Dora Luke Harper and Maisie


Dora, Luke and I met shortly after the HFEA amendments had spread all over the news. I wasn’t sure they would even want to talk about this. Neither were they. There was no emotional or temporal distance; this was happening, here and now. I expected that we would have a short conversation about its impact, then move on to revisiting and layering the family story. As it turned out, Dora and Luke spent much of the time sharing with me their reactions, their frustrations, their anger and pain towards the Act’s amendments. It was only when the tape ran out that we were able to pause, to take a break, and to think of, and to tell other stories.

Maisie and Harper were both away at university. We had to plan our meeting very carefully, to fit in with their being home at the same time as each other. After many e-mails and SMS messages, we found a date just before Christmas. Short and sweet (as always), the two of them chatted away to each other, and shared new stories with me. We revisited earlier events and touched on difficult, uncomfortable family stories. There is enormous wisdom contained within their narrative. Through talking to me, and with each other, we jointly made new sense of deaf and hearing ‘identity’, deaf and hearing ‘worlds’. Some things never change. Attitudes which are stuck, remain stuck. “Shame” will always somehow get passed down through generations. But it is also possible walk away from stuckness, to move into new spaces where, as they told me, deaf hearing doesn’t matter. Forever strong together, their sister-story, their family-story spirals through time (Brockmeier, 2000), revisiting the old, worn-out, tired and faded, alighting on established and new relationships, always forward-moving, optimistic, resilient, funny, sad and wise.


I don’t know if  you knew

But I had no idea at the start of

You know

When I first knew that Maisie was deaf

I had no idea what the future was



Not a clue

Not a clue

And I don’t think I even particularly thought about it

You’re so busy dealing with the day-to-day

That if anybody said

You know

“Imagine her as a fifteen year old

Sixteen year old

Thirteen year old”

I couldn’t do it


The picture I would have painted would not have been the reality

Would you have been able to paint a picture?

Probably not



I mean it feels like it would’ve been much more of

A complete unknown


I mean

You would have had various imagined futures for Harper


You could see sort of what was going to happen

Cos we’ve been there


Very similar to

To our lives if you could picture it


I remember the Teacher for the Deaf

When she first came round saying

“Now, thinking about school”

And I was thinking

<holding baby>


What are you talking about?

This is a baby, she’s not going to school!


I remember feeling

Understanding in my head

That there was <separate>

difference of experience

I know that really

Mum taught me sign

But I always knew

That Maisie would always have

New information for me

So she would go to school

She went to school

And picked up lots of new signs

And then come home

And teach me

So I always felt a little bit like

I had to catch up

But not in a bad way

Just <tap tap tap>

“What’s the sign for this?”


“What’s that mean?”

So that information was always from you

You were the one who was going out

And bringing information

Back to the family

Like Christmas presents!

I’d bring them home and say


This is what you’re learning today!

Just like that! (smiles)

And sometimes I’d be signing

And she’d go

“Don’t you know the sign for that?!”

More like <stoopid>     (smiles)

Yeah, more like that, actually!             (laughs)

That was all

Part of 





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