanted a deaf sister. Or maybe just a sister (deaf hearing doesn’t matter).


It’s massive

Your first child, you shift 


                        I wasn’t a mother before

                                    I was in a family

                        But I wasn’t a mother

            And suddenly I was a mother

And I had this most precious thing

Which was my daughter

And I didn’t know she was deaf

            When she was really really little

            I said to a couple of people

                        “D’you think she’s deaf?”

            And they said, you know

            “You’re just neurotic”

            First time mother             (laughs)

So I chucked it out …


My sister also

She checked Bella’s hands

Because she thought

            It’s an intuitive thing you know

            That the child’s a little bit different

            But you don’t know what it is …

So she checked her hands

            Which she told me at a later date

            She thought

                        Maybe she’s Downs


And because there’s a mark on your hand

            Which they use as a diagnostic

                        She just did a check

                        And she hadn’t got it 

            But it’s that whole thing

            Being vaguely aware of something


                        Not being able to put your finger on it

And Bella was

Really                         really really really happy as as a baby

            And I didn’t have

            Anything to do with

                        Health visitors                        whatsoever

            We didn’t do any hearing tests

            Or any tests

            You know                        she was perfect             (laughs)

We didn’t do any tests

And I actually think

Yes we could’ve brought language in earlier

But in lots of ways

It was quite good

Not knowing she was deaf

When she was little

            Whereas Christian

                        Being deaf

            Knowing that from


                        It was different

                        Because we already were a deaf family                       

            Y’know                        a deafhearing family

With Bella

            It was one of my real real concerns

            When they started doing

            Neo-natal screening

                        And it still is

            I think neo-natal screening

            Is really really risky

                        And speaking to people

                        And meeting families

                        And parents

                                    And I can think of several different people

                                    Mothers            who have

                                    Disclosed that


                                                They’ve just gone into

                                                A fear reaction

                        Because you know

                        You’ve just gone through this immense thing

                        Giving birth

                        Been through labour

                        And you’ve given birth

                        And just when you think you’ve got a baby

                        You’re told you haven’t

And you know

            This is what people say

            Which is like incredible

            I just think it’s really risky

            Because you get in the way

            Of the bonding thing

            By bringing in fear of the unknown

                        And you know

                        It needn’t be like that

                        But I think it’s really risky

                        And that bonding bit is so important


But anyway we didn’t have any of those problems             (laughs)

Because I didn’t have anything to do with them


            And we didn’t know that she was deaf

                        And she was a very very happy child

                        Because I felt that

                        She was my first child

                        And I was coming up with lots of theories

                        On the perfect way                        to evolve

                        And if you look at creation myths

                        From everywhere

                                    You start off in the chaos

                        And I wanted her to be in the world

                                    We were living outside

                        It was like

                        The world

                        And it was like

                        Her meeting the world

            I was just trying to just let her be

            And it was working very well

                        Or it seemed to be

            As she was incredibly happy

                        And retrospectively

                        Being hyper visual

                        It was great that we lived outside

                        Because she had all that depth to look at

                                    And the winter

                                    I carried her constantly on my back

                                    Because that was the only way she was safe

                        And it was fine

                        And it meant I could get on with things

                        Going round and about

                        And obviously that meant

                        She had a great view


            And so she was happy

            And there was no cause for concern 


My mum is hearing

My brother is hearing

My other brother is deaf


So for long time

There were no deaf in my family

But now more and more

Two deaf

Born deaf


I don’t know why

But            also

I feel

I was born in the right environment


My family            fine

Also they never            <look down on  shame>

deaf people

Nothing like that

Or not sign

My mum

When I was born

Wanted to learn sign

Same            when my brother Thorin born

He signed

He learnt sign                        sign

And now Christian signs too!


If long time ago

That was awful


Bad schools

Would mean I can’t go to school

Or Oral school


I was born in the right time


I can go to a signing school

Means I can sign

Teachers can sign

And learn sign

Not oral

Not war time

Means                  my mum and dad not oral

Or                         my mum and dad don’t ignore me

They help me

I’m equal to my hearing brother

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